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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Hacket


Updated: 7 days ago

The Backstory welcomes Laura Roettiger and her latest picture book, AN ACCIDENTAL HERO: A MOSTLY TRUE WOMBAT STORY with illustrations by Debbie Palen. This wonderful story uses an unexpected structure to report on the surprising actions of our furry friend, Wombat while teaching about selflessness and kindness. Keep reading to learn all about this book and for your chance to win a 30-minute Zoom AMA or class visit from Laura.

AH: Welcome to The Backstory and thank you for joining us and sharing the inspiration behind AN ACCIDENTAL HERO: A MOSTLY TRUE WOMBAT STORY.

First off, please tell us a little bit about your story.

LR: Hi Andrew, thank you so much for having me on your blog. I think what makes AN ACCIDENTAL HERO: A MOSTLY TRUE WOMBAT STORY stand out from other picture books is the structure. It is written as a newscast with Koala and Emu serving as the in-studio news anchors and Kangaroo as the field reporter who introduces readers to Wombat and the other animals in the burrow.  

AH: Yes! This story could have been told in many ways, but your chosen structure suits it perfectly while adding uniqueness and providing opportunities for humor. I am also a fan of your author's note and nonfiction backmatter filling us in on all sorts of Australian animals. I can just imagine kids pouring over those final pages reading aloud and sharing all of their newly learned facts.

AH: What’s the story behind the story? What was your inspiration? Where did the idea come from?

LR: In January, 2020 one of the biggest international news stories was the devastating bushfires in New South Wales, Australia. Day after day, the news felt overwhelming until I saw a story that showed rescuers found other animal species sheltering in wombat burrows. I knew this was a story that would make an engaging picture book. I knew children were seeing the scary reports and finally there was a good news angle to the story. {It was early 2020, before the global pandemic and resulting shutdowns took front and center on everyone’s minds.} 

AH: How wonderful that you were able to find a positive hook in all of this devastation. I love the message this story sends to young readers about finding hope in trying times, kindness, and caring for one another.

AH: How did you approach going from this seed of an idea to what is now AN ACCIDENTAL HERO, A MOSTLY TRUE WOMBAT STORY? Was it something undeniable you had to write immediately or did you need to sit with this idea and let it grow for a while before it found its way to the page?

LR: My sweet spot for writing is stories with STEM elements and kindness. As my 2019 bio said, “I’ve worked with children since I was no longer considered one,” so books that model kindness without being about kindness have a special place in my heart. I sat down to write this story immediately.

AH: Mission accomplished! Your message is perfectly understood and modeled through Wombat's actions.

AH: Did AN ACCIDENTAL HERO: A MOSTLY TRUE WOMBAT STORY undergo any major changes/revisions from the original version? If so, what led you to make these changes?

LR: I love this question! As you know being a teacher, kids write a story and when they’ve written “the end” they think they’re DONE! Who needs revision? Lol! But as authors we know that’s where the magic happens. With my first book, ALIANA REACHES FOR THE MOON, the first draft and the actual book are so wildly different, I have fun sharing that with students during author visits. In contrast, this book actually didn’t change that much. I pulled up my first draft recently and was surprised how much had stayed the same. There was one joke that all my critique partners loved, it got laughs from everyone who read it, even my editor loved it, but we ended up cutting it because in the end, it just felt uncomfortable. We worked it out a different way and it’s still funny.

AH: This is a fantastic thing to share with students. As you mentioned, they are very quick to claim they are "done." Examples like you provide help them see the power of revision to make their stories shine. I love to add that this revision does not happen in isolation and point out the teamwork that occurs to make each book the best it can be.

Are there any books/authors that you feel influenced your work on AN ACCIDENTAL HERO: A MOSTLY TRUE WOMBAT STORY?

LR: I read as many picture books and early readers as possible. I like humor that is clever and never mean spirited and I don’t read anything scary. I listen to audiobooks all the time. I especially enjoy autobiographies because they’re read by the author. And of course I’ve always got a book going - usually middle grade realistic fiction or adult historical fiction, so it is safe to say,  I’m immersed in story. My work is informed by all of it but not anything specific.

AH: Where do you tend to find your inspiration or your sparks for ideas?

LR: My inspiration comes from everywhere. AN ACCIDENTAL HERO: A MOSTLY TRUE WOMBAT STORY, is the only manuscript I’ve written that was specifically inspired by just one thing. Most of my writing includes a mashup of several different ideas, students or my own children combined with settings they have never been to combined with science theories. You should see my StoryStorm lists! I have written more than a few manuscripts featuring my goldendoodle Charlie and I hope one day he gets to appear in the pages of a book.

AH: After hearing about the inspiration for Wombat, I would have assumed more of your books may have originated similarly, so I was surprised by your answer to this question. I love the mixing and matching of inspiration from various places to craft your story ideas and think this is another great lesson for our young writers.

And for what it is worth,  I am team Charlie! Let's get this pup a book.

AH: Do you have any upcoming projects or news you would like to share with us?

First of all, I want to enjoy sharing this new book with the world. The early reviews are universally positive indicating that people are loving AN ACCIDENTAL HERO!

Summarizing the comments: The story is touching hearts with its creative, engaging dialogue, Debbie’s illustrations are endearing with adorable characters, and an author’s note and informative back matter about the animals in the book as well as forest fires. I’m especially looking forward to author visits because I live in an area where forest fires have taken a huge toll on our community including the loss of over 1000 homes in the Marshall Fire in December, 2021.

As for new writing, I have a lyrical intergenerational picture book that I’m querying but nothing to share since it’s just being sent out now. Critique partners love the language and think it has market potential but we’ll see. I’m also making progress writing the middle grade book I started a few years ago and this is the year it will get written and revisions will be underway.

AH: Those early reviews are wonderful and I couldn't agree with them more! I hope you have the opportunity to meet with lots of schools and classrooms. I am sure your story and Wombat's actions will inspire the students to think of all the ways they can spread kindness.

And best of luck with your new projects! May you have speedy and positive responses.

Where can people connect more with you?

AH: Readers be sure to connect with Laura on social media and check out her website to ensure you are one of the first to know about any upcoming publishing news. While you are at it please consider supporting Laura and AN ACCIDENTAL HERO: A MOSTLY TRUE WOMBAT STORY in any way you can.

This could include:

- ordering from your favorite indie

- marking as want to read on Goodreads  

-leaving a review

- making a library request

Laura thank you so much for sharing AN ACCIDENTAL HERO: A MOSTLY TRUE WOMBAT STORY. I loved getting a peek at what inspired this wonderfully written and illustrated book!



Laura would love to give away a 30-minute AMA Zoom or virtual class visit.

Ways to enter:

1. Retweet my tweet about this blog post. Additional entry for tagging friends!


2. Leave a comment on this post.


3. Post about this interview on social media and tell me in the comments that you did.

Each method earns an extra entry!



Laura Roettiger is a reading specialist and award-winning elementary teacher from Chicago, IL who weaves her passion for STEM learning and fostering kindness into stories for children. Her roots in Chicago remain deep but now her home and heart are firmly settled in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado with her Goldendoodle Charlie.

After moving to Colorado, Laura focused on writing for children, working in environmental education, and mentoring new teachers at a STEM school. She focuses her writing on characters demonstrating creativity and kindness. 

Her debut, Aliana Reaches for the Moon (Eifrig Publishing, 2019) combines science information with the story of a girl whose curiosity and patience pays off with the light of the full moon. 

Her book, An Accidental Hero: A Mostly True Wombat Story (Eifrig Publishing, 2024) based on events during the aftermath of Australian bushfires in 2019-2020. When Wombat sees the bushfires raging out of control, she learns that helping those in need of sanctuary in a time of crisis provides unexpected rewards.

Laura combines her enthusiasm for helping others with the knowledge and experience she’s gained along the way. This is most recently evidenced in her co-creating the promotion group



Andrew Hacket  is a writer, second-grade teacher, and father of three. He is also the author of the upcoming Ollie, the Acorn, and the Mighty Idea,  Curlilocks and the Three Hares, and Hope and the Sea. Andrew recognizes that being a kid is hard and he writes to create ways for kids to see themselves in stories and characters, to accept and overcome their insecurities, or to escape for just a little while through the power of their imaginations. 

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