Welcome to Kicking Back with Kick-butt!
We’re chatting with Kyle Lukoff, the author of
WHEN AIDAN BECAME A BROTHER
When Aidan was born, everyone thought he was a girl. His parents gave him a pretty name, his room looked like a girl’s room, and he wore clothes that other girls liked wearing. After he realized he was a trans boy, Aidan and his parents fixed the parts of life that didn’t fit anymore, and he settled happily into his new life. Then Mom and Dad announce that they’re going to have another baby, and Aidan wants to do everything he can to make things right for his new sibling from the beginning–from choosing the perfect name to creating a beautiful room to picking out the cutest onesie.
But what does “making things right” actually mean? And what happens if he messes up? With a little help, Aidan comes to understand that mistakes can be fixed with honesty and communication, and that he already knows the most important thing about being a big brother: how to love with his whole self.
When Aidan Became a Brother is a heartwarming book that will resonate with transgender children, reassure any child concerned about becoming an older sibling, and celebrate the many transitions a family can experience.
Let’s talk to this awesome author about his amazing book!
This is Kyle. Everyone say, “Hi, Kyle!”
Welcome to Kick-Butt Kidlit, Kyle! Tell us about yourself!
Thank you! I feel very welcomed. I’m joining you here as the author of A STORYTELLING OF RAVENS (illustrated by Natalie Nelson), WHEN AIDAN BECAME A BROTHER (illustrated by Kaylani Juanita), and the MAX AND FRIENDS series (illustrated by Luciano Lozano). I’m also an elementary school librarian, and have been working at the intersection of books and people for almost 20 years!
Yay! We love librarians here at Kick-butt!
Where did the idea for WHEN AIDAN BECAME A BROTHER come from?
I mean, not really, but kind of really. I had been mulling over the prospect of writing a picture book about a trans boy for awhile, but couldn’t come up with any ideas that weren’t boring or reductive. And then one day I was home sick from work, making breakfast, and in the middle of grating a potato I had this vision in my head of a little trans boy showing off his newly-decorated bedroom. And the story grew from there.
What was it like working with the illustrator, Kaylani Juanita, and seeing your words come to life on the page? Any tips for other picture book writers starting out on a new partnership with an illustrator?
Here’s the thing about picture books: unless you illustrate it yourself, or are part of a package deal (spouses, siblings, etc.), or are far more famous and powerful than myself, the author has little to no control over the illustrator, or the illustrations! So I actually didn’t work directly with Kaylani at all. I did get to have a bit of input, because everyone wanted to make sure that the illustrations were accurate and respectful, but aside from a few details all of the illustrations are Kaylani’s own interpretation (with input from the editor and art director, of course).
Watching someone else bring my words to life is absolutely breathtaking. The experience is hard to describe, because as soon as I see the illustrations any of my blurry mental images are swept aside, and I can’t imagine the book existing any other way. The only advice I’d have to aspiring writers is trust that the editor and artist are as invested in the vision of this book as you are; and, if your visions vary, it will hopefully be only for the best. Letting go of the control of your work is hard, but the ability to do that will serve you well in traditional publishing.
Now, what were three interesting things you discovered while working on WHEN AIDAN BECAME A BROTHER?
I discovered that sometimes my instincts are worth trusting–I had been encouraged to give up on AIDAN, and refused.
I discovered that sometimes, if you’re lucky, after a lot of lousy drafts inspiration can actually strike, and the true story will reveal itself to you in a way that feels nothing short of miraculous.
I discovered that it’s worth pushing for what you believe in, and listening to advice on how best to deliver that message.
If you could transport your characters across book dimensions, which book would you most like them to end up in and why?
I want to see what Aidan would do with Harold’s purple crayon. Probably something extremely cool. I would also like him to hang out with Taylor from THE RABBIT LISTENED, I think they could build something amazing together, and also take care of each other when it doesn’t go well.
Why were you drawn to writing picture books?
My writing tends towards the spare, but hopefully not the sparse, and since picture books skew towards a low word count, that instinct is a helpful one. And I have a deep love for formalist poetry–sestinas, villanelles, sonnets. And picture books are very much like formalist poetry, with the added challenge of having to appeal to the kids being read to and the adults reading it. I love writing within rules and constraints, so picture books are a perfect fit.
Any hints about your next book project?
A GHOST. Maybe.
What has been the most surprising part of your publishing journey?
I keep telling myself that eventually I’ll feel like a real writer, but so far it hasn’t happened yet. I feel a little more like a real writer than I felt a few years ago, but it’s an extremely slow process and I’m constantly surprised that people I don’t know are reading my books.
What are you reading right now?
I’m answering these questions in a variety of drafts, and since I read approximately one book every 2-3 days, that answer has changed from “Line of Beauty” by Andrew Hollinghurst to a collection of very bleak short stories from Finland to re-reading one of my favorite books about food, “An Everlasting Meal” by Tamar Adler, with some other books in between.
What’s your favourite piece of kick-butt advice?
I am a huge, huge proponent of giving up on something that isn’t working. Almost every book I’ve successfully published is something that I gave up on at some point, and came back to on a whim. I also dropped out of law school (and am much happier as a librarian) and completely gave up on my dream of being a journalist (and now write fiction which is way less stressful, for me at least). Give up on things and see what comes next!
So true! You never know where a new path will lead!
Thank you so much for joining us, Kyle!
Kick-butt Kidlit friends, check out WHEN AIDAN BECAME A BROTHER!
It’s on shelves now!
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Contest closes Friday, November 15th at 11:59 pm EST
Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more fun interviews!