We're so excited to feature an interview with Margaret Greanias on her latest book, How This Book Got Red, illustrations by Melissa Iwai.
KLiC: What was your inspiration for How This Book Got Red?
MG: When I was growing up, I had the sense that my family didn’t quite belong–even though my brothers and I were born and raised in the US. I finally realized the reason why I felt this way, and it was such a big aha moment for me. I wanted to share this aha moment with readers in How This Book Got Red–the realization of the far-reaching impact that positive representation in books/media can have on those who were formerly absent or negatively represented in the books and media everyone consumes.
KLiC: Red’s struggle with writing is reminiscent of human writer struggles LOL. Please tell us about your writing process. How long did it take you to write and sell this book?
MG: I will generally get a story idea and will open a Notes document and capture any thoughts I have related to the story–plot, character, jokes, etc.,–including a story pitch. Once I feel like I have a good handle on the story, I will turn it into a first draft using my notes to help get over that first draft hump.
For “How This Book Got Red,” it took about 16 months between when I first wrote this story to when we sold it. This included writing the story in two completely different ways–one meta which was widely subbed and rejected and the traditional narrative which was published.
KLiC: What are your favorite illustrations in the book?
MG: My favorite illustrations, hands down, are the ones of the panda town. I love them because comparing the two represents the aha moment I talked about earlier—showing the impact of representation on Red the red panda and the rest of the panda town.
KLiC: What’s the one thing you want children to take away from your book?
MG: I want children to know that their stories are important, and others need them and will find value in them. I also want caregivers to understand why it’s so important for their children to read books and consume media that have positively portrayed characters that look like their child (especially main characters). And how important it is for their children to read diversely so they learn and can better relate to even those who don’t look like them or share their culture.
KLiC: Do you have any tips for pre-published authors?
MG: I know it sounds cliché but write what you love and what speaks to you. Each story requires an investment of time, energy, and emotions so make it worth it! Plus if the story gets published, that story will be with you for a very long time–you’ll be talking about it and promoting it A LOT. It’s much easier if you love your story and have a strong connection to it.
Take your time to learn the craft. Publishing moves sooooo slowly. Taking some time to learn and develop craft is well worth it. And, when you’re ready, you’ll have a stockpile of manuscripts and the craft to be able to continue creating publishable stories.
Margaret Greanias is a children’s book author who writes books to delight children, including MAXIMILLIAN VILLAINOUS (Running Press Kids, 2018), AMAH FARAWAY (Bloomsbury Kids, 2022), HOOKED ON BOOKS (Peachtree Publishing, 2023), and HOW THIS BOOK GOT RED (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2023). The daughter of Taiwanese immigrants, she lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband, three children, and a fluffle of dust bunnies.
To read a previous interview with Margaret, about her 2022 book, AMAH FARAWAY, click here.
To learn more about Margaret, visit her website here.