Q: What inspired you to create Marty, the book and the character?
A: Marty was a sudden burst of inspiration in the shower! A little Martian who disguises himself to look like a human in order to spy on Earth came to me. I suddenly imagined him in a vast array of elaborate costumes and disguises. In my mind, Marty was friendly, lovable and filled with good intentions.
I immediately showed the slightly wet manuscript to my husband (who I know will always give me a very honest opinion) and he instantly declared Marty “quirky and sweet!.”
Q: What do you think Zoey Abbott's illustrations add to the book?
A: Zoey’s illustrations bring Marty to life so perfectly. Zoey and I are great friends and we seem to “get” each other. I sent her the manuscript in its early stages to get her thoughts and she emailed me back asking if I would mind if she did some Marty character sketches?
Mind? I was thrilled! As soon as I saw those sketches, I knew that we had something special. She had given him so much more than my words and extended his sweet, exuberant personality. The whole process was so joyful. The final book is beyond my expectations—Zoey is a genius.
Q: The Publishers Weekly review of the book says, "Underneath the Martian theme, this bubbly fable by Noble embraces being oneself as, far from frightening others, Marty finds out that he doesn’t have to hide.” What do you think of that description?
A: I love that description! Feeling different isn’t easy sometimes, but Marty demonstrates that having a safe place or person and knowing that you are loved and accepted for who you are, is all we need.
I think in an ideal world, we should be able to live our lives without fear of judgement. Regardless of other people’s opinions, my dream is for all children to have the confidence to be themselves in all the beautiful shapes and forms this takes. Marty is the flag bearer for accepting yourself for who you are.
Q: What first interested you about writing children's picture books?
A: I have read to my five children extensively since birth. There is so much beauty in a picture book and in the moments I’ve spent with a child on my lap. It promotes closeness, love and literacy—what is not to love about a picture book?
I never believed in those early days that I may be able to write one myself. How does one take a story from their brain and turn it into a beautifully illustrated book?
After my son Hamish passed away in 2012, I wrote a lot. It was a way of processing the immense grief I felt. For some reason, writing picture books made me feel close to him; subconsciously I was most likely writing them for him.
In 2015, I wrote a book about a child grieving called Finn’s Feather and Zoey was appointed as the illustrator. That process was deeply healing and in the process Zoey and I became the firmest of friends.
Since then, I’ve realized anything is possible if you want it badly enough. Writing a book that a child will hold and immerse themselves in is such an honor. Children loving Marty as much as we do, is so exciting—I can’t think of anything that would bring me more joy than that.
Q: I'm so very sorry to hear about your son. I really appreciate your sharing your experiences.
I wanted to ask you, what are you working on now?
A: I have a picture book coming out next year called Peas in a Pod but right now I’m working on two to three stories. I’m currently editing a picture book about the importance of recognizing our own uniqueness. I’m realizing how important it is to me, that children value themselves.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: The world feels pretty chaotic right now. So I’m immensely grateful we can find beauty, stillness and joy in books. I’m also thankful that I got to create Marty during a time like this.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb