Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Tripti Kandari is talking with Rick Quinn, author of Jazzy and Kettle.
FQ: Jazzy and Kettle is your first book. What made you want to write a children’s book as your first published work?
QUINN: Two things: First, I wanted to have a project I could complete in a reasonable amount of time. I wanted to finish a work and not get frustrated and turn it into a multi-year effort without any result. Secondly, I couldn’t help but notice, in walks trough libraries and bookstores, that the vast majority of children’s books were about animals, not kids. Some of them were about dogs, who were friendly and had human powers, and others, like There’s a Giraffe in My Soup, were about phantasmagoric creatures that wouldn’t be interesting beyond a reading or two. I wanted to write a story that children could see themselves being a part of.
FQ: On your website you talk about what you were seeing in children’s books that you didn’t like. Would you tell our readers a bit about that and how/why you wanted to use a different approach for your book?
QUINN: I think many authors of children’s books underestimate their audience. As I mentioned above, kids are kids and, I believe, like to read about kids doing things. Fantasy stories about animals with human or supernatural powers can be fun but when that accounts for a tremendous percentage of all children’s books, I think it becomes tedious. There are also many children’s books that are preachy and attempt to impart social lessons that aren’t needed. Things like ‘Don’t hate the purple cat because he’s different’! Kids don’t need that. Adults do. Kids belong to a strong union: Kids! If another kid shows up in the classroom or the playground, the first reaction is usually ‘Yaayyy! Another Kid’! My book has lessons in it that are learned as Jazzy and Kettle go on their adventure together. Nobody is telling what to do or not to do.
FQ: Jazzy and Kettle are two very unique, and interesting, children. Where did they come from? Are they based on children you’ve met, kids in your neighborhood, or did they pop up from your imagination?
QUINN: I don’t think they really are unique. I think it seems that way because there are only two of them and, they are unsupervised, and have the freedom to let their imaginations and feet take them where they want to go, stimulated by what their eyes see!
I created them from memories of my own four children (all fully functioning adults now) and some of my own childhood memories. Two of my kids would have dashed right up that tree, and the other two would have been standing on the ground watching what happens. All four of them would have climbed up as the helper though.
FQ: I love how positive Jazzy and Kettle are – both the story as a whole, as well as the two friends. Was it important for you to keep the story upbeat throughout?
QUINN: Yes!!! I wanted every aspect of the story to be ‘Positive’! There is so much negativity in the world, and so many people criticizing, and, especially, kids getting measured, judged, and graded by adults as if there was timeline for success. That is why, when the parents finally show up in the story, you don’t see their faces. They just ask the kids what they’ve been up to. Every kid’s fantasy!
FQ: Jazzy and Kettle, at first appearance, seem quite different, but we quickly learn that the innocence of childhood doesn’t see differences. We meet two children who just want to have fun. How do we get adults to do this - to see past the differences and judge each person on their character?
QUINN: ‘We’ don’t. Our differences as a civilization disappear through familiarity. From my perspective, there is more blending of cultures among society now than I have seen before. Sadly, there are more people trying to highlight differences, to provoke anger and unrest for personal gain. I think the current generation of children will be wiser than the current generation of adults. I think they will look back on the social infighting today, as many of us look back in disbelief to the era of Jim Crow or Internment Camps.
FQ: My favorite part of the book is when Jazzy says, “I can see over the trees. I think I can see tomorrow.” It’s something an innocent child would definitely say. Did you come up with that or did you hear a child say it once?
QUINN: I, myself, as a little kid, remember looking out my parents living room window, being able to see over the young trees in our new neighborhood of 1950s Long Island. As the sun started to set, and I could see shopping center lights off in the distance, I just imagined ‘tomorrow’ must be out there beyond them, and it was on the way, and if I could get up high enough I would be able to see it! When Jazzy climbs that tree, that’s as high above the earth as she has ever been and tomorrow shows up in the same place as today, so it must be on the way!
FQ: Like any good story, this tale has some excitement when Jazzy climbs a tree and the branch breaks. The way the two new friends work together is a great lesson for young readers. What would you like your readers to come away with after reading about your book?
QUINN: Lessons that (hopefully) will be a recurring theme: Don’t be afraid to investigate something new; but always be a little careful. And, you are capable of a lot more than you think, so never give up!
FQ: You mention on your website that it took several attempts to find the right illustrator. What sort of problems were you running into with other potential illustrators? Did they just not “get” the project or were there other issues? How did you find Sefira Lightstone?
QUINN: Initially, I reached out to a couple of artist friends of mine because they were both very talented and I thought it would be fun to have a friend as a partner. I learned however, that there is a big difference between a painter and an Illustrator. Sefira was recommended to me by one of those friends who passed. She had a social media page and I was able to look at her work there. One picture, in particular, was of a mother holding her young child. The lines and expressions were beautifully soft, and the colors primary. I got an introduction and it turned into a great combination. Sefira nailed the Jazzy character quickly and I had a couple of tweaks added to Kettle. Sefira also added the squirrel to the story and (hopefully) will be a continuing character as we go along.
FQ: I see that you have plans for more books. Would you share with our readers a little of what you plan? Will there be more children’s books? Will we see Jazzy and Kettle again? Will you try different genres?
QUINN: I have more Jazzy and Kettle stories in my head. If I do any more children’s books, they will be more Jazzy and Kettle episodes. I don’t consider myself a Children’s Author, just a writer. I write because it’s enjoyable. This book was a lot of work. I had a model in mind that put the text of the book on the left page and the illustrations on the right. That was to make it easy for a pre-reader to look at the picture and look at the words on the left side, then begin to associate the sounds the letters make by the activity in the illustration. Even the word crAck is broken to create a sound/visual effect.
Despite the frustrations of trying to introduce a new children’s Book into the pandemic wave of closed bookstores, libraries, and schools, while also being a self-published author, I am very happy with it. It is, in fact, what I had imagined from the beginning. I still believe it will have its day. They are two great kids!!