Eric and Rachel Von Gardey
I recently got to chat with the brother-sister duo Eric and Rachel Von Gardey, when they stopped into the Reading Room bookstore for a signing. Eric wrote and Rachel illustrated a series of kids’ books about a little cat named Sampson. They drove all the way from Hamilton, NY to Watertown, NY (just over 105 miles!) through a snowstorm to be there. They had lots of interesting things to share!
So, whose idea was it to work on the first Sampson book?
Eric: It was me. I had fallen and broken my back. I was out of work, and my wife, actually– my inspiration for 25 years– told me, “why don’t you write something and see what happens?” So I started writing a children’s story, and I only knew one illustrator that I would want to do it. That’s my sister. I said “hey, I’ve got a story. Can you come up with some pictures for me?” That’s how that happened.
Is Sampson a real cat?
Eric: Sampson was my cat that my son got from the farm.
Rachel, tell me about yourself and your art.
Rachel: I didn’t go to formal school for art. I’ve always been able to draw. I enjoy drawing animals. It’s fun for me.
Living on a farm, there’s obviously more animals. Have you thought about branching out and writing about other creatures?
Eric: I’ll let my sister answer that question.
Rachel: I have developed a new series. It’s a Funny Farm series, and it deals with different farm animals and a little child that interacts with, say, a goat, a dog, a cat. It’ll appeal to a lot of people.
Do you test your stories out on any children or grandchildren when you first write them?
Eric: I have two grandchildren, granddaughters. And yeah… they love them tremendously.
Rachel: We also tried it out on a children’s art class. Little children just love reading the books. It was interesting to us to see that it didn’t matter the age of the children. The older children were enjoying the books, too.
In addition to the Funny Farm books you’re are working on, I understand you have yet ANOTHER new book series on the way!
Eric: My Alien ABC’s. That’s our new series that is coming out. Also, My Alien Numbers and My Alien Shapes and Colors.
When is that scheduled to be released?
Eric: We’re hoping to get that out by next spring or summer.
The Von Gardey’s books, Sampson on the Farm, Sampson’s New Home, and Sampson Pretends a Big Cat are available in the Reading Room bookstore in Salmon Run Mall, as well as online on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
Additionally, Rachel is the author of a fantasy novel called Journey of the Lord of the Night.