Interwiew with Ethan Johnson - Author of The Mouse Writer

Today, I am honored to share a blog interview with Ethan Johnson. Please welcome Ethan Johnson, Starbucks partner and author of The Mouse Writer.

Make sure you read my review of The Mouse Writer and enter to win a copy for yourself!



 What inspired you to write, The Mouse Writer?
 
I took inspiration from Starbucks Holiday theme: Stories are gifts. Share. It’s all about how getting together and reconnecting is what makes the holidays special and memorable. And sharing stories over coffee is something Starbucks has helped people do since the beginning. So I wanted to create a story that would bring this theme to life for the younger people who come to our stores. I also like the fact that sharing happens naturally when you read to a child.

The challenge was I didn’t want to simply write another book about sharing. There are a gazillion of them out there already. I wanted to create an original story with a character that was unique. I started with a list of animals and gave them special skills. When I jotted down the idea of a mouse that could write with his tail, it struck me as something really fresh and interesting. I thought, what if he wrote stories and never shared them. And then the story just started pouring out of me.
 
What made you decide on "Huxley" as the name for the star of your story?
 
I thought it was a great name for a mouse who’s a little bookish and smart, but also a little na├»ve and innocent. I wanted a name that was unusual and adorable. Huxley was the perfect fit.
 I came to know that Starbucks partners (employees) have contributed to this story. Can you tell us a little bit about how the story was put together ?
That’s true. Many partners helped develop the story and the character of Huxley. While I was drafting the story, a team of designers and Starbucks merchandising management team, were simultaneously developing the physical book and a line of collectibles to feature along with it. Starbucks goes a long way to offer exclusive items you can’t find anywhere else, and the Huxley collection made for unique and affordable holiday gifts. A Starbucks Senior Designer was the first to sketch Huxley for the plush toy, and the character still looks a lot like that, minus the glasses which we felt would be a choking hazard. Our team met regularly, adding ideas to her sketch and reviewing samples from plush suppliers. We chose the fabric, the type of tail, the clothes, everything really, so that the plush would reflect the character in the book and convey Huxley’s personality. I was really happy with how it all came together. After the story was complete, we brought in a freelance illustrator who had once been a designer at Starbucks, to illustrate the book. We loved his pen and ink artwork and knew it would fit perfectly with a mouse that writes by dipping his tail in ink. He actually dipped a pen in ink for every drawing in the book, as well as Huxley’s notes. He did a great job of bringing Huxley and all the characters to life. I must also mention the stellar editorial help I received from a Starbucks copyeditor/proofreader, and our freelance copyeditor/proofreader. Kudos to our designer and prepress designer as well.
The Mouse Writer, is about the writing ability and how much enjoyable it is to write. Does the story's background have anything to do with you as a writer and how much you enjoy it?
Absolutely. Writing children’s books is a passion I discovered years ago while teaching kindergarten. My students’ daily requests for me to tell them a story (by that I mean make one up on the spot) caused me to fall in love with it, writing for children. My father, an English professor and novelist, had an impression on me too, as I grew up with a writer in the house. I studied fiction in college and later became a professional advertising writer. I now write for a living and for pleasure. I hope this story causes kids to pick up a pen or a laptop and write stories of their own. It’s already caused my four year old son to write several stories. Some of which he dictates to me, others he actually writes himself (Way to go, Alec.). Okay, I’m gushing, aren’t I?
The Mouse Writer, is a very heart-warming story of Huxley and is sure to be enjoyed by children and adults. Do you have any other stories in the making?
Yes, I’m working on a novel for kids that I think parents will love too. It’s called with “The Boy Who Danced Monsters”. I’ve also written several children’s books, including a few with Thad Tichenor, my long-time collaborator and art director partner from my advertising agency days. Our story “The Outrageous Story of Hefferton an Cluckingburg” won first place (picture book) in the Pacific Northwest Writers Association’s annual contest. We’re currently seeking a publisher for that and other stories. I’ve uploaded a few of them on my blog: http://seriouslytwistedstories.blogspot.com. I have an adult novel in the works as well.
What are some of your favorite books? 
I am a huge fan of Roald Dahl. His books and voice are simply wonderful. I love his blend of humor, adventure, and wickedness. “The Witches”, “The BFG”, “Matilda”, and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” are some of my favorites. I also love Charles Dickens, especially his novel, “David Copperfield”. Dickens’ hero, an ordinary child surrounded by uncaring and unsympathetic adults, left an impression on me and I can see its influence in “Harry Potter” by J.K. Rowling, all of Roald Dahl’s work, and “A Series of Unfortunate Events” by Lemony Snicket. I adore the work of Mark Twain and how he weaves together humor, adventure, and a little scariness. Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid” and J.M. Barrie’s “Peter Pan” are amazing as well, timeless characters, rich stories wonderfully written. I love when the voice of the storyteller is just as interesting as the tale. The writers I’ve mentioned have shown how well a story can be told and have inspired me to strive to do the same.
Do you like mice and do you have one for a pet?
If my son had his way, we’d have a dozen mice for pets. I, however, prefer them in stories, especially holiday stories, ala The Night Before Christmas, “not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.” 
Thank you so much Ethan,for stopping by.  I had so much fun knowing more about you and your work and I am sure my readers will feel the same ! We hope to read and enjoy more of your stories.Keep them coming!
Visit Ethan's blog at Seriously Twisted Stories
If you haven’t read The Mouse Writer yet, I’d highly recommend you do and it makes a warm-gift straight from your favorite Starbucks!

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

As a collector of mice, this is quite a cute book. As a third grade teacher, the characters will provide for a good discussion. One of my students gave me the book and mouse as a Christmas gift. I promised I'd read it to the class when the holidays are over.
Tooele, UT

tamara said...

My youngest son is named Huxley, loves stuffed animals, sharing and stories. I hope I can find a Starbucks that still has the book, animal, and/or mug in stock!

Ethan Johnson said...

To anonymous in UT, let me know how that discussion with our class goes.

And to Tamara, that's great that your son is named Huxley. As for finding the book and plush toy, you'll have to call around. Friends and family have told me the items are sold out at many Starbucks. Keep looking, I hope you find them for your son.

Ethan Johnson said...

to anonymous, let us know how that discussion goes.

to Tamara, I hope you find the book and mouse for your son, Huxley, he'll love it. But it might be hard to find. Friends have told me some stores are sold out.

Ethan

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