Hi Kerelyn! Thank you so much for doing your cover reveal with us at MG Book Village. Before we get to the new book, would you care to share a bit about yourself?
Sure! I’m Kerelyn Smith, a writer and avid reader of all types of books, especially fantasy, classic, literary, and children’s fiction.
I work as a software engineer, but I’m one of those weirdos who majored in English literature and then somehow stumbled my way into a career in tech.
I’ve lived all up and down the west coast of the United States and now live in the greater Seattle, Washington area. I love rain, wind, and fog and prefer large pockets to purses, boots to shoes, and sweatshirts to sweaters.
Mulrox and the Malcognitos is my first novel to be published, but I’ve been writing books for several years now, never intending to show them to anyone. Mulrox is my great leap out into the world.
What is this book of yours all about?
Mulrox and the Malcognitos is about an ogre named Mulrox who wants to be the greatest poet in the world. Unfortunately, all his ideas are terrible.
Then the worst thing he can imagine happens: his terrible ideas come to life. The malcognitos, as they are called, are annoying, wild, and troublesome, but worst of all, they need his help.
Mulrox soon finds himself on a quest to save the very ideas he loathes, accompanied by his sassy pet toad, quirky neighbor, and a hoard of mischievous bad ideas.
The book is raucous and fun, but Mulrox’s story is really about learning to find your voice and embrace your imperfections.
Having confidence and pride in myself without the need for external validation is something I continue to struggle with and I wanted to explore this subject in depth in this novel. I’m still a work-in-progress, but I’ve adopted the word “malcognito” into my daily life now so that when I make a mistake I’m embarrassed about, I just write it off as yet another malcognito. I hope the book will encourage others to go on to create many more malcognitos of their own.
How did you come up with the idea for the book? What was the inspiration?
The idea for Mulrox came from several smaller ideas. I wanted to write about an ogre poet, a character at odds with himself. I always love characters that seem to contain a contradiction, as they never quite fit in and there is always room to keep nudging and subverting the reader’s expectations.
The idea for the malcognitos has a strange origin. My partner had a wall-mounted blackboard, but when we moved we no longer had a place for it. Because of the new apartment rules, we had limited options about where to store it. We ended up wrapping the blackboard in a tarp and leaving it on the deck (do not try this). A few months later we went back to look at it and the front and back had molded through. We threw away the blackboard, but I couldn’t stop thinking about that mold. How the dust—these scattered and erased ideas—had turned into something else, something alive. Malcognitos.
In the original version of the book, all the malcognitos were made of scattered chalk dust, just like the ones out on my deck. I took that idea and ran with it, creating the worlds of Sounous and Veralby and all the creatures within them.
What do you hope readers, especially young ones, will take from the book?
I would like young readers to walk away with the courage to embrace their mistakes and imperfections. Perfection just doesn’t exist.
It takes bravery to put yourself out there. You won’t always get the response you want, and that’s okay. The important thing is to keep trying. Make mistakes. Learn from them. Your malcognitos are necessary and central to who you are.
And you never know, some of the best ideas come from the places you least expect.
Many of our site’s readers are teachers of Middle Grade-aged kids. Is there anything you’d like to say to them—in particular those planning to add the book to their classroom libraries?
First, thank you. I can’t say how much I appreciate the work that you do. I’m delighted by the things I’ve read from the people in MG Book Village—encouraging children to read what they want, promoting diverse voices, meeting children at their level — it’s amazing. I truly believe that reading books builds compassion, empathy, and understanding which are things we desperately need in this world. I also believe it helps to build courage. The courage to be the hero in your own story and stand up for what you believe in. What’s more important and magical than that?
Back to Mulrox. I’d love for the book to find its way into the hands of kids who are quieter, struggle with self-esteem or perfectionism, or are afraid to express themselves. I hope that Mulrox’s journey can inspire these readers to find strength within themselves.
I was so lucky early on to an amazing group of educators who encouraged and supported me, especially within the arts. One of the best things we did was to have a writers group as part of our curriculum. In our writing time, they encouraged us to focus only on the ideas and the story. We did not worry about sentence construction, spelling, or anything else.
If I had to pair a class exercise with Mulrox, it would be a free write, or perhaps a brainstorming session for the worst ways to solve a particular problem. Anything to free up the brain and get it thinking outside of the box. Having the courage to try something new, or be the first to throw out a messy idea is a skill that is valuable later in life. It’s something I use every day as a software engineer.
OK, let’s not keep folks waiting any longer… here it is!
Wow, I love the magical, whimsical look of it! Were you involved in the process of designing this cover?
I was! I spent over a year looking at different cover designers and illustrators and Matt Rockefeller was always at the top of this list. His covers are emotional, fun, and incredibly expressive. I love the light, colors, and sense of story in his work.
I was ecstatic when he agreed to work with me, and the process was far better than I could have imagined. Before contacting him, I had written up a detailed book brief, with things like a plot summary, key scenes, and character descriptions, assuming that he would base the cover off my notes. But Matt took the time to read my book and understand it and my characters. He then presented me with several thumbnail sketches, all of which were incredible. We picked one of these options and then went from there refining and swapping ideas. I think we ended up with something amazing.
What did you think when you saw it?
I was at work at the time and I almost burst into tears. It’s hard to express how amazing it is to see something you created, come to life through someone else’s eyes.
Matt Rockefeller is an expert at capturing the essence of a story. There are so many hidden details and little expressions that make the cover so much fun to explore. I think it also raises questions and draws you in. It takes someone special to create a cover like that. Matt is not only an incredible illustrator but also an amazing person. It was such an honor getting to work with him.
Where can readers find you online, and how can they learn more about you and your work?
Mulrox and the Malcognitos comes out March 29th and should be available from all retailers.
You can find out more about me at https://www.kerelynsmith.com/, but if you want to keep up-to-date on Mulrox and my other projects, you can join my Readers Group: https://www.subscribepage.com/ReadingGroupSignUp.
You can also follow me on social media:
You should also check out Matt Rockefeller: http://www.mattrockefeller.com/
Thank you again for stopping by the Village, Kerelyn. I really look forward to reading it, and best of lucky with your book’s release!
Thanks so much for letting me share my cover with you and talk about Mulrox’s story.
Also, if anyone is interested in reading a digital ARC of Mulrox and the Malcognitos, please reach out to me through any of the methods above.
Kerelyn Smith is a writer of literary, speculative, and children’s fiction. By day she is a software engineer, but she gets up in the wee hours of the morning to write. She lives in Seattle, WA with her partner and dog, and enjoys hiking, gardening, and overcomplicating things. Mulrox and the Malcognitos is her first novel.