Episode 166: Chris Landry Interview and the Cajun Kids Novels

In this episode of “Books that Spark,” we talk with Chris Landry, author and homeschool dad, about his books in the Cajun Kids series of novels for kids.

Our Guest: Chris Landry

C. P. Landry is a lifelong resident of South Louisiana and a descendant of the original French Acadians now known as Cajuns. His wife of 40 years shares a similar heritage as the fifth generation to hunt, trap, and fish the marshes of the Atchafalaya River Basin. Together, they raised their five children to respect both their heritage and their land. The Cajun Kids Adventures Series is loosely based on the experiences, challenges, and shenanigans of his children’s unique upbringing.

Show Notes:

00:10 – Welcome
00:51 – Alligators and Bears
02:07 – Background to the series
04:06 – Silver Award and Mom’s Choice Award
American Writing Awards, the CBI Children’s Book International finalists in three categories
07:10 – Mystery at Indian Point
08:48 – Adventure in the Wild
09:25 – The Cup, the Cap, and the Ring-Tailed Monkey
12:12 – Storm Clouds
15:47 – CajunKids.com
18:18 – activity sheets and curriculum
21:28 – Closing
TerrieHellardBrown.com

Books Discussed in This Episode:

Transcript:

Terrie:

Welcome to “Books That Spark,” a podcast for parents and caregivers celebrating books that help us with everyday discipleship every day, sparking important conversations with our children. Today we have a special guest, Chris Landry is the author of the series ‘Cajun Kids Adventures.’ These are some chapter books for your older children, your middle grade kids, through your middle school kids and high school kids. These are some great books your kids are going to love. I can’t wait for you to hear from Chris. Well, Chris, thank you for joining us today, I’m really looking forward to talking with you.

Chris:

It’s a pleasure to be here.

Terrie:

Well, I’ve started two of your books. I haven’t quite finished either one, but I have loved how you introduce your characters. They are so fun, and coming from a different area of the world, I’ve never lived where there are alligators, so that part was really kind of terrifying to me.

Chris:

Well, it’s funny because down here it’s a way of life for us. You’ll come out of the camp one morning and there’ll be an alligator sunning on your dock. You got to shoo him off before you let the dog out to go to the bathroom. It’s a cautious way of living, yet we’ve gotten so used to doing it, it’s just second nature to us, but it’s like that for everywhere. My wife has a fear of bears and we went to Alaska and she had a crick in her neck from looking over her shoulder while we were hiking. It’s what you get used to in the areas that you live.

Terrie:

It’s true, yeah. We lived in California and went to Tahoe and had bears show up all over the place. It was like, “Oookay.”

Chris:

Yeah, exactly.

Terrie:

Well, usually on my podcast I talk mostly to authors of picture books. Not totally, but mostly, but I’ve been trying to do more interviews with authors of chapter books and novels for children because the landscape of novels for young people is really bleak sometimes, so I’m really happy to have found your novels. So tell us a little bit about them.

Chris:

Well, years ago I started doing small short stories with my kids. I would write a little chapter or something while our kids were growing up at our camp and just kind of started developing the stories, and then several years ago, we decided to kind of take it to the next level. The stories were really good, and I’m not a writer, I’m 43 years in the oil field down here, and the most I ever wrote was safety manuals and contracts for the company and things like that. So started putting these books together and, at the time that we really got serious about it, which was about 7 or 8 years ago, I really started kind of thinking, man, we can really do something with this. Our two youngest, were still in that young adult audience, older mid-teen kind of thing, and we saw that all of the literature out there to read, everything was just going dark. I just thought it would be something refreshing to have a kind of old school, but on a new level, just a realistic fiction. We grew up on the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew and all those old classics, but kind of bringing that feel back, just something fun, engaging for the kid, but also something that had a wholesome value to it; something a parent didn’t have to worry about. I didn’t want a parent to have to screen our books every time a kid picks it up. That comfort of knowing it’s just a good comforting, solid, wholesome read, but also at the same time throwing in a little bit of danger and mystery and excitement that really engaged the kids.

Terrie:

Yes, that’s exactly what I thought when I read it. I loved the mystery of it and the little bit of orneriness among the children as well. What I’ve found with some of the chapter books and novels that are available, if they try to be wholesome, they go too far and become just kind of “eh,” you know, and yours have life in them, and good relationships, realistic relationships; the children are not perfect. Well, and I love the mom and dad. They have such a sense of humor and yet they discipline the kids. Everything about it just made me so happy, and it does give you that feeling of Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. I used to read those as a kid, so yes, I’m so excited that you have written these books and you’ve won some awards too.

Chris:

Yeah, we won a Silver award and a Mom’s Choice Award, and this is one of the things where you don’t know what you’re doing, but we decided just to send our books into the American Writing Awards, the CBI Children’s Book International, and we were finalists in three categories: in children’s fiction, fiction general, and then also in chapter books. So we were to do that and win some awards and it’s definitely a work in progress. Like I said, I wasn’t a writer. It was a, we wrote the first books and kind of pushed them out. I was interested to see if we had a storyline that children would want to read. They weren’t perfect at first, but I started getting great feedback. My children love the characters, they love the setting, they like the adventure, they like the excitement, but I was able to, at that time, start getting feedback on my writing.

Chris:

We’ve been blessed to find an editor now. We didn’t know her, she ended up with my books in her hand through a friend of a writer’s guild that she was involved with, and she was able to send me an email and say, “Your characters are great, your setting is wonderful, your stories are engaging, you’re a wonderful storyteller, but you really need to learn how to write.” So I was able to do that. She began sending me links to getting my prose right and I was more of a passive writer than a active writer, a passive sentence structure. So I was able to really take those tips, I’m still nowhere near where I need to be. Book 4 just came down, so we were really excited about book four because my sister-in-Law was here yesterday and she actually said, “Your writing is getting so much better.” So I was like, “Better? That sounds good.”

Terrie:

Well, let’s go one by one through the books in the series. Like you said, your fourth one just launched in September, actually, on my sister’s birthday, but yeah, let’s start with each one and just kind of give us an overview of each one so the listeners can kind of know what the series is about and the adventures the kids are on.

Chris:

Okay, well first we have seven finished. We have 12 outlined, but up until now, all of the storylines actually are loosely based off of real life events that my children were going through, so in our first 12 or 14, we know that we’re going to be following that, so that’s going to be fun to talk about that, but I guess I’ll start out with saying before I get into each book individually, I struggled with naming it Cajun Kids Adventures because I was scared I was going to regionalize our books. I didn’t want our books to be something that would be on the shelf at the local bookstore or just at our state library and not be able to get out there, so we kind of struggled with that, so we decided to go with Cajun Kids Adventures. My wife and I prayed about it and I just felt it was the thing to do.

Chris:

So I have to tell you, we have been met with open arms all around the country. For some reason people are fascinated with the Cajun South Louisiana culture, so I want to say thank you to all the people everywhere we go. We were in Cincinnati a while back at a homeschool conference and it was just wonderful to see people run up and they want to tell their Louisiana connection, which is really, really cool. Everywhere we go, we’re getting that. So first off, I’d like to just for the people who have read our books, I want to say thank you, how they’ve opened our arms to our culture and to this little piece of paradise we have down here, but the first book in the series is actually called Mystery at Indian Point, and it’s based off of the piece of land that we own down here.

Chris:

It’s called Willow Hammock in real life, and years ago when my children were little bitty, we have a shell reef, a shell point out there, we call the beach and we would go out to the point and go exploring and do all kinds of search for things, and my kids would get their metal detectors out and we kept finding little pieces of pottery and pieces of red brick, like a Chicago red brick. You got to realize this is 20 miles from town, you leave by boat and go all the way out to the coast, so it was just kind of odd to keep finding this. So one day we loaded up, we went up to town and went to the courthouse and we were able to find out that years ago, Texas Telegraph and Telegram built a telegraph station, and while they were building this telegraph station out here next to the coast, they were actually running a telegraph line from Houston to New Orleans, and they ran it right across the marsh, right out through the coast. We found out that they had uncovered some Indian artifacts and different things, so using that information was our launching point for coming up with Mystery at Indian Point, so it was really cool to find that kind of history. So it was built in 1892 by Texas Telegraph and Telegram, like I said, then in 1917 it was actually destroyed by a hurricane, so that’s why we’re still finding little pieces of red brick every now and then, so that kind of realistic fiction for me, I could never write fantasy because I don’t have that broad imagination where I can come up with 20 character names like Zing Zang and Zigzag and, I can’t- I can’t write like that, so I’m using that realistic fiction based off of my children’s real life, but I’m finding that there are a lot of readers out there who love that.

Chris:

They love that sense, where they can literally feel themselves being drawn into the storyline cause they see themselves there, and in Book 2, kind of based off a real life story, also down here in South Louisiana, we had lost our Louisiana Black Bear in our area for a number of years and it went on the endangered and threatened species list, and wildlife and fisheries has been working to get the program back. We actually had one that showed up on our land down here, so we were able to kind of use that experience to come up with Book 2: Adventure in the Wild, and Book 2 also was a chance for me to introduce a couple new characters and I guess kind of broaden our storyline a little bit so we could go on from there.

Chris:

Then in Book 3… Book 3, it actually has a very funny, very comical underlying message in there. It’s loosely based off of my middle son who was the storyteller. He was the one who would go fishing and then he’d see a three or four foot fish snake, and by the time he got back to the houseboat, in his mind it had grown to a 12 foot anaconda pipeline, rattler moccasin. So he had this wild imagination and just as far as a kid goes, he was a delight. He had that wild imagination, but he just had that wonderful spark and spirit that the other children just gravitated to, but the story is loosely based off of his storytelling, and what’s funny about it is, is that when he reached kind of that 9, 10 year old age group, my wife and I used to try to catch him on his stories, so different things used to happen and we’d go, there’s no way.

Chris:

So we try to, but every time we tried to catch him in a lie or in a stretching of a story, we’d get burned every time. So we were coming off a little town called Morgan City, which is just to the north of us. That’s where we drive from Lafayette to Morgan City to put our boat in the water to come down here, and we were exiting off the bridge going into town and Grant looks over at his little brother and he says, “Hey, did you see that lady out there watering her roses with a giant parrot on her shoulder?” And I said, “Grant, come on now.” He goes, “No, I’m telling you.” So we had already passed up the place, so I told my wife, I said, “Nope, we’re going back.” We made the block circled back around and I’ll be doggone, there was a lady standing in her front yard watering her roses in a big old house dress with a giant parrot standing on her shoulder, and I went, “There’s just no way we’re ever going to catch this kid.” So anyways, we kind of took that story and kind of ran with it in Book 3. It’s called The Cup, The Cap, and The Ring-Tailed Monkey. In the story, Timmy sees something that the family knows he didn’t see, there’s no possible way, but I have got to admit in the storyline it’s wonderful because the children love him so much, they want to help him find out what he saw. They know he saw something, they know it’s not what he’s claiming he saw. The great part about the book is that character, Timmy does have a redemption moment towards the end, but at the same time he does realize “If I want my family to believe me, I got to tone down the storytelling.” So that has a great little twist at the end. It is a great redemption moment for him, but it’s a great lesson also for the whole family, so…

Terrie:

That’s awesome. I haven’t read that one yet, I can’t wait to read that one.

Chris:

Well, yeah, we had some really good reviews on Book 3 just cause as you saw, if you started the first two, it has a lot of great dialogue between the children. There’s just that, that realistic dialogue, nothing for the oldest sister to look at one of the other siblings and go, really, really is that all you got? And like you said in the beginning, they do have that little, every now and then you see them kind of get into a little tit for tat with each other, but that’s what children do, you know?

Terrie:

Yeah, that’s great. Okay, and now tell us about the newest book.

Chris:

Storm Clouds came out last Monday, and of all the ones I’ve written so far, going all the way up to 10 for me cause Book 10- but up until four is probably my favorite, of all the books I’ve written, they all have their own unique personality. That’s where my editor, that’s one of the things, she called me the other day when she was finishing up Book 4, and she says, “It’s almost like it’s written by a different author about the same characters because they all have a uniqueness about them,” and in book four, I guess my favorite part of that book is that you kind of watch the children grow up in front of your own eyes.

Chris:

For those who are parents, we all have those moments in life where we kind of step back, we watch our child do something that we didn’t even teach them, and you go, that’s got to be a God thing. Because they’re growing, their character’s growing, they’re growing in their own, so what I did in Book 4 was, I took a lot of those moments. We’ve lived a very crazy life, we’ve done some things that normal families don’t do, but I had to see my children step up and do some amazing things. What I did in Book 4 was, I gathered up a lot of those moments where my wife and I said, “Okay, I just watched my child grow up in front of my eyes.” I took a lot of those moments and I blended them into Storm Clouds, Book 4, that’s what it’s called,

Chris:

And in the book, they’re getting ready to evacuate for a hurricane, which we’ve had to do out here many, many times, and their friend who’s a deputy comes by and says, we have a missing family, they went fishing and didn’t return, a father and some kids. So the family makes a decision that they’re not leaving to evacuate to town until they’re found, so it’s just that great moment where the kids gather on the front porch and they’re talking to each other and the oldest one says, “Listen, we’re always asking mom and dad to give us more responsibility, to let us do more things. This is a chance for us to prove what we can do and to prove that we can handle situations.” So it’s those wonderful moments like that as a parent, when we see our kids do things, so I really enjoyed that book cause I think all of them have their own special unique work. My family thinks Book 6 is going to be the best of all, but I just thought for Book 4 it was, I don’t know, just that wonderful feeling as a parent when your kids do things, that they do something remarkable. Like I said, you go, “Wow, that was definitely a God thing, cause even I couldn’t have taught them that,” you know? So just a wonderful moment.

Terrie:

I love it, and I can’t wait for the rest of the series. This is awesome. I’m so glad that God has put this on your heart and that you jumped in even though that wasn’t your comfortable place to begin with. I think you have such a gift. Well, like I said, it’s very character driven. You just jump right in and get pulled into the story right away, and I love that, so I just wish you all the best and I want you to keep in touch as more come out. We’ll certainly publicize those, yeah, I would love that.

Chris:

Well, we’re down here at Willow Hammock for a few days when we’re in town. It’s just overwhelming because it’s just constant. Now we invested in a Starlink, so we have wi-fi at the camps, which is odd because for 30 years we barely had a phone, we would jump in our boat and we’d run up river a little ways to get phone reception. Now we have wi-fi, which has really gotten crazy. My wife, Jade and I, we decided to come down and I needed to finish the final edit on Book 5 because they’re working on illustration, so we just decided to get away and this is my favorite place to write. I could just come down here and sit on the front porch and write and there’s no distraction. Especially during the week like we are now. You can go two or three days without seeing a living soul. You won’t see no one. That’s a blessing sometimes so I know.

Terrie:

That’s great. So is your book available on all the different book places like Amazon and different stores like that? Or do we go to your website or what to order the books?

Chris:

The first three books are available on Amazon now. They went live on Amazon just a couple weeks ago. So we have: the first three books are available there. Book 4 is only available right now on our website, which is www.cajunkids.com, it’s only available there. Every time we do something with a book- it’s amazing how many times you have to reformat the same book, it has to be formatted for every platform, it has to be formatted for each printing process, so we are in a process of reformatting before now, so we can go live on Amazon, and we are in the process too, we’re reformatting all of the books because we will be setting out different things to be able to do for libraries and to be able to order online through a distribution network. We’re starting to get some requests, public libraries and school libraries, so we’re setting up a platform for that to be able to do distribution with that, so Book 4 is available on our website. It’ll probably be another month or so before we have it reformatted to go live on Amazon. We’re going to keep pushing away, my wife and I, we don’t do anything halfway. We’re invested in this and my kids always say we don’t know how to step lightly into something. We usually jump waist deep and that’s what we did on this project.

Terrie:

I’m the same way. I think you have to be if you’re going to be a writer.

Chris:

You really have to, cause I’m meeting people now who are telling me, “I’ve been working on this book for 12 years now” and our life is so fast paced. When I tell you that my wife Jade and I, we live at a hundred miles an hour every day of our lives. If I had to work on a project for 12 years, I don’t think I could do it. I would lose my mind. So, there are people who are amazed at how fast I was able to put together the last few books. I was involved in an accident, and I was down with some busted ribs and my world consisted of getting out of bed and walking 20 feet to my office, and I wrote Book 5 in about I think 42 days and I wrote Book 6 in 28 days just cause I had nothing else to do.

Chris:

So for me that’s the way I like to move and that’s kind of how we live, so just pushing these things out, but we will have all the books. I know we’ve met you at one of the homeschool events, so at all the events we go to, we will carry all of the books with us and we’ll be coming into next year’s homeschool conferences. Hopefully if everything works out we’ll have Book 5, which is called The Watchman, coming out in January, and then we’re really pushing to have Book 6, which is called The Legend of Awful Art.

Terrie:

Oh my goodness.

Chris:

We’re telling people now when Book 6 comes out, do not hand it to your kid, pop popcorn, sit down and have family time and do a family read aloud because it is laugh out loud funny, just.

Terrie:

Oh, that’ll be a blast.

Chris:

Laugh out loud funny. So that’s how we’re going to promote the book, and we are working right now, we have curriculums for next homeschool season. All the books that come out, we’ll have a curriculum to go with them, which will include quizzes and discussion topics and all that, so we’ll be able to assist parents in the learning process as well as enjoying a book.

Terrie:

Oh that’s awesome. So the activity sheets on your website, is that what you’re talking about with curriculum or is that a different link?

Chris:

No, activity sheets are just something for children to download and just a fun activity. There are word searches and connect the dots and all that. We are actually going to develop a quiz. Are you familiar with Accelerated Reader?

Terrie:

Yeah.

Chris:

Okay. Well we’re working right now, we have our books in the Accelerated Reader Program in all of our local school districts, we’re working with them. It’s similar to that where there’s actually quiz questions but we’re developing one strictly that’s going to be aligned for home study and homeschool situations where it won’t cost them anything. They’ll be free online, they’ll be able to download quiz questions as well as discussion questions about the books.

Terrie:

Okay. Oh that is so great. Well, thank you so much for sharing with us about your books and I’m so excited for what’s happening with that and can’t wait to see the rest of the series and the curriculum, that is just amazing. So is there anything else you wanted to mention?

Chris:

Well one of the things that I guess I should have mentioned in the beginning, we homeschooled for 25 years.

Terrie:

Oh that’s right. Yeah.

Chris:

A lot of the homeschooling we did was out here at Willow Hammock. Our two oldest actually made it to fourth and third grade and then private school in town, but one of the reasons we wanted to start homeschooling was on my days off and my time off, or if I was able to get chunks of time off at a time, we were able to come out here and we pretty much lived out here when they were growing up every chance they had, so we homeschooled for 25 years. So what’s really funny at these homeschool conferences we go to, I guess that’s a large part of your audience also, is that people come up and they’ll read a book or they’ll come up and they’ll go, “It’s a book about us! We’ve never read a book about us before!” That’s been fun, just being able to do that. I’ve got to say it’s really been accepted well in our local public school systems and private school systems in our area that have picked up the books and put them in. They’re enjoying just that family friendly kind of atmosphere about the book. So we’ve really been blessed, it’s been blessed to be picked up by these. When we get in, I’ll drop in Book 4 in the mail to you cause I think you’ll enjoy it.

Terrie:

Yeah, I can’t wait. Oh it sounds wonderful. Well thank you so much and I will have the links to your activity sheets to your website to order the books in our show notes so everyone can just click right over and check them out

Chris:

And let them know they’re available on Amazon, Books 1, 2, and 3 because there are a lot of people out there that’s the only way they get books for some reason. So-

Terrie:

That’s true.

Chris:

It is. We had friends of ours, our first book came out a year next month and when they came up on Amazon, they got so excited. They said, “Well be able to order your books now!” It’s like, “Oookay, alright,” so, it’s just the way.

Terrie:

That’s funny. Yeah, it’s true. That’s where we go first all the time. Okay, well God bless you guys and we will talk again soon I’m sure.

Chris:

Let’s do that. Anytime, just gimme a shout and we can do this again. I appreciate your time and I appreciate the opportunity to be on your podcast.

Terrie:

Well thank you so much. Thank you for joining us for “Books That Spark,” where we encourage each other to live out everyday discipleship, helping to equip our children to follow Christ with their whole hearts. If you enjoyed this episode, please like and share on social media so people know we’re here and leave a review if you can on the podcast post sites, we really truly appreciate it. It means a lot to us. If you would like to connect with Chris, you can reach him at cajunkids.com and the books are Cajun Kids Adventures on his website. You can also link to the activity sheets we talked about, they’re really great. I was looking at some of them, they have several for you to download. They have answers also, so if you have problems finding something or figuring out something, the answers are there as well, and as he mentioned, they will also have curriculum that you can use as homeschool families and I’m sure you can find those as they’re posted in the future on this website, so that is cajunkids.com, and if you would like to connect with me, you can always reach me on TerrieHellardBrown.com and you can ask questions, make comments on the blog post for this episode, and we would love to answer your questions and we would love to hear what you think of these books. Remember, anytime you leave a review for the books that we talk about on here, it blesses the writer and the publisher so much. Our books are like non-existent in the world of social media until we start getting reviews, so please give some honest reviews about the books that we’re talking about either on reads or Amazon or both, and we just really appreciate that. I try to do it, it only takes a few minutes each week to just go on and give a review for some of the books you’ve been sharing with your kids. We pray you feel empowered as a parent or caregiver to walk by faith and to embrace everyday discipleship every day with the children in your life.

Your Host: Terrie Hellard-Brown

Terrie Hellard-Brown writes and speaks to help children and adults find God’s purpose and plan for their lives. She teaches workshops and writes devotional books, children’s stories, and Christian education materials.

Her podcast, Books that Spark, reviews children’s books that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussion leading to teachable moments with our kids. Her podcast posts each Tuesday morning.

Her blog posts discuss living as a disciple of Christ while parenting our children. She challenges us to step out of our comfort zones to walk by faith in obedience to Christ and to use the nooks and crannies of our lives to disciple our children.

Terrie uses her experiences as a mother of four (three on “the spectrum”), 37 years in ministry (15 in Taiwan), and 32 years teaching to speak to the hearts of readers.

Her motto is “Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be WONDERFUL” and keeps her childlike joy by writing children’s stories, delighting over pink dolphins, and frequently laughing till it hurts.

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