I’m excited to have Amberly Clowe stop by and answer some questions about her Sci-fi children’s book – Axel & Theo: My Dog is The Emperor of a Faraway Galaxy. Great read and so much fun. Let’s get started.
I love that your book is science fiction for kids. What drew you to this genre?
I’ve always loved the possibilities in this genre. Anything can happen with science fiction. That is so cool to me. And then I get to describe and compare these crazy things to the familiar that kids love. I enjoy doing this with silly similes and one-liners. On top of all this awesomeness that makes me seriously giddy, the guts of the story still come back to unforgettable characters experiencing, growing and transforming. It does not get more fun than that.
Give us some insight into your main character, Theo. What is it about him that you think kids, especially boys, can relate to?
I think we get in our adult worlds, paying bills and being responsible, and sometimes we forget that kids really can have it tough. Their problems are just different. Theo, the main character, is in the throws of uncomfortable. He has allof these big dreams but can’t seem to shake the bully right in front of him. He feels like a coward and throughout the story, he begins to find himself and discover that he’s actually pretty awesome. He has an admirable sense of right and wrong, especially when it comes to friendship and loyalty. I hope when the readers discover who they are, they’ll realize they’re just as awesome.
Theo gets quite a surprise when his dog turns out to be an alien from the planet Doglin. I love the fact that Axel is a “weenie dog.” Why did you decide to use such a small dog to be an Emperor of the Thars Galaxy?
I have always loved weenie dogs. They are just so stinkin’ cute! As soon as the idea hit me to have this tiny dog hold such a huge title, that was it. There was no going back. It is such a metaphor for the concept that even the smallest can be the greatest.
There’s a lot of humor in your book. One of Theo’s first thoughts when he hears Axel talk for the first time is that his dog is a “crazy radioactive mutant.” How do you get into the mind of a ten-year-old boy?
That’s a great question. I remember when I decided to go into teaching elementary school. When I was around kids, I was always really interested in their take on things and perspectives. I think kids are fascinating. I adore how they learn and see the world. So it wasn’t really a giant leap for me, and I’m not really surprised I found my voice with the pre-adolescent group. They have so much knowledge already, but at the same time, they lack so much experience. It can kind of be a miserable period. —Yeah, that’s probably where the humor comes in.
When Axel gets kidnapped by alien cats, Theo follows and suddenly finds himself shooting through a beam of goop through space. You did a great job incorporating sci-fi elements at a level that kids can understand.
Thanks so much, Sherry! I so love figuring things like that out in the story. It just made sense for a goopy beam to taste like chocolate cake.
One of the things that readers can look forward to in your book are that there’s not just cats and dogs in the Thars galaxy, but some interesting monster-like creatures. You have Spraykins that spit acid, Ocean razors with razor sharp teeth, and the mysterious Gattalyn. Are we going to see more of these awesome creatures in Axel and Theo’s next adventure?
Yes, yes and yes!! Spraykins, Razors and especially Gattalyns are all in the next book in the series (along with several new creatures). It gets pretty wild!
I must ask about the fizzy ocean of red water that taste like strawberries, purple lotion that makes you strong, and sense enhanced holograms. How do you come up with this stuff?
Haha. Most of the time while writing, I think, “What gadget or futuristic technology would take this scene to the next level?” That’s why I love sciencefiction. It’s way too much fun to go there.
Tell us about the cover and illustrations? Did you feel that illustrations were important for your story?
Definitely! The cover is out-of-this-world! J I adore Theo and his big glasses, Axel and his tiny, weenie-dog body, and the AMAZING galaxy picture in the background. As far as covers go, it really is top-notch! Even for this 6-10 age group, pictures are fun. Pretty much each chapter has one illustration and Katy did a wonderful job. I think my favorite is the illustration showing several cats busting into Theo’s room to kidnap Axel. It looks like a million fireworks explode from Theo’s closet. And one of the many things that I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE about my publisher is that they chose to do full-color illustrations. This is pretty rare for chapter books. They are usually done in blackand white, but I’m so glad Smooth Sailing made the decision to keep the color. It adds so much to the book.
What challenges do you face marketing your books to kids?
As far as my online presence, I’m really marketing Axel and Theo to parents. Adults have the Facebook and Twitter accounts, blogs, etc.. I think a big challenge is just that there are so many books flooding the market. I’m always trying to make Axel and Theo stand out and get noticed. In person, I’m often marketing to both kids and adults. Even though children might want a book, most of the time, their parents are making the purchase. That can feel a little tricky. I’ve never been much of a salesman, but I hope it at least shows how passionate I am about the story. This 6-10 age group is such a fun one. They’re beginning to have literary tastes and likes and really reading independently. I like that I can give them a unique option.
I know as an author, that reviews are important. How successful has your quest for reviews been so far?
I do think it has been successful. There are multiple on Amazon and Goodreads. What I really love is the content. Readers are enjoying the humor, zany characters and science fiction. That is beyond cool. Though I would love readers to keep those reviews comin’! J
What projects are you working on at the present? Do you have any future projects in mind?
I just wrapped up the second book in the Axel and Theo series. Axel and Theo battle new creatures in a new world, alongside a group of friends—mostly Doglins. I have a picture book coming out this year with the same publisher. It’s titled Miss Clara Lily’s Gift. This story is close to my heart. I combined some of my mom’s talents to create several unique characters. One, in particular, learns that it’s a good thing we all have different gifts, because together, we can create such beauty. I can’t wait for this one to hit stores!
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
I think one of the best things aspiring authors can do is to read, read, read all they can in the genre they wish to write. Try not to just read the stories, but try to also analyze what made the book successful. I think you can take what you learn and use this to help your own writing. It’s also a good idea to join a critique group. Others can catch mistakes that we sometimes miss. You may want to also read and stay up with the publishing industry as much as possible. You can see what has been done and better understand what agents and publishers expect. Also, remember to stay true to what you enjoy writing. It’s easy to try and join a fad, but usually the work just doesn’t seem as authentic if you aren’t as passionate about it.
How can readers discover more about you and your work? (ie; Website, Blog, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Pinterest, other)
Thanks for dropping by Amberly. Looking forward to your next release.
Thanks, Sherry. It was fun.