by Margo Dill
John S. McFarland’s first novel, The Black Garden, was published in 2010 to universal praise. His work has appeared in several magazines and an anthology. He has written extensively on historical and arts-related subjects and has been a guest lecturer in fiction at Washington University in St. Louis. He is a lifelong Bigfoot enthusiast, and Annette: A Big, Hairy Mom is his first novel for young readers.
In his own words, John describes his novel:
“Annette: A Big Hairy Mom is a richly illustrated, slightly ironic, young reader novel in the best tradition of Roald Dahl. It is funny, poignant, wry and character-driven, as well as quickly-plotted and suspenseful.
“Evan Nestor Bettancourt is a small-for-his-age eight year old, slow to realize he is not a little kid anymore. He is imaginative, curious, and warily fascinated by the monsters in his story books. He is also particularly selfish and spoiled. His father, a high school biology teacher in a mountain town in northern California, encourages his son to see the practical, scientific side of life, and not worry about the fanciful creatures, which live in his imagination. On a family outing, Evan Nestor is lost in the woods; and just as he starts to wonder if he will ever see his parents again, he meets one of those creatures: Annette, a Sasquatch mom, curious about the odd ways of humans, and missing her own child who has grown up and gone off on his own. What they learn about sharing, empathy, and each other along the way, prepares them for many adventures to come.”
Q: Where did you get the idea for Annette, A Big Hairy Mom?
I first learned about Bigfoot looking through magazines in my grandma’s living room when I was about ten. There was an article in one of them about giant footprints and sightings of hairy monsters made by a road crew around Willow Creek California. The piece was luridly illustrated…I was hooked. Since then, I have always been interested in the subject to varying degrees, but it never occurred to me to write a book about it until I met Brenna, my illustrator, and saw her work.
My first novel, The Black Garden, had been published early in 2010. After I saw Brenna’s work, I wondered if we might do a Bigfoot book for kids together. At about that time, I came across a story in the New York Times about a four-year- old boy in northern California, who was lost in the woods, and claimed a hairy giant saved him and took him to the highway, where he would be found. That was my story line.
Q: Who is the perfect audience for this book?
The audience for this book is young readers between ages 7 and 11, and the adults who might want to read it to younger kids. Like the old Warner Brothers cartoons, there is a subtle, grown-up humor here.
Q: What made you switch from horror to young readers?
The switch from horror to young readers is outlined above, but I really thought the project would be a lot of fun, and it was. The sequel, Annette: A Big, Hairy Grandma, was even more fun. And I don’t write just horror. I have published many mainstream stories, criticism, and magazine work.
Q: Where can people buy Annette, A Big Hairy Mom?
Annette is available at Subterranean Books in the Delmar Loop, Webster Bookshop on Lockwood, and online everywhere, but I would hope that anyone interested would first consider purchasing from one of our independent bookstores.
Q: What is your writing routine like?
My writing routine, when I am in the groove, is early in the morning, during my lunch breaks at work, and weekends. I discovered when I wrote The Black Garden that a writer really needs a routine to ever accomplish anything.
Q: What do you like to read?
I love to read Flannery O’Connor, James Joyce, Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ray Carver, Charles Baxter, H. P. Lovecraft, Joseph Sheridan LeFanu, Poe, Sarah Waters, the Romantic Poets like Coleridge and Keats, Shakespeare, and many others.