Sunday, November 13, 2022

Q&A with Katy S. Duffield



Katy S. Duffield is the author of the new children's picture book House Finds a Home. Her many other books include Crossings: Extraordinary Structures for Extraordinary Animals. She lives in Arkansas.  


Q: What inspired you to write House Finds a Home? 


A: Hi Deborah. I’m so happy to be here talking books with you!


I lost my mom to Alzheimer’s in 2015, and one day a few years later, I drove by my childhood home—it was my Mom’s pride and joy. It was a small, older house, but my mom kept it spotless. She was forever cleaning, touching up paint, raking leaves, planting flowers, and so forth.


But on that day, it looked so different. My heart broke when I saw it. It looked sad and so unloved—which made me wonder: can houses be sad? And at that moment, I decided they could. I knew my childhood home was sad without the care and presence of my mom. Shortly after that, the first line came to me: “You may think houses don’t have hearts. But House had one. And it was broken.”


Q: The Kirkus review of the book calls it “A new way to appreciate ‘home sweet home.’” What do you think of that description, and what do you think makes a house a home?


A: I love that Kirkus used that phrasing because there can be all kinds of homes, can’t there? For me, (and this is the phrase I use when signing this book for people), “Home is where the love is.” The different kinds of homes and different kinds of people who inhabit them are endless. There are lots of ways to make a home, but as long as love is there, that’s all you need.


Thinking more deeply about this actually helped me overcome the sadness I felt when I saw my childhood home. The outside of the house may have looked different, but what matters is the family inside, the love inside.


Q: What do you think Jen Corace’s illustrations add to the story?


A: I was absolutely blown away when I saw Jen’s art. The level of detail in incredible! There’s so much to see and ponder on each page—from the ever-changing wallpaper, to the varied items she included in the attic, to the fun and quirky paper lanterns and the garden gnome.


All this along with how she depicted the progression of time on the outside is masterful. And if you look closely at the end papers, you’ll get a clue to a subtle twist at the book’s end.


Jen’s vision for the book exceeded my expectations and perfectly mirrored the idea that love can come in many forms.


Q: How did you first get interested in writing for kids?


A: I’ve always been a reader. Stories bring me such joy and open so many worlds. As I got older, I wondered if I might be able to write stories that would spark joy for others. Even as an adult, I found myself drawn to picture books, so I knew that’s what I wanted to write, but I wasn’t sure where to start.


I knew breaking into the book market would be tough, so I first started writing for children’s magazines. I had some success there and enjoyed writing short stories and articles, but picture books still reigned in my heart, so while I wrote for magazines, I also continued working on picture book manuscripts until I made progress in that area.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I always have several different projects in the works. If I’m stuck on one, I can always shift to another one. Right now, I am mainly working on a young rhyming fictional manuscript, and two nonfiction picture book manuscripts—one nature-themed and the other a lyrical biography of sorts.


I enjoy writing both fiction and nonfiction (my first nonfiction picture book, Crossings: Extraordinary Structures for Extraordinary Animals, illustrated by Mike Orodán, S&S/Beach Lane came out in 2020), and just recently had my second nonfiction picture book accepted for publication—but it’s too early to share much about that. Sorry!


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Going back to House Finds a Home, I hope readers are noticing the subtle “twist” at the story’s end that gives the story a fun, intergenerational feel. If you need a hint—just follow the pigtails! 


Thanks so much for having me, Deborah! 


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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