Author Spotlight Interview: Papa Paws
Today’s interview is with Nicholas J. Nawroth also known as author Papa Paws. Papa Paws along with his wife Mama Paws have created an entire heartwarming collection of children’s books about Molly Paws and her family. It was a pleasure getting to know more about their writing process and life outside of writing.
HG: How would you describe yourself to somebody who isn’t familiar with your writing yet?
PP: My wife and I don’t have human children, and my purpose in creating The Everyday Adventures of Papa & Paws® is to tell heartwarming tales that the entire family can enjoy together. Parents taking those precious minutes out of the day to read a story to their kids. Older siblings reading to their younger brothers and sisters. Grandparents having some quality time with their grandchildren. Making books that can make story time memorable and fun.
That’s what it’s all about for me. Every time I read a review like when the four-year-old and his mom giggle together each time they read one of my books or the picky grandson that gives it two thumbs up just fills us with joy. I’m so honored that folks are inviting the Paws Family into their homes and their hearts.
HG: That’s terrific. Thank you. I understand you’re a graphic designer and digital artist. When did you know you were ready to add the author title to your list?
PP: Yes, that’s right. I went to school for visual communication and currently my day job is as a graphic designer. It’s hard to say when I added author to my list of titles. You see, I started making my own comic books about the age 9. My first comic book was called Goalyo (I have no idea where I came up with that name!) and it starred my dog at the time, Woody. And Mister T also made an appearance. What can I say, it was the 80s!
So I’ve been writing and drawing stories all my life really. I even wanted to be a comic book artist at one point but ended up going into graphic design instead. I had never known the joys of owning a smaller dog until I met my wife and she had 3 little Yorkies, Miss Mia, Molly Paws, and Gracie. The impetus for Papa & Paws® was when we said goodbye to our beloved Gracie. She was a special needs doggie – she had small dog encephalitis and was blind. Yet, you’d never know it. She ran and played with her sisters and was the sweetest little doggie. After Gracie went to the Rainbow Bridge, I kept thinking that I wanted to tell her story somehow.
My original thought was something along the lines of the Bravest Little Yorkie done kinda like The Little Engine That Could. I didn’t really do anything with that idea, it just kind of marinated in the back of my mind. In 2018, I was doodling while on the phone and I thought to myself that it looked quite a lot like our Molly Paws. That’s when I started taking the idea more seriously. I did some test sketches and looked at textures and colors and such and finally landed on one that my wife and I felt really captured the essence of her personality. After that, the story ideas just flowed free. I started simple with Molly Waits Her Turn. It’s the story of Molly Paws and our nightly ritual: after dinner, she stares at me and talks to me to remind me it’s time for her chippie (what we call her special treat). It’s a bit more artsy than the rest of the series as it’s a bit slower paced, but it really captures the theme.
Book 2 focuses on two of our puppies that we raised in 2018 and 2020. Sadly our little Zoe (Zozo) passed away at 9 months of age so she never got to meet Marley (Momo) but in the books Zozo can still play with her sisters and that warms my heart. My wife and I finally felt we were ready to take on Brave Little Gracie. There were lots of tears during editing but the finished book, in our purely biased opinion, was worth it. We chose to celebrate her life and bravery and lots of families have fallen in love with her and her story.
HG: Do you write the stories first and then begin the illustrations? Or what is that process like for you?
PP: It’s usually a fun or interesting thing that has happened with or to our doggies that sparks an idea for me or my wife. I usually capture them and add them to the list. When I go back and review the ideas, I pick the ones that feel suitable for our audience or that really just resonate with me and my wife right away. Then I’ll storyboard the idea with very rough thumbnails and a snippet of text such as, “Waiting is hard.” that will convey the idea for the page or spread. I work up a rough draft proof based on the storyboard where I add in more text to convey the gist of the page and move the plot forward. My wife will review the proof and we work together to shape the idea and text into something fun. My wife did write the prose for Book 7, Santa’s Fuzzy Little Visit, so for that one, we started with a few drafts of her text and then I worked up the storyboards from there. It’s funny, there is always a point where I feel like the book is not fun and we’re not going to figure it out, but we always do.
HG: That’s great. Thank you for sharing. Tell us a bit more about the inspiration behind your children’s picture books.
PP: Having three doggies in the house is an endless source of inspiration. As I mentioned earlier, the story of our little Gracie really sparked the idea for the series. Each book has the basis in a real event in our lives: Book 1 is the story of Molly Paws having to wait for her treat (a nightly routine in our house), Book 2 is based on us raising two puppies in two years, Book 3 is the story of our Gracie, Book 4 started when I couldn’t find Macy and it turns out there was a hole in our fence and she had gone through to the neighbor’s yard. If you’ve ever had dogs (or kids), Book 5 celebrates bath time. Book 6 is a bit more about how my job as a pooch papa doesn’t end when all the doggies are tucked in. We celebrate Christmas in our house, so we felt we had to do a Christmas themed book for Book 7, but with a twist. Book 8 was inspired by Marley’s friendship with one of the squirrels in our yard. And Book 9 was inspired by our fondness for dressing up our dogs back in the day. There’s an image of Mia in her spider costume that cracks me up to this day.
HG: So much love. That’s great! What feeling do you hope readers are left with when they finish one of your stories?
PP: We hope that the families that read our books enjoy the experience of the story, share a giggle, and maybe make a memory that lasts a lifetime.
HG: Wonderful. Any interesting writing or brainstorming quirks?
PP: I don’t know about quirks, I would say that having my smartphone is a boon in that I can capture a photo or take a note of my idea and file it for later. Being trained as an artist and designer I feel that I am open to seeing how ideas could manifest into stories or art. Ideas are easy for me, really. And my training has given me the tools so that I have a skillset to turn that idea into something tangible. I also am a trained improviser, which I feel took my art and creativity to a new level as it helped to be okay with experimenting and accepting imperfections in the finished work as beautiful.
HG: How fantastic! What have been the challenges you’ve faced in your publishing career?
PP: For me, it’s sometimes frustrating how stuck in the old ways that book publishing still is in some ways. Don’t get me wrong, there have been plenty of fantastic leaps forward but some issues still persist that are a bit baffling in this day and age. The other challenge is the marketing of our books. We are writing the books for children, but the adults are doing the purchasing. So it’s a weird dynamic. I know that I’m biased, but I feel like if we can just figure out how to get marketing right, we would have more folks that could discover our books.
HG: Understandable. What was the best advice you ever received related to writing and/or publishing?
PP: I once heard or read a version of write what you know that really resonated with me. I tend to say it as “Be open to create what you know.” I know it’s a cliche, but it is true. Yeah, it sounds pretty obvious coming from the dog dad writing about his family of dogs, right? But here’s the thing. You have a knowledge and interest in one or more topics. It’s just a matter of connecting the dots. If you know about relationships (and what person doesn’t?) and have an interest in Victorian Era you can write a romance novel set in the 1800s England. If you know about robots, you could write a guide to building your own or a canasta novel where the robots save the world. Love to cook? Then do a recipe book or even a children’s book where grandma shares her recipe with the granddaughter. I’m sure there’s something that you know that you could turn into a story. I was able to channel my wife and I’s interest in mystery stories into a book about Doggie Detectives. I think it’s just a matter of perspective to find the right angle so that the creativity flows.
HG: That’s inspiring advice. Thank you. Your most recent release is Howl-O-Ween Hijinks. Just in time for Halloween! Tell us about this book and what readers will love about it.
PP: Cute doggies + adorable Halloween costumes + puns. Plus a fun callback to our Christmas book! Seriously, it’s a not-scary Halloween story that kids and parents are falling in love with. My wife went to town on the puns and they are pawistively purr-fect for this book.
HG: Sounds fun! What can you tell us about any other projects you have in the works?
PP: Right now, awe are focused on getting the production done on Books 11 and 12 while we still have our Editor-In-Chief Emeritus, Molly Paws with us. She is almost 16 and I would love for her approval on them. I have notions of doing a “Making Of/Behind the Scenes” type book for the Papa & Paws® fifth anniversary in 2025.
I’m also wrapping up my draft on a fantasy novella that is decidedly not a children’s book. That one has been interesting as it’s my first “words” book. It’s been a huge challenge since I’m a visual thinker and I’m curious to get people’s reaction to the story. It has elements of mythology, magic, and dreams. I’ve always loved dreams and mythology in particular, so combining them into this book has been very fulfilling.
And for visual art, I have an idea for a series of art deco inspired illustrations that are murder mysteries (my wife and I love a good murder mystery!).
HG: Staying busy! Switching gears, what do you enjoy doing when not writing?
PP: Spending time with the family curled up on the couch watching TV or movies. Walking, naps, making art. I also enjoy eating the sweets that my wife bakes.
HG: What was your last 5-star read?
PP: I’m still haunted by Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus. And while doing research for book 11, I picked up Peep and Ducky Rainy Day and it was just a delight – the art and words were just super cute.
HG: For fun, before we wrap up, let’s do a fast five! First one…cookies or cake?
PP: Yes. My wife makes awesome chocolate chip cookies and a chocolate cake with cherries that is fantastic.
HG: Movie or book?
PP: I’m a movie addict. I think it has something to do with my dad taking me to see Star Wars at a young age. That and I remember being at the Drive-In watching The Black Hole and trying to stay awake for the second feature, which I don’t think I ever saw in its entirety.
HG: Pool or ocean?
PP: I am not a swimmer so as long as I don’t have to actually go into the water, I’m good. I do prefer the ocean. There’s something about sunrise/sunset over a beach by the ocean that is magical to me.
HG: Introvert or extrovert?
PP: Introvert for sure.
HG: eBook, print book or audiobook?
PP: Yes. I love each for different reasons. I love the feel of a print book, the ease of the eBook, and it’s always great to have someone read to me.
HG: Thanks, that was fun! For readers that want to find out more about your stories and keep up with you, where should they go to connect or learn more?
PP: Folks who are interested in The Everyday Adventures of Papa & Paws®, can visit PapaAndPaws.com to meet our family, learn more, and buy our books. There are also free downloadable coloring pages.
For my artwork and forthcoming fantasy novella, folks are welcome to visit NicholasJNawroth.com.
Thank you so much for this opportunity, my wife and I along with our doggies really appreciate it.
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