The Backstory: SO YOU WANT TO BUILD A LIBRARY
Updated: Nov 17, 2021
Lindsay Leslie joins The Backstory to share the inspiration behind her latest picture book, SO YOU WANT TO BUILD A LIBRARY (Capstone Press, 2021) with illustrations by Aviel Basil. Find out what sparked the idea for her story and learn how you can earn your chance at a picture book critique from Lindsay.
Welcome to The Backstory and thank you for joining us.
First off, please tell us a little bit about your story.
Thanks for having me, Andrew! I’d love to tell you all about SO YOU WANT TO BUILD A LIBRARY. This book puts the reader in charge as the architect of a fantastical library. A million stories high? Sure. Bathtubs? Absolutely. A full-service sundae bar? Of course. Everything is possible in this library—just like in books! And if you are like me, you believe there is no better place in the world than a library.
This book is sure to have children's imaginations bursting with ideas and inspiration. I love how everything is acceptable and nothing is off limits. I can just hear the chorus of fantastical ideas that would erupt from my students after reading your book.
What’s the story behind the story? What was your inspiration? Where did the idea come from?
I love the story behind this story. It was such an organic, sweet moment. I was chatting with my youngest son (then in third grade, now in sixth) and his friends after school. They were telling me all about their meeting of sorts with some design consultants who were collecting information from the students about their elementary school’s remodel (which is now nearly finished!). They were focused on the library and asked the students, “What would you put in the school library?” My son’s friend was so excited to tell me that he raised his hand to offer an idea. When the consultant called on him, he said, "A hot tub!"
The idea was born. And to thank my son’s friend, I dedicated the book to him.
AMAZING! I truly feel there is no better opportunity for inspiration than eavesdropping on a group of children. They are carefree and unihibited. No idea is too crazy. I am so glad that you happened to be a part of the conversation. And how wonderful that you dedicated the book to him.
How did you approach going from this seed of an idea to what is now SO YOU WANT TO BUILD A LIBRARY? 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?
It was undeniable. (I like how you phrased that question.) In fact, I remember rushing home from picking up my son and getting straight to work on it. I had the point-of-view, the structure, and voice all in mind as I tackled that first draft. This book kind of came to me fully formed, similar to my experience with Dusk Explorers. Now, This Book Is Spineless and Nova the Star Eater were different beasts. I had to wrangle and futz around a lot more with them. Like wrestling a pig in mud.
There is a certain satisfaction that comes from wrestling with a manuscript and overcoming the stuggles, but those times that everything comes together right from the onset are magical.
Where do you tend to find your inspiration or your sparks for ideas?
Everywhere! But I have to be open to it. The most mundane things can give me a spark of an idea, like stepping on my son’s picture book (the inspiration for This Book Is Spineless) or random conversations with my sons and their friends (hello, Nova the Star Eater and So You Want to Build a Library) or my fondest memories as a child (Dusk Explorers). Ideas are funneling into my brain all the time. Some clever and worthy of rushing to my laptop. Others, inane and half-baked, but maybe they might lead me somewhere, someday. You never know!
You are so right about needing to be open to the ideas. And thanks for the added glimpse into the inspiration for your other books.
What books have been the most inspirational/impactful on your writing?
Any book I read impacts my writing. I learn from them all in some form or fashion — what I like, what I don’t like, what draws me in, what pushes me away. But some of the books I’ve held near and dear and that will forever sit on my bookshelf are Hello Lighthouse (Sophie Blackall), Bob, Not Bob! (Liz Garton Scanlon, Audrey Vernick, and Matthew Cordell), We Are Water Protectors (Carole Lindstrom and Michael Goade), Snappsy the Alligator (Julie Falatko and Tim Miller), Crown: Ode to a Fresh Cut (Derrick Barnes and Gordon C. James) and The Important Thing About Margaret Wise Brown (Mac Barnett and Sarah Jacoby). I could go on and on and on and on.
What are the must haves for your workspace? Tools? Inspiration? Reference materials?
Must haves: INSPIRATION, a pen/pencil, a notebook or a laptop, and air conditioning, since I live in Austin. Well, last winter I needed heat and that didn’t go so well. Thanks, Winter Storm Uri.
Maybe haves: my decaf coffee or water and a food item of some sort (because I love to snack!)
Otherwise, I don’t need much beyond a writing mindset and a blank page. I’m pretty low maintenance. My mind just has to be in the right place. That’s where I’m high maintenance.
Inspiration is the perfect must have. No matter how much time or quiet or anything else you have, if your not inspired it will be hard to get much done.
Any inspirational words of advice for aspiring authors?
You do you. (I sound like my eighth grader right now.) But it’s important. Each of us has a unique perspective. Let’s see it on the page! Don’t follow the trends or try to be like X, Y or Z author. Be yourself and write what only you can write.
I’m also a firm believer in understanding the rules of writing picture books and then breaking them. Be a bit of a rebel. That’s when true creativity happens. Who wants to read the same formulaic picture books over and over again?
Both pieces of advice are great. It is wonderful to be inspired by authors and books, but trying too heavily to emulate them will most likely lead to frustration. Readers will respond to the authenticity that comes from finding and believing in your own unique voice.
Do you have any upcoming projects or news you would like to share with us?
I don’t, but fingers, toes, and all things crossed...I’m on submission with multiple picture books. I’m going to put it here that I’d love a book deal by the end of the year. I’m all about manifesting destiny. Who’s with me?
Yes, manifest away. I am right with you. I hope that deal happens for you and I will keep everything crossed as well. I love your books and I look forward to seeing what is next from you.
Where can people connect more with you?
I love to connect via Twitter (@lleslie) and sometimes Instagram (@lindsaylesliewrites). I’m getting better at it. But I’ve taken a big break this year from social media because life has been very lifey lately. Please reach out and say hi and we can chat about picture books. That’s always fun! Oh, and feel free to stop by my website: lindsayleslie.com. Cheers!
Readers be sure to follow Lindsay on social media so you can be first to hear about her recently manifested book deal. And when you are done saying hi to her, be sure to check out SO YOU WANT TO BUILD A LIBRARY, along with her other wonderful picture book titles. You won't be dissappointed.
Lindsay, thank you so much for participating. I loved learning the story behind SO YOU WANT TO BUILD A LIBRARY and all about what inspires you.
Lindsay is generously offering a picture book critique to one lucky winner!
Ways to enter:
1. Retweet my tweet about this blog post. Additional entry for tagging friends!
2. Leave a comment on this post.
3. Like our FB page and comment on this week's post.
4. Post about this interview on FB/Instagram and tell me in the comments that you did.
Each method earns an extra entry!
ABOUT LINDSAY LESLIE
A diary keeper, a journalism major, a public relations executive, now a children’s author—Lindsay Leslie has always operated in a world of written words. She likes to bring her unique outlook on life, quirky humor, and play with words to the page in picture books. Lindsay is the award-winning author of THIS BOOK IS SPINELESS, NOVA THE STAR EATER, DUSK EXPLORERS (an SCBWI Crystal Kite Award winner, Bank Street Best Book of 2021 with Outstanding Merit, and Amazon Editors’ Pick), and SO YOU WANT TO BUILD A LIBRARY. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband, two kiddos, two fur-beasts, and a guinea pig.
ABOUT ANDREW HACKET
Andrew’s background of being surrounded by children, both at work and at home, has been a treasure trove of inspiration.
A nature lover, Andrew can be found exploring the woods of Massachusetts with his wife and three kids.
While often witty and imaginative, Andrew’s stories can also delve into the more serious and emotional topics that children can experience.
Andrew is represented by Dan Cramer of Page Turner Literary.