Gary Metivier is a January 2014 graduate of the MFAC program. His picture book Until Daddy Comes Home was published by Pelican Publishing in February. It was illustrated by Robert Rath. Gary lives in Davenport, Iowa.
Please describe the book.
A little girl and her father find a way to stay connected even though he is being deployed overseas. They come up with their own pledge and promise to say it at the same time every day to give both of them strength. As weeks turn into months and they miss several special dates/events, the little girl must work harder to overcome not having her daddy around. In the end, she comes up with her own ways to keep growing and helping him stay strong too.
As the story progressed from inception to copy-edited version, what were the major changes? How did those changes come about? When did you first begin work on it? When did you finish?I made major changes to the pledge part of the story they came up with to share. It is much shorter, more direct, rhythmic and easier for read-alouds. I also decided (with the help of Hamline folk) to have the pledge repeat throughout with a twist in the final pledge.
The story itself is also about half as long as the earlier versions.
I actually went back and forth with the publisher over things like title, age-appropriateness of characters and events and overall theme of the book. I won some ‘battles’ and ‘lost’ some.
I spent about 1 ½ writing, revising and editing this book. I finished it last summer.
What research was involved before and while writing the book?
This picture book was inspired by several stories I have covered in my day/night job as a TV journalist. I have profiled families dealing with having to say goodbye to a family member being deployed. I have also been able to attend some surprise homecomings as well. Really what I wanted to do was tell the story of what happens in the middle, the part that doesn’t get covered on TV: 1)The living life without the parent there; 2) The missed moments like Valentine’s Daddy Daughter Dance, Christmas, 3) and mornings when the hurting is just too much.
I talked with many different families about all aspects of this –mostly the children.
Willie’s Wagon, your first book, was (self) published in 2007. What have you learned about being an author since then?
Although I had a good amount of success with my first two books on my own, I knew I didn’t have the expertise to do it all on my own. Beyond the obvious marketing and promotion aspects, I learned that I need creative input to take a project to the next level. Other writers have suggested elements that prompted me to jump out of my seat and say “Yes! That is exactly what I need here!” Sometimes we are too close to our own work to see the flaws or even the opportunities that can make it so much better. I am no longer hesitant to turn to others for input—and to trust myself to know what to use and what won’t work for me.
Revision. Cutting. Revision. Focus. More cutting of some of your ‘must-haves’. And yes, I have experimented with cutting too much and feeling like I have gutted my characters. A great exercise in the end.
Where do you do most of your writing?
I have a little home office in the back of my house. Good solid door, and nice big window. And a good amount of music to drown out everything else.
Do you remember the first book you loved?
Holes—blew me away.Black Like Me—captured my attention in the third grade and has never let go.