Jason Gallaher is the author of the wickedly funny Whobert Whover, Owl Detective, illustrated by Jess Pauwels, and the forthcoming Porcupine Cupid. When not writing, Jason zips about Austin, Texas. He loves dinosaurs, unicorns, dinosaurs riding unicorns, and anything magical that takes you to a different world or time. Also, Anjelica Huston. Jason is a tried-and-true Hufflepuff, and he is actively looking for an Andalite friend.
Your next book, Porcupine Cupid (illustrated by former WWTS mentor Lori Richmond), is slated for fall of 2020. Can you tell us a little about this book?
I am in loooooove with love! Valentine’s Day has always been tied for my favorite holiday with Christmas. We live in such a busy, busy world that I think it’s nice to have a day where people who are interested in a little romance remember to stop and take a second to light that fire of passion and love. So it was always on my author bucket list to write a Valentine’s Day story.
While I love love, I do think we have an unrealistic portrayal of it for the youngest generation of readers. There isn’t really an idea in children’s media that love is an investment, love is hard work, and that love is often painful. Cut to: Porcupine Cupid. Porcupine fancies himself a matchmaker, but he uses his quills to bring folks together. This is a maybe not-so-subtle reference to show readers that, yes, sometimes love hurts, but that pain is worth it in the long run because it brings you closer to the people you love.
I love using nonfiction to get ideas for fiction, and Whobert Whover, Owl Detective, is the perfect example. You took nonfiction animal facts (possums play dead, owls eat possums) and then created a story using these facts in a completely unexpected way. Were you at all conscious of the nonfiction elements when you started playing with the idea for the book?
Absolutely. In fact, the first draft of the manuscript had all the animals Whobert accuses of doing in poor Perry explaining the real-life uses of their bodies, which Whobert thinks are murder weapons. Debbie the duck explains her wings are for flying, Becky the beaver explains she uses her tail to help build her dam, etc. But that got to be a little too fact-forward and less the detective romp we have today. So instead I use real-life facts about owls in my school visits to explain to kids how owls have awesome characteristics, like terrific eyesight and neck mobility, that would make them great at detective work and finding clues.
In addition to writing books, you also review them as a merman on YouTube. How did you get started on that project?
By trying to figure out the mystical world of social media and self-marketing. With so many BookTubers out there on YouTube, I wanted to do something that would stand out. So naturally I thought it right to pair my mertail (which, yes, I already had beforehand because who doesn’t want to see what it’s like to be a merperson?) with my love of books. Then we had the Merman Minute.
You live in Austin, Texas, so I have to ask—best taco in town? Best margarita? Best BBQ?
Best taco and queso is, hands down, Torchy’s Tacos. I’d say, on average, we eat there twice a week.
Best margarita is my husband’s recipe! It has all fresh ingredients, never any sweet and sour, and lately we’ve been able to use some homegrown lime, so we’re getting all Barefoot Contessa up in here.
Best BBQ for me is Rudy’s. Most of their locations are hooked up to gas stations, which is super charming to me for some reason. I’m one of those people who thinks gas stations smell good, which has got to be a genetic trait or something, like enjoying the taste of cilantro (which I would put on everything). Do they make a cilantro and gas station candle?
Do you write in any format besides picture books? If so, what are you working on?
I do! Currently, I’m trying my hand at a contemporary, gay YA loosely inspired by my real-life experience. It’s about a high school senior who lives in a very small, rural town as the only out gay student. But then his mom gets a job in the big city and when they move, he’s plunged into an active LGBTQ+ community and has to work on discovering who he is when his identity isn’t simply “only gay kid in school.”
I also loooooove writing MG fantasy-adventure, and we’re on submission with a couple right now. In those works there is also an undertone of gender equality and body acceptance, two areas that are super important to me. We still have such an archaic idea of gender in our society, and I want readers of all ages to know that they ultimately have control over their own bodies and how they express themselves.
Since you named the Spice Girls as the band you’d choose to be a member of, what would your Spice name be?
I can’t get the name Sprinkle Spice out of my head! I think I’d be the band member with a little more pizzazz and flair and tons of bright colors!
Favorite Netflix/Hallmark holiday movie?
This isn’t from Netflix or Hallmark, but ABC Family before it turned into Freeform. HOLIDAY IN HANDCUFFS, starring Melissa Joan Hart and Mario Lopez, is pure gold. First, the duo of M&M (I really hope that’s what they called themselves on set) is unbeatable, and I think the premise of kidnapping someone during those pressure-filled family holiday occasions to make your family think you have your life in order is a titillating premise that is both hysterical and horrifying.
What reality show host do you hope reads this interview and is intrigued and calls you to talk about maybe going on his or her show?
Jeff Probst! I’m obsessed with Survivor and have been ever since it premiered when I was 12 years old. My new goal is to somehow slip Jeff’s name into every interview I do so he realizes I’m serious and would love to put myself through torture on a deserted island with 15-19 other people who are also gluttons for punishment.
Thank you, Jason, for your time and for mentoring one lucky writer in 2019. All information about how to apply to Writing with the Stars is on the WWTS Contest tab. Applicants, please remember to support these mentor authors. Buy their books, review them online, and tell your local librarians how awesome they are.
Link to Jason’s Youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdxfCqVBUlFB1H4DD-kWABw