A few weeks ago, after blogging about my own Next Big Thing, I promised to share the Next Big Thing blog meme responses of a couple of my nonfiction writer pals who don’t keep blogs. Pamela Turner shared her Next Big Thing (a Scientists in the Field book about dolphins) here. And this week, the one-and-only Alexandra Siy shares hers: a new collaboration with scientist and microscopist Dennis Kunkel. Their subject? Spiders! Here’s a sneak peak …
1. What is the working title of your book?
The title is Spiderbook: Friends on the Web. Like most of my books, it started out with a different title, but I think this one will stick because the format of the books is loosely based on Facebook’s “friend” theme. After all, we should all be friends with spiders, and always “like” them.
2. Where did the idea come from for the book?
This will be my fourth book with Dennis Kunkel, Ph.D., an electron microscopist who images all kinds of tiny things! Our most recent collaboration was BUG SHOTS: The Good, the Bad, and the Bugly, which looked closely at insects. A book about spiders was the natural sequel.
3. What genre does your book come under?
Spiderbook is nonfiction for young readers ages 8 and up and illustrated with color micrographs, photos, and drawings.
4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
The main characters in Spiderbook are, of course, spiders! Certainly, the orb web weaver would be played by Julia Roberts, who was the voice of Charlotte from the movie “Charlotte’s Web.” Indeed, my original proposal for the book was based on a horror movie theme. My editor didn’t think children would get the references to all the old movies and then it wouldn’t seem fun (which was the point). But since you asked, here is a peak at what could have been: “Sacula” featuring the sac spider; “The Woflman” featuring the wolf spider; “Daddy Dearest,” you guessed it, the famous daddy long legs spider (not to be confused with Daddy Long Legs); “Claws,” starring the crab spider; and of course “The Black Widow Project.”
5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Spiderbook: Friends on the Web takes a close look (literally) at ten spiders from some of the common spider families, linking a narrative text and accompanying images to reveal some of the fascinating secrets that will make you love spiders, instead of running away in fear.
6. Who is publishing your book?
Holiday House in 2014
7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I worked on the manuscript for several months, on and off, with an intense period of writing that lasted about three weeks. The three-week writing binge was the result of much prior research and study, outlining, and thinking.
8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Nic Bishop’s Spiders was an inspiration, but very different in style and design. I quote from Charlotte’s Web in the text, and hope E.B. White would approve.
9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I’ve always been a bit “put-off” by spiders…not exactly afraid, but not a big fan. When I realized a book about spiders would be a good follow-up to my book about insects, I dove into the subject, and now I am truly amazed. I count more than 43,000 spider families as my “friends” and “like” them all. (If you could click “love” I would.) There will be a Facebook page called Spiderbook, and a website called spiderbook.info… here’s an interesting tidbit: the domain name spiderbook.com is for sale and I tried to buy it for $99, but the owner wants thousands, so dot info will have to do.
10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Dennis’s electron micrographs, as always, are amazing. Readers might be interested to know that some of the images Dennis made are from spiders that were collected by my friends—mostly children and young people. One such specimen, known to me as Devon’s spider, created a stir on the internet for a few minutes as spider experts from around the country attempted to identify it. There was some controversy, but in the end, we were able to assign it to a family and genus. Science at work in real time! Spiders really are our friends on the web.