Monday, May 20, 2013
Interview with Pam Johnson-Bennett & Kae Allen
Kae: Pam was the inspiration for our book “Cookies for Dinner.” When Pam was having an issue or a Mommy moment, she sought me out. I would tell her one of my “kids are a snik” stories, usually involving me not exactly being the perfect mother, and she would feel better. It took quite a bit of work on Pam’s part to get me involved in the project, but I can honestly say, it has been one of the best experiences of my life.
Pam: My husband was behind it. He knew Kae’s stories and he survived my early motherhood misadventures and felt other mothers out enjoy laughing at our expense!
Q. Did y'all have a joint writing ritual or was it something you both worked on in your own time?
Kae: One of the things that makes our book so honest about motherhood in the trenches is that we did not “joint” write our stories. We each wrote the stories that were near and dear to our hearts. Once all the stories were written, we sat on the floor of Pam’s sun room with the titles on index cards and matched them up into chapters. It was amazing that here we were taking on motherhood from two completely different directions but we shared similar “war” stories when it came to the kids.
Pam: I don’t know how other co-authors work but our method was perfect for us.
Q. Pam, what was your favorite story that Kae shared? Kae, what was your favorite story that Pam shared?
Kae: While I think all of Pam’s stories are great, the one that always makes me laugh is “Creaky Floors.” This story brings home to me the difference in parenting styles between the two of us. While Pam is on her hands and knees attempting to sneak out of her child’s room without waking them up, I was putting my kids in the crib at a predetermined “bedtime” or “naptime” (awake or asleep) and then vacuuming in their bedrooms and under their cribs while they were asleep just to reinforce that life in the Allen house is anything but quiet.
Pam: The image of Kae dealing with massive amounts of her child’s diarrhea while he’s in his car seat still makes me laugh every time I think of it. You’ll have to read the book to learn about how creative Kae was in solving the problem. I’ve never met anyone quite like Kae.
Q. Kae, have your children read the book? If so, what was their take on it? Pam, I know your children are younger, but have you read the book to them? Is it something you think they'll read when they get older?
Kae: Each of my children has actually read the book. In this book they are so young that they don’t really remember the stories but enjoyed reading about themselves and how much fun we used to have. The biggest problem with having grown children during this project is now they are requesting rebuttal rights for the stories that come later that they do remember. I’m pretty sure their memories of a situation and mine are going to be really different.
Pam: My daughter has read much of the book and refuses to believe any of the stuff written about her but totally believes every word written about my son. My son took the book to school for show-and-tell so he could point out how many times his name was mentioned in a published book.
Q. How long have the two of you been friends?
Kae: Pam’s husband Scott became a fixture in the Allen house during an extensive remodeling project that began in 1991. He was single at the time and had spent so much time at our house during and after work that Jess, our youngest, began referring to him as “Scott, our worker man.” My husband David and I were absolutely thrilled when Scott fell in love with Pam. She is the ying to his yang. Without Pam, Scott would be running amuck in Murfreesboro and without Scott, Pam would really be an over-the-top germa-phobe worry wart.
Pam: I am so thankful for the day I met Kae. She really keeps me grounded and she’s the only other woman who totally understands my husband.
Q. What's one parenting tip that each of you would like to share with any parents or future parents out there?
Kae: Quit taking yourself so seriously. June Cleaver was a character on a TV show with children she had no obligation to after the director yelled “Cut.” Be yourself, your children don’t want to be raised by a stranger. Just raise your children as best as you can. They will love you in spite of your shortcomings just like you will love them in spite of their temper tantrums.
Pam: Enjoy every moment of it because it truly goes by in the blink of an eye. Don’t sit on the sidelines of motherhood. Go down the slide with your child, climb the monkey bars and splash in the mud puddles. You’ll be creating precious memories.
Q. What was the hardest part about working on this novel, whether it was something you may have struggled with personally or as a team.
Kae: Learning to tell a story on paper. I can verbally regale any unsuspecting victim with my “Kids are a Snik” stories because facial expressions and hand waving usually convey the excitement of the situation. But words are flat and lifeless until someone breathes some life into them. Luckily for me, I had Pam to be my mentor and David to be my biggest fan. Between the two of them they helped me down the path to finding my “voice” as a writer.
Pam: I am a cat behavior expert and I have written several books. The books are advice-driven, well-researched on the subject of cat psychology and training. Writing a book where I could just be myself and let my faults, worries and goofiness come through was actually difficult at first.
Q. What was your favorite snack to munch on while writing this novel?
Kae: During times of stress (especially tax season) my desk will be littered with easy to eat snacks like trail mix, M&M’s, cashews and pretzels. Unfortunately for me, I was in a particularly intense foraging mood when I stumbled upon Starburst jelly beans. Yes, my name is Kae, and I am addicted to the yummy goodness that is the Starburst jelly bean.
Pam: A diet soda and a handful of pretzels are my usual companions when writing. Not exactly the healthiest snacks. Don’t tell my kids or you’ll ruin my image.
Q. What can your fans expect next? Will the two of you be teaming up to write another book? Possibly a "Stuff My Children Says" book?
Kae: Our next book is actually almost ready for release. The name is “Panic Early/Panic Often”. This book picks up where “Cookies for Dinner” leaves off and continues to follow our little brood’s antics up until early grade school. I personally hope we continue the project through the kid’s adulthoods. I have tons of people constantly asking me if we can get to the teenage years because they really could use a laugh as their 15 year old daughter wants to date a guy on a Harley.
Pam: Luckily, motherhood gives us plenty of inspiration. We’re looking forward to getting the new book out there.
Q. What advice do you have for an author who's considering co-authoring a novel with someone who isn't an author?
Kae: If you are the author, you are technically in charge of nurturing a baby writer. Luckily for me, I had Pam. She was and continues to be wonderfully supportive and amazingly gentle with what she perceives as my delicate ego. Without her, my love of this craft would never have been born. So not matter what anyone tells you, this writing thing is all Pam’s fault.
Pam: LOL, thanks Kae. It’s easy to nurture a natural talent and Kae has so much. My advice for an author who wants to work with a novice author is to remember that you were once a newbie yourself. Both of your names will be on the book so it’s important to support each other and bring out the best in each other.