Sunday, November 7, 2021

INTERVIEW: Luc Helterbrand, Author & Illustrator

To borrow a saying from my friend Chef Virginia Willis, the person who introduced me to my editor..."I love it when good things happen to good people!" My friend Luc Helterbrand is a published author!!! His book, written and illustrated by Luc, is a delightful children's book that gifts the magic of shared memories...and a recipe!

Luc Helterbrand, Author, Illustrator, "Baba and Billy and the Chocolate Banana Bread"
Luc Helterbrand, Author, Illustrator, Photo courtesy Moruso Studios

The book is "Baba and Billy and the Chocolate Banana Bread". Luc has generously granted me an interview so that we can share with you more about the book, its inspiration, and Luc's path to becoming an author and illustrator. Enjoy...

wanderlust ATLANTA: Please share with us a little about who you are, where you're from, and how you came to live in Metro Atlanta.

Luc: I am the fifth of six children and grew up in a small rural Italian community in central Missouri. My mother was from France and through her and my father's mother, I learned to love baking. As children we often enjoyed French desserts from my mother and classic American desserts from my grandmother. We were very lucky children and only as adults can we appreciate how good we had it. 

I went to college for Architecture at Drury University and shortly after graduating, I moved to Chicago where I married my college sweetheart and we had one child. We did get divorced, but we wanted to make sure that we shared in the upbringing of our son and when she received a wonderful professional opportunity, we all moved to Atlanta.

wanderlust ATLANTA: You're a first-time published author! Congratulations! Please tell us a little about the book.

Luc: Baba and Billy and the Chocolate Banana Bread is a short story about a grandfather who is taking care of his grandson for the day and as a treat decides to have Billy make a dessert to share with his mom and dad.

wanderlust ATLANTA: What was the catalyst for wanting to write a book and why this particular theme?

Luc: I love children and I love baking. I also hope to one day be a grandfather and I want to share moments with my grandchildren and hope to pass along some of the desserts that I grew up enjoying. I want to promote the idea of grandfathers as caregivers. I also want to promote the family construction; love is the most important element. In this story, grandpa and grandson are of different races, but their love and affection are what I hope people recognize and focus on and emulate.

Illustration in "Baba and Billy and the Chocolate Banana Bread" Photo courtesy of Moruso Studios
Illustration in "Baba and Billy and the Chocolate Banana Bread"
Photo courtesy of Moruso Studios

wanderlust ATLANTA: I already knew that you are an architect but did not know that you're also an illustrator. Is that a passion? Where do you hope that brilliant talent will take you?

Luc: The only reason that I am an architect is because of my drawing talents. I have been drawing since I was very little. My mother was also a wonderful artist and she always encouraged me in it. Writing a book is something that she and I discussed when I was young too. She always said to write what I know. I hope to write many more books for children and young adults. I hope to be writing and illustrating books and images for the remainder of my life and that I can encourage others to share their interests and more importantly, their time, with those they love. 

wanderlust ATLANTA: The title characters are awesome, but some might wonder where is grandma?

Luc: I want my characters to have backstories even when they aren't obvious parts of the main story line. My parents passed away when I was young, my father when I was ten and my mother when I was nineteen. In showing an image of grandma in the story, but not having her as an active character, implying that she had passed away, was my tribute to my parents. We carry our loved ones with us wherever we go, whether they are here or not. This story was inspired by the love of my mother and my grandmother and other people of whom I have shared fond memories.

wanderlust ATLANTA: Is the recipe for the chocolate banana bread in the book? Why this particular dish?

Luc: Yes...the story is the instructions and at the end are the ingredients. I have been instructed by my doctor to eat a banana every day. Well, that's a lot harder than you might think, so at times I have bananas that go past the point of ripeness that I want to eat them, so I needed to find a good way of using up all those overripe bananas. I like plain banana bread at times, but chocolate makes everything better, so I did some experimenting and developed this recipe. Everyone seems to really enjoy it and it makes for a very nice moist dessert.

Chocolate Banana Bread made by Luc, Photo courtesy Moruso Studios
Chocolate Banana Bread made by Luc, Photo courtesy Moruso Studios

wanderlust ATLANTA: What was your favorite childhood book and why? What children's book authors have inspired you?

Luc: I grew up in a large farmhouse that didn't have that many rooms so being in a large family, we had to share bedrooms. At night my mother would read to us at bedtime when we were little. My favorite books were the adventures of Winnie the Pooh. She did all the characters. She had a soft French accent and when she read to us, it was magical. 

I'm inspired by many children's books authors. I love a simple honest story that is more images than words. I've been truly impressed recently by Oliver Jeffers. His books are beautifully simple stories but are incredibly powerful in message.

wanderlust ATLANTA: This is your first book. May we look forward to others? Is this a series? What other book ideas can you share with us at this time?

Luc: There will definitely be more. I am not sure that there will be more "Baba and Billy" but this theme of grandparent and child is one I do enjoy. That relationship is very important and special. 

I have a second book written and I am generating character sketches right now. It's a story of a grandmother, "Mimi" and her two grandchildren who come to spend the weekend with her and help out in the garden.

Illustration in "Baba and Billy and the Chocolate Banana Bread", Photo courtesy of Moruso Studios
Illustration in "Baba and Billy and the Chocolate Banana Bread"
Photo courtesy of Moruso Studios

wanderlust ATLANTA: Where can future fans get your book? Do you have any book signing events coming up?

Luc: You can get my book at Archway Publishing, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon, or order from your local book store. At present I do not have any signings setup, but I hope to soon. I would love to do some book signings at libraries or bookstores and do some book events, too. The book has only been available for a month, and this is my first book, so I am just now getting my author legs.

wanderlust ATLANTA: Is there anything I haven't asked that you would like to share about yourself, your book, or the writing experience?

Luc: I hope everyone enjoys the story and that it inspires parents, aunts and uncles, as well as grandparents and children to spend time together, to find those little things that create lifelong bonds. They say food is love, but spending time together, sharing in our lives, is real love.

"Billy and Baba and the Chocolate Banana Bread" by Luc Helterbrand
"Baba and Billy and the Chocolate Banana Bread" by Luc Helterbrand

"Congratulations!" to Luc on becoming a published author! Friends and fans, please consider adding Luc's book to your holiday shopping list or buy it for your own kids, nieces and nephews, or your grandkids! Which loved ones will you be making chocolate banana bread memories with?

Be sure to follow Moruso Studios, Luc's illustration brand, for announcements of book signings and Luc's future books!

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