In the book you tell us that a mouse’s heart can beat 632 times per minute. Is this true? What other mouse trivia can you share with us here?
It’s true! And how about this? Mice typically don’t have very good eyesight but rely heavily on hearing, smell and taste. This is why the smart goggles in The Mouse Watch are so important! And as far as smell and taste go, it’s also why Jarvis goes completely crazy over Tabasco sauce. (I love it too, by the way! Mmmmm…)
We love the emphasis on female mouse leaders in the story including Bernie, Alph, Major Flatpaw and, of course, Gadget Hackwrench. Were these characters inspired by anyone in particular?
My daughter Livie inspired Bernie. When she was a little younger, she used to have bright blue hair and is also super cool just like Bernie. Liv has strong convictions about right and wrong, stands up for people who are picked on and she loves the ocean. It’s why the second book in the series, The Mouse Watch: Underwater is especially dedicated to her.
Many of the other characters are hybrids of females I respect and admire. Alph was a lot like my first-grade teacher, who was a kind and encouraging influence in my life. Major Flatpaw was based on one of my early animation mentors, an amazingly talented, but super tough woman who could do incredible magic with a pencil and paper!
Oh, and the “Springtime Nancy doll collection” is a nod directly to my wife, Nancy, who happens to be the most beautiful person in the world, but I digress…. The point is, I’m a strong feminist and am proud to say that I wouldn’t be where I am today except for the incredible females I’ve had the pleasure to know along life’s journey.
There are many significant lessons readers will take away from The Mouse Watch including the importance of teamwork; not judging people (or mice) because they’re different from you; the danger of selfishness and being consumed only by what you perceive as your own individual destiny, and – perhaps the lesson that most struck me – embracing rehabilitation for wrongdoers. What themes or lessons were particularly important to you such that you felt compelled to include them?
Well, you nailed the most important ones perfectly. My books have to be about themes that I strongly believe in or I can’t find the conviction and will power to write them.
In the case of The Mouse Watch, I wanted a belief that kept the agents filled with conviction about something that they could fight for. Personally, I believe in everything The Watch stands for and hope to spread those convictions around. I truly think that if we all tried to live up to those ideals that it would help make the world a better place!
Bernie and Jarvis have a special relationship. They learn a lot about one another’s talents and weaknesses while also learning a lot about themselves in the process. Did you always have a dynamic duo in mind for an adventure story or did their relationship evolve from the plot?
Sometimes it’s hard to say exactly how that evolution happens. The plot was there, but I found that the characters started to leap off the page the more I wrote about them. Because of my animation background, I spend a lot of time “getting to know” the characters. Once they establish themselves, I’m literally watching a movie in my head as I write the story. I try to get all the details down that I see as accurately as I can. It’s an unusual process, but when I finish a book, I can almost see the credits roll across the screen. Occasionally, I’ll dream I’m having lunch with the characters and the conversation will inform my writing. I don’t think I’ve ever shared that before, but there ya go, weird but true!
Technology plays a big role in this book – saving the world requires impressive gadgets! What is your favorite Mouse Watch invention and why?
Well, it would have to be the smart goggles. I would LOVE to have a pair of my own! The varieties of goggles available to the Watch and what they can do get highlighted in the other books to come. I’ve had so much fun writing about them!
What resources did you look to for inspiration in writing The Mouse Watch?
The Rescuers, of course. Also, The Great Mouse Detective. Hmm, Cinderella played a part and, of course, Chip and Dale’s Rescue Rangers.
Who is your favorite character from the book and why?
I love Bernie to pieces, but I really had fun with Jarvis. Between his love for tech and Tabasco sauce, I had a lot of personal stuff to relate to.
What have been your favorite parts of writing this book?
Immersing into this particular world has been a complete joy. I find that when I see an abandoned watering can or shoe, I can’t help but wonder what a mouse might do with them. I’ve also spent a lot of time creating sketches and watercolors of the characters and with each piece of art, I feel that the world is more defined. It’s been so much fun!
What challenges did you face writing this book and how did you overcome them?
Sometimes, it felt like there was so much that I could say and do with these stories that I had scale down my story expectations. Fortunately, I have an incredible editor named Jocelyn Davies who deserves a TON of praise for helping this book become what it needed to be. She has amazing ideas! I couldn’t have done it without “Awesome Jocelyn.”
What is next for J.J. Gilbert?
Well, I have many, many more stories I could tell about the Mouse Watch. Frankly, I could see this series going on and on and on because there’s so many adventures to tell. In book three we learn just how big the villain network is, and let me tell you… it is enor-MOUSE! (Sorry, had to use a pun.)
Haha! We know readers will love this story and come away with a hankering for their favorite type of cheese. What do you ultimately hope readers get out of The Mouse Watch?
That just like a watch, every person is important in keeping time. How we spend our time here on Earth is a conscious choice. Sometimes, a person might be the watch’s “face” meeting people and speaking encouragement to them one on one. Some of us are the “hands,” helping people in need in physical, practical ways of giving. From the smallest gear to the main spring, we all can “watch” for ways to help others. That message is my hope. Oh, and also, that nobody underestimates the importance of a great cheese fondue! Mmmmmm….
Stay tuned for The Mouse Watch when it hits shelves on May 26, 2020 (pre-order on Amazon now) followed by The Mouse Watch: Underwater and other Mouse Watch adventures to be released at a date yet to be determined.