Monday, October 3, 2016

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: Devra Robitaille, Composer, Songwriter, Keyboardist, and Author

Devra Robitaille, Composer, Songwriter, Keyboardist
Author of children's Muffy Series
Devra Robitaille, a successful composer, songwriter, keyboardist, and author has just released her second children’s story in the Muffy Series, MUFFY’S FLORIDA ADVENTURE: A DOG STORY FOR KIDS. Published by her independent children’s publishing company, The Hologram Library, the Muffy series features “a happy and curious Goldendoodle puppy” with stories targeted at four to eight year olds. In MUFFY’S FLORIDA ADVENTURE, Muffy goes on vacation in Florida in a “big house on wheels” and has some adventures.

In addition to the Muffy Series, Robitaille has also written and published PEACHEY AND THE GLOBOSIS and plans to publish a SciFi story she wrote for ages ten to fourteen, DEVIN ANAD THE DREAM STEALERS. She will also be publishing the third book in the Muffy Series, MUFFY MEETS THE MEDICINE CAT and is just finishing “The Efficiency Claus: An Improbable Christmas Tale" (for ten to fourteen year olds.) When she is not writing children’s books, or composing and writing for theater, she enjoys kayaking—at least floating, and she continues to really “love love love” music. She lives in Florida with her husband, multiple dogs, and dolphins and has an adult daughter who is co-founder of The Hologram Library.

Don't miss the excerpt from MUFFY'S FLORIDA ADVENTURE following the interview.

Q: Do you write a particular type of story for children, i.e., adventure, family, or fantasy? What age group read your stories?

Devra Robitaille: I write in various styles.  I have two books aimed at young children, four to eight years old: MUFFY AND THE DOG CATCHER and MUFFY’S FLORIDA ADVENTURE.  Then I have a SciFi Fantasy adventure about to come out called DEVIN ANAD THE DREAM STEALERS, which would be for ages ten to fourteen.  I am currently almost finished writing “The Efficiency Claus: An improbable Christmas Tale” also aimed at the age group of ten to fourteen.  If I had to categorize them, I think they would all fall somewhere in the adventure genre.
Q: What type of characters do children enjoy reading about? For example, you’ve written about Muffy, “a happy and curious Goldendoodle puppy.” Do children like animal characters? Are they easy to personify or engage young readers?

Devra Robitaille: Yes, I think children love reading books about personified animal characters, like Winnie the Pooh, and Aslan from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I found them easy to personify because the dogs I wrote about were based on my own dogs and of course one gets to know their foibles and personalities; so they became real to me.  I found the youngsters that read the Muffy books were very invested in the characters and I hope they feel that they are friends. 

Q: Do you embed messages or morals in your stories? Or do you write simply to entertain?

Devra Robitaille: Well, my goal is always to be entertaining, but what better way to teach a child about family values than to sneak it in on a wave of giggles.  Not so different than convincing a child to eat broccoli by frying it in sugar! Yes I do try to have my characters always take the high road, but certainly not in a preachy way.  For example MUFFY AND THE DOG CATCHER is about open channels of communication and accepting each other’s differences.  MUFFY’S FLORIDA ADVENTURE is about being brave and helping your friends when they need you. DEVIN AND THE DREAM STEALERS is obviously more complex since it is for older children, but it’s about coming of age and listening to your inner guidance.  Efficiency Claus” is just a good romp. (although the message is the deepest of all, but you’ll have to wait until I finish it. LOL)

Q: What is the Hologram Library?

Devra Robitaille: The Hologram Library is an independent children’s publishing company that I started with my daughter to be a vehicle for “clean” reads that promote family values, while still igniting the inner chuckle.  I have always been an avid reader, and I hopefully passed that along to my daughter.  We believe that a good author creates a whole universe, which is like a hologram, and, if we’ve done it right, it should transport the reader totally.  The hologram library is “a repository of little worlds for the kid in us all”

Q: How relevant is believability or credibility to engage children in reading? What does engage children? Do you include villains to frustrate your characters? Are they scary?

Devra Robitaille: I think believability is key, and yes sometimes you do have to put in some conflict, otherwise it’s too linear and you’ve got nothing to solve.  Even when its fantasy or SciFi, you don’t what your readers to be thinking “I just don’t buy that.” Or “this is boring.” It all has to hang together and make sense and come right in the end.  However, if you’ve created a world in which your animals can speak, then as long as you remain true to that world, and the characters are believable in that world; you’re OK.

Children are easily engaged because they are better than we are at suspending disbelief.  The world is still magical to them, and that’s something that we have a responsibility to help them keep going through to adulthood.  The adults that I know that are the most interesting are the ones that still have a child-like view of the world.  The main message of the “Efficiency Claus,” in fact is “Keep the magic alive”

Q: How important are illustrations to tell a story? Are they more relevant to younger kids?

Devra Robitaille: I started illustrating the books because I love to paint.  Now, as I look at the proofs, I think it was a good idea. They look nice. Young kids love things that are pretty and colorful. It will help keep their attention and get those good values across.  I illustrated DEVIN AND THE DREAM STEALERS originally, but now, due to the cost to readers my daughter and I are looking at having to take the paintings out. That would be sad. Even though they are not necessary, they add an extra dimension – like a helping hand to give your imagination a little boost as to what the author thinks the characters might look like.

Q: You are also a composer and keyboardist. What drove you to write children’s stories as well?

 Devra Robitaille: Good question.  I moved to Florida and it ate my head.  No seriously, summer heat and full-on humidity is why I started; you can’t really bike or kayak when it’s 100 degrees out. But then writing took hold of me and it became a glorious obsession. 

Q: Do you use humor to reach your young readers? Do they like to laugh?

Devra Robitaille: Absolutely.  Humor is the magic key to the kingdom. In my humble opinion everyone needs a daily dose.  Because I’m English my sense of irony is strong, so some of my humor is quite wry…….surprisingly, kids get it!  Who’d’ve thunk it.

Q: What’s next? Will you continue to write children’s stories or maybe branch out to pen novels?

Devra Robitaille: Well, I seem to be working my way up the grade levels, so who knows?

Q: Tell us about Devra Robitaille. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Devra Robitaille: I am an odd duck!  Born in England and grew up in London, I am at my very core a city gal.  I love the smell of diesel in the morning.  But now I live in Florida on the Sarasota Bay, and dolphins swim by my front door. I have many dogs, the biggest is one hundred pounds and the smallest weighs ten. They are crazy-nuts and like a pack of two year-olds on caffeine, they keep me hopping. My husband is like a four year old. My twenty-three-year-old daughter is the only one amongst us with any semblance of maturity.  We have a kayak and love to go out into the bay and just float. I would have to say it floats my boat. Of course I love love love music, as that was my profession for most of my adult life too. And good movies, and British murder mysteries on PBS… don’t get me started.

About Devra Robitaille

London-born Devra is a prolific composer, songwriter and keyboardist, as well as an author of books for kids.  Trained at the Trinity College of Music in England, she has worked with such legendary artists as John Lennon, Cher, Diana Ross, The Jackson Five, Leonard Cohen, George Harrison, Adam Ant and Thomas Dolby.  She wrote 2 top-ten singles for her own band on Jupiter Records.  She became well known as a virtuoso player in the London session scene in the eighties and joined Mike Oldfield of Tubular Bells fame as a keyboard player for a tour of Britain.  While on the road, her manager informed her that 2 of her songs had won 1st and 2nd place, respectively, out of over 3000 entries in the BBC Song Contest.  Moving to America in the nineties, Devra teamed up with a lyricist to write and compose a musical, “Cole and Porter” which had a successful run in Los Angeles at the Hudson Theatre, and has written the score for “Rinaldi” which will be onstage soon.

Devra lives in Sarasota Florida now and has authored a series of novels for children and young adults. PEACHEY AND THE GLOBOSIS was originally written as a cartoon series complete with musical score.  It is Devra’s plan to record it as an audio book in the near future.  Her soon-to-be-released book for older readers, DEVIN AND THE DREAM STEALERS has already received rave reviews, and she is now working on the “Muffy” series for children. The first books, MUFFY AND THE DOG CATCHER and MUFFY’S FLORIDA ADVENTURE are now available on Amazon and MUFFY MEETS THE MEDICINE CAT will be released soon. She continues to write and compose for the theatre, but loves to write for children.


Muffy is a curious and happy-go-lucky Goldendoodle puppy.  She and her sister, Riff, have been adopted by a fun-loving family who adore dogs; the Gabriels.  How lucky these dogs are to be taken on an amazing vacation to Florida, all of them together in a big house on wheels to visit their cousins
who live on the Sarasota Bay.  They drive across the country all together in the 'Great escape' and then take a breathtaking trip on Captain Skye's tourist boat.  Her puppy and first mate, Starboard, shows them all the ropes, and they go to Teapot Bayou and meet all manner of lively and interesting wildlife, including Puff the dolphin and Melodee the manatee.  Muffy's Florida Adventure is full of warmth and laughter and good family values too.  Little Oliver the Papillion discovers he is brave; Radar the Golden Retriever discovers the courage to stand up for what he believes, and Muffy discovers that it's better not to chase bees.

Excerpt From MUFFY’S FLORIDA ADVENTURE – Chapter Three – The Silly Bee

“C’mon,” he buzzed, “let’s play”.
Muffy got up to follow him.  Her leash slipped undone.  No one noticed. “Okay,” she said.
“Bzzzzzz, I’ll show you some really cool flowers, follow me, over here, bzzzzz.”
Now we all know that Muffy has a bit of a short attention span, and likes to follow pretty things that fly, like butterflies, or grasshoppers, or big blue flies…….and bees.
She chased the bee, with her leash trailing behind her and they chatted away.  He showed her this and he showed her that.  He buzzed and flew and she hopped and giggled.  Bzzzzz, hop and giggle.  Bzzzzz, hop and giggle.
Suddenly she looked up and saw the Great Escape pulling out of the parking lot.  Oh disaster!  Oh no!
She started to run, and to panic, and to bark…….and to scream inside her head to Radar and Oliver, to Freedom and Jazz, to Mum and Will.  But the Great Escape was pulling out onto the highway now.  Oh no!
On board the Great Escape, up in his little window place Oliver caught sight of something out of the corner of his eye.  MUFFY!!  MUFFY!!  He screamed and barked, he shouted and tried to jump down.
Mum saw how agitated he was and tried to lift him off his ledge, but she didn’t understand what was wrong and Will was just starting to go up the on-ramp to the highway.  Oliver tried to scream at Radar, who didn’t understand at first.  Riff had fallen asleep and was blissfully unaware of her sister’s plight and Freedom and Jazz looked on helplessly.  How could this happen?  Didn’t we take a head count?  She must have been missed in the confusion. Maybe Riff was counted twice.
“Muffy, Muffy, Muffy!” screamed Oliver, as best he could while Mum was attempting to put the wriggling Papillion onto the floor. 
Then it happened, Will glanced up into the rear view mirror and saw her; a bedraggled little thing valiantly running to catch up, dragging her leash behind her. Will slammed on the brakes and everyone tumbled forward in a heap.  “Sorry,” he said, turning just in time, before he would have been on the highway with no way to turn around, and coming about narrowly missing a low brick wall that surrounded the meadow.
Muffy saw him slowing down and she knew they’d spotted her, and she started to slow her little feet, almost tumbling head over heels down the embankment.  “Holy Moly,” she thought, “that was a close one. What on earth would I have done if they’d left me? Silly Bee!”
Everyone was very glad to see her and know that she was unscathed, well mostly.  They made a big fuss of her and Sara who felt quite guilty for not noticing she was missing, gave her extra treats.
After that, life in the Great Escape fell into a pleasant routine and so passed the first couple of days.

Muffy is a happy and curious Goldendoodle puppy who lives on a farm.  One day she chases a silly grasshopper and gets lost.  She finds herself alone and hungry, on the point of collapse, but luck is on her side and she is adopted by a wonderful family, the Gabriels, who have a very orderly and devoted pack of dogs.  Muffy becomes part of her new family, and is accepted by Radar and Oliver and the gang, but she still pines for her sister, Riff, and misses the Farm.  One of her new friends, Wise Dog, introduces her to a very unusual Dog Catcher who has a special talent; he can communicate with animals and helps them when they are in need.

Muffy’s courageous journey is full of laughter and adventure as she tries to unite her two families.


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Twitter: @HoloLib

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