- January 23-February 21 Freight & Salvage in Berkeley
- February 23-28 Dougherty Valley Performing Arts Center in San Ramon
- March 5-26 Children's Creativity Museum Theater in San Francisco.
Recommended for age 4 and up.
🐾 TICKETS: $22 adult, $18 children under 14 yr, $20 senior
Don't miss everyone's favorite Bad Kitty as she sprawls, in solitary splendor, until one day . . . she springs to life at the World Premier of BAD KITTY ON STAGE at Freight & Salvage in Berkeley, January 23rd. The play is based on the series of award winning books by Nick Bruel starring a cantankerous cat (loud hissing) PUPPY! Uh oh. And then . . . (hair on back standing on end) MOUSE! And then. . . well, let’s just say life gets complicated. I am extremely excited to share an exclusive interview with the award winning author and illustrator of New York Times Best Selling book series, "Bad Kitty," Nick Bruel.🐾
🐾 As a child, what was your dream job?
I wanted to be a doorman. I’ve never actually lived in a building as a doorman, but as a kid, I always thought it must be a pretty neat job. You hold the door open for people. You close the door after them. People say “Good Morning’ to you. You say “Good Morning” back. That’s a great job. I could be happy living that way.
🐾 Can you give me the 'Nutshell Guide' to growing up Nick?
I was not what you would call the most dynamic kid. I was the youngest kid in my grade and had a terrible time fitting in early on. I started forming real friendships for the first time in third grade. That was when I discovered a few other kids like me who loved not only to read comic books, but to make them as well. Our teacher, Ms. Pillsbury, would give us time each day to work on our comic book collaborations. We felt like we had our own little comic book company, and the fun we had inspired other kids to form their own third grade classroom comic book company.
You could argue that much of what I would later become was due to this time I spent in third grade when I explored my creativity through word and picture for the first time and, perhaps most importantly, REALLY enjoyed it. This experience was my inspiration for “BAD KITTY MAKES COMICS”, my book on writing and drawing creativity for kids who are like me when I was their age.
🐾 Who are authors and illustrators that inspired you to write children's books? Did you ever meet a children's author that made an impression on you?
Oddly enough, I’ve met more authors and illustrators than I could ever name in one sitting, and that is less because of what I do now and more because of what I did before I became an author myself. During the seven years before I was first published, I worked in a children’s bookstore in New York City called Books of Wonder. It’s still there today. Pretty much every author and/or illustrator in existence stepped into that store at some point. Maurice Sendak once told me that the goal of a successful book is not to be “subversive”, as he had often been accused of being, but to be “provocative”. Shel Silverstein, who never participated in a book signing at the store but came there as a customer, used to talk to me about how he still liked to draw cartoons in his spare time because it kept him creative and inspired. Eric Carle once muscled his way to the store through a hurricane so that none of his fans would be disappointed. I have a copy of “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” signed “To Nick – You made a GREAT Harry” by J.K. Rowling. I dressed as the boy wizard for the event.
But of all the authors and illustrators I have come to know, Jules Feiffer is the one person I can legitimately call a friend. And, honestly, his is the career I admire most. I can’t think of anyone who has achieved so much success in such a variety of media. “Bark, George” is as close to a perfect picture book as they come. “Knock, Knock” is one of my all time favorite plays. Do yourself a favor and read “The Man In The Ceiling”, his first foray into middle grade fiction. And, of course, his comic strip is as poignant today as it was when he made them decades ago as they will be centuries from now. He has a Pulitzer Prize, an Academy Award, an Obie Award, an Eisner Award, and a Reuben. The only award I can think of that he’s still missing is America’s Top Model, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t pick that one up before the year’s out.
🐾 What was the genesis of the Bad Kitty series?
I can answer that one of two ways. But I’m in a generous mood, so I’ll answer it both ways.
First off, I thought of the title for “BAD KITTY”, the picture book that started it all, before I thought of anything. This is true for most of my work – the title comes first. It’s just a creative device I use to find ideas. So, I was sitting at home one day contemplating interesting children’s book titles, when the words “bad kitty” came into my head. When I started contemplating what terrible things my cat might do in her story, I came up with so many ideas that I thought it could be challenging to place them into alphabetical order. And I went from there.
As for the chapter book series, the notion there came from feeling limited by the alphabetical format that I had cornered myself into with the picture books and wondering if there was another direction I could take. The idea of giving that cat a bath seemed like a good one to consider, but I didn’t feel that I could do the story justice in just 32 or 40 pages. It had to be a chapter book. I was comfortable with this notion because I liked the idea of creating a scenario in which my character could grow up with her reader. My agent liked the idea. My editor liked the idea. My publisher liked the idea. Certain book retailers who shall remain nameless thought it was a terrible idea. It took a lot of convincing to get the Bad Kitty chapter book series onto the shelves, but once they were there the readers thought it was a pretty good idea, too. After 10 years, we’re at over 13 million copies in print and still going strong.
🐾 The play draws upon a number of the Bad Kitty stories. Were you involved in writing the play or have any input on set design, costumes, and character development?
I was only mildly involved in this production’s creation in that they sent me the first draft of the script, and I gave them a handful of notes, some of which I believe they used.
Honestly, when I first saw the script, I was flabbergasted at how ambitious this production looked. Without giving too much away, “BAD KITTY ON STAGE” essentially encapsulates the first FIVE Bad Kitty chapter books, using “BAD KITTY MEETS THE BABY” as a frame. I think the script is terrific. I’m amazed by how faithful they’ve decided to remain to my vision. And I remain perplexed by how they’re going to pull this off. But I can’t wait to find out!
🐾 Have you seen the play?
I have not. I’ve met the director and the playwright, and I liked them both. As for the musical itself, I’m going to see that for the first time on opening day just like everyone else in the audience.
🐾 How does it feel to have your books come to life on stage?
Mostly, I think, I feel curious. I’m thrilled that this is happening in the first place, of course. But there is going to be a surreal moment for me when I sit in the audience and actually see actors performing as characters I created out of thin air, reciting words I wrote, performing in a set inspired by my illustrations. I have to confess that I’m not at all sure of how I’ll react at that moment if only because I really have no precedence to draw upon in my career.
🐾 What is the best/funniest/moving question, comment, or critique from a young fan?
I’m not sure if this is really answering your question, but one of my career highlights took place the day I met a boy named Johnny from Nebraska. Johnny had emailed me about a year earlier telling me that he liked my books and hoped to meet me one day. It was a very thoughtful letter, and I tried to respond in kind. Johnny, as it turned out, was mildly autistic and had a series of other physical ailments that plagued him, enough that together they qualified him for the Make A Wish Foundation. The day I met Johnny, I became only the twelfth author in the history of the Foundation to be the actual wish. (I believe Jeff Kinney, author of the “Wimpy Kid” series, is another.) I met Johnny and his family at the offices of my publisher in the middle of New York City and then took them for a little tour around town. It was a marvelous day, and one I will always cherish.
🐾 What advice would you give to others interested in writing children's books?
Pretty much all of the boilerplate responses you’d get to a question like this are going to be true. Be brave. Persevere. Don’t give up. Do your research. I honestly believe that anyone who wants to write and/or illustrate a children’s book should try to do it, recognizing that actually getting it published is a challenge I won’t downplay.
The only thing I would advise AGAINST, and this might cause a bit of controversy, is self-publishing. I have no issues against self-publishing as a practice in and of itself or with the people who feel compelled to bypass conventional publishers to see their work in print. My issue is with the many so-called vanity presses out there that thrive on the hopes and dreams of would-be authors who are willing to spend literally thousands, sometimes tens of thousands, of dollars of their money to see their work as an actual book but with no awareness of how difficult it is to actually put their book onto a retail shelf. Vanity presses are essentially glorified print houses. Anyone can print a book and even give it an ISBN. Getting it onto the shelves of bookstores all over this country takes far more effort than any one person can hope to accomplish, and this is something the vanity presses never tell their customers.
🐾 What are the causes that speak to your heart?
Several months ago, not too long after the school year started, I went onto DonorsChoose.org and fulfilled the Visual Arts grant requests for 100 schools in New York City. It was the least I could do. I find it infuriating that we as a country ask so much of our teachers and then give them so little in the way of resources to actually perform their jobs.
I belong to an industry that wouldn’t exist if not for the advocacy of school teachers and librarians. They have historically been my greatest supporters, so it would be nothing less than hypocritical if I didn’t do something in return. Spending time fulfilling requests on DonorsChoose.org is just one small step I try to take to reciprocate.
🐾 What’s next?
There’s going to be a lot of Bad Kitty circulating around in 2016. Already in January, the latest chapter book came out – “BAD KITTY GOES TO THE VET”. On the same day, “BAD KITTY: PUPPY’S BIG DAY” came out in paperback. This summer, the newest Bad Kitty picture book, the first one since “A Bad Kitty Christmas”, will come out – “BAD KITTY: SCAREDY CAT”; it will have a Halloween theme. And lastly, in September, the next two Bad Kitty early readers, simple paperbacks for kids learning to read for the first time, will come out – “BAD KITTY DOES NOT LIKE SNOW” and “BAD KITTY DOES NOT LIKE VIDEO GAMES”.
And, finally, in January, 2017 you’ll see the tenth Bad Kitty chapter book – “BAD KITTY TAKES THE TEST”.
After that… we’ll see.
Don't miss the world premier of BAD KITTY ON STAGE playing at Freight & Salvage in Berkeley, January 23rd. Recommended for age 4 and up. Bad Kitty author Nick Bruel will be making appearances at the World Premier opening show! Purchase your tickets for January 23rd 11am or 2pm to meet the mind behind the kitty!