||5 Silly Questions
with Andrea and Carolyn Beck
JS: Now that I’ve got you both here together, I feel I should begin with the question that is at the forefront of your readers’ minds, one of great importance to the literary world: growing up together in the Beck household, who was more spoiled?
CB: Andrea. Well, to tell the truth, we both had a chance to be the “spoiled” kid. I, being the first child, had 2 ½ years of being the only child and Andrea, being the last, was the doted-on baby of the family for at least as long.
AB: Carolyn only thought I was spoiled. Actually, my parents were so worn out from the older two that they relaxed the restrictions by the time I came along, which really ticked her off. Yes!
JS: I’ve noticed that Andrea’s Elliot Moose books are split between calm titles (Elliot Bakes a Cake, Elliot’s Bath, Elliot Digs for Treasure, Elliot’s Christmas Surprise and Elliot’s Fire Truck) and tense titles (Elliot’s Emergency, Elliot’s Shipwreck, Elliot’s Noisy Night and Elliot Gets Stuck). Carolyn, what does this say about your sister’s state of mind?
CB: She could be evenly balanced, evenly unbalanced or a split personality. She’s the social worker. Why don’t you ask her?
AB: I’m definitely a split personality: writer/illustrator/counsellor. Carolyn’s other hat is accounting. She would know about being balanced . . . or unbalanced!
JS: Okay, Andrea, here’s your chance to give us the dirt on Carolyn. What kind of an author writes a children’s book that necessitates a big stamp on the cover that reads, “WARNING! Do you have the guts to read this book?” as with The Waiting Dog?
AB: A twisted one. Given that the art was worse than the words, we used to joke we were the true Twisted Sisters. But back to dirt on Carolyn . . . hmmm . . . yes! She once wrote a story about the caterpillar that pooped out chocolate. Yum! As for childhood, the first bad words she taught me were POO POO PEE PEE KAA KAA. The Sunlight Soap is still lurking in my back molars.
CB: Well . . . in my defense I had to develop guts just to be Andrea’s sister.
AB: That is true.
JS: Written by Carolyn and illustrated by Andrea, The Waiting Dog gruesomely depicts a dog’s fantasy of getting his paws (and teeth) on an unsuspecting postman. Do you think canines also dream of attacking FedEx employees, smoke signalers and/or courier pigeons?
AB: I think they’d rather get dunked in a vat of cheese.
CB: The options are endless — but the story arose from my stint at Hydro Mississauga where I got to hear first-hand tales from the meter readers. Every single one of them had a BITE story. At that time I also had the gentlest, kindest dog in the universe, Brandy, who had a very large voice. She was in the habit of rushing the front door, barking in her deep, deep tones, whenever she heard a rustle outside. But it wasn’t to eat the postman or the newsboy or the meter reader; it was all bluff.
I got to thinking . . .
What must those poor people on the other side of our door be thinking? And that was the genesis of The Waiting Dog. The Waiting Dog is actually told from the perspective of the postman and what he imagines the dog on the other side of the door is imagining. Thank goodness it’s all imagination!
JS: It’s been a real treat speaking with the both of you. If this interview had a slogan it would have been: “Double your answers, double your tongue twisters / With a silly interview with the Beck sisters.” Quick, before the Wrigley’s Doublemint Chewing Gum lawyers show up at my door, can you tell us a little about some of your other books?
AB: I’m always thinking of the next Elliot Moose or Pierre Le Poof story. Elliot inhabits a world of friendship and play. He and Socks and the gang tend to get into small scrapes that necessitate teamwork to resolve, as in Elliot’s Fire Truck. The Elliot stories are gentle, fairly small in scope, such as Elliot’s Bath, and are meant to create a warm, fun and safe world for younger children. I am currently working on early chapter books for Elliot fans who are moving beyond picture books. Pierre, my darling little poofy poodle, was a refreshing change for me because he has a scampy spark of mischief that gets him into much more trouble than Elliot. His nose for adventure, coupled with his owner’s obsession with dog shows, takes him around the big city and out into the world, with trouble at every turn. And Pierre just looks ridiculous.
Though I am all about story, my books tend to have an underlying theme of kindness, fairness and friendship. I don’t write them with that intention, but I guess it’s the social worker in me seeping through. I have a couple of novels and screenplays simmering in the background — yikes, too many ideas, not enough time. When my kids move out my writing will explode!
CB: Well, of course there was our other joint venture, Buttercup’s Lovely Day, which was nominated for the Blue Spruce award. In it a zenfully happy and poetic Holstein named Buttercup (obviously) tells us everything she loves about her life, including the skunk that winds through her legs in the dark. Then there is Richard Was a Picker. You can guess what that one’s about. Wellington’s Rainy Day takes us through a day that starts out terribly boring and ends up amazingly satisfying. And Dog Breath is an ode to a well-loved pet. Aside from these, I have 100 dog poems in the works, a young adult novel and several more picture books.
Andrea Beck is the author/illustrator of the hit picture book series and TV show Elliot Moose, and the Pierre Le Poof series of picture books. Educated in Montreal and Toronto, she first made her living as a toy designer then fell in love with the idea of children’s stories and art. She currently lives in Unionville, Ontario.
Carolyn Beck supports her writing habit through freelance accounting work. She now lives in Toronto.
They are rumoured to be debating which one was more spoiled during childhood at this very moment.
From Be a Writing Superstar. Text copyright © 2010 by Joel A. Sutherland. Reproduced by permission of Scholastic Canada Ltd.