IndieView with Toby Deutchman, author of The Polka Dot Pants of Sir Edward McGee

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I’ve always loved books with humor and books that reassured children that they should believe in themselves. Those two elements coalesced as I thought of the story.

Toby Deutchman – 3 October 2021

The Back Flap

Sir Edward McGee has a secret. He loves his polka dot underpants. But when an accident reveals them and everybody laughs, he hides them in a drawer and vows never to wear them again. Then, unexpectedly, something changes the way he feels.
In this humorous tale, children learn that they shouldn’t be ashamed of the things that bring them joy – even if they are a little out of the ordinary.

About the book

What is the book about?

The book is the story of Sir Edward McGee, a man who loves his polka dot underwear because it always cheers him up.  But when an accident reveals them and everybody laughs, he hides them in a drawer and vows never to wear them again. Then, unexpectedly, something happens that changes the way he feels: the polka dot pants become the rage.

The lesson children learn in the story is that they shouldn’t be ashamed of the things that bring them joy – even if they are a little out of the ordinary.

When did you start writing the book?

A few years ago I wanted to write a children’s story when the title The Polka Dot Pants of Sir Edward McGee suddenly came to me.  I loved the title, but I had no idea what story to create around it.  After thinking about it for a couple of weeks, I decided to wait until something occurred to me.  One day, some months later, I was standing in the shower when the whole story suddenly presented itself to me … rhymes included.  I immediately sat down and wrote it.

How long did it take you to write it?

When I first sat down I wrote it out in an hour.  After that initial writing, I spent several days working on various parts and making sure it would be easy to read both to oneself and out loud.

Where did you get the idea from?

I’ve always loved books with humor and books that reassured children that they should believe in themselves.  Those two elements coalesced as I thought of the story.

Were there any parts of the book where you struggled?

The part I struggled most with was with making the rhyme as exact as possible.  That entailed finding the exact words I wanted and using them in a way that would rhyme with the line before. I also wanted to make sure that the cadence flowed smoothly.

What came easily?

It is easy for me to think in rhyme, so the basic rhyming was easy.  The other part that came easily is knowing from the time I sat down where I wanted the story to go.

Are your characters entirely fictitious or have you borrowed from real world people you know?

The characters are fictitious but I wanted to incorporate the real feelings that people feel when they are embarrassed or ashamed.  Children are often teased and their discomfort is often under appreciated.  Children also frequently believe that adults don’t have the same experiences.  Using an adult as the main character I thought would help them to understand that we all have the same feelings.

We all know how important it is for writers to read. Are there any particular authors that have influenced how you write and, if so, how have they influenced you?

I always loved Dr. Seuss as a child.  I memorized the rhymes and loved reading them aloud. I also loved the Nancy Drew books.  After I read the first one, I read all of the books then published in the series within the next month.  I loved the “mysteries”, but most of all I related to the relationships of the characters. There was a great deal of kindness between the friends. As an adult I still read children’s and Young Adult books as well as those intended for adults. My reading varies from mysteries (Louise Penny), to short stories (Chekhov, Frank O’Connor), non-fiction (Viktor Frankl Man’s Search for Meaning), spiritual (Jack Kornfield’s A Path with Heart) and books that deal with the depth of feeling of the characters (David Copperfield, Les Miserables). I read many modern authors.  I am influenced by the fact that I do not enjoy reading stories where the main characters are unkind or always manipulative.  I want to spend my time with characters that appeal to or interest me in some way.

Do you have a target reader?

I thought I did!  My expectation was that this book was only for children.  I have been surprised and pleased by the response of many adults who have told me that the story is as relevant to them as it is to their children.

About Writing

Do you have a writing process? If so can you please describe it?

I like to have the whole story in mind when I first sit down to write.  I usually write the whole first draft at one sitting and need to be uninterrupted.  When I come back to it a day or so later, I sometimes think of a new element I want to add, or try to improve the flow or the dialogue. I usually return to it regularly during the next few months to see if the need for any changes strikes me.

Do you outline? If so, do you do so extensively or just chapter headings and a couple of sentences?

I don’t outline.

Do you edit as you go or wait until you’ve finished?

I usually edit as I go along.  But, as I said, I come back to the manuscript many times over a month’s period.

Did you hire a professional editor?

I decided that I needed a professional editor and chose one who was recommended to me.  She lives in Australia. We established a wonderful working relationship.  She was very helpful to me in making sure that the cadence of the rhyme worked well. She also had a very good sense of humor which allowed her to connect well to the story.

Do you listen to music while you write? If yes, what gets the fingers tapping?

When I listen to music I listen intently.  To me it is the equivalent of being completely immersed in a book. That being the case, I can’t do both at once.  But I have at times listened to a particular piece of music before writing to put me in touch with a certain emotion that I will want to convey.

About Publishing

Did you submit your work to Agents?

No.

What made you decide to go Indie, whether self-publishing or with an indie publisher? Was it a particular event or a gradual process?

When I wrote the book, I really wasn’t thinking of publishing it. I was just enjoying the process and was thinking of sharing it with some people I knew.  I sent it to my daughter and it instantly became a family affair. My daughter loved the message of the story and encouraged me to publish it. She offered to learn the ins and outs of self-publishing and to help me with it.  I then reached out to my grandson, who is a wonderful artist, and asked him to do some initial drawings to bring the characters to life.  These were the pictures the illustrator I worked with used as a basis for her illustrations. My daughter and I then worked together to get the book published, which has greatly increased my pleasure in the process.

Did you get your book cover professionally done or did you do it yourself?

I hired a professional illustrator (who lives in Russia) both for the book and for the cover.

Do you have a marketing plan for the book or are you just winging it?

My daughter, who has worked in the marketing field before, has been arranging the promotions and publicity.

Any advice that you would like to give to other newbies considering becoming Indie authors?

Be prepared to learn the ins and outs of self-publishing. The more professional the book looks the better. If you use outside help, like an illustrator, make sure that the final product reflects what you want it to be. Enjoy it!  You’ve accomplished something.

About You

Where did you grow up?

In Queens, New York

Where do you live now?

My husband and I retired to Sarasota, Florida.

What would you like readers to know about you?

From childhood through the present, I have always written poetry as a means of self-expression.  It helps me to distill my own thinking.

My work background has included designing materials for Head Start, teaching grade school, and being a trainer and Executive Coach for major corporations.  My volunteer work has included working as a counselor with homeless children and adults and being the board president of the New York City 24-hour suicide hotline.

I have always enjoyed stories, whether they were told to me or I read them. In all of my experiences I have found people young and old to be as open to stories as I am. Whether the stories were filled with humor or sadness, they responded and often learned a lesson they would not have learned in another way.  This response transcended the differences in their lives, be it age, education, economic status or ethnicity.

My personal belief is that we are all connected and that the greatest gifts we can give each other are kindness and sharing.  Even the smallest of these two acts can make a significant difference in someone’s life.

What are you working on now?

I have two stories I have completed, neither in rhyme.  One is a story about a boy who breaks a neighbor’s window and the empathy he learns when he hears what happened to that neighbor when he broke someone’s window when he was child.  The other story is about a little boy getting lost on a family vacation and the wind carrying his grandmother’s voice to him to keep him unafraid.   I am also now working on a story about a child experiencing homelessness. Working with this population has given me an in-depth look at the issues they deal with beside the obvious lack of a permanent place to live. From the experience I have had with my book, I would be interested in publishing all of these stories.

End of Interview:

Get your copy of The Polka Dot Pants of Sir Edward McGee from Amazon US or Amazon UK.

The post IndieView with Toby Deutchman, author of The Polka Dot Pants of Sir Edward McGee first appeared on The IndieView.

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