Q & A: Behind the Book
Brenda answers your questions:
Q. What motivated you to write this story?
A. One Valentine's Day, my son Jacob came home from first grade and began sorting all the valentines he had received that day into two piles. I asked him what he was doing, and he told me, "I'm putting them in a good pile and a bad pile."
Q. What was it like working with Tedd Arnold?
A. Actually, writers and illustrators almost never have any contact during the creation of a book. Everything goes through the publisher. When my amazing editor, Kathy Dawson, suggested Tedd for the illustrations, I was thrilled because I'm a huge fan of his. His illustrations are both hilarious and heartwarming at the same time, and they raise my story to a whole other level. I love so many of the details he created, such as the hearts for Leon's pupils, the tear in the romantic little girl's eye, the way the teenager's dialogue practically spills off the page, and of course every expression on the poor valentine's face!
Q. Which is easier: writing a picture book or a novel?
A. They're both hard, but I'd say it's probably harder for me to write a picture book. Sometimes people look at picture books and think it looks pretty easy because they're so short, but the truth is the opposite. It's extremely challenging to tell a compelling, entertaining story in just a few words. This book actually took me longer to write and publish than either of my novels. Believe it or not, I spent about five years writing and revising this story, and it only contains around 700 words. Then, once a publisher bought it, it took another five years to be turned into a book. My twins were in second grade when I first came up with the idea, and now they are seniors in high school!
Q. How did you come up with the names for your characters?
A. If you turn the n upside down in Leon's name, it looks a little bit like a v, right? And if you unscramble those letters, you can spell the word LOVE. That's how he got his name. Zoey Maloney was a much harder character to name. I wanted something fun to say, so I tried out a whole bunch of names until I landed on one that seemed just right.
Q. Is Valentine's Day about love or candy?
A. Both, of course!