Author Interview: Debbi Michiko Florence


Author Debbi Michiko Florence is equally a lover of animals and books. Luckily for us, she is combining those two loves in a new series later this year, My Furry Foster Family. We are so excited that she took a few moments to tell us more about her books and how she can write so many great beginner chapter books for children.
For children who love series books, you are definitely an author they want to meet. Can you tell us a little about each of your previous series and also about the new series that comes out in August?

I’d love to! I’ve now written three chapter book series. Dorothy and Toto (Picture Window Books/Capstone) is about the Wizard of Oz characters. The four books in this series focus on the friendship between Dorothy and her dog Toto. My most recent chapter book series is Jasmine Toguchi (Farrar Straus Giroux/Macmillan) about an 8-year-old spunky Japanese American girl. In the first book, Mochi Queen, Jasmine loves the New Year’s family tradition of making mochi (a Japanese sticky rice treat) with her extended family, but she wants to do the boy’s job of pounding mochi. Will she be able to convince her family to break with tradition? Each book in the four-book series focuses on Jasmine and her relationships with family and friends, but also includes a thread of Japanese culture.

My newest series, My Furry Foster Family (Picture Window Books/Capstone) comes out in August. When I was asked to write the four books for this series, I was thrilled because I love animals. I was also happy to be able to create another main character who is Japanese American, Kaita Takano. The character is loosely based on a real Kaita (who is half Korean American) who fosters pets with her family. There are four books each focusing on a different pet – a dog, a kitten, two dwarf hamsters, and a bearded dragon – and Kaita and her family’s experiences fostering and finding homes for them.

Do your readers ask if Jasmine Toguchi is based on yourself? How are you and she alike and different?

Yes, readers often ask that question. I was not like Jasmine when I was her age. I was not as confident, and I definitely didn’t speak up to adults with the ease that Jasmine has. Jasmine is more like my daughter, Caitlin, was at that age. But Jasmine and I do share some things in common: we both love the color purple and our favorite book is Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. We both love mochi and we both dislike walnuts in our brownies. And, the way Jasmine celebrates the Japanese holiday Girl’s Day is the way I celebrated it with my family when I was growing up.

Animal lovers everywhere will be excited about your new series, My Furry Foster Family. What role have animals played in your life?

I have loved animals for as long as I have loved books – all of my life! I had many pets growing up – fish, hamsters, dogs, a cat, birds (a parakeet, cockatiel, and an Amazon parrot), and much to my parents’ dismay, a snake. Today, I have a rescue dog, a mini lop bunny, and two ducks. In college, I volunteered at a raptor rehabilitation center, worked at a pet store, interned as a zookeeper’s aide, and received my degree in zoology. I was the Associate Education Curator for the Detroit Zoo for half a decade. I joke that I am a professional poop picker-upper – cleaning up after creatures small and large, from Madagascar hissing cockroaches to elephants.

You are what we call a Super Writer because you are able to write several books per year. What is your writing routine?

Wow! Thank you! Can I have that emblazoned on a t-shirt with a cape? 🙂
I’m most creative and energized early in the morning, so mornings are dedicated to writing and revising. I save the afternoons to work on the business end of writing – updating my website blog, writing my newsletter, responding to emails, arranging and preparing for school visits and events, answering interview questions 🙂 , and more. One day a week, I reserve a full day for writing only. I don’t schedule any appointments, run any errands, or make social dates. I write all day long. I love those days best! I take weekends off. Another thing I do when I write is check in with my writing group, Jo Knowles and Cindy Faughnan, every 30 minutes or so (either by email or on chat). It helps keep us focused on writing because we don’t want to admit to one another that we’ve been goofing off. We’ve been doing this for well over a decade and it works great for us!

Does writing energize you or exhaust you?

Energize! I love writing. And in fact, both my daughter (as young as when she was 8) and my husband have pointed out to me that I get crabby/blue when I go more than a few days without writing.

While you did not first pursue writing as a career, you have said you were always writing as a child. If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

That writing books is a career. I loved to read and write stories, but as a child, didn’t think it was something a person could do as a job. Students today have the benefit of the internet and author visits to show them that writing can be a career choice.

If you were writing a book about your life, what would the title be?

This one stumped me. 🙂 I reached out to friends and thanks to Kristy Boyce for the title suggestion of PERSEVERANCE. I started writing with an eye towards publication in 2001. It was a long and twisty road with many obstacles, but looking back, every twist and turn, every rock in the road, led me here, and I’m grateful.

For all the latest on Debbi, you can follow her at:
Twitter: DebbiMichiko
Instagram: d.michiko.f
Instagram: jasminetoguchi

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