There are few things I enjoy more than shining a spotlight on authors and books that I love. And today it truly is a spotlight, in every sense of the word! Here to celebrate her very first book birthday and introduce us to her leading lady — er, mouse — is Broadway, TV, and screen actor Jenna Gavigan!
Doesn’t she look feisty and fun? Like someone you’d want to hang out with? You’d be right on both counts — she is! And so is her fabulous new character, Lulu, the star of Jenna’s very first book, Lulu the Broadway Mouse.
I absolutely adored this book, which Jenna and Lulu’s publisher has billed as “Ratatouille meets Broadway.” I think you’ll love it, too, whether or not you’ve ever dreamed of being onstage and in the spotlight, as Lulu does!
Shall we help Jenna celebrate her book birthday? Pull up a chair and grab a cup of tea and we’ll settle in for a chat before we all throw confetti and cut the cake…
How did this book come about, Jenna? Can you tell us a bit about that?
Years ago, while making my Broadway debut at the Shubert Theatre, I spotted a mouse running along a water pipe in the wardrobe room. To keep myself from freaking out — I was not a city dweller at the time, so not used to seeing the occasional mouse — I told myself that the tiny mouse was just helping out with the costumes. Perhaps she wanted to be on Broadway, too! That idea has been marinating in my mind for years, and I first started writing drafts as a picture book. One of those drafts happened while I was at Columbia University. That teacher encouraged me to apply to a conference at Rutgers that paired prospective authors with mentors. Eventually, my mentor at the conference became my agent, and she encouraged me to write the story as a middle-grade novel. The rest is history. (Note: I worked at the Shubert from March 2003 – May 2004, and my book sold in June 2017. So… that was a long story very short.)
Did you have to do any research for your book? Or had that all been done during your years onstage?
Yes, most of the “research” for this book is thanks to years in the theatre! But, I did go back to visit the Shubert when I was putting the finishing touches on my already-sold manuscript, to make sure I got all the real-life details right, like what color the seats in the audience are and how many chandeliers are on the ceiling. Roaming around, especially below the stage in the basement, I spotted other details that helped me add even more color and detail to Lulu’s world.
How did you come up with the character of Lulu? A MOUSE! There has to be an interesting story behind that!
Well, we’ve already addressed the mouse part of things! But, Lulu herself is loosely based on me as a kid. All I wanted was to be on Broadway. And I just kept working and hoping and dreaming. Lulu has an enviable optimism, but she also has moments of worrying that things won’t work out. I certainly had those moments. (Still do.) Moments of wondering if all the wishing and hoping and dreaming would pay off. My dream came true. You’ll have to read the book to see if Lulu’s does too!
Young Jenna as Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz”
Any tips to share for aspiring writers — or actors?
Just do it. There’s no magic potion. No right or wrong. Practice, focus, but don’t forget to have fun! Acting and writing have “make believe” in common. Sure, there’s work and training and business involved. But at the end of the day, we’re playing make believe. (On that note, be incredibly thankful when someone pays you to make believe. Be kind to the people you work with. Be humble. Be thankful.) Also, know that “success” (you’ll need to define for yourself what success means, BTW), doesn’t happen overnight. There are a lot of variables at play and a lot of people playing the game. All you can control is your work. Your words. Your audition. How you sing the song. I’m sure you’ve heard it over and over again, but it really is true: “Be you. It’s the only thing that makes you different from everyone else.”
What’s up your sleeve? What will you be writing next?
Well, I’m hoping for a sequel to Lulu!! I also love the idea of writing origin stories for some of the characters we meet in Lulu the Broadway Mouse—how those characters got started in the theatre. Guess we’d call those books spin-offs. I’m also working on a novel set in the 1930s about a girl whose family runs a boarding house in Brooklyn. It involves a lot more research than Lulu did, that’s for sure!!
And how about acting? What’s next in that arena?
Here’s the thing about being an actor: you very rarely know what’s coming next. It’s exciting, in a way, but it’s also stressful and scary. I very much hope I’ll be on Broadway again soon. If you twisted my arm and made me choose my next gig, I’d honestly want to play Anna in Frozen. Or Dawn in Waitress. I said it when I was little and I’m saying it now that I’m a grown up: “I want to be on Broadway!”
And now — cue the confetti! Happy book birthday, Jenna! Thanks so much for stepping into the spotlight and visiting with us today. And thank you, too, for providing a giveaway: there’s a copy of hot-off-the-press Lulu the Broadway Mouse awaiting one of you — and I’ve heard rumors of a tote bag as well…
Just leave a comment below, sharing one of your favorite theatre memories with us. Maybe it’s a play you saw, maybe it’s a play you were in, or maybe it’s a play you wrote, who knows? Winners will be chosen at random on October 17th. Share this giveaway on your blog or Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or other social media for additional entries. (If you share on social media, please leave a link in the comments so that I can assign you an extra entry.) U.S. and Canada only, please. Have fun!