The Gaithersburg Book Festival is a celebration of books, writing, and literary excellence (and a few authors with alter egos). Dr. Richard Mark Huffman is an anesthesiologist by day and a prolific author by night. As R.M. Huffman, he writes adult fantasy/science fiction and as Mark Huffman, he writes children’s fiction. He also alternates between the two, writing The Huffman Letters: screenplays, song lyrics (and an assortment of other literary projects, including witty back copy). We are pleased to welcome children’s author Mark Huffman, and his book, Billan the Bard, to our 13th Gaithersburg Book Festival.
Mark will be a featured presenter along with Jonathan Auxier (Belly of the Beast – The Fabled Stables Book #3) in the Jim Henson Pavilion at 10:15-11:05 am.
I hope you enjoy my interview with Mark Huffman.
What is your writing space like?
I can’t say I actually have a dedicated writing space. Much of my writing – novels, screenplays, essays – is done on my trusty laptop anywhere from a coffee shop to my couch, kitchen table, or bed, to my local bookstore. Most of my children’s books have been written on my phone, if you can believe it. I’ll start a little notes file and dictate or type a stanza here and there throughout the day as they come to me. Now that I think about it, it’s a strange system, but it’s worked so far!
How (or in what ways) do you hope librarians will promote your books?
When children (or their parents) ask for something lyrical, rhyming, or something with a Dr. Seuss flavor but more recent, I hope that librarians will suggest my books in the same breath as Neil Gaiman, Graeme Base, Julia Donaldson, or Chris Van Dusen.
What do you hope your readers will learn from reading your books?
One major intention I had throughout writing my children’s books was to sneak some vocabulary into silly rhyming books about gas and cheese. Some words became casualties of the editing process – for example, “flatulent geysers” became “gross-smelling gasses” – but vocation, fromage, invariably, statistically, mundane, piquant, and others are all in there. A few useful lessons about things like perseverance and contentment and determination are in there as well, mostly by accident.
Who is the reader you are writing for? Please describe them.
Elementary school children who think toots are hilarious, which is almost all of them, and parents looking for bedtime books that won’t become a chore to read ten nights in a row (again, almost all of them).
What is one (or more) thing(s) that you really want your readers to know about you?
I have twenty-something more of these already written (on my phone, of course) and even more ideas beyond that, and I’d very much like them all to become proper books!
What do you love most about the cover art and illustrations in your book?
My illustrator, Dawn Davidson, has developed a lovely style that depicts some rather stomach-churning material (see: Cheesemaker Durdsden) in a way that somehow still looks charming and cute. It’s a real gift.
What has surprised you most about the characters in your books?
All four main characters of my published (and soon-to-be published) children’s books don’t always hide their frustrations about their difficulties and setbacks, but they’ve all proven pretty plucky and cheerful about dealing with them and finding solutions. I suppose that’s most protagonists in a nutshell, but considering I was using them mostly as vehicles to make toot puns and grammar gags, I’m proud of them.
Which book review or award has been most meaningful to you?
My first novel (Leviathan, R. M. Huffman) was the winner of the 2021 IBPA Benjamin Franklin award in sci-fi/fantasy, and its sequel Fallen is a finalist this year in the same category (results pending), so I suppose that’s the strictly correct answer. However, my very favorite children’s author “thing” so far is definitely when Elijah Wood read my first book, The Toot Fairy, on video. It’s hilarious.
What are you most looking forward to at our book festival?
I can’t wait to read my stories to kids and to meet other authors! Releasing three children’s books during the Covid pandemic meant there were simply no opportunities to visit classrooms or libraries in person, and no in-person conventions were held, so I feel like I’ve been in sort of a publishing bubble by myself. So thankful that seems to be changing!
I hope you will visit Mark at the Gaithersburg Book Festival on May 21st!
Mark Huffman is an anesthesiologist by day, and by night, a children’s book author. He writes about shared human experiences, which in Billan the Bard, means that he writes about learning to rhyme, asking for help when needed and becoming the master of one’s craft. The Toot Fairy was his debut children’s picture book, and he is also the author of Leviathan (adult sci-fi/fantasy series), winner of the 2021 IBPA Award. He lives with his family in Texas.