Today we're talking with Rick King, author of Bodie and The Burnt Orange Sunset
FQ: Was this a personal story for you? (Are you, personally, a UT fan?)
Yes, I am a huge Longhorn fan. My parents met at UT around 1960 and I grew up in burnt orange diapers practically. My dad used to drive us 3 hours to Saturday games, then we'd head back home the same day. I graduated from UT, as did one of my sisters. I'd say we bleed burnt orange.
FQ: Have you ever met one of the real Bevos? If so, can you tell us about that experience?
I've met two Bevos. I met Bevo XIII at a post game photo op around 2003. And just a few weeks ago, Bevo XIV actually came out to help promote the book. Every sale of my book helps the Bevo Endowment, which helps support the care of Bevo and The Neighborhood Longhorns, an education initiative. So, Bevo will make a few appearances with the book. At the last one, you find out really fast who the celebrity is as people almost push you aside to get their photo with Bevo. It was hilarious.
FQ: Is the little longhorn runt who grows up to be the big, tough University of Texas mascot a tale that has been told around UT circles for a long time or is it something that you thought up?
Actually, there are two parts to this answer. The story of how Bodie becomes Bevo was an idea I just woke up with one day. Literally woke up with the thought, "What about a children's story of how a little Longhorn grows up, overcoming the odds, to become Bevo." Kind of a "before the glory" story. However, the title was influenced by an old UT saying, "If God's not a Longhorn, then why is the sunset burnt orange?" So I took that classic phrase and wove it into the story. Additionally, I wove some 20-odd UT references into the story including parts of cheers, songs, traditions, colors and more.
FQ: I liked the way Bodie went and revisited those who had been cruel to him. His payback was fun without being mean-spirited (I loved how he ate the collie's beloved grass - very clever). Was the payback theme something you consciously worked on to give young readers a good laugh without frightening them?
I was always measured with any form of retribution. Let's face it, I had to straddle the line between having genuine, rowdy fun with the mascots, but not taking it too far because it is a children's book. Plus, each encounter was tailored to that mascot...such as a tornado in the high plains, known for tornadic adventures. I always saw it as ...none of the other mascots really get hurt, just tossed about a bit. The best competition is spirited, but everyone shakes hands in the end.
FQ: To me, the daughter of a lifetime librarian, I really feel that children's picture books have disappeared from the shelves in the last decade or so - like they're a dying art form. Are you partial to children's books? Do you have any special favorites like Ferdinand the Bull...Harold & the Purple Crayon, etc.?
My mother was also a librarian in Baytown, Texas! Yes, I love books...but really all books. I can't understand the Kindle, because I love the feel of books, turning the pages, the look of each on the shelf. I'm old school. Some of my favorites tend to be Dr. Seuss, The Little House and Katy And The Big Snow Plow by Virginia Lee Burton, the Clifford series, The Wind In The Willows. As an adult, the Clack Clack, Moo series is brilliant. I spend a lot on books each year.
FQ: The illustrations in your book were fantastic. Did you work closely with the illustrator, Mario Rivera, to come up with a specific look for Bodie?
Very much so. Mario is uniquely talented - a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design. And his style shows an amazing range, far beyond this book. I chose Mario for his ability to show emotion in the characters and to make moments come alive...whether it was snarky or cute or triumphant.
However, Mario knew very little about UT or college mascots. So I made folders for every object and character - Bevo, the UT Tower, rival mascots, Bevo's trailer, the football stadium, etc. I would sketch up crummy little thumbnails of how I thought each page would work. Mario would take my sketches and bring them to life... sometimes he drew it exactly in line with my thumbnail, other times he drew his own interpretation of the scene. I was lucky to find someone with his talent.
FQ: I had the luck (as a Yankee from Connecticut) to live in the Lone Star State for about ten years before moving West and absolutely loved it. I travel back once in a while to get that "huge" Texas appeal. Most Texans born and bred would never dream of living anywhere else. Can I assume those are your thoughts, as well?
Definitely. I think Texans are always Texans. We may live in London or LA, but we carry a very steadfast pride and see ourselves as Texans who live elsewhere. I was in France recently and when asked where we were from, we always replied, "Texas," and no matter where they were from, they'd light up a little.
To learn more about Bodie and The Burnt Orange Sunset please visit our website and read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.