1) Describe your journey to becoming an author.
As a boy, I could always be found ‘doodling’ away. I loved adventure and mystery stories like Sherlock Holmes and Treasure Island. My interest in drawing and stories led me to Syracuse University where I received an MFA in illustration. Since graduating in 1988, I have illustrated over fifty books-- many on historic subjects. But, it was always on my mind to write a story. Without any formal training in writing, I just started writing, and rewriting, and rewriting. I asked questions, read books and wrote again. In 2002, I wrote my first book, The Great Horseless Carriage Race. Then, I wrote Young Thomas Edison that School Library Journal said “…belongs in every library.”
2) What inspired you to start writing children’s books?
I am inspired to write and illustrate about history because I am so fascinated by people’s lives. My wife, Jane, jokes that I am stuck in ‘70’s (the 1770’s and 1870’s). I read old books, watch old movies, and even have old friends. History fascinates me. Did you know that an estimated 2,000 women and children marched, camped and struggled right alongside George Washington’s army? Who knew? Imagine you’re a 9 year-old boy or girl and you have to follow your dad to war! What a story you could tell. So, I imagined what it was like for a young boy and told the story through his eyes, although the facts are based on military records and diaries from the period.
3) Tell us about your current project, George Washington’s Army and Me.
This new book, George Washington’s Army and Me is a poignant story about families that followed their fathers to war because they had nowhere else to go. I came upon this story, by chance, when I was attending a revolutionary war re-enactment. Amongst the soldiers, I noticed women and children dressed in colonial costumes. Why women and children, I thought. I asked questions, went home to my library, researched the revolutionary war, and found that families often followed the army.
4) What other books have you written? Where can readers buy them?
In addition to George Washington’s Army and Me, The Great Horseless Carriage Race, and Young Thomas Edison I have recently written and illustrated a story titled, Fossil Hunter (due out Fall 2012). It is the true story of fossil hunter William Foulke who discovered the first almost-complete dinosaur skeleton in 1858. It was the first time that people could say, “So, this is what a dinosaur looks like!” To research this book, I went to the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia and interviewed the paleontologist who let me touch the actual dinosaur bones! The fossils were found about a mile from my house, and I can’t stop thinking that maybe I should start digging in my back yard.
5) How did you find your publisher(s)? Do you have a literary agent?
Over the past twenty-three years, I have worked for every major publisher (Scholastic, Henry Holt, Disney, Macmillan, Penquin, Holiday House, Farrar, Straus & Giroux). George Washington’s Army and Me is published by Bookpartners. (www.Bookpartners.org). Bookpartners affords me much more of the market share in exchange for me doing the marketing.
6) How have you promoted your work? What strategies have been the most effective?
I do that marketing by visiting schools. Over the years, I have visited over 800 schools nationwide inspiring children to read, draw, and learn about history. Hence, I try to write stories that not only interest me but also relate to a school’s curriculum. I have illustrated books on Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Ellis Island, fossils, pilgrims, Lewis and Clark, and more.
7) What advice would you give to budding author/illustrators?
My advice to a budding writer or illustrator is to become the character, and project yourself into their life, and imagine what it was like. And then, write and rewrite and draw and re-draw.
Michael Dooling is an author, illustrator, explorer, inventor, patriot, fossil hunter, and sometimes a bit of a rogue:
"At times, I have imagined myself as all of these characters in my books. In my mind, I become the character that I am painting or writing about. In fact, I pose in costume for many of the characters. You could say that, 'Every day at my house is like Halloween.' Someone is always putting on a costume. My books are adorned with paintings of my daughters, Rachel and Lisa, and the neighborhood children."
Find out more about my books at www.michaeldooling.com You can purchase my books on Amazon or in any bookstore. George Washington’s Army and Me is also available as an ebook on iPad for $2.99.