Author Interviews are a fun way to learn about authors and their books. Interviews can give us insight into the author’s writing process. Author interviews help readers to better understand how and why their stories were written. This week I would like you to meet Christine Van Zandt author of A Brief History of Underpants a humorous and historic look at underpants. From Bloomers to boxers you are sure to learn some interesting facts about underpants.
When did you realize that you wanted to be a children’s book author?
I’ve always written in one form or another. In college, while pursuing my master’s in English lit, I decided to take kid’s lit classes and they changed the course of my writing—though not right away. It wasn’t until I became a parent that I began writing for kids.
What is your favorite part of being an author?
Interacting with kids and seeing how they react to the book. Kids are amazing; being around them is a such fun.
What inspired this book?
When our daughter was in third grade, we volunteered at the school’s annual book fair. Fabulous nonfiction books were prominently featured, but kids just weren’t into them. I asked my daughter what would get kids excited about nonfiction. She suggested a funny book, and came up with the topic of underwear because kids this age think it’s hilarious.
How long did it take you to write this book?
It took 235 days from first draft until I connected with the publisher. At that time I was unagented and I pitched the book on a Twitter #PitMad event. (#PitMad ended in February 2022 after an amazing ten-year run.)
What part of the book was the most fun to write?
Searching for fascinating facts. Many weren’t included because they didn’t pertain to kids. One of my favorite finds was an ancient bra made of mesh wire cups—the things women wore for undergarments!
What advice would you give a writer working on their first book?
Read a lot of books in the category (PB, MG, YA, etc.) you’re writing in, especially ones being published today. Join and participate in a critique group that meets regularly.
What are you working on now?
I work as a freelance literary editor, so writing is my world, whether I’m helping someone else on their road to publication or working on my own manuscripts. My next book (2024) is a lyrical, narrative nonfiction picture book—I’ll announce the details as soon as I can!
Short summary of the book
Facts can be fun! This multicultural book includes info from every continent, from the beginning of underpants until today. Throughout time people have had similar needs for protection and have found ways to cover up.
Christine Van Zandt hasn’t found fossilized underwear (yet!), but loves digging up ideas that make great books for kids. She’s a literary editor and lives in Los Angeles, California, with her family and a monarch butterfly sanctuary.
This book is funny, entertaining and something that children will really enjoy reading. Its the the perfect blend of history and humor, with puns, interesting facts, and surprising information I never knew before. A Brief History of Underpants will make for great summer reading for any child (or grown-up!).
I am so glad you’re here and so grateful that I can share this journey with you. I really do believe that the world needs your story to be told.
I’m looking forward to helping in any way that I can. And speaking of helping — please leave a comment below and let me know what questions you have about picture book writing.
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Enjoy your day!