We’re thrilled to host Austin author Cate Berry this Sunday, November 3rd at 2 PM to celebrate her second picture book, Chicken Break! Mark your calendars and check out our Q&A with Cate below!
BookPeople: OK, obvious first question: What came first, the chicken or the egg?
Cate Berry: Chicken! No, egg! The egg would have to come from somewhere so— my first answer stands.
BP: OK, obvious second question: Why did the chicken cross the road?
CB: To get to Book People, of course.
BP: What inspired you to write Chicken Break! and why did you decide to make it a counting book?
CB: I usually make up stories from the absurd part of my brain but this little nugget was ripped from real life! Our family ordered baby chicks from mypetchicken.com and it was gleeful entertainment for many months until they grew up. Our chickens wanted to live inside! They would line up and watch TV through the window on our back door!
Our neighbor had politely asked us not to let the chickens near her beautiful yard until one day, they escaped! I drove up and they had de-headed all her freshly planted begonias and dug a three foot hole in her mulch. Needless-to-say it looked like a Chicken Spa Day. That night a rerun of Ocean’s 11 was showing and—voila!—the whole things blended into a picture book.
BP: We love your book trailer, which consists of you singing along to the book while driving with a bunch of chickens in your backseat, like a farm edition of carpool karaoke. How, may we ask, did you even think of this? What was the biggest challenge? And how did you get the chickens to keep still?
CB: I wanted to have some fun with marketing this time around. I invited several writer friends over three months before the book launched and we brainstormed outside-the-box ways I could not only promote the book, but have a blast at the same time. I’ve always been a huge fan of James Corden’s Carpool Karaoke and since my husband and I are both musicians, and I love my minivan, Chicken Carpool Karaoke seemed inevitable. By the way my husband, David Hamburger, plays ukulele in the video. He’s a sport for going along with my crazy ideas.
Honestly, we both thought it would never work. Diem Korsgaard did the video and editing (she’s such a talent!) and those chickens just sat there! I guess they enjoyed their first breakout performance.
BP: How was writing Chicken Break different from writing your first book, Penguin & Tiny Shrimp Don’t do Bedtime?
CB: Everything was different. P&TS rolled out very easily and quickly. Chicken Break was written over three years. I worked on it at the Writing Barn and continued tinkering with it all through grad school at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Mashing up rhyme and counting and a fun authentic narrative is not easy. Although if you do it well, it will feel effortless during the read aloud. That’s my hope anyway!
BP: You are well known for your creativity and sense of humor in the Austin literary community. Have you ever thought about doing comedy? What makes YOU laugh?
CB: I’m rather obsessed with stand up comedy although I’d never be brave enough for that arena. My first love was stage acting. I tended to be cast in the comedic characters. I guess it stuck! I’m glad others find me funny. My dad was truly hysterical with a very dry wit. If we could make him laugh it, felt like winning Willy Wonka’s golden ticket.
Who makes me laugh? Carol Burnett, Dolly Parton, Lucille Ball and The Muppets. Every. Damn. Time.
BP: Would you ever consider writing something other than picture books? Why or why not?
CB: Yes! I actually wrote a show based on my time in New York City waiting tables for tourists and celebrities called Dish that I performed at the Long Center. I love writing essays and I’m dabbling back into that in my spare time. I’ve also been revising a middle grade novel that’s finally getting there! My agent is very happy about this news. I am too.
BP: If you were plotting a sort of heist, like your characters, what would it be for? Like… would you rob a casino? Break into a bookstore?
CB: These are juicy questions! My first thought was Tiffany’s to try on a lot of diamonds and act like Audrey Hepburn. But then I thought about breaking into the Frost Bank Building in downtown Austin and climbing up to the glass rooftop. What goes on up there! Are they stashing kryptonite? Rare orchids?
I guess curiosity would guide my life of crime.
BP: What are you most excited about right now?
CB: Cooler weather! Is there anything more joyous this time of year?
BP: What are you currently reading?
CB: October is so amazing because so many wonderful releases happen. I’m loving Donna Janell Bowman’s picture book biography King of the Tightrope and Bethany Hegedus Rise! From Caged Bird to Poet of the People, Maya Angelou. I’m also heavily into Meredith Davis and Rebeka Uwitonze middle-grade debut, Her Own Two Feet and Kekla Magoon’s Light it Up. How It Went Down by Magoon is one of my favorites, and I’ve been waiting for this sequel. I read a little bit of Lynda Barry’s Syllabus every night for inspiration. It never disappoints.
Come out for a chicken party this Sunday, November 3rd at 2 PM! If you can’t make it, you can still order a signed copy of Chicken Break! online. We ship all over the world!