Zibby Owens: I am so excited to be interviewing Evangeline Lilly. Evangeline is the author of the children’s book series The Squickerwonkers. The two titles in the series so far are The Pre-Show and Act 1: The Demise of Selma the Spoiled. She’s also released audiobooks of The Demise of Lorna the Lazy and The Demise of Andy the Arrogant. A former model, Evangeline is best known for her acting career. She stared in the ABC hit drama Lost as Kate Austen and then starred in The Hobbit movies, Ant-Man, Ant-Man and the Wasp, and Avengers: Endgame. Originally from Canada, she attended the University of British Columbia. She currently lives in Hawaii, which is so nice, with her two children.

Mom's Don't Have Time To Read Books + Kids Do Have Time To Read Books | Zibby Owens with Evangeline Lilly from McCain Merren on Vimeo.

Thanks, Evangeline, for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books” and also “Kids Do Have Time to Read Books,” our first hybrid both recording guest. I’m so excited.

Evangeline Lilly: I love that I’m your first guest for your hybrid. I think it’s very appropriate. It’s appropriate because I’m a mom who never has time to read books, and I’m always reading books to my kids.

Zibby: See? There you go. I know. Some days when I don’t have time to read, I’ve read sixteen books. We go through a whole series. How to Catch a Snowman. How to… I’ve been reading for an hour and a half. I have no credit for it. Thank you for coming on. Let’s talk about The Squickerwonkers, which is your series which is amazing. How did you come up with the idea for The Squickerwonker series?

Evangeline: I was fourteen years old when I came up with The Squickerwonkers original poem, which is loosely tied to the poem that is in The Pre-Show. It’s not in any way the same. It got rewritten a lot of times. I was a very unusual fourteen-year-old. I didn’t have much of a social life at all, by choice. I wasn’t really that interested in what teenagers were doing at that point. I had the perspective at fourteen of “This is all bullshit.” Am I allowed to say that on your podcast?

Zibby: You can say anything you want.

Evangeline: I spent my time reading and journaling and writing. I was really into Dr. Seuss. I had come back to him as a teenager and realized this dude was so smart. He was lacing such incredible messages into these really simple tales that I loved because of the poetry. I was really into poetry at that point. I thought it was cool that he had this irreverent use of language. He would just makeup whatever word he wanted to. If he didn’t have the perfect rhyming word, he would make one up instead of searching for one in the English language. I was like, I want to make up my own words. That’s really cool. I started writing a list of imaginary words. Most of them were ridiculous and not very good. One of them on the list felt good on my tongue and really stuck. It was the word squickerwonker. At the time, I was like, what’s a squickerwonker? What is that? What would that mean? What would that translate to?

As soon as I asked myself that question, this voice with this Scottish lilt came into my head. It said, “The name is Squickerwonker, perhaps unknown to you. That’s it, Squickerwonker. This is what Squickerwonkers do.” Then it went on to tell this tale of this really horrible family who did a lot of naughty things and got away with it. That became the original poem. then twenty or so years later when I finally decided it’s time for me to stop writing things and then putting them in drawers and actually try to get them out into the world, the illustrator who I was courting at the time read a few of my manuscripts. He read The Squickerwonkers. He said, “Oh, my god. I have such a clear vision for what I want to do with this book. I want to put it in a wagon. I want it to be marionette puppets.” I was in love. I thought this was amazing. I’ve always loved dark kids’ books. I love marionette puppets, how they have a built-in sense of creepiness and mystery and magic. That was the beginning of what has now become a seven-year journey.

Zibby: Wow. To remember all that from when you were fourteen.

Evangeline: I know. It’s weird because I don’t remember anything from childhood.

Zibby: I don’t remember anything from yesterday.

Evangeline: That’s called mommy brain.

Zibby: Exactly. We were talking earlier, also, about how you were a reluctant reader and how these books are intended to benefit readers similar to that, like the way you used to be. Can you talk about how your own experience informed the way you package these ones?

Evangeline: Interestingly, the books have this ambiguous age range because I intentionally tailored these books to me as a little girl. I was a really poor reader. My comprehension was really high. I understood everything I was reading, but I was so slow. I was so painfully slow that I started to feel like there was something wrong with me or I was stupid. My friend could read a book in a week that would take me two months to get through the first quarter. I would end up giving up. I started to really loathe books. The idea of reading and of books actually made me feel mad inside because I was ashamed. I was embarrassed about the fact that I was such a slow reader. Then my grandfather who was an educator, he introduced me to this author Edward Gorey. Edward Gorey, if you aren’t familiar with his stories, his books are very dark. They deal with highly sophisticated and mature subject matter, primarily with death and gore. There’s five or six words on a page. They’re very highly illustrated.

He was the first author that I felt wrote his book for me. I felt like he was winking at me and nudging me and saying, “I know you’re smart. I know that you don’t need 700 words on a page to prove that you’re smart. You get my joke. You get that what I just talked about, even though it seems really macabre, is really funny. The fact that you can get that humor tells me you’re smart.” This is this dialogue I was having with this author in my eight-year-old mind. I wrote these books tailored very much as an ode to him and an ode to the little girl in me that wanted sophisticated subject matter but didn’t want to be overwhelmed by the word count. Then in a strange, wonderful twist of fate, what ended up happening because of that is they also are ideal books for young, advanced readers who have really high comprehension, like a little four-year-old who’s quite bright and they’re reading the toy train book and it’s just not satisfying their intellectual needs, but they’re still at a low word count. It’s also really good for them. It ended up putting it in this very broad age range and hopefully appeals to a lot of kids.

Zibby: It’s perfect for audiobooks, which I listened to. They’re great, just like that little snippet you did before.

Evangeline: I do all these crazy voices. I get to put on my weird hat and not be a glamorous star for a minute and just be the kooky, weird mom that I really am and read the books the way I would read them to my kids. I have so much fun making the audiobooks.

Zibby: You’ve released some of the books as audiobooks before print books, which is so interesting. How did you come to that decision?

Evangeline: That was a long road to get to that choice. I’ve had a really interesting journey with The Squickerwonkers. I do have a full-time day job. This has been something I’ve been doing on the side and haven’t found the road into the publishing world very easy. I’ve found it a very difficult and complicated world to get into. I’m sure for people within the world, they’re like, “I don’t understand. It’s so simple.” Being an outsider, it feels very exclusive. It feels very unknown. I really didn’t know where to put my feet down. I tried publishing The Squickerwonkers in multiple different kinds of ways. I started by self-publishing. I took it to Comic-Con. It was really successful.

Then I was like, I have no idea how to get into bookstores. Where do I even start for that? I tried a different mode of publishing, but it was publishing with primarily a graphic novel publisher. They weren’t a children’s book publisher, so they treated the material in a way that wasn’t appropriate for getting it to children and libraries and teachers and that kind of thing. This isn’t a good fit. This isn’t working. Then I ended up deciding, forget it. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter how many kids read this book as long as one kid is touched by this book. I’m just going to put them up on the little website. I’m going to produce the audiobooks. I’m going to do it all as quickly as I possibly can to get the stories out to the world. I just want to tell my stories. I don’t really care what the end result is.

I used to listen to audiobooks when I was a little girl. My grandparents were missionaries in Africa. They brought us stories about Africa in audio form. They completely captivated my imagination. If somebody told me a year after I listened to that audiobook seventeen times, a hundred times, seven hundred times, there’s now a hard copy of that book and you can see the pictures, I would be dying for that book. I started thinking, what a wonderful way to get the stories to children as quickly as possible so that they’re engaged. They’re interested. They don’t have to wait for the illustrator to take a year to paint the incredible illustrations on the book but can get the stories in succession, fall in love with the world and the characters, and then eventually get this bonus payoff of seeing them come to life in hard copy. I can do all that on my own, like you did with this podcast. The beautiful thing about audiobooks is it’s not really that difficult to make them. It doesn’t require the industry that it does to make a hard copy book.

Zibby: That’s true. Plus, you get this attachment to the characters differently when you hear them.

Evangeline: It’s multimedia. Kids nowadays, their attention spans are not necessarily exactly what they used to be. They’re used to being stimulated on all these sensory fronts. I also felt like especially for any children with special needs or with any kind of disability, what a wonderful thing to help bring the world to life, to hear the characters, to hear the sounds of the world, and have a soundtrack that’s really identifiable and helps bring them immediately into the SquickerWorld the minute they hear the opening lines of the soundtrack.

Zibby: It’s all about storytelling in whatever format. It’s getting the message out. The Squickerwonkers has this, as you mentioned, this dark side. Each one is about the demise of a certain character, which is really the death of a character. Let’s be honest.

Evangeline: Sometimes.

Zibby: Okay, sometimes. Why so dark? I know it appealed to you reading dark children’s books and everything. Why this way with all your characters, or some of them?

Evangeline: There’s so many reasons and motivations for me writing dark literature. I’ll try to be as brief as possible. I go on and on. One of them is I looked around at what was available for my kids to read and what I was looking for in children’s books. I found there’s a lot of the same thing. Those stories were generally stories in a very safe world where things go pretty much the way you expect them to with a little bit of, maybe, magic thrown in. There’s a struggle. Then through love and perseverance, the struggle ends. Everything ends happily ever after. I felt very strongly that in this age of protective parenting, this protectionist mentality with have around our kids, that we’re doing them such an enormous disservice.

I see these millennials that graduate from high school or college and go out into the real world and are completely paralyzed with stress and anxiety and fear because they’re facing a real world where things don’t always turn out with a happily-ever-after ending. They have no coping mechanisms because no one ever told them those stories that didn’t end so well. They didn’t have the chance to both process those and talk about them in a very safe place, in the nurturing place of a nursery or a reading room or a classroom or a library with adults who can guide them through what it means when things don’t go our way or when things don’t end nicely for us and how we can reflect and how we can learn from those experiences.

There was an old tradition that I really respect in telling stories to children that has lasted much, much longer than this modern era of happily ever after. A lot of people think of the Grimm brothers when you say cautionary tales. That used to be the bulk of the stories we told children to prepare them for life. It was a safe way for them to explore their own shortcomings, their own failures, and learn how to deal with them. Nowadays, we don’t tell cautionary tales so much to children anymore. They’re really an important part of development. I called Squickerwonkers cautionary tales for modern-day brats who are so used to be being told “It’s not your fault. It’s okay. You didn’t do anything wrong. It’s the teacher’s fault. It’s your friend’s fault. It’s Mommy’s fault. It’s not your fault. You’re perfect.” Actually, you’re not perfect. Your actions have consequences. Those consequences might lead to really bad places if you’re not careful about making better choices. Let’s talk about that. I have faults. I’m not perfect either. Mommy’s not perfect. Daddy’s not perfect. We all make mistakes.

Zibby: You have to have your own podcast, by the way. I can’t remember if we were talking about this on here. You were debating. I could sit here and listen to you all day.

Evangeline: I would do that with you. We should do this all the time. We should make it a regular — anytime I’m in New York, I come and we chat.

Zibby: Totally. Great. Please. You’ve said before — obviously, you’re also an actress — that writing is your true passion and that in part, acting is a means to an end for you in that it enables you to do all these other things. Talk to me about that and also what it’s like to be spending so much of your time doing what isn’t your greatest passion.

Evangeline: It’s a struggle for me as a mom. When I was working on Lost, it was the first job I’d ever gotten as an actress. In a weird twist of fate, I kind of got the job by accident. I found myself thrown into this occupation and found very quickly, realized that it was actually something that was really hard for me. By hard for me, I mean on all levels, emotionally, professionally, mentally. It wasn’t a very healthy fit. The fame was very uncomfortable for me. It really put me into a dark place. I had to do a lot of soul searching about that. At the time, I was like, if I can see this through, if I just see through this show, at the end of this, I can — I came from a family that had nothing. I could help my parents. I could help my sisters. I could put myself into a financial place where the sky would be the limit. I could just think about, what do I really want to do? I could pursue that. I could go after my passion.

That became a really simple solution to this conundrum of, “Wait. I’m unhappy in what I’m doing. What do I do?” I just stayed. I stuck it out. It’s a really important thing in life sometimes that we learn to do that, to stick out the tough stuff for the future benefits. Now I’ve made much more of a peace with it. That’s a whole other story. We’d have to do a whole other day because it’s a long story. I’ve made my peace with acting. I’ve found ways in which to be happy within that space. It still doesn’t fulfill me the way I wish I could spend hours and hours and months and years working on something that fulfils me like how writing does. Now that I’m a mom, that becomes twenty times more important because my time has become so limited. It’s become so precious. Acting takes me away from my kids so much. When something that I am not deeply, deeply passionate and committed to and I have to do it because it’s like breathing is taking me away from the things that are life, that are the only things that matter, it becomes this real tug for me.

Whereas when I tuck away into my office to write a story and I’m gone in that world for ten, twelve hours at a stretch, when I come out, I’m so full. I’m so satisfied. I’m so delighted. I’m vibrating with joy. That joy then pours into my children and pours into my husband. I don’t feel guilty about the time I took away from them. I feel good about it because I feel I’m coming back to them a better mom and a better wife. It’s still something I struggle with. It’s still a tug-of-war for me because I’m the sole breadwinner in my family. I have a stay-at-home daddy who’s an incredible father. I don’t want that to change. I want him there for my sons. I’ve got to keep paying for the mortgage and putting a roof over our head and food on our table. Acting is the most incredible day job I could have. I’m so fortunate to be doing what I’m doing. The dream is one day, maybe I could make a living a writer.

Zibby: That’s amazing. It’s funny. The grass is always greener. So many people say, “I wish I could do that.” For you, it’s something you need to do, not that you don’t enjoy it. Life works in such funny ways.

Evangeline: I know. It’s so wrong. Even just talking about it, I’m so lucky.

Zibby: No. It is not wrong. No, no, no.

Evangeline: I’m not saying it’s wrong, but I feel that way.

Zibby: I actually wrote this essay once called “I’m too Lucky to Cry on Easter,” which I don’t even celebrate. I was in the bathroom crying. How could I be crying when I have such a nice bathroom? How can I cry on this floor? No matter what you have in life, if you are lucky in any way, you feel bad complaining, but that’s not true. It is what it is. You have to go from there.

Evangeline: Thank you. I appreciate that. You’re absolutely right. Anytime I say anything that sounds remotely like complaining publicly, I think, oh, my god, Evangeline. Shut up. You are so obnoxious right now.

Zibby: I was even saying this morning, I was talking to my babysitter, “Maybe it’s obnoxious of me to talk about how I have time to read when I have you here helping me.” I’m telling all these moms to go read. Maybe they don’t have a babysitter being able to help them. Maybe I’m being totally presumptuous. I mean, I’m usually in front of my kids. I’m with them. I’m there all the time. Anyway, enough about me.

Evangeline: There’s something to be said for having those thoughts. It shows that you’re a conscious, healthy human being. You’re aware of your blessings. You’re aware of the difference between your life and other people’s lives. You aren’t just blindly going around thinking woe is me. It’s healthy that we know and that we’re aware that we’re very lucky and that we have all these blessings. It’s a beautiful challenge to work ourselves through those things and do that thing of telling yourself “You’re allowed to hurt too.” There’s this beautiful song by an artist called Katie Herzig called “I Hurt Too.” I had this connection to it one day where I was thinking about my fans.

I actually really know some of my fans and have gotten to know them over social media or whatever else. I really care about people a lot, even strangers and people I don’t know. It means a lot to me if they’re hurting. Recently, I went through some really tough stuff. I was really hurting. I didn’t know how to reach out and say, “I hurt too,” as a way of being connected, as a way of being humans together, without it sounding like I was complaining. I didn’t want to reach out and say, “I hurt too,” so people go “I’m so sorry you’re hurting.” I wanted to reach out and say, “I hurt too,” to say we’re all in this together. We all hurt. No matter where you are, no matter who you are, you hurt too. We all have pain.

Zibby: That was beautiful. That’s so nice. Now I feel better about everything. Are you able to talk about any of the stuff that was going on?

Evangeline: It really pertains to the stuff that I was just talking about. I’m a really hyper-focused, driven woman. When I was sixteen, my career goal was to be the youngest female CEO ever to walk the face of the planet. That was my dream. I don’t even like business. That was the ambition. I had been given all my life, as I continue to be given, the worst possible advice you could give a female, which is you can have it all. I really believed that. I was raised in the 1980s. I was female. I was told you are as strong as a man, as good as a man. You can do anything a man can do. You can have it all. Built into my DNA, I believe wholeheartedly that it’s my job to save the world from all of its woes and all of its suffering and all of its pain. I believe it’s my job, that I’m solely responsible for the ultimate happiness of my children and my spouse. I believe that I have to be a good person on all fronts and do everything right in life. On top of that now, there’s this added pressure that I’m supposed to have it all, which means I’m supposed to have the most incredible career, or maybe five. I’m supposed to, also, run the NGO that I run. I’m also supposed to be a social activist. I’m also allowed to, and can, take all this onto my plate and do it all and kill it.

I got really, really sick this year in a way that really unnerved me, in a way that I couldn’t get better. I didn’t know why. I couldn’t get to the bottom of it. I started to have to examine that all these things I was killing it at were actually killing me and realize that I’m one human being. I have limited resources within my body. They’re being tugged in seven hundred different directions every day. That will kill me if I do not put down boundaries and start to say, “I can’t,” not “I won’t,” “I can’t. I really can’t. I want to, but I can’t,” or just to simply say “I don’t want to.” Why? Because what I really want to do right now is just lay down with my little kids and have them natter in my ear while I fall asleep. That’s what I want to do. That’s what I’m going to do. It’s so hard, especially right now with the Me Too movement and the Time’s Up movement. There’s so much rah-rah women, rah-rah femininity, which I love. There’s also this built-in danger of us as the people who, through our DNA take on the world as our responsibility, taking on too much. I took on too much. I took on way too much. Now I’m trying to figure out, what do you get rid of? It’s so hard to know. What do you get rid of? Everything matters. Everything’s important.

Zibby: The list goes on and on.

Evangeline: On and on. It starts to hurt because everything you think about letting go of, you think of the people you’re going to let down. I have such a problem with letting people down. It really paralyzes me. It makes me really upset, the idea that I’m letting anyone down, especially if that person’s been good to me or has put faith in me or showed me respect. I can’t let them down, but I have to. What’s happened in the time that I’ve been working through all this stuff and really getting to the core of what childhood issues are causing me to need so badly to never disappoint anyone, I have let a lot of balls drop. This incredible thing has happened. Those balls fall to the ground, and I think they’re going to shatter and they’re going to fall apart.

Actually, what happens is they’re caught by all these people I’ve been nurturing. All these places I put my love and my time, these things that I’ve given to and given to and given to and never for a second thought about what I could get back, suddenly I have these people who I thought I was carrying, carrying me and saying “You’ve got to take care of you. I got this. I got you.” I get so emotional. I get so blessed. Oh, my god. Even young people half my age who, I mentor them, they’re suddenly saying, “I got you. You’re good. It’s okay,” and being the comfort for me. Wow. This is the fruit. This is the fruit of loving. This is the fruit of giving. I wasn’t looking for it, but here it is. All these people now are telling me, “It’s okay. Stop and take care of yourself. We love you. We love you no matter what you do.” It’s been amazing. I’m not there yet. I’m not out of it yet. I’m getting there. It’s going to be a beautiful fortieth year of my life.

Zibby: Thank you for sharing all that. Oh, my gosh. I’m crying myself. That was so great. Your beauty, it’s pouring from you, the way you were saying before, how your joys pours through you after your writing. It’s the common humanity. It’s all you’re giving back. I’m rambling. It was amazing.

Evangeline: You’re not. Thank you.

Zibby: It also makes me feel better just as another person, another mom, someone who’s trying to do a lot of stuff, to feel so understood suddenly by someone else and given permission, almost, to take it back a notch.

Evangeline: As much as we’ve got all these mommy bloggers and we’ve got all this conversation online about this stuff, I notice in my life — I don’t know if you find this — there’s a void of meaningful conversation being had about this stuff between mothers face to face. This stuff is important. A lot of us feel really alone. You’re so, so focused on those little people that you don’t have time to read. You don’t have time to hang out with girlfriends. You don’t have time to go on a date with your husband and even have that person look at you and they go, “This is fucking hard, right?” Yes. It’s really hard. We need it so much because it’s such a lonely place otherwise.

Zibby: It’s so true. Especially after the weekends. I don’t know for you. You just want to collapse. We made it.

Evangeline: That was supposed to the rest I got for the weekend?

Zibby: Back to prioritizing and the times you do just want to sit with your kids, how do you decide what to let go? How do you decide what’s worth keeping going? Obviously, things like your day job and the acting and things you have to do, but is there any metric? I read all these parenting books on time management. “These are the things you should do.” Do you have a way?

Evangeline: Two things come to mind. One of them is probably less wise than the other because one comes from me and one comes from my incredibly Zen partner who is always wiser than me. The one that comes from me, I recently read the first part of the book called The One Thing. It was a New York Times best seller. For someone like you and I, I highly advise you ignore all the rest of the book because it will just drive you into more doing. The first part of the book talks about essentially the idea that multitasking is the greatest scam of all time. It’s a total lie. When you divide your attention, no matter how good you are at that, everything that you’re giving attention to is losing something. Really, the key to being joyful in success and having success, real true success that isn’t just on the surface but that’s really deep and profound in your life, is to focus on the most important thing and one thing at a time and never break that rule.

I’ve been trying to employ that right now as a baby step towards some of these big letting-go moments. I tell myself while I’m here doing this podcast, I refuse to check my email or look on my phone or be thinking about what I’ve got to do five minutes from now or ten minutes from now or two days from now. When it finishes, instead of jumping onto some other task that needs to get done, I’m going to finish this one completely. I will post about it. I will completely resolve this thing and be in it, and be in it so completely that I actually get filled from it instead of drained from it because I had an experience. I actually connected to another human being. I actually accomplished something that feels good to accomplish instead of feeling like how I’ve felt for the better part of the last four or five years, which is I could’ve been more there. I could’ve done that better. I could’ve put a little bit more effort into that other thing. Because I was always divided, I wasn’t giving anything my all. I wasn’t really getting satisfaction out of any of it. That’s my not-so-wise answer.

Zibby: That’s wise. I thought it was great.

Evangeline: Where I’m trying to get to, what I think hopefully that will bring me to if I’m really just focused on one thing at a time and present with each thing at each moment, will get me to how my partner lives. He honors himself in every moment no matter what that means. He gets the kids to school and does the stay-at-home-mom routine. If he wakes up in the morning and he’s like, “Ugh. I just can’t make breakfast for the kids this morning. I don’t have it in me,” he doesn’t. He stops somewhere on the way and gets them some crappy breakfast that’s not very good for them and sends them off to school with that and some lunch he bought at that same place. He doesn’t feel guilty about it and doesn’t beat himself up about it. Because he didn’t feel guilty about it and he didn’t beat himself up about it, when he gets home, he’ll probably crash and have the nap he actually needs because he’s not riddled with guilt and trying to make up for the mistake he made this morning. Then he goes on with the rest of his day and has, probably, a much better day, and the next morning, wakes up refreshed and is like, “Okay. I can make breakfast this morning. I’m ready to go.”

He lives so completely that way. He is my Buddha. He’s my example of what I want to get to. Even if he’s dropping balls, he says, “Then that ball has to drop because I ain’t doing it. I’m too tired. I ain’t doing it. I’m too cranky. I’m sorry. That’s not going to happen because that sounds really boring to me.” It’s anything. Sometimes I shake my head and I go, “Come on. Sometimes there’s responsibilities.” He’s like, “My responsibility is I have to get that kid to school. I won’t let that one drop. I know that. That’s the do-or-die. You have to. There is so much that you, my lovely wife, think is a do-or-die that is not a do-or-die.” That’s what I’m trying to get to. He knows that innately in his core. He honors himself. He trusts himself. He goes with it. Then he doesn’t look back. I want to get there. Good luck.

Zibby: I’m nodding. What’s coming next? You’re going to release all the rest of these books eventually. How long is that going to take? Do you have a schedule?

Evangeline: It’s twenty books.

Zibby: I know. It’s getting wild.

Evangeline: Hopefully I’m still walking and upright and not in an old folks’ home by the time I finish the last one. It takes a long time for the illustrator to finish the paintings. I was inspired by Arthur Rackham as one of my biggest inspirations for directing the illustrators and creating this series. I wanted it to have that turn-of-the-century feel. You can see the pencil marks. You can see the watercolor marks. What it means is it doesn’t have that modern-day, crank-it-out digital efficiency. There’s actual pencil to paper and paint to paper. There’s real things happening that take time.

Right now, the plan is bang out the audiobooks as fast as I can. Write them. Produce them. Give them all my heart and all my time. Make them as fun and zany and dark and wonderful as they can be so that kids have the stories and they’re not left hanging. Then ideally, two hard copy books a year. Maybe one and a half a year. Maybe two every three years. I don’t know how quickly the illustrator can finish them. We’re still working on that. The Demise of Lorna the Lazy is half finished right now, which is the next one. I’m only allowed to say that because the audiobook’s come out. That’s not a spoiler. Usually we keep it a secret, whose demise is coming next. Then I’ve been working on developing, maybe, a movie. We don’t have any studio or funding or anything. I do have stop animation partners who are incredible, who will remain unnamed until anything is real. It’s always been my dream to see the Squickerwonkers come to life in a stop animation/live action blend. In the book that you’ve read — have you read both?

Zibby: Yeah. I had a different version, but yes.

Evangeline: In The Pre-Show, there’s a little girl who walks into a wagon full of vice-ridden marionette puppets. I imagine in the movie, a real-life little girl walking into a stop animation wagon with stop animation puppets and how completely magical that would feel. It would be like a real kid gets to walk into Tim Burton’s world or something. That would be really exciting. That’s the plan right now.

Zibby: Wow. That’s awesome. Do you have any advice on finding time to read? When do you find time to read?

Evangeline: I wish I found more time to read. I’m a compulsive doer, as many of us moms are and learn to be because we became moms. One of my ways of not doing is to discipline myself to say, right now you should do nothing. I can’t do that. I don’t know how to do nothing. I wish I could, but I can’t. In the last few months, I’ve disciplined myself to say, in the moments when I know the rule is I should do nothing, I read a book. Then I’m doing something. I feel kind of productive. Unfortunately, that is something that I’m still very driven by. It relaxes me. I get to escape into a world with no responsibilities and someone else’s problems and not my own. I have an unusual lifestyle an actor. I don’t have a nine-to-five, per se. That has meant in the afternoon when my little one naps and the world goes quiet for one hour, my discipline is, don’t use that time to do the dishes or sweep the floor or catch up on some emails or any of that stuff. You sit down outside. You get yourself prone, not sitting up. You’re not in action mode. You’re in repose mode. Lay down and read a book. If you fall asleep, all the better. When he wakes up, it’s over. You go back to doing.

Because I’m not on a film set right now, that has become the routine. It’s been so healthy for me because that stopping in the middle of my day has prevented the latter half of my day from going off the rails with compulsive doing, doing, doing. The amount of times I catch myself squeezing, one, two, three little last things into the end of my day, and then by the time I sit down to dinner with my family, my brain is on overdrive. I am not there. I am in those five things I crammed into the end of my day. That discipline of stopping midday to read, even if it’s just for twenty minutes, has actually had this really wonderful domino effect on the rest of my day. I go about the rest of my day in a much clearer space. I have better boundaries. I’m more present. I don’t push myself so hard. That’s become my thing right now.

Zibby: I love that.

Evangeline: Even someone who does a nine-to-five, you could do that on your lunch break instead of talking with girlfriend, which can still get your energy up. Reading brings your energy down, which feels like now it’s hard to go back to work. Maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe your body’s realizing how tired it really is. If you get into that conversation and you’re still adrenalized, your body doesn’t realize it’s tired. It’s exhausted. That’s how we get ourselves burned-out and run down.

Zibby: Thank you so much for being the inaugural guest on “Kids Do Have Time to Read Books” and also on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books.”

Evangeline: I have one more thing I have to say in regard to “Kids Do Have Time to Read Books.”

Zibby: Yes, I forgot. I’m sorry. Go.

Evangeline: This is really cool. You asked me about the audiobooks. A big motivation for these audiobooks is I do feel that nowadays, kids need so much more stimulation because they’re so used to multisensory stimulation on video games and movies and YouTube. Every three seconds they have a new sound or a new visual. I thought kids are probably not reading paper books the way we used to because they’re going to the television. They’re going to the video games. I want kids to keep reading books. I’m going to help, maybe, bring kids back to books by giving them this audio accompaniment. I said that to the man who’s the head of distributing at Ingram where I’m distributing my books through. This man used to work for the publishing house that published Harry Potter. He was the guy responsible to distribute those books.

He actually called me out on my ignorance and said, “Actually, you’re wrong. I have been amazed and delighted and pleasantly surprised in delivering the Harry Potter books to the world to realize how voracious kids still are with books. The millions and millions of copies of those books that went out every year again and again and again, and you think we’re going to run out of kids who want to read books. We never seem to run out of kids who wanted to read books. Every new generation that came up into that age bracket were just as voracious as the last one. We never saw any indication that children’s passion for reading was dropping off at all.” I felt so wonderfully wrist-slapped in the way you want to be wrist-slapped. That’s so cool to know that kids are reading just as much as we were when we were kids. Stories are still fundamental to growing up. They’re forming kids. What we’re doing is still really important.

Zibby: That’s excellent. Good news.

Evangeline: Kids do read. Kids do have time to read. We just don’t. It’s silly to think they don’t.

Zibby: Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

Evangeline: It was such a pleasure.