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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Hacket

The Backstory: FREE TO BE FABULOUS!

Our next Kidlit Clubhouse member to join The Backstory is David McMullin. David is here today to chat all about his debut picture book, FREE TO BE FABULOUS (Clarion, 2024) with illustrations by Robbie Cathro. Keep reading to learn about the inspiration and how this this story changed through the revision process, as well as for your chance to win a critique or Zoom call with David.



AH: Welcome to The Backstory and thank you for joining us and sharing the inspiration behind FREE TO BE FABULOUS.


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


DM: FREE TO BE FABULOUS! is the story of Daniel, a boy obsessed with his favorite pop-star, Fabulina. After he decides to duplicate one of her dances for his school talent show, the teasing begins. He hides away when it becomes too much, but soon realizes that the very thing he is teased for is also the thing that gives him his strength.


AH: This sounds fabulous! Whether intentionally or not, so often kids (and grownups) feel ostracized if they don't fit into the "norm." I love how your story will help show kids to love who they are and to proudly be their authentic selves.


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


DM: When I was a child, I loved singing and dancing, but I noticed there were no other boys pursuing the arts. I was not going to be the first! It wasn’t until college that I felt comfortable enough in my own skin to follow my passions and lean full time into performing. My character, Daniel is the boy I wish I were strong enough to have been. 


AH: And what a role model Daniel will be for so many other children feeling those same insecurities.


How did you approach going from this seed of an idea to what is now FREE TO BE FABULOUS? 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?


DM: I like to dabble in everything, so this story started simply as a writing exercise. My stories are usually comic, quirky, fantastical—I like unusual worlds and situations. I thought I’d try my hand at creating a story that was more personal to my life. But as soon as I wrote this one, I knew I had to keep going. Of course, in typical “me” style I made it as big as possible with viral videos, cyber bullying, superstars, reporters, and talk shows.


AH: Isn't that the beautiful thing about first drafts and writing fiction in general? We can go as big as possible, and there is always the ability to reign it in through revision if need be.



AH: Did FREE TO BE FABULOUS undergo any major changes/revisions from the original version? If so, what led you to make these changes? 


DM: The completed book is almost unrecognizable when compared to what I had originally submitted. An editor had shown interest in the topic. They loved the heart of the story, but found the world I created to be too much. With their guidance, I completely transformed the story into a much more intimate tale of a boy finding his emotional strength by following the path that makes him happiest. All of that stuff I mentioned in my previous answer? Gone! I think this final version is much more relatable to all kids.

 

AH: I am not surprised that an editor would have instantly seen the heart of this story. I am glad you were able to work together to craft it into the book it needed to be for kids to understand, enjoy, and relate to.


Are there any books/authors that you feel influenced your work on FREE TO BE FABULOUS?


DM: There are several fantastic books on similar themes, but one that truly spoke to me was Julián Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love. 


AH: This is such a great title!


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


DM: Sorry to bore you with the “from everything” answer, but it’s pretty much true. I get inspiration from reading books, observing the world around me, and perusing the things I love. Most of my ideas start quite small—just a word, a name, a phrase—then they grow from there.


AH: No bore at all. It is interesting to me how varied the process can be. For example, I often start with a very small spark like you, where other writers' may begin with a considerably larger or fully formed idea.


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


DM: I have a second book in the works, but it is still too early to to say much more.


AH: We love secret news, even if we aren't allow to know the details yet. Congrats on the second book and as soon as you are able to share more we will be ready and waiting to hear.


Where can people connect more with you?



AH: Readers be sure to connect with David over on Instagram and Twitter to hear about his latest publishing news. And if travel is your thing you must check out the Youtube channel. While you are at it please consider supporting David and FREE TO BE FABULOUS! 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


David thank you so much for sharing all about FREE TO BE FABULOUS! I loved learning the inside scoop on how this book came. I am looking forward to picking up my copy on April 30th when it hits shelves.

 

GIVEAWAY!


David  is happy to offer a picture book critique for a writer, or a 30 minute zoom with an educator or writer.


Ways to enter:

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

or

2. Leave a comment on this post.

or

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


Each method earns an extra entry!

 

ABOUT DAVID MCMULLIN


David is a picture book writer, illustrator, and children’s poet. His debut book, Free to Be Fabulous! comes out April 30, 2024 with Clarion at HarperCollins. His poems are featured in several magazines and anthologies. Honors include an SCBWI Ann Whitford Paul Award, a Writing with the Stars mentorship, an Astra International Picture Book Writing Contest award, and a Madness Poetry championship. David and his husband are currently full time world travelers, bird nerds, and YouTubers. In past careers he was a Broadway actor, an educator, and a children’s librarian. David is a proud representative of LGBTQ+ creators as a member of the Nevada SCBWI Equity and Inclusion team.


 

ABOUT ANDREW HACKET


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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7 Comments


KatieLeeReinert
Mar 21

Sounds like a great book! I'm looking forward to reading it!

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Jennifer Raudenbush
Jennifer Raudenbush
Mar 21

This looks like a great story! Looking forward to reading it :-)

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Thelia Hutchinson
Thelia Hutchinson
Mar 21

Thanks for sharing, David. Congratulations on your fabulous book! I'm looking forward to reading it.

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seschipper
Mar 21

Great post, Andrew! There are so many kids who will definitely benefit from this PB! Thanks for sharing your story, David! 😊

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Kamilla Milligan
Kamilla Milligan
Mar 20

The cover alone is incredible! thanks for sharing your writing process--so different from mine, which means I have a lot to learn from it :)

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