author interview

Author Interview: Suzanne Cotsakos and Ryan McCulloch

Bergers Book Reviews offers a warm welcome to author Suzanne Cotsakos and author-illustrator Ryan McCulloch, who have stopped in today for a chat:

What was your inspiration for creating the brand Mutasia?
Suzanne: We created Mutasia for several reasons. First off, we wanted to create a brand that we would’ve loved as kids. Secondly, it was really important to us to embrace and celebrate what makes each child unique. That’s why all the characters are mixed-up mixes of different animals. We wanted the characters to represent the individuality that each child possesses.

Can you explain the land of Mutasia, and some of its inhabitants?
Ryan: Mutasia is an island where all the characters are a mix of two or more animals. So we have our main character, Figley, who’s part possum, part cow and part bird. His friends are just as mixed-up as he is, like Billie Penicorn, who’s a penguin-leopard-narwhal mix, and Chadwick, who’s a cheetah-elephant-frog.  There’s also a bunch of exotic wildlife everywhere you look, and it’s a lot of fun to design all these crazy critters. Kids just love inspecting them and guessing what kinds of animals they’re a mix of! It’s been so rewarding to see kids interacting with our books and really thinking creatively and getting the wheels in their heads spinning!

How did you approach writing ‘Figley’s Search for the Perfect Pet’?
Suzanne: We knew two things off the bat; we wanted to showcase our unique critters and we wanted to include a message about appreciating the things around you. So, we did some brainstorming and came up with a skeleton plot.
Ryan: Afterwards, we filled that loose outline with funny gags that would move the story forward visually.  We tried to envision scenarios that children would enjoy. And we love the challenge of creating situations that are relatable and recognizable to kids, but also have fantastical elements happening at the same time.  Once we settled on that, we started writing the draft and illustrating the pictures!

We understand Suzanne you are the voice of Figley, and Ryan, you are the voice of Chadwick. Is the audio version of the book read in the different character voices, can you explain?
Ryan: We have a wonderful cast that voices all our characters in our animations and music albums. When we were producing the audio book we decided there wasn’t enough actual dialogue in the book to warrant bringing everyone in to record their parts. Instead we had Suzanne, in her own voice, narrate the story. It came together really well and we are really proud of our audio book. It has fun music and hilarious animal sounds and sound effects that really bring it to life and make it an immersive experience!

There are plenty of Mutasian characters to choose from on the island of Mutasia. How did you decide which of them would star in this new story?
Suzanne: From the beginning, Figley was designed to be the ‘every kid,’ the character that really represents our readers. He’s observing the world and colorful characters through the perspective of a young elementary school-aged kid. He’s imperfect, he makes mistakes, he has a lot to learn. But he’s also curious and constantly finding out who he is and what he wants to be, just like kids are. This story was a great vehicle for him to explore his passion and share it with his friends, make mistakes and learn a lesson.

Can you explain the message you would like to leave with the reader?
Ryan: The message in the book is about having an optimistic perspective.
Suzanne: Exactly! It’s about learning to see the good in, and appreciating, the people (and things) in your life, and not taking them for granted.

Aside from books, Mutasia has a variety of other children’s products. Can you tell us a little more about them?
Ryan: Yeah, we have an animated DVD, “The Mish Mash Bash.” It’s an awesome showcase for our characters and the world we’ve created, and it’s filled with adventure, comedy, and some really catchy songs. Our album, Nature Calls, which is available digitally or on good old-fashioned CD, is amazing. It’s upbeat and really, really funny.
Suzanne: One of the things we hear most often from parents is how much THEY are enjoying listening to our music with their kids! They’re so relieved to have kid’s songs playing that aren’t annoying and repetitive, and there’s lots of humor and references that go over the kids’ heads but the parents get it. And we can’t leave out our cuddly stuffed animals! They’re great quality and the kids are obsessed with them. We have a lot of parents send us pictures of their kids holding them and sleeping with them! We love that feedback!

Do you have any other books coming out soon that children can look forward to?
Ryan: We are actually working on our follow-up book RIGHT NOW, and we’re super excited about it!  It’s definitely the funniest book we’ve written so far. Hopefully the kids will be laughing so hard they don’t notice they’re learning a lesson!

Thanks for visiting with us today, Suzanne and Ryan!

You can find Mutasia on the web at:
Twitter Account: @Mutasia
Facebook Page:

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