Interview: Award-winning Author D.J. Corchin Loves Connecting With His Readers

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I met D.J. Corchin at the Printer’s Row Lit festival a few years ago in Chicago. He says he loves connecting with readers, and gets excited every time he has an event.

“I love the surprise when they find out the person ‘working the table’ is also the author! I get to hear all sorts of ways the books connect with people and even get some great critical feedback.,” he said

So, I knew he was an author, but this interview helped me learn a lot of other interesting stuff about him.

For example, he actually had a dream that inspired him to write the book Half-Cat., which I reviewed this week. (If I could be half-animal, I would be half-tiger. He said he would want to be half-bat.) Besides being an author, he is also an illustrator (see some of his work below). And his first job was being a featured performer in the Tony and Emmy award-winning show, “BLAST!” D.J. Corchin rode a bicycle and played the trombone on the world tour show. He also used to be a high-school band director.

He is the author of many books, including the award-winning Do You Speak Fish?, and an owner of a publishing company called “phazelFOZ”, where he publishes his own books. But, he said now a publishing company called Sourcebooks is looking to take his books to a new level by republishing all 24 of them. D.J. Corchin’s newest book A Thousand NO’s will be coming out soon from that company. You can pre-order it now! I’m glad I got to connect with him! Read his interview below:

Question: The voice of your book Half-Cat is really powerful, because it is playful and written in a kid-like tone. What advice would you give budding authors about finding the voice of the narrator?

Answer: Thanks! For Half-Cat I think it was somewhat easy to find the “voice” as it’s from the perspective of the main character. He’s serious about being Half-Cat but there’s also a fun, mischievous element to him. To be honest I can relate to that and it’s easier to write a voice you’re familiar with. My advice would be to write with the voices you’re familiar with and can relate to. It’s important to not write from a perspective you can’t say you’ve had. Let those who have that perspective share their voice.

Q. Have you ever met the illustrator of Half-Cat? Did you get to choose who illustrated the book, or what was the process?

A: Yes! Tyler Hawx is an amazing person. This was his first children’s book he illustrated and I am just in love with his creepy, playful style. We worked at the same company (but not together) so we knew each other through that and I started following him on social media. He was posting such amazing artwork and I said to myself, when I write a book that’s a fit for his style I’m calling him up. Once I wrote Half-Cat, I knew this was the one for us to work on so I reached out. As this was back when I was publishing my own titles, I was able to pick the illustrator. That is not always the case with a larger publisher. Tyler was incredibly easy to work with and I can’t wait to do some follow-ups planned with the Half- series with him as the illustrator!

Q: What is the easiest part about writing/publishing books?

A: I’m sure this answer is different for everyone, but the hardest part for writing nowadays it’s finding the time and space to get your head right to be able to pull the magic out of you. Sometimes I’m able to write one line in two days. But if I find a great place to write and have some time, I can get into a creative flow. On top of that, I personally like to work in different areas instead of the same place. So that adds some difficulty with social distancing and business closures. The easiest part of writing is the amount of stories and characters in the world that have yet to be told! There’s always another idea waiting in the back of your brain that just needs a little encouragement to come out!

Q: What is the hardest part?

A.: For publishing my own books, without a doubt, the hardest part is distribution. As a small publisher or individual author, getting your book out to a large number of people is extremely hard, complicated, and can even cost you a lot of money if you make some significant mistakes. There are more avenues for this then there have ever been but it’s still tough to get your books in bookstores across the country in a way that produces significant sales (if that’s your goal). There’s not much that is easy about publishing your own books, (especially children’s picture books) but I will say that the printing industry is getting better at helping independent authors physically produce some great quality books at a more affordable price. For publishing with a large publisher, for me it’s been tough to just be the author. I’ve been used to having to worry about, printing quality, design layouts, bindings, marketing, distribution, etc. Now, with Sourcebooks, there’s a team showing my projects just as much love and care as I would. They are true professionals and I’m getting better at sitting back and letting them do what they do best!

Q.: What inspired you to write Half-Cat?

A: My wife is a pre-school teacher and she had a few students one year who would go around saying they were half-this or half-that. I thought it was so fun. One night, and I’m completely serious, I had a dream where I was teaching and kids were coming up to me saying they were Half-Cat and at the end of the dream, I whispered in their ear, “I’m Half-Eagle” and it blew their minds. Hence the last page of the the book. For me, it’s important that even though a book I write is fun and playful, it should also have a takeaway to help the reader explore the way they interact with the world.

Q: Summarize your book in three words.

A: You’re meow half-cat!

Q: If you could be “half-” animal, would you want to be half-cat or something else?

A: I think I’d want to be Half-Bat. You get super hearing to listen well, can see things other’s don’t, you stay up half the night, and you can kind of half-fly by being able to jump long distances and hang by your feet.

Q: You have written a LOT of books. Which out of the ones you’ve written are your favorite?

A: I get asked this a lot. I actually have an answer! My favorite book I’ve written is one called, Mystical Rules for My Magical Daughter. It’s a book of metaphorical life-lessons I wrote for my daughter when she was born. I also drew the pictures. I’m looking forward to Sourcebooks updating it and republishing it. I think I’m going to update all the illustrations too because I’ve had more years of practice!

Q: What is your favorite book overall?

A: I love stories of all types. I have more personal connections with some more than others such as Shel Silverstein’s books. My grandmother went to high school with him and so when ever I would visit her, both my grandparents would read his books to me. So they remind me of my family when I read them.

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