Friday, March 27, 2009

Blog Tour: Bubble Homes and Fish Farts: My Interview with Fiona Bayrock

I'm happy to be hosting the final stop on Fiona Bayrock's blog tour. Her book, Bubble Homes and Fish Farts, is one example of how fun (and informative) nonfiction can be for young readers! I encourage you to seek out her book and see for yourself!

What do you love about writing?

All of it. Truly. No matter where I am in the process, I'm happier than the proverbial pig in mud. I love developing ideas, playing with word and sentence order, arguing the subtleties of synonyms, and creating structure and substance from a blank page. I'm constantly learning something new and interesting about the world. Add to that the flexible schedule and lack of commute, and I don't know that there's any other career that would be a better fit for me. I'm eager to get to my desk each morning and reluctant to leave it when the day is done. That's a nice position to be in.

What do you find the easiest?

Finding ideas. They're everywhere!

What do you find the hardest?

Getting that first draft down. At that point, I'm excited to start writing and there's an overload of information swimming in my head, bursting to get onto the page. Maintaining a controlled flow can be a challenge. It's like steering wild horses...exhilarating, but hard work.

What inspired you to write Bubble Homes and Fish Farts?

I'm captivated by the unusual ways animals survive in challenging environments, so quirky animal adaptations is one of my favourite things to write about. Plus, every author dreams of coming up with a book idea that's never been done before. Bubble Homes and Fish Farts got a full score on both counts. I had to write it.

What do you love—do you love—the research process that goes into writing nonfiction? What is your favorite and least favorite part of the research process?

I love research. I'm an intensely curious person and I relish learning new things and making new connections. My favourite parts of research are following a trail of information clues from source to source, and those times when I finally discover that one piece of information I've been seeking, or trying to confirm, for weeks. My least favourite part is waiting—for interlibrary loans or people to get back to me.

Have you got any research tips to pass along?

My research techniques are pretty standard, I think. Here are a few things I do:
— use only reliable sources (most of the internet is not reliable), primary when possible,
— mine bibliographies of my sources for more source ideas,
— copy, highlight, and store information so I can access it easily again even if the book has been returned or the webpage changed,
— sort research according to chapter or spread so I can find it easily,
— get at least three independent sources for each fact,
— keep track of photo references along the way to pass along to the illustrator or to make photo research easier.
— keep a running bibliography, adding new entries as I use material. Once the book is finished, so is the bibliography and I know I didn't forget to include any sources.

Do you have any favorite fascinating tidbits or facts that didn’t make it into the book, but that you’d like to share with readers?

My editor allowed me four pages in the backmatter to devote to "More amazing facts about bubble makers" (an author's dream!). This allowed me to include all those juicy bits that wouldn't fit into the main part of the book, so I didn't have to leave anything on the cutting room floor that I was aching to include.

While researching, one of the things I found most interesting was how much more scientists are able to learn about animals (seals and humpback whales in this case) thanks to filming their activities with crittercams. So, how *does* one go about attaching a camera to 30 tons of whale? Answer: with a big suction cup sucked on by a scuba tank. Then to get the camera back, you wait until the salt water dissolves the magnesium plugging a hole in the cup, water gets in, cup lets go, and camera bobs to the surface.

How did you decide what to include and what not to include?

My goal was to include the broadest selection of animals and bubble uses with little overlap for either. Where animals or uses were too similar, I eliminated all but one. Fortunately, the list of animals that use bubbles is a fairly short one, so I didn't have to make a lot of decisions to get a good cross-section. I searched every avenue I could think of to find a lizard or bird that used bubbles, but couldn't find any. If anyone knows of one, I'd love to hear from you!

How do you find time—do you find time—to keep reading? Do you have any favorites of the year?

I put reading in the same category as eating and breathing; there's always time for reading. I fit it into short snippets of time throughout the day, often while I'm waiting for something or someone. I read a wide range of children's literature with the odd adult book thrown in for good measure. A sampling of my favourite kids' books lately: Nic Bishop Frogs (Bishop), Tracking Trash (Burns), Stanley at Sea (Bailey), Not a Box (Portis). Punished (Lubar), the Clementine books (Pennypacker), The Darwin Expedition (Tullson), and Exit Point (Langston). Adult books: Predictably Irrational (Ariely), What Einstein Told His Cook 2 (Wolke), and The White Bone (Gowdy).

If you had twenty-four hours, a time machine, and a limitless supply of money, what would you want to do?

Wow, I'd love to be in a position to be wildly philanthropic, but I'd need more than 24 hours to figure out all the details. Aha, that's what I'd do...rig the time machine so I could keep going back in small increments so my 24 hours would go on as long as I needed it to.

Thanks for having me, Becky!

Other stops on the tour were:

On Monday, Fiona was at The Well-Read Child.
Tuesday's stop was at Abby (the) Librarian.
Thursday, she'll be at Celebrate Story.
And she'll end the week at Becky's Book Reviews.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
If you're reading this post on another site, or another feed, the content has been stolen.


Deb Nance at Readerbuzz said...

I am off to see out a copy of your new book! Good timing...I am just putting in my last book order of the year for my library.

Debi said...

Oh my ladies, what a wonderful interview!

"I put reading in the same category as eating and breathing..." That pretty much says it all, huh?

I know two little boys who definitely need this book! Thank you!

Sandra said...

It's not a book I'd read but I certainly enjoyed the interview. Read the whole thing hoping to find out if fish really do that-you know, pass wind. I guess I'll have to get the book for one of my nieces or nephews to find out. :)

laurasalas said...

Fun interview, Becky and Fiona! Love that about the suction cup--last year, we got to see and meet the guy who developed the original animal cam through National Geographic. So cool to hear him talk about that.

As always, Fiona, your enthusiasm for writing and science is contagious!