Finley: A Moose on the Caboose

An author interview with Candace Spizzirri

From the minute I saw the cover reveal for Finley: A Moose on the Caboose, I knew I wanted to read this picture book. Finley is so cute and children are going to love his character. I am excited to share this interview with all of you. Author interviews give us insight into the author’s writing process. Interviews help readers to better understand how and why their stories were written. It is like a little peek into the world of an author. This is Candace’s second book; her first book, Fishing with Grandpa and Skye is a story that explores the rewards of patience and celebrates the love between generations.

Author : Candace Spizzirri


Short Summary of the book 

“Rules are rules” and wild animals aren’t allowed on trains . . . or so says Conductor Jones.

Young adventurers will fall in love with Finley, a friendly moose with a toothy grin who wants nothing more than to ride the rails across Alaska and beyond. Prepare for giggles when Finley finds a costume shop and tries to pass for anything but wild, only to have Conductor Jones see right through these disguises. Fortunately, Finley has something Conductor Jones doesn’t see coming – heart and determination – showing us all that there are some rules in life that are meant to be changed.

With illustrations that capture both the essence of Finley’s spirit and the magic of an Alaskan railway adventure, Finley: A Moose on the Caboose is certain to be loved by anyone who dreams of making what seems impossible, possible.


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Short Bio 

I grew up in a small town in New Jersey with tree-lined streets and old Victorian houses. As a child, I spent hours playing at the park, catching minnows in a nearby stream, and exploring the woods at the end of my street. 

Passionate about education, I am a co-founder of an elementary school and high school in southern California. Enjoying both the sunshine and changing seasons, I now split my time between SoCal and Pennsylvania.

When not writing, I love spending time with my husband of forty-two years, Marc, son, Joe, daughter, Jenna, daughter-in-law, Casey, and five grandkids – Skye, Karter, MJ, Jack, and Capri. 

I enjoy hiking, traveling, cooking, gardening, dancing, yoga, reading, fishing, and interior design. 

When did you realize you wanted to be a children’s book author?

I first started writing children’s books back in 2016. It certainly wasn’t anything I ever thought I would do and sort of came to me out of the blue. I was a much stronger math and science student but always had a creative side.

In January 2017, I joined SCBWI and Julie Hedlund’s 12 x 12 Picture Book Writing Challenge and got serious about it. I connected with critique partners, started taking classes/webinars, and absolutely fell in love with writing! The journey to becoming a children’s book author has been wonderful and unexpected.

Do you remember the time you actually said, “I am an author!” What was that feeling like? 

I do remember! It was the day my debut picture book, FISHING WITH GRANDPA AND SKYE, was officially out in the world…April 19, 2022. Woohoo! That night at a family dinner celebration was the first time I said the words, “I am a children’s author!”  What a fantastic feeling, although a bit surreal.

 Where do your ideas come from? 

           I find ideas and inspiration everywhere! 

In the quiet moments: a spectacular sunset or a hike in the hush of a forest

In the loud moments: family get-togethers and spirited sports events

In the ordinary: daily routines and overheard conversations

In the extraordinary: special celebrations like weddings, birthdays, births, etc.

My ideas often come from my five grandkids. They are my muses. I pay close attention to their play and often ask what kind of story they like best or to tell me a story. And it’s amazing what they come up with. Many times, it leads to a new manuscript like the time my granddaughter, Skye, asked me to write her a story about the planets playing games together and she wanted it to match (aka rhyme, lol). I now have a picture book entitled Planets Play in rhyme that I hope to have published one day.

Ideas can come at any time, from anywhere, so you have to be ready. Once I had a story idea while driving back from the grocery store. I’d left my phone at home so I pulled off the road and jotted down the title, plot points, and character details on the blank side of my receipt.

How do you select the names of your characters?

In my debut picture book, FISHING WITH GRANDPA AND SKYE, my main character is named after my oldest granddaughter. Someday I hope to have a book published for each grandchild. (I had better keep writing!)

I have no idea where the name Finley came from in FINLEY: A MOOSE ON THE CABOOSE. But my main character is such a Finley! Don’t you think? Just look at those enormous moose eyes. 😉

What inspired this book?

The idea for FINLEY: A MOOSE ON THE CABOOSE came to me while visiting the gorgeous town of Talkeetna, Alaska. The scenery was spectacular in every direction! During my stay, an enormous moose appeared in the town center, wandered about a bit, then disappeared into the woods next to the railroad tracks. I was delighted to see this big-eyed moose up close (but not too close as they are extremely dangerous) as I’d never seen one before. Later that day, I came across a little shop called Once in a Blue Moose and it sparked an idea for a picture book about a friendly moose who longs to ride the rails.

Tell us about this book?

Finley follows his dreams of riding the rails in FINLEY: A MOOSE ON THE CABOOSE. He doesn’t let anything get in his way and is one determined moose. 

Like Finley, I’m a big believer in following your dreams and enjoy writing books on this theme. It is never too late to chase down a dream or to have a new one. FINLEY was released right after my 65th birthday. Keep dreaming everyone! And dream big!

How many picture-book rough drafts do you have? Will you keep them on the shelf or try to edit them? 

Oh, my goodness. I have so many picture book drafts and they certainly aren’t all gems. Some will stay on the shelf where they belong (ha). But the stories that I’m excited about and think have promise, I will continue to revise/edit with the help of my awesome critique partners. Of course, I hope to have them published one day.

Tell us about your publishing experience.

Sandra Sutter, the owner of Gnome Road Publishing, liked a pitch for FINLEY: A MOOSE ON THE CABOOSE on a Twitter pitch party. I sent my manuscript in March of 2021. After a revise and resubmit, Sandra contacted me saying the acquisitions team had fallen in love with Finley Moose and I received my official offer the next month. Yay! I was over the moon when the multi-award-winning team of Chantelle and Burgen Thorne signed on to illustrate. Their art is absolutely spectacular! I couldn’t be more pleased with the entire experience.

For my debut picture book, FISHING WITH GRANDPA AND SKYE, I submitted directly to Callie Lovvorn, the owner of Clear Fork Publishing/Spork, in August of 2018 and my manuscript went to acquisitions in October. My “YES” came at an in-person meeting. How exciting is that? Callie had a conference in Southern California in January 2019 just minutes from where I live. We arranged to meet for dinner. I have to admit my eyes welled up when she said she loved my “slice of life” story and wanted to publish it. Illustrator Beverly Love Warren’s gorgeous watercolor art was everything I had hoped for and more! 

What’s next for you? 

I always have lots of stories I’m revising and new ideas rumbling around my brain. Right now, I’m excited about several manuscripts I’ve worked on for the past couple of years. I also have something in the works that I can’t talk about just yet but will share it as soon as I’m able.

What advice would you give a writer working on their first book?

Never, ever give up!

Take classes, attend conferences, find critique partners, join writing groups, and connect with the kidlit community. What an amazing group they are! 

Publishing is a slow go. There will be ups and downs along the way. Patience and persistence are the names of the game. I have trouble with the patience part for sure. Persistence comes much more naturally. 

Try to relax, have fun, and enjoy the process. Hang in there and keep working at it.

You’ve got this! 

Thoughts …

Finley: A Moose on the Caboose is a determined and creative moose with one mission. This cute, funny book about Finley’s attempts to “get on board” will leave readers giggling and cheering for this lovable character. The illustrations throughout the book are colorful and fun. Finley has stolen my heart! This is the perfect book for summer reading, gift giving and would be a wonderful addition to any classroom library.

With gratitude …

I am so glad you’re here and I thank you for taking the time to read this post. I am grateful that I can share my writing journey with you. 

I’m looking forward to helping you as a children’s book writer in any way that I can. Speaking of helping — please leave a comment below and let me know what questions you have about picture book writing. 

My website has been updates and it is now interactive. There are surprises everywhere. Click on the balloons and see where they take you. Can you find two writing videos? Freebies? A chocolate chip recipe? There’s even a special freebie to anyone who subscribes to my newsletter. Check out the resources for childrenparents and teachers, librarians and homeschooling families. 

Please consider purchasing a copy of Two Wins for Wiley or Gertie Saves the Dayfor gifts. If you are going to a baby shower, looking for an end of the year gift for a special teacher or thinking about summer reading books, give books. It has been my wish to get books into the hands of children. It is the best gift I can think of for children and adults!

A request … 

You can really help this author by leaving a book review on Amazon or Goodreads. You can leave a review for Gertie Saves the Day here or here. Two Wins for Wiley here or here.  Reviews can be as easy as 2-3 sentences and should take about 30 seconds to leave and would make a huge difference for me. Need help? Click here.

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