Native Ink Press: Where do you do most of your writing? What is your process like?
Michele McAvoy: Anywhere where I can hide from my family. Seriously, I have two small children and a husband who all want attention, so I sneak away to write. I will write early in the morning (for an hour or less) before I sign onto my law job and the same at night when all are asleep (and I should probably be sleeping, too). During those times not only do I write, but I also market my published books and keep myself in the loop of the industry (ie: get caught up on Twitter, a virtual playground for children’s book authors).
Native Ink Press: How did you come up with the idea of this book? How long did it take you to write?
Michele McAvoy: The Gorilla Picked Me! is based on a true story from when I was a little girl. As a Girl Scout Brownie, I attended a daddy-daughter dance. When I was little, I was chubby and felt like I didn’t stand out in a positive way like my friends who were tall and skinny. During the dance, my daddy stepped away and a dancing gorilla appeared. The gorilla picked me up and danced with me. It wasn’t until my 30’s, years after my father had passed away, did I think that it was possibly him in that gorilla suit. Simple moments can define a person and I love that my father’s love gave me this special moment. He is no longer here for me to ask if it was, in fact, him in that gorilla suit. It’s his forever secret, and I love that too.
The Gorilla Picked Me! has gone through many (many!) revisions. The first draft came pretty easily and closely resembles the final story. But there were many revisions in between as I tried to navigate the opinions of publishers who don’t prefer rhyme, and as I perfected the rhyme and meter to stand out on a professional level.
Native Ink Press: Who are your favorite authors/books? Why?
Michele McAvoy: I love Andrea Beatty and her children’s picture book, Rosie Revere Engineer. Ms. Beatty is an inspiration for writing in rhyme and I love the message of Rosie Revere, that little girls can do anything they put their minds to and to never let others steer you away from your passion. Be yourself!
I also love picture books illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi. A personal favorite of mine (and my 5-year-old daughter’s) is I’m Bored written by Michael Ian Black and illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi. This funny picture book pegs how little kids think and get frustrated and Ms. Ohi’s illustrations are fun and full of positivity.
Finally, I love Dav Pilkey, the genius behind The Adventures of Captain Underpants. Mr. Pilkey came to my rescue in my struggle to encourage my son (now 8 years old) to read. His fabulously flawed mischievous characters, George and Harold, kept my son’s interest and got me through First and Second Grade reading logs. Mr. Pilkey’s unhindered imagination and attention to what kids like (not grown-ups) is an inspiration for all those writing for children.
On a more mature level, I love Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (at this point it’s become so mainstream I’m afraid it’s a cliché.) But, I’m a romantic and complicated like Elizabeth Bennet, so Mr. Darcy gets me every time!
About the Author
Michele McAvoy is a children’s book author, an attorney and a mother of two young children. Michele’s love of books began as a young girl excited to order Troll books at school (that Troll traveling bookstore was the best!) As a child, she loved taking trips to the Barnes & Noble in the Village of NYC to buy Judy Blume when visiting with her grandmother. Michele always enjoyed the quiet creativity that came along with reading and writing. She now finds peace in her often-hectic days when she’s writing. Michele’s debut picture book “My Superhero Grandpa” is the recipient of a 2016 Children’s Moonbeam Book Award. She is excited about the release of her newest picture book “The Gorilla Picked Me!” coming in 2018. Michele graduated cum laude from both New York University and Brooklyn Law School and considers herself a “cool nerd.” She currently lives in the suburbs of New Jersey and embraces her “joisey” accent (it’s a losing battle otherwise).
Michele’s book The Gorilla Picked Me! is available for pre-order on our website, Native Ink Press and Ink Smith Publishing. The pre-order sale includes a hardcover, author signed edition! You can pre-order your copy here.