Monday, September 4, 2023

#AuthorInterview with Miki Taylor, author of Bentely's Fantabulous Idea

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Holly Connors is talking with Miki Taylor, author of Bentley's Fantabulous Idea.

FQ: First off, I have to ask you about the real Bentley. Would you tell our readers a bit about him, and what makes him so special to you? 

TAYLOR: Well, he’s Fantabulous of course!! Bentley came home about 2 weeks before the pandemic lock-down, and that started our strong bond. He was there to help me get through travel shutting down (I was solely working at my travel agency Taylor & Co. Travel) and wondering what was going to be next and when my Mammalw passed away in December 2020 he was by my side at the funeral at the graveside, helping me cope with a grief that I had never felt before. He knows when I’m sad or stressed and always just comes over, pushes the laptop out of the way and sits on my lap.

FQ: Did the idea of writing a children's book come from loving Bentley so much that you wanted to honor him with his own series, or had you been thinking you'd like to write children's books and while thinking up topics, decided that Bentley should be the star? Basically, what came first - Bentley or the book idea?

Author Miki Taylor

TAYLOR: HaHa, great question. I had thought about writing a children’s book when my daughter’s, were young and my youngest daughter played with cotton balls and called them puppies, I thought there was a story there, but that was just a thought, I never acted on. I have actually always wanted to write a novel based on my life, but to do that you have to relive it and I have never been at a place where I wanted to do that yet!!! I never revisited the idea of writing a children’s book until Bentley came into my life. When I was house training him, we would go outside and there was a big bumble bee that would always come around and one time it even landed on his head. Bentley jumped around and tried to play with it so I thought The Adventures of Bentley & The Bee was a great book series. I dabbled a bit, wrote down some ideas, and last fall I knew it was time. I was unhappy in my current job and needed a change. I wanted to honor my Mammalw whose name was Betty, and knew my relationship with Bentley was a great foundation for a book series so The Adventures of Bentley, Betty, & Mr. Bee was born. So in a very long roundabout way, Bentley and my love for him sparked the series.

FQ: Speaking of Bentley, I'm super curious - will we ever see his black comma marking? In a future book, perhaps? I suspect young readers would love to see it, too!

TAYLOR: Yes, it is actually going to be revealed in a very special way on the day of the book launch 9/28/23. Sign up for “Bentley’s Dogtourage” to receive this special unveiling!! It’s free so why not join!! In hindsight, I should have shown it on the first page of the book and almost had Eunhye change up one of the illustrations but thought of another idea instead so run don’t walk to and join Bentley’s Xclusive Dogtourage so you are the first to see!!

FQ: I loved your inclusion of a hidden cardinal! I had never heard the saying about when a cardinal appears and believe it's a wonderful idea. Would you share the saying with our readers? How have cardinal sightings impacted you?

TAYLOR: My Mammalw was famous for her sayings and at a young age shared with me that when you see a cardinal that is a loved one that has passed paying you a visit. When she passed, I started seeing them everywhere and always mention it to my daughter’s if they are around and Bentley when I see them. It makes me feel like my Mammalw is checking in on us to make sure we are ok. It is something that I really need to feel and I always think of a special time I shared with her so it was really important for me to include that in the book because I always want to feel like she is a special part of every book.

FQ: The illustrations in Bentley's Fantabulous Idea are adorable. One thing that struck me is that all the characters are very active in every drawing. It's like they're dancing, and there's a party on every page. Was this something you planned? Did you discuss it with your illustrator? The playfulness definitely sets a happy mood.

TAYLOR: Ah, the illustrations. Working with Eunhye was amazing and just as fun as writing the book. I love color, blended colors, bright colors, you will be hard pressed to find anything in my closet that isn’t full of color so I knew my book had to be filled with color. I also want my books to be fun and light-hearted and happy. When I am hard pressed to find something on tv I always turn on the Hallmark Channel. The movies are always light hearted and end happy. I knew I wanted my books to be the hallmark channel of kids books. I want kids to smile, laugh, sing, and want to pick up the books again and again, and again. I wanted the lessons to be light and subtle. I was told that for the illustrations you give your manuscript to the illustrator and they really take it from there, but that freaked me out a little bit because as I wrote the book I had ideas in my head about how I wanted each page to look. I got very lucky with Eunhye because she wanted my input and asked me for more details when I sent her the manuscript laid out by page. That was such a gift because I was able to include some of the things I love like a treehouse. As an adult, I still want a treehouse. I love the old chevy trucks, they remind me of my late Uncle Pete’s truck, so I wanted to include one of those. I love murals and art so that is where the mural Tito Tiger is painting comes in. There are so many of my personal loves referenced in the book. I am a huge animation fan and have watched Luca a million times and it is all of those little details that I love that make it so special and I wanted to carry that over in my writing. I even went back to Eunhye after I received the colored finished pages and made some updates to the moon so it would have a personality and the sun I drew on a scrap piece of paper. Eunhye interpreted my vision perfectly. We are definitely a dream team.

FQ: Hiding numerous predators within the pages of your story was a fun addition. Did you decide where to hide them or leave it up to your illustrator?

TAYLOR: Thank you. I wanted to add an activity into my books because I love seek & find books such as “Where’s Waldo” so I wanted to add my spin on this fun activity. I mentioned that I wanted them on the outskirts and looking a little peeved and Eunhye included them. Once I saw the rough drawings I moved a few around so they weren’t too close and spread them out a bit more.

FQ: I have to ask about the title - Bentley's Fantabulous Idea. It screams fun. I believe the word "Fantabulous" says it all. It's so much better than, say, Bentley's Super Fun Idea or something like that. Did the title jump into your head right away or was it something that you struggled with? I have to believe such titles must come naturally to you, given the back cover synopsis with terms like "super de duper crazy cool adventure." 

TAYLOR: I’m so glad you said the title screams fun because I use that same phrase when I describe my writing. I love, love, love combining words. It is imaginative and expressive and a great way to put feelings into words when just one word isn’t enough. Dr. Seuss books are my absolute favorite, so I took my inspiration from those books. The fun, whimsical, extremely imaginative way they are written was definitely something I wanted to tap into. I want kids to laugh and realize that there aren’t really any rules in writing. It is your book, your idea, your masterpiece, and you can write it however you want to. There is even an exercise in the reader’s guide that I wrote that encourages doing a spelling Bee with mixed words and have the students each make up a word, discuss as a class and use them all in a spelling bee and I include some of my favorites. Now about the title. This is a funny story. I knew I wanted my first book to introduce the close bond & relationship between Bentley and Betty and I had written it 5 different ways and didn’t like any of them. They all felt short so I took a break from writing for a bit. Then, one night, I woke up in the middle of the night and the title and the way to write the story came to me. It is crazy I know, but I was able to get the entire concept written in a matter of hours and was so excited about the book then. When I am really relaxed and not stressed about writing the best thoughts and ideas come. I already have my second book written and ready to go to the editor along with a long list of ideas. It is just so much fun to create. I have so many ideas! I was very creative & imaginative as a child. I even had an imaginary husband; maybe that was telling me something about my future relationships.(insert chuckle)

FQ: I'd like to ask you about your website. It really is beautiful. Many author sites I visit are dry, and I get the sense the sites were put up because the authors felt they had to, not because they wanted to. But, like your book, your site is bright, playful, and "alive." Was it fun to create? Did you work with a designer, or are you able to do your own website work? What would you tell authors who feel a simple Facebook or Instagram page is enough? 

TAYLOR: Your questions are the best and feeding my creative soul. Your words describe exactly what I was going for. I wanted to create a fun world that kids can visit, parents don’t have to worry about the content, and they can just have fun. My website was such a labor of love. I was going to create it myself because I can dabble, but what I wanted was way above my capabilities, so I did some research and found Rocket Expansion. I did an initial consult with them, and they took it from there. They are also super de duper amazingly awesome!! Their setup makes it so easy to answer questions, review work, and provide feedback. They have taken something that can be brutally difficult and turned it into a fun creative experience. They brought my vision to life. The funny thing about my website, that is how I found my illustrator. I had joined a publishing mastermind since this was my first book and thought that was the right thing to do at the time. Well, the website and marketing were to come a few months before the book launch, and finding an illustrator started in month five, I think. Well, I had been thinking about my author logo, website style and marketing since I first decided I wanted to finally make the time to write a book. Wanting to be respectful, I didn’t want to offend anyone by going against the program, so I secretly decided I wasn’t going to follow that LOL. I knew this wasn’t going to work for me because I had started researching websites and had drawn what I wanted my site to be on paper and I needed all my characters created because they were going to be on my website. I have always used for many things so I went back to that platform and did a test with 5 different illustrators and sent them all the same request asking them to create a character version of Bentley 3 totally missed the mark, one was so-so, but Eunhye’s rendition was pawsitively out of this universe spot on. At that point I contracted her to create Betty & Mr. Bee, then a trio for my website, then we moved into the other characters and website icons.

My advice to other authors is your website is an extension of you and can be the difference in someone buying your book or not. It is an important part of who you are as an author. If you aren’t investing in yourself and your career as an author, why should anyone else invest in you & buy your book? Your website is also a place where you can share information about yourself, your characters and offer those extra special things to your readers, teachers, parents, & librarians.

FQ: I love Bentley's Dogtourage! Would you tell us a bit about it and how readers can join? 

TAYLOR: Thank you. Dogtourage came from my love for the show Entourage. I’ve watched it more times than I can count, and Bentley is definitely the Vincent Chase in this scenario. I wanted a cute way to entice readers/followers to sign up for my emails. It is going to be expanding in the coming months with special items to purchase as well as complimentary items for anyone who signs up to be part of Bentley’s Dogtourage!! A fan club concept if you will.

FQ: Finally, would you share a bit about what's next for Bentley and his friends? Are you working on the next book now, and when can readers expect to get their hands on it? 

TAYLOR: I have book number 2 already written and ready to go to my editor. If you visit my website,, you can see the title. It is about another one of my favorite past times, baking and Bentley gets a cake baking lesson from George Giraffe. Bentley wants to bake a cake for a very special picnic they are having in Betty’s back yard to introduce some new friends Bentley has made AND Betty introduces her new bestest human friend, PeteyJack, (named after my 2 favorite great uncles that I had very special relationships with growing up) who she became friends with through their love of wearing mismatched socks. It is sure to be another funny, colorful, singing and searching book.

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