Interview with Local Father and Son Author Illustrator Team Shaun C. Tyson and Simon C. Tyson

Biscuit and Gravy visit the fire station to learn about fire safety. Their imaginations run wild as they tell their parents how they defeated the fire monster. Questions and answers about fire safety are included at the end of the book.

Biscuit and Gravy Learn About Fire Safety. Written by Shaun Tyson. Illustrated by Simon Tyson. Published March, 2022.

A little background on my relationship with Shaun and Simon:

I met Shaun and Simon in the summer of 2022, but Shaun and I were in contact earlier in the year. For the 2022 Summer Reading Program, hosted in the Children’s Library, I was looking for fun activities to do with the kids. Of course, being an avid reader and writer myself, I was excited about the idea of having a short story contest.

The goal of the short story contest was to engage kids within the community and motivate them to write a story. The rules were simple: anyone up to the age of 12 could submit a story, up to a max of 1,000 words. All of the participants would have a chance to share and read other stories on our story board display in the Children’s Department. However, three special winners would be chosen and awarded a special prize at the end of the summer. Because who doesn’t love a good incentive?

This idea seemed way cool… but I wondered, what could bring this contest to the next level of awesome? And then it hit me. What if we had LOCAL CHILDREN’S AUTHORS not only help participate in selecting our finalists but also present the prizes to the kids, along with a copy of one of their autographed books? There’s a great way to incorporate the community!

By a sheer chance of luck, the weekend prior to this novelty idea, a local Children’s Author- Shaun Tyson- had come into our library and donated a copy of his children’s book Biscuit and Gravy Learn about Fire Safety. So, of course, he was on my radar as a possible candidate. It didn’t take long to track Shaun down, and he was overwhelmingly gracious about the opportunity. Working with Shaun was a joy. He was a fantastic communicator, provided everything I needed- when I needed it- and, he was super easy-going.

Now that we had Shaun on board, it was time to find some more authors. Where did I find them, you ask? Well, as every librarian knows, the best place to find writers (other than in the library of course) is at your local bookstore! So, that’s just where I went. I paid a visit to Curious Capybara, a local gem in our area, and in no time, I had leads on some other fabulous authors. And thankfully, all of them were more than willing to join the judging table and help us find our short story finalists. Acting as judges were Rainbow Mosho, Brittany Wuthrich, and Shaun Tyson.

Upon meeting Shaun and his son Simon in person, I was met with an immediate feeling of warmth and kindness. The entire clan (wife and other son too) were down-to-earth, and just overall a pleasure to have visiting our library. So, when I started doing feature interviews, I immediately thought of them. And just like last time, they graciously accepted.

So, let’s jump right in!

Questions for Shaun:

What made you decide to write a book? 

There are firefighter books out there. Some have great messages, but few teach fire safety. I felt there was a need for a children’s book that taught actual fire safety tips that the child could remember.

What was your favorite part of the writing process? 

Seeing it all come together with the illustrations. Simon really brought the characters to life. 

Did you come up with the concept of the story first or the title? Did the title ever change? 

The story concept was first. The title came after the character names were developed, which were created by my other son, Sully. 

How long did it take from the point you had your first idea for the story to publication? Probably close to a year from concept to print.

At any point, did you consider doing traditional publication? 

I looked into it, but it seemed less likely that I would be able to achieve my goal. 

What made you decide to self-publish? 

I decided to self-publish because I would be fully in control of what I wrote and on our own timeline.  

Can you tell us a little bit about your personal connection to the story on fire safety? 

I have been in public safety for over 23 years. A large part of that has been in the fire service, predominantly in fire investigations. Seeing so many fires and how they were caused fueled my passion for fire safety education.

Was it difficult to decide where you would get your illustrations, or did you know immediately that your son would be the perfect fit? 

It was an easy decision to keep it in the family. Simon is quite talented. 

Do you think you’ll publish more books in the future? If so, do you think you’ll continue a series using your characters from your first book or start fresh on a new venture entirely? 

I do have an interest in publishing another Biscuit and Gravy book. I think stories can be both fun and educational. But we will have to wait and see what happens.

If you published again, do you think you would go the independent route again or try to seek out traditional publishing? 

I think I would continue to self-publish because I do like the freedom that comes with it. Although, it is tougher to get the word out about your book. They both have their advantages. 

Now for some fun questions….

Favorite smell? 

Melted caramel.  Karamell-Küche in Epcot’s Germany Pavilion is the place to go if you like caramel. 

Favorite color? 

Green 

Favorite place? 

Epcot at Disney World. 

Favorite season? 

Definitely Fall.

Favorite beverage? 

Sweet Tea.

Favorite animal?  

Otters are awesome. 

Favorite tv show?  

Any of the baking competition shows on Food Network.

Favorite book (s)? 

I am going to keep with kid books and say the Berenstain Bears books. 

If you could have any superpower, what would it be? 

Although super strength would be tempting, I think super speed so I can get more things done in less time.

If you were an animal, what would you be? 

Although I love otters, I think I would be a fox. They are mysterious creatures. 

Thanks Shaun! Now, let’s talk to Simon a little bit.

Questions for Simon:

How old were you when you started working on the illustrations for BISCUIT AND GRAVY LEARN ABOUT FIRE SAFETY?

I was 17 years old when my dad first approached me about illustrating the book, but 18 by the time I started the illustrations.

Was this your first time doing any kind of creative art professionally?

This was my first book, but I had done some commission artwork for friends and family prior.

Do you have any history of art education?

Currently, I do not have any art education, but I do plan to take some art classes while in college. Most of what I have learned about techniques and tools comes from watching other artists on YouTube, such as Jazza and James Raiz.

How long did it take you to draft your work?

If I remember correctly, it took me about three weeks, give or take, to draft everything. Certain pages were a bit trickier to tackle than others, and I would go back and forth on what to do with them.

How did you create your illustrations? Did you use an online program, or were your creations hand-drawn? If hand-drawn, what mediums did you use? If you used an online program, did you do hand sketches first?

For the final illustrations seen in the book, I used a program called Clip Studio Paint. However, I started off with simple pencil sketches to get the basics of how Biscuit and Gravy would look in each picture. I’d take a picture of the sketch with my phone, email it to myself, and then use that as a rough guide on my computer to make cleaner lines and coloring. Certainly not the most efficient way to do things, but it worked for a first project!

What was it like working with your dad?

Working with my dad was a ton of fun. When it was time for me to illustrate, to go along with the writing he already had done, he gave me tiny doodles of what he wanted many of the pictures in the book to look like. It was cool getting to see his original vision develop over time into the final product, a process that is really rewarding as an artist.

Did you enjoy the process of illustration?

While tedious, I enjoyed the illustration process. Drawing is one of my favorite things in life, so getting to design these lovable characters and present them in dynamic ways was very fun.

Do you think this is something you might continue to pursue in the future?

I’ve considered pursuing more illustration work in the future! I would love to help more authors with their work, there’s just a “do I have the time” issue. We’ll see what opportunities are presented in the future, though. I keep an open mind! I do know for certain, however, that Biscuit and Gravy’s adventures are something I’ll be coming back to when the time comes!

Now for some fun questions…

Favorite smell?

So many favorite smells to choose from, but I’ll have to go with freshly baked cinnamon rolls!

Favorite color?  

I really enjoy the color feldgrau green.

Favorite place?

My grandparents’ house is probably my favorite place on earth. (Grandma often makes cinnamon rolls!)

Aww! Great answer!

Favorite season?

Autumn is my favorite season. In my humble opinion, the perfect weather happens during this time of year.

Favorite beverage?

Cherry Coke is my go-to beverage, but cherry Sprite is a close second.

Favorite animal?  

Komodo Dragons are by far my favorite animal. Such cool creatures!

Favorite tv show?  

Star Wars the Clone Wars has been a consistent tv show in my life. While my favorite tv show changes frequently, I’ll have to go with this one. Having grown up with it since I started school, it has a special place in my favorites list.

Favorite book (s)? 

My favorite book is the Outsiders by S. E. Hinton! Such a dynamic story with lovable characters. It’s also worth noting that my favorite illustrated book would be any of the Pigeon books by Mo Willems. His work was a huge inspiration for Biscuit and Gravy Learn About Fire Safety!

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

If I could have any superpower, it would be to emit fire. Not only would it look cool, it’s practical for things like roasting marshmallows! Would be smart of me to make sure I have the fire safety stuff memorized before using the power though.

If you were an animal, what would you be?

I think it would be cool to be a panda. Sometimes I feel like one, sitting around eating and sleeping for most of the day!

Thank you, guys, so much for sharing your story with us! To purchase a copy of BISCUIT AND GRAVY LEARN ABOUT FIRE SAFETY, click here. To find out more about Shaun and Simon, visit their social media pages on Facebook, Instagram, or TikTok, all of which are @biscuitandgravybooks.

This post was written by Children’s Librarian and Kidlit Writer, Chelsea DiCicco; author of ADHD AND ME.

Are you an author, illustrator, or any other member of the writing community looking to share some of what you do with others? Contact me below for details on upcoming FEATURE INTERVIEWS.

Mental Health Matters, September 18th 2021, Gallatin Public Library Event for children, family, and community.

The Mental Health Matters Event inside of Gallatin Public Library was featured this afternoon on Special Needs TV, hosted by Bridgetti Lim Banda, and was streamed live from Cape Town, South Africa. Bridgetti interviewed participants of the event, Mary Elizabeth Jackson, (Chelsea Radojcic-DiCicco) Chelsea’s World of Books, and Jason Scruggs, on who they are and why they came out today.

The presenters’ common goal in joining together today was to provide mental health aid and support to the community, families, children, and educators. Despite the heavy rains, the group was able to band together and find creative ways to reach their audiences at home. Thanks to Mary’s quick thinking and resourcefulness, she was able to get ahold of her co-host of her Special Needs TV show, and Bridgetti, the show producer, was gracious enough to bring us on live to share our message with viewers.

The rainclouds were filled with silver linings today! Thank you to everyone who came out to support the effort, and if you weren’t able to make it out, you can see our our interviews on Facebook > Special Needs TV > Mental Health Awareness EXPO > posted 09/18/2021.

Thank you for visiting! 🙂