Welcome to my book blog, Blissfully Bookish. For this Q & A, please welcome the awesome and talented husband-wife team, Megan and Jorge Lacera. Their picture book Zombies Don’t Eat Veggies! published by Lee and Low Books has gone through numerous printings. One of the reasons I admire them is for their ability to market their book so well and get tangible results.
But first, Megan and Jorge are generously giving away a FREE PB critique! To be eligible, please leave a comment on this blog. It’s that easy! Deadline April 18.
Please describe the journey to publication for this book.
Phew, that could be a book in and of itself! Zombies Don’t Eat Veggies took quite a while from inception to being out in the world. We spent a lot of time (years) in our little bubble with the book, revising and revising and then tearing it all apart and revising again. We both simultaneously worked other full-time jobs, collaborating in the early mornings, late at night, or during any slivers of time that we could find.
We received great insight on our story development from Mira Reisberg through The Children’s Book Academy…she was an early supporter of the book, never turning up her nose at our quirky zombie humor. She gave us hope that the story would find its audience. And there were days we definitely needed those tiny sprigs of hope…
There were people along the way who tried to persuade us to take out the Spanish. They suggested that it made the book too “niche.” But while we were very willing to keep working to make the project better, we also knew in our hearts there were elements that were absolutely integral. We weren’t going to let go of the bilingual reality of the family, nor did we think non-Spanish speakers would be turned away. And so we were patient. That patience paid off when we signed with John Cusick and Folio Jr…and when we signed a two book deal with Lee and Low Books.
We are very grateful to have partners who understand our work and believe in it. Finding those partners is so key to your publishing career. It’s often not easy or straightforward, but it really is true…your books are your heart and business, so treat them as such.
Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
Our son and our family are the main sources of inspiration—our kiddo has always loved spooky characters and stories since he was very young. He called them “the scaries” and we were constantly on the lookout for them. It’s pretty tough to find “scaries” that are appropriate for a pre-schooler! So we really wanted to create a book that kids like him would delight in.
Our family is also multicultural—Jorge was born in Colombia, grew up in Miami, and speaks both Spanish and English fluently. I was born in the Washington DC, grew up in the Cleveland suburbs, and after being married to Jorge for over ten years, can understand more Spanish that I can speak. Kai’s abuelos (Jorge’s parents) speak mostly Spanish. So there is a lot of mixing of language in our house—and we are certainly not the only family with this experience. We felt really strongly that we had to create a book that centered a multicultural, bilingual family—and we knew they had to be spooky zombies!
Your husband Jorge Lacera illustrated the book, what is it like to work with your partner professionally? What is your artistic process?
We love working together! Our relationship began as a working one when we were both employed at American Greetings in Ohio. We collaborated quite a bit at our jobs before we began dating…so it was a comfortable dynamic for us.
It’s difficult to define our artistic process because we’ve been doing it for so long and it because it is so natural for us to work together. We can tell you that it’s very collaborative—there is a ton of back and forth, a ton of conversation, a ton of feedback on our respective contributions. We might talk about a project over coffee first thing in the morning, or we might stay up past midnight working through a story problem.
Sometimes Jorge will sketch a character design, or storyboard out a scene and that will get sparks flying for a project. Other times I’ll write a page or two and that will be our basis for moving forward. It all depends. We’re very lucky that we can respect each other’s work and can push each other to be our best without totally ticking the other off (okay, that does happen once in a while. But we’re pretty good about putting our egos aside and focusing on the best outcomes we can create).
There are many zombie books out there as it’s a popular topic. What differentiates your book from the others?
Great question! Zombies Don’t Eat Veggies! centers a multicultural, bilingual zombie family. Unless we missed it, we’ve never seen that before. The Romero parents want their son Mo to enjoy traditional zombie cuisine—which in their world means Latin-inspired dishes like arm-panadas, chili con ojos, and brain and bean tortillas. We’ve never seen this kind of zombie fare either.
Mo is a zombie who is struggling to fit in with his zombie parents, and really, his entire zombie culture. He’s different. He loves vegetables, which are off limits in the zombie world. Mo has to find a way to accept himself and his differences, while realizing he can still be a part of his family and his culture. It’s a pretty pun-filled, funny, emotional journey packed into a picture book.
Please paste a short and compelling excerpt from your book.
Mo’s parents did not like vegetables. Not. One. Bit.
Veggies were yucky. Disgusting. Que asco!
They were not allowed at the Romero’s dinner table.
Zombies were supposed to eat zombie cuisine, like brain cakes, brain stew, and brain and bean tortillas.
Mo’s Mom and Dad insisted that their niño eat only zombie cuisine.
Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
We are very interested in all aspects of entertainment and media. Our backgrounds are in video games, toys, animation—IP development and strategy. We’d love to see our stories become films, tv series, toys, games and more. We think the world is ready for a bilingual zombie family—and more!
We’ve been working on several picture books, and are also collaborating on a few middle-grade projects. Every project is in a different stage—variety keeps things fun and exciting for us.
Please share your favourite books that have inspired you and served as mentor texts. Pick one classic and one contemporary book. What is it about them that moved you?
While we definitely read everything we can get our hands on, we don’t use mentor texts as they’re traditionally discussed. It just isn’t part of our process.
Here are two books that we love and read often in our house:
(Classic): WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE, Maurice Sendak. Everything about this book is imaginative and evocative—the sparse word choices, the art, Max’s costume. It captures a child’s (and sometimes adults) wild, irrational, and totally normal emotions so clearly and expertly. We all have our wild moments; it’s helpful to know that even when we have to sail off to an unknown island, we can return home to a still-hot dinner.
(Contemporary): ARE YOU SCARED DARTH VADER? By Adam Rex. We love Adam’s work—all of it! He’s so funny and irreverent with a definitive, clearly unique voice. VADER is hilarious and it’s such a great read aloud, which is so important with picture books. And the message—everyone is scared of something—resonates without ever being patronizing or heavy-handed.
What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers? (I will make an ecard with your quote and circulate it)
Always evolve! Reward yourself for growing and becoming the best creator you can be. Push your work while being kind to yourself!
And a bonus question just for kicks! If you could be any flavor of ice cream, which one would you be and why??
Peanut butter and chocolate. Our whole family is obsessed with this combo!
Megan Lacera grew up in the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio, with a book always in her hands. She became a writer and creator of characters and worlds for entertainment companies like American Greetings, Hasbro, and Goldieblox and later formed her own creative company where she creates original content and consults on marketing, social media, and strategic direction for start-ups and large corporations.
After reading many stories to their son, Megan realized that very few books reflected a family like theirs–multicultural, bilingual, funny, and imperfect. She decided to change that by writing her own stories.
Jorge Lacera was born in Colombia, and grew up in Miami, Florida drawing in sketchbooks, on napkins, on walls, and anywhere his parents would let him.
After graduating with honors from Ringling College of Art and Design, Jorge worked as a visual development and concept artist for major gaming studios and entertainment companies.
As a big fan of pop culture, comics, and zombie movies, Jorge rarely saw Latinx kids as the heroes or leads. He is committed to changing that, especially now that he has a son.
Jorge is currently helping to create the next chapter in the Bioshock franchise as the Associate Art Director at Cloud Chamber Studios.
Megan and Jorge currently live in Montréal, Quebec. They are represented by John Cusick at Folio Jr.
Twitter: @meganlacera @jlacera
Instagram: @authormeganlacera @jlacera
Purchase the book here: http://www.studiolacera.com/books.html
Snag the FREE Teacher’s Guide Here: https://www.leeandlow.com/books/zombies-don-t-eat-veggies/teachers_guide