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.

Author Interview with local indie author Anne-Geri’ Fann

Author of Scent of Pine: A Christmas Story for Family Time and How to Get Ready for Short-Term Missions, both available on Amazon.

Angie’s Fabulous Bio:

Anne-Geri’ (“Angie”) and her extremely cool husband David love laughing with friends so hard that beverage comes out of their noses. Her mission experience extends from her birthplace of New Zealand to all over the world, but her primary work is in Honduras, where she has co-directed youth camps and led short-term mission teams for over 20 years. She is a little bit of a hippie who enjoys her large organic garden and a good cup of hot tea after a hearty hike in the mountains. Her favorite animal is the donkey because when it brays, it reminds her that even on her best day as a human being, she sounds pretty ridiculous compared to her great God. Angie is a blogger and a High School Spanish teacher and often teaches Religion courses at the university level. She is fluent in Spanish and dangerous in German, but her Klingon is hopeless.

A little background on my relationship with Angie: 

Angie and I have the pleasure of working together in the library, and we both share a passion for writing. It’s always wonderful connecting with other writers, and working with them in person is even cooler! 

Fun fact about Angie: not only can she rocks hats like no one I’ve ever seen, but she’s a really awesome and knowledgeable lady, so working with her is an extra treat. So, let’s dive right into the interview.

Angie, what is your favorite genre to read? 

And does this inspire your own writing? 

I love a good mystery; I haven’t written a mystery … yet.  It’s in the works!  However …

Mysteries have always been one of my favorite genres, both to read and write. I love the suspense and excitement that comes with trying to solve a good mystery. It’s also fun to try and come up with new and interesting puzzles for my readers to solve. Writing mysteries is a great way to exercise your imagination and creativity. Mystery was the inspiration for The Scripture Scout Christian Resources … where one takes up a magnifying glass and, like Sherlock Holmes, discovers the footprints of Jesus in every part of the word of God … even in Genesis.  Our “mascot” is a magnifying glass and a Bible.  But more on that later …

At what point in your life did you realize you wanted to be a writer? Was it something you always enjoyed doing, or did you find your passion later in life? 

When I was younger, writing seemed to come naturally, and it made me happy. It didn’t matter if anyone else liked my work or not – all that mattered is getting those words on paper!

Can you tell us briefly about the books you have published and what inspired them?

My first book was published by Thomas Nelson publishing in 2006.  I wrote it with an old college friend and later colleague, Greg Taylor. From his missionary experience in Africa and mine as a regular short-term trip leader to Honduras, we pulled our sources together to write a self-help nonfiction work, This resource was inspired by both of us having gone on mission trips (and brought teams) where things didn’t go according to plan because of poor preparation.  This largely happens when teams are not properly ready to work cross-culturally in another culture’s land…but now there is hope!   “How to Get Ready for Short-Term Missions” was the very first book of its kind.

How long did it take you to write your books? And what made you decide to go the indie publishing route vs. traditional publication?

I remember giving each other deadlines, and it came together through editing back and forth over a few months, I believe.  That was when you had to pitch to a publisher who decided they liked you.  And so, as I had prepared other works and found that the indie route was more successful.  The process has since become simpler (and oftentimes financially rewarding) for those who wish to take on their own projects with minimal help from a big company!

Can you tell us the pros and cons you’ve faced on your self-publishing journey?

PROS:  I would say creative control and less waiting around for your book to be “seen.”

CONS:  The only way to get visibility is to “know” people or actually KNOW HOW to DIY on the world wide web and online marketplace.

If you could give one piece of advice to other indie authors, what would it be?

Start with a blog/website and build a fan base, give freebies, then start sharing your products when you know they trust you and your resources

We already know that when you aren’t writing, you’re working in the library, but what other work do you do and hobbies do you have? Do you have any other creative passions we don’t know about?

Writing pretty much IS my hobby AND job!  The latest book, SCENT OF PINE, is the outcome of a hobby.  The job is building products for THE SCRIPTURE SCOUT CHRISTIAN RESOURCES.

www.thescripturescout.com – the hub and base for the three sites you will find there, which include:

“Devotional Discoveries” – devotionaldiscoveries.com

“Godspeed Missions” – godspeedmissions.com

“The Supercharged Sunday School”  – thesuperchargedsundayschool.com   

You can subscribe and get loads of freebie at you’re your preferred place and get literally loads of awesome freebies!

Can you tell us something about you that not many people know? 

Hmmm…probably these two things:

1. That I have done a LOT of theatre with many different theatre companies in the Nashville area.

2.That most people call me by my given name, Anne-Geri’ – but saying it out loud confuses people when it’s on name tags, so if I have to wear one, it says “Angie”

Now for some fun questions….

Sweet or salty?

Salty until recently (blood pressure) – now I guess my “secret snack” is ice cream instead of chips!  Lol  *weeps openly*

Favorite color? 

Purple

Warm weather or cold weather? 

BOTH! I love seasonal changes.

Coffee or tea? Iced or hot? 

Give me a good hot cuppa any day.  If you know what a “cuppa” is, you’ll know the answer!

Favorite color? 

Oh no, now I’m confused – green?  (lol, jk, it’s purple — I think …)

I had to be sure… 😛

Favorite animal? 

Cat

Favorite tv show? 

Oh, poot, I guess it depends on the genre!  I’ll do comedies:  Frasier, Only Murders in the Building. and The Vicar of Dibley

Top five favorite authors/books? 

(yes, I READ every one of these before their works became tv shows or movies)

*doing alphabetical here* 

Diana Gabaldon

Martha Grimes

John Irving

J.K. Rowling

Dorothy L. Sayers

If you could teleport anywhere in the world, where would you go first?

Hmm.  I’d say either the backyard swing behind my first home in Auckland, New Zealand – because I hear it’s still there (and if possible, under a rainbow) OR the big rock in the river in behind the village of Silin outside of Trujillo, Honduras.

Tell us about your latest writing projects! What are you working on now? 

We just released a product for The Scripture Scout Christian Resources under Supercharged Sunday School.  It is a year’s worth of Sunday School curriculum that can be used over and over again without repeating itself.  For example, a church kids ministry can use the same lesson across the board with all ages. Each teacher uses a different age-appropriate resource from that lesson, and every child in the kids’ ministry, 3rd through 8th grade, gets taught the same thing!  It can be found at www.thesuperchargedsundayschool.com

Thank you so much, Angie, for sharing with us!

To find out more about Angie, you can visit her website and social media below 👇 

Angie’s social media links (where you can purchase her books or follow her to find out more!)

The Scripture Scout Christian Resources can be found on all of your favorite social networks, but these are preferred by our company:

MIGHTY NETWORKS*

PINTEREST*

*preferred

These titles can be found on Amazon under the name Anne-Geri’ Fann:

HOW TO GET READY FOR SHORT-TERM MISSIONS

THE SCENT OF PINE (digital copies available in January – subscribers to The Supercharged Sunday School get digital access first)