Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Bubble Homes and Fish Farts

Welcome, Fiona Bayrock, author of Bubble Homes and Fish Farts! We are delighted to be the third stop on your week-long blog tour.

On Monday, Fiona was at The Well-Read Child.
Tuesday's stop was at Abby (the) Librarian.
Thursday, she'll be at Celebrate Story.
And she'll end the week at Becky's Book Reviews.

My 4th graders saw this book on my desk and they were dying for me to read it to them -- talk about a catchy title!

Here are the interview questions my students wrote for Ms. Bayrock:

How did you come up with the title of your book?

A good title will get a book taken off the shelf, opened—with help from the cover—and read. That's a lot to expect from a few words! I spend a fair bit of time trying different ideas to come up with a title I hope will flex that kind of muscle. In my search, I look for:
  • a title that's fresh and unexpected - bubble+home and fish+fart are both unusual combinations not seen in a book title before, way more interesting than plain old "Animal Bubbles", which is accurate, but *yawwwwn*.
  • a title that'll get possible readers asking questions so they'll want to read the book to find the answers - Bubble Home? What could live in a bubble home? What would that look like? Where would it be built? How?...
  • a title that matches the tone of the book - in this case, light and fun. Can you say "fish farts" without smiling? If it had been a more serious book, I would have chosen something else instead.
Bubble Homes and Fish Farts accomplished all that in a way none of the other combinations from the book did.

Why did you “hide” the section about fish farts?

Hee does look like I hid it, doesn't it? But, actually, the placement in the book just happened to work out that way. As with most list books, the order in Bubble Homes and Fish Farts isn't random. The animals are grouped according to function: movement, warmth, finding food etc., and where possible, the sections are linked in some way. The whale and seal spreads talk about using bubbles to catch fish—a great lead-in to herring—so the fish farts come after those spreads, which ended up coming where they do as the result of much rearranging to create the strongest logical flow.

How did you decide what animals to put in this book?

I started with a list of all of the animals I could find that used bubbles, and then pared it down to include one animal for each distinct purpose. It wasn't a long list, and as luck would have it, didn't contain a lot of duplication. When two similar animals had a similar purpose to their bubbles I chose the more interesting one (backswimmer over diving beetle, moth over grasshopper), or the one that wasn't already represented on the list. e.g. both dolphins and beluga whales play with bubble rings, but I already had a "whale", so the dolphin was in and the beluga out. One animal from the original list was cut when the research didn't support the bubble use the preliminary research had shown, and a few animals were added along the way as I became aware of their bubble use during the research process (violet sea snail, water shrew, and star-nosed mole).

How did you do your research for this book?

To get the initial list, I entered various animal names and "bubbles" into an online search engine and thumbed through the index of several large resource books about animal survival and adaptation. Then I used a combination of sources: journals, videos, local library books and interlibrary loan (I heart librarians!), and specific online sources such as NOAA, National Geographic, university labs, research papers, and Notes from the Field (my fave was by an Antarctic researcher during one of her research trips).

Once I'd done all the research I could, I turned to experts, one or two for each animal, to fill in any missing details. They checked my similes for accuracy, and helped me understand the sensory aspects (the frog really does sound like "fwap-fwap-fwap-fwap" and the pile-driving like a church bell). Some invited me into their labs or provided further material not available to the public, such as crittercam footage or photos to show what it was I was writing about. That was extremely helpful.

How long did it take you to write the book?

I researched and wrote half the book in a few weeks of solid work. That included the "easy" animals—the ones I was already familiar with and for which the research and experts were readily available. The second half of the book took a lot longer (over 18 months) partly because the animals were more obscure, and took more digging and waiting for materials to come via interlibrary loan and scientists to come in from the field, but also because I was working on other projects at the same time.

Which is your favorite animal?

If you'd asked me this question as I was writing the book, my answer would have been whichever one I was working on at the moment. Now that the book is complete, I still don't have one that stands out. Usually I do have favourite parts in whatever I'm working on, but I guess the bubble connection made for a list of animals that were interestingly quirky in their own ways, because I enjoyed writing about them all. It was a happy day when the book was expanded from 32 to 48 pages so I didn't have to cut any.

Did you always want to be a writer?

Nope. I kind of fell into it. I knew from a very young age that at some point in my life I would write a book. I didn't know what it would be about, whether it would be fiction or nonfiction, or for adults or children, but I thought it would be in *addition* to a career in another field, not the career itself. Now that I *am* a writer, I can't imagine myself doing anything else. Sometimes life throws you a curve ball and you catch it.

What are you writing now?

Aside from "answers to blog interview questions"? ;^)

I always have several book and magazine projects at various stages. Right now, that includes mostly quirky cool animal science, with one project focusing more on the scientists, and one involving an experimental format.

Thank you, Fiona Bayrock for answering our questions and for including us on your tour!!

1 comment:

  1. Some people just have the greatest ideas...


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