Some writers are born with a knack for plotting. Others with an ear for dialogue. But few come into the world with as finely tuned a funny bone as author Carolyn Crimi. She has written 13 picture books that are sure to elicit laughs and snorts from the youngest readers – as well as their adult companions. Carolyn is back with another of her joyful romps through storyland with Pugs in a Bug, illustrated by Stephanie Buscema (Dial, 2012). Part counting book, part rollicking adventure, Pugs in a Bug also features greyhounds in a bus, sheepdogs in a jeep, and even bulldogs driving cabs. It is a great fit for dog lovers everywhere.
Question: Pugs are adorable and inherently funny. Volkswagen Beetles are adorable and inherently fun. How did you hit on the stroke of genius to put the two together?
Carolyn Crimi: It just so happens that I own a Volkswagen Bug, although unlike the one in the book, mine is rarely a “clean,” green Bug. It is simply “green.” The very first time I put my pug, Emerson, in my VW Bug, I squealed, “A pug in a Bug!” That was about 10 years ago. I still have both my pug and my Bug, and now I also have a book about them.
Q: Lots of people have great ideas all the time. How do you take your creative, clever notions from idea stage to published book?
If I really believe in a manuscript, I’ll revise it many times before sending it out to a publisher, while some manuscripts are just exercises that never leave my computer. It’s a different journey for each.
Q: Where does your creativity happen? On long walks in the woods, while scrubbing the dishes after dinner, at writer's retreats in the Vermont mountains?
CC: I’d say D, All of the Above. Although I’ve gotten an inordinate number of story ideas on my daily walk through the streets of Evanston.
Q: Because you write for the youngest readers, you must have a strong sense of the joys of being a child. Do you draw on memories from your childhood? Or have you just maintained a great connection to your younger self?
CC: I’d say that I actually have a strong sense of the agonies of childhood. Although I like to think that my books end on a hopeful note, they usually start with a problem that I’m having now or that I had as a child.
Rock ‘N Roll Mole (Dial, 2011) stemmed from many memories of being petrified while on stage. I think if I started from a joyful or blissful memory of childhood, I’d write a pretty boring book.
Q: With characters from your books like these pugs, a rock-n-role mole, and a buccaneer bunny, you clearly have a sense of humor. What inspires you to write such fun and funny books? What makes you laugh?
CC: I like taking stereotypes and turning them inside out. A bear pirate isn’t nearly as funny as a bunny pirate. Likewise, a lion rock star would be expected, but a mole?
These are the kinds of things I think about. Like, all day. Hippo fairies, pig princesses, warthogs in love, professorial monkeys, it’s all funny to me. Animals make me laugh in general. There’s not a day that goes by when I’m not laughing at my pug.
I write humor because I need humor. When I’m sad or frustrated, I’ll watch a funny movie or read a funny book. I cope with the world through humor. And hey, it’s a lot cheaper than therapy.