Today I’m delighted to be able to welcome picture book author Lydia Lukidis to my blog! Her latest release, No Bears Allowed, is an adorable story about a rabbit who gradually overcomes his fear of a big, scary-looking bear and realises the two have more in common than he expected.
Lydia, it’s great to have you here. The delightful No Bears Allowed, published by Blue Whale Press, will officially come out this summer, but is currently available for pre-order. Your STEM book The Broken Bees’ Nest was published in April by Kane Press. You also have many more books that you’ve already published for both the trade and the educational markets. Can you tell us where you draw your inspiration from? What inspired you to write No Bears Allowed?
For me, inspiration can be sparked in many ways. It can come from a photo, a moment or a word, for example. No Bears Allowed was character driven right from the very start, and the characters were swirling around in my head long before the actual narrative was born. Rabbit, who is paralyzed by fear, was the starting point. As I was brainstorming what he could be afraid of, Bear popped up. Once the characters were clear in my mind, the narrative began to develop. It was rooted in facing your fears and also, how friendships can form in the most unlikely ways.
Many of your books are very character-focused. Is that a conscious decision, or does it just happen naturally as the story unfolds?
For better or worse, it seems to be the way my mind often works. I would say many of my books tend to be character driven. It’s not that I consciously aim for this, it just happens on its own accord. Often a strong character will float into my mind, and will start directing my thoughts. Then my attention goes to developing these characters and their voice, and the narrative comes later. I also love writing in the first person, especially for chapter books and middle grade novels, because I can really jump into my character’s shoes.
As writers, we often encounter all kinds of setbacks, including writers’ block, the difficulty of finding time to write in our already hectic lives and dips in motivation and confidence. What advice would you give to authors to help them persevere through challenges?
The journey as a writer is not always easy. I’ve learned, through the years, to take the rejections in my stride. I generally let them slide off my back, so to speak, rather than taking them personally or becoming overly self-critical (which still happens on occasion!). Having said that, some rejections sting more than others. In those cases, wine and chocolate come to the rescue.
I also sometimes have difficulty carving out time to write and work on my own projects. I give many writing workshops in elementary schools during the school year, and combined with being a mother and household duties, time is tight. Every week, I write down my to-do list and commit to spending some time writing. It doesn’t always happen, but for the most part, I get things done.
In the current market, picture books have to be much shorter than in previous decades. The norm now is under 1000 words, and ideally close to 500 for fiction (non-fiction can be a bit longer). How do you keep your word count so low while still telling a complete, fun and interesting story? And what impact do illustrations have on the text?
Ah, this is the challenge with picture books! Learning how to economise your words is a skill you need to practice. My first drafts typically have too many words, because I’m just focused on getting the story down. Then I pare the text down by removing parts that can be told through illustration, because they play a critical role. Then, I examine the text further. I’m usually guilty of “telling rather than showing” in my early drafts so I chop out the words that say too much, and I allow the actions and dialogue tell the story and show emotion.
Can you tell us about any of your current works in progress? What exciting things do you have in the pipeline?
I just released my third STEM picture book, The Broken Bees’ Nest, published by Kane Press. It’s part of the Makers Make it Work series that encourages young readers to not just think critically, but also engage.
I’m currently working on several new projects (I tend to write several in tandem). I’m really excited about my new middle grade novel based on Greek mythology. I grew up with Greek mythology so this book has been tremendous fun. I’m also working on a few nonfiction books, I’ve been very inspired by authors like Melissa Stewart and Laura Purdie Salas as of late.
And I do a lot of WFH* projects as well and have some new books coming out this year on varied topics ranging from ghost hunting to the immune system.
Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us today, Lydia! I wish you the best with the release of No Bears Allowed and with all of your future endeavours!
You can get hold of a copy of Lydia’s latest book, No Bears Allowed, by clicking one of the links below!
Lydia Lukidis is a children’s author with a multi-disciplinary background that spans the fields of literature, science and theater. So far, she has over 40 books and eBooks published, as well as a dozen educational books. Her latest STEM books include The Broken Bees’ Nest and The Space Rock Mystery.
Lydia is also passionate about spreading the love of literacy. She regularly gives writing workshops in elementary schools across Quebec through the Culture in the Schools Program. Her aim is to help children cultivate their imagination, sharpen their writing skills and develop self-confidence.
* WFH = work-for-hire