One of the most fun you can have as a parent is sharing classic holiday stories with your child. Long Island author, Joe Troiano has a delightful book, The Legend of Mistletoe & the Christmas Kittens, a story that not only becomes an instant classic for children of all ages, but teaches a valuable lesson about the true meaning of Christmas. In addition to his heartwarming story about Mistletoe the cat, Joe has also written many seasonal children’s stories that are sure to become a family tradition for you, and your family. We sat down with Joe, and spoke with him about how living on Long Island has influenced his writing:
LongIsland.com: Where on Long Island are you originally from?
Joe: Actually, I was born and raised in the Bronx, but started visiting the East End over 40 years ago for vacation and fell in love with the area. In 1990 my wife and I bought a house in Bridgehampton surrounded by farmland, and across the road from a beautiful horse farm, and we moved out here permanently.
LongIsland.com: Do you find that living on Long Island has inspired your writings?
Joe: Living on the East End has not only inspired my writing, it has directly affected it. The inspiration for my first book, “Spookley the Square Pumpkin,” came one Halloween night when my son, Nicholas, asked me to tell him a bedtime story. It couldn’t be scary -- no ghosts, no goblins, no monsters. I asked him what he wanted it to be about. He looked at the field of pumpkins growing next to the house and said, “Pumpkins! Pumpkins are cute and not scary.” So that night I had one of those muse moments writers dream about their entire life. Right there on the spot, I made up a Halloween story about an odd-shaped pumpkin who saves the day. I told it to Nick and when I finished, he was asleep and I went running to my office to write it all down before I forgot it.
LongIsland.com: What inspired you to write children's books?
Joe: Definitely becoming a father. I think children have a gravitational pull. You bring them into your world and then they pull you into theirs. They become the focus of everything you do. So if you are a creative person you begin to channel your creativity into things they enjoy. Before Nick came along, I was a lyricist among other things. The idea to write for children came to me after watching Nick sing along to children’s television shows one morning. Soon I was writing lyrics for shows like Arthur, Caillou, and Disney’s Jojo’s Circus. The jump from lyricist to author was brought about by that lucky twist of fate Halloween night 1999.
LongIsland.com: Your books all include valuable lessons that are presented in creative, relate-able ways for children - where do those ideas come from?
Joe:The ideas for my books (the Spookley books as well as the other Holiday Hill Farm character books -- Mistletoe and the Christmas Kittens, Lyla the Lovesick Ladybug, JellyBean and the Unbreakable Egg, and Beacon the Bright Little Firefly) generally start with a concept I want to share with, or explain to, Nick— concepts like diversity, community, bullying prevention, self-confidence, and resisting peer pressure.
LongIsland.com: Which of your stories is most important to you, and why?
Joe: All the Holiday Hill Farm stories are important to me for different reasons, but I would have to say “The Legend of Spookley the Square Pumpkin” is my favorite since it is the book that started this wonderful adventure for me. It has really resonated with parents, caregivers, and teachers around the world. I constantly receive emails and letters that share uplifting, personal stories about the positive effects Spookley has had on young peoples’ lives. Those emails and letters are the most wonderful part of the life Spookley has given to me.
LongIsland.com: What gave you the idea to write about Mistletoe and explore the "real" meaning of Christmas and giving?
Joe: Once again the East End, and Nick, come into play. One snowy December morning a stray kitten walked out of the farm field next to our house, hopped up onto the roof outside my office, and stared longingly in the window. Nick, who was hanging out with me, asked if the kitten (whom he immediately named Gilbert) could come in just until the storm was over. Of course I agreed. That was 10 years ago and Gilbert is still living with us. When Nick announced Christmas morning that Gilbert was the best present he received that year, I realized that his act of kindness, giving Gilbert the gift of a home, was the basis for another story and life lesson.
LongIsland.com: What is your favorite part of the holiday season?
Joe: Spending time with family and friends. It seems we are all so busy managing our “every day” lives that it takes a special day — a holiday — to slow us down. Holidays enable us to trade manic minutes for magic moments with people we love. It is what makes writing the Holiday Hill Farm books so much fun. That’s why Holiday Hill Farm (where all my characters live), like the East End of Long Island, is a special place where “Every Day is a Holiday.”