It was a dark and stormy night.... Ok, not at all. It was a gorgeous evening in a town in Michigan where fellow nerds had come together in celebration of books and authors and books and teaching and books. And that, dear readers, is where I met Mr. Josh Funk.
It was this night that I first heard the very first Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast book - read by the author himself (actually, it was more recited because he pretty much had every word memorized and could just say the lines and casually go through the pages on his tablet...). And now, here we are, about ready to say hello to the fourth book in this rhyming refrigerated story! We've met friends and foes, and foes who became friends. But there is one thing that has not happened.... we've yet to go...
JF: Thanks for inviting me to chat!
MK: Do you have character voices in your head when you do the dialogue? Because I love making up new voices for your characters, just wondering if some already exist (in your head)?
JF: The voices evolve over time. As I’m writing (and reading aloud to my family), I probably experiment with different voices. Then when I see Brendan Kearney’s illustrations, the voices probably change a bit based on what the character looks like. And then, they continue to evolve over time (to be fair, I’ve probably read the first Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast out loud over 500 times).
Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast’s voices aren’t all that different from mine, but they have a little more attitude. Baron von Waffle is the one I have the most fun with. In theory, Baron von Waffle should be Belgian, but I don’t really know what a Belgian accent is, so now it’s pretty much turned into a New York accent.
I also love playing around with each of the new characters introduced in every book. I certainly hope you (and other readers) have a lot of fun voicing Inspector Croissant in The Case of the Stinky Stench, Agent Asparagus in Mission Defrostable, and Professor Biscotti in Short & Sweet.
MK: What is your process for working on your rhymes? Yours flow, which makes reading the books out loud a joy. But I’ve noticed other books don’t have that same cadence. How do you write (and probably rewrite and rewrite) yours?
JF: Wow, thanks. I appreciate your kind words. I do try to make sure every word, every syllable, every (what’s less than a syllable?) is as perfect as possible. Picture books are only about 549 words, so making sure every single sound works is sort of part of the gig.
The first thing I try to do is come up with a story and pace it out as best as I can. That way I don’t end up spending time working on rhymes I’m gonna cut later on. Once I have the outline of a story, then I start writing.
I usually keep two tabs open at all times (in addition to the google doc with the manuscript) - rhymezone.com and thesaurus.com. At first when I started writing I thought that it was cheating to use rhyming dictionaries. But then I realized that to make the best books I could, I should use all the tools available - and online rhyming dictionaries are great tools to puzzle the words and sounds together. The thesaurus helps when I can’t find the right rhyme for a particular word, I find a different word to try to rhyme. There’s always another way to say something.
And I could go on and on and on talking about rhyme (and sometimes do) … but I’ll stop for now … assuming you’re even still reading up to this point.
MK: Hmmm, going back in time… secret fantasy of yours? Really, if you could, when and where would you travel to?
JF: Right now any time before March 2020 sounds great...
MK: I remember the first time you showed me the cover of the very first Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast cover - it was at the Olive Garden before NerdCamp! I know we are both so grateful for our nerdy kidlit community! Our community has certainly seen its challenges this year, how has it helped you during this crazy time period?
JF: I vividly remember that night at the OG. I made so many great friends at nErDcamp Michigan in 2015 - meeting you and so many other nerds has enriched my life over the last half decade more than I could have realized.
And having an online community of educator, author, and illustrator friends over the last 6 months (during which I’ve barely left the house) has been one of the few things keeping me sane. I actually started catching up with friends in the kidlit world on Instagram Live in a little “Late Night” interview show called Funk & Friends.
MK: Finally, can you please tell us the proper way to pronounce “fjord”?
JF: It’s Norwegian, so it’s more like ‘fyord’ or ‘fiord’ - but quickly - all one syllable. In high school my choir took a trip to Sweden, Norway, and Denmark and we took an overnight cruise through the Fjords of Norway on the way to Denmark. It was a pretty memorable trip. And saying fjord is one of the most fun words to say.
About Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast: SHORT & SWEET