My editor with Heinemann books got a phone call one day from the editor at Publications International. The writer working on this book project had backed out and they needed a new writer who was willing to work on a tight schedule. Luckily, my editor recommended me for the job. I had less than a month to write the entire book! My poor family ate a lot of take-out food and wore a lot of dirty clothes that month (bless their hearts)
This was my first book with TunTun publishing in Korea. It was for their ESL program for young readers. Not only was I writing for non-English speaking readers but I had to be aware of cultural differences. When it came to Sasha waking in the morning for breakfast, I went with eggs and toast. My editor informed me that a more traditional Korean breakfast was warm soup. (Egg on face) You learn something everyday!
When I was young, believe it or not, I was rather loud. My grandmother used to tell me to be quieter or else I would "wake the dead". I didn't think much of it until I caught myself saying it to my children. Then the lightbulb went off! What if the dead DID actually wake up? What would they do? How could they be put back to sleep? The wheels turned and the puns flowed.
These books are set up as review books to cover the four concepts presented in other books. To create them, I needed to find characters and situations where the lessons were reinforced. These were a challenge! Other tidbits: Gyuri was originally called Kyuri and for the animal dress-up section, the editors didn't think their Korean readers would understand the word play involved when Gyuri (a dragon) dressed up as a 'dragonfly'.
I wrote an article using this teaching concept (connecting words instead of dots for young readers to write stories). An editor with the company thought it would make a good book and asked me to write it. I agreed to do it and my first book was published. Also a bit of trivia -- the sample stories inside the book were written by my daughters (aged 7 and 5 at the time)
These were work-for-hire projects that happened purely because of being in the right place at the right time. I visited the Bologna Book Fair in Italy. I was talking to some of the UK Heinemann editors and they knew their USA office was looking for writers. They took my resume and I left not thinking much of it. Surprisingly, I got an email from the US editor asking if I'd be interested in the project.