Brandt Ricca & Matt Miller of The Bernice Books Series on Creativity, Collaboration and “Bernice & the Shadow Witch”

Brandt Ricca & Matt Miller of The Bernice Books Series on Creativity, Collaboration and “Bernice & the Shadow Witch”

Rob Lee: Welcome to The Truth In This Art. Thank you for listening to these conversations at the intersection of arts, culture, and community. I am your host, Rob Lee. Today, I am delighted to have a conversation with a duo of DC-based entrepreneurs and creators of the enchanting series, The Bernice Books. It is an interesting journey that started with The Bernice and the Wonder of Pearl. That was the first book in this sort of three-part series that they're in, and they are now on the brink of releasing their second book of this series, Bernice and the Shadow Witch. Please welcome Brandt Ricca and Matt Miller. Welcome to the podcast. Thanks for having us. I like how it was almost like synchronicity. Just aligned. I like it. I like it. That's collaboration right there. I like that.
Brandt Ricca: I like that. Zoom will just cut one of us off.

Rob Lee: I'm sure some folks are like, can it just cut Rob off so the two of you could just do your thing. You know, as we get started at one again, I want to thank both of you for coming on, making the time. And, you know, I'm glad we were able to chat a little bit before getting started in earnest. So, you know, I want to go right into it. So we have, you know, work that's coming up and I'm going to barely just a skosh there, but. you know, if you want to think back to sort of where the story begins from an entrepreneurial standpoint, from a literary standpoint, like, you know, set that stage for us a little bit there. I have a sub-question in there about sort of books and things, but I at least want to start off there. So, Brandt, if you will, could you, you know, start off?

Matt Miller: Yeah, also I'm losing my voice, so pardon moi. So this was kind of a, I have a writing background. I grew up, I was the editor of my high school newspaper. My family owns a newspaper. I also freelance write in D.C. So I kind of went through like a really, you know, bad personal experience years ago. During a lot of change, a lot of people typically refocus on what their goals are. For me, I have three sisters who all have kids. And for me, I always feel grounded after a long day of work, watching Disney or something. So I was just exploring children's books. And I took the Judy Blume Masterclass right when Masterclass came out. And I dream what I'm stressed out about. So that's kind of how this development started. And then the books kind of got put on the back burner. So I started a business the same year. owning an events and marketing agency, obviously, that kind of took my focus. But when the pandemic hit, and we were all forced to come to a halt, Matt and I had collaborated professionally together on other projects, and he would draw renderings of events that I would plan. So I called him and asked if he would draw the children's books. And he was like, you know, I've never drawn children's books before and I'm like well I've never written them before so this is fine um and from that to now which has been two years uh we have five books.

Rob Lee: So five books and so this is you know like a pandemic like like not well pandemic baby I guess is that is that the term we want to use?

Matt Miller: Yeah I would say so I'm honestly not sure if the pandemic happened if happened that I would have You know, I think like a lot of people are just revisiting plans and being like, oh, what is off my checklist? I want to scratch off even if nothing comes of it. Just I want to say I did it.

Brandt Ricca: I think for me, I was I was yearning for some. You know, a change and just instead of sitting by my desk all day, also not having that much work going on because of the pandemic, this was kind of perfect timing when Brandt called. And it's like, oh, yeah, this is a creative outlet that I've never tried before, at least not in my adult life. So that was a cool, I think, just good timing for me, at least. So, yeah, I would say it came to life in the pandemic.

Rob Lee: Yeah, this is that that was the period in which this podcast really kind of grew, you know, in the coming up on 700 episodes in four years. And, you know, in that first, like it started at the end of 2019, 20 episodes in that year. And, you know, so really the majority of them happening over a few years. And it's one of those things where just getting folks, folks are occupied. And as you touched on, like revisiting things, you know, being able to have like, oh, Why didn't I do that yet? Let me do that now. Or even the thing where you have an interest in something you're trying to learn. I remember the beginning of it, everyone was like trying to make sourdough for some reason. I don't know why that was the case.

Brandt Ricca: Yeah. My sister is still doing that. She's perfected it.

Rob Lee: So so before I leave this sort of like first chunk, I want to get this other piece of it in there, because I definitely have in like, you know, maybe a particular book or, you know, an author from like maybe your youth that like pops up like was there some Dr. Seuss that was popping up? What was some of those really early, maybe formative stuff that showed up in kind of your approach to this series?

Matt Miller: Matt and I always talk about this, about our, you know, a staple for me at least were the Amelia Bedelia books. I know Matt, his was Madeline.

Brandt Ricca: yeah yeah and i thought about this the other day that peter rabbit books i don't know if you guys have ever i mean they're old but we used to have like a whole stack in my parents bookshelf and i just remember the the illustrations were like little you know moments they're not like a whole whole scene so that's kind of like been inspired, that has inspired me to do some of the illustrations that I've done so far for the books. And Madeline, for sure, with the watercolors, pen and ink, and things like that, more hand-drawn looking.

Matt Miller: Yeah, mine was definitely Mila Bedelia, but also my favorite was The Wizard of Oz, also. I was really obsessed with that as a kid. So I would say those are my early on, I guess, influences, so to speak.

Rob Lee: So we have this stage set, you know, a bit for sort of the collaboration. And definitely we're going to dive back into that at Oshkosh, because, you know, I've done some work and I have some interviews with folks who talk about, you know, the sort of writer and artist collaboration and how those things come together. So definitely it's a key area. So let's talk a bit about, you know, the Bernice book series and the, you know, sort of the themes that are coming in there. If there were, you know, three to four themes, if you were to say these are the key themes that show up in the series and show up in sort of the work overall, what would those themes be?

Matt Miller: Oh, the deep question. I would say definitely, you know, overcoming adversity. inclusion, self-exploration for sure, and also I say it's a lot of philosophical tones in there. Like I don't know if you agree, Matt, but I feel like it's a lot of like life lessons and quips and stories and, but yeah, yeah.

Brandt Ricca: Yeah, it's like you're, you're seeing the or you're, you're viewing or reading the life of a nine through a nine-year-old girl's eyes and the things that you know that's kind of an age where kids are starting to discover that they're an individual and they're seeing the world around them and how they fit in and kind of exploring that if that's a theme.

Rob Lee: Exploration, discovery, it's all in there. That's great. I was having this conversation earlier, literally twice today about communications through different demographics, especially through creative mediums, and how you have like, yeah, we need to really go after this Gen Z community. It's an ever-growing community. It's 27 years in. But it's, you know, folks that are like way sort of like out of touch and they're wondering why they don't really connect. And then it takes folks that I think that are closer in maybe our age group to really we're not too far removed from what it was to maybe be a, you know, a young person or what have you. And like, what would I find interesting? Really being able to tap back into that and try to use that resource. And especially if you have you know, I have a nephew, I have a niece, and really being able to connect in that way as well. And I think that can impact the storytelling and maybe the themes and so on that are in there.

Matt Miller: Yeah, no, for sure. And I think it's, you know, Matt and I had a call actually today, and I was just like, even writing them when we're super busy, it's kind of just therapeutic also. Because I think we get so honed in on like adult stresses. There's that quote that is, you know, maybe my life isn't so chaotic. It's just the life isn't so chaotic, it's just the things that you get attached to are.

Rob Lee: I always think of the Neal McCauley line from Heat. It's like, how could I just leave this thing with minimal notice? Trying to, like, not keep myself attached to it because, you know, you have folks, especially when you're doing something that's a creative endeavor and also having the sort of entrepreneurial rhythms being in both of those areas, you get really invested in something that has to be supposed to be fun. You're making a children's book, right? Or, you know, or this. I'm doing a podcast. I'm talking to very talented people and having, like, a conversation where I'm probably going to ask you your favorite pizza topping later. Those things are supposed to be fun versus feeling like those sort of stressors. And one of the things I'm doing this semester, I'm teaching. I'm teaching my first group of high school kids how to podcast, the first time I've ever taught. And I'm like, this is wild. This is new. But also seeing when it clicks, I'm like, oh, wow. I'm you, you actually respect me. You value what I'm saying. And this is something, this doesn't feel stress inducing or what have you. It just feels like connecting back to the fun. So I want to go into this, this sort of next question about like, and then this is where I was kind of touching on with the collaboration. So, you know, I look at doing this series as a collaborative project. You know, there are interviews that are really good. There are interviews that are okay. And then there's some interviews that I was like, I mean, you sure you don't want to rerecord that one, bro? And I think part of it is it depends on what sort of energy the person comes in with. So, you know, the two of you collaborating, talk a bit about sort of, you know, having those sort of skill sets that are very complimentary and sort of what that what it looks like to collaborate, what it looks like to work together day to day and like how that partnership, you know, kind of influences the storytelling, the writing, the illustrations. Let's talk a bit about that.

Matt Miller: Well, I think it helped that, you know, Matt and I both own creative businesses also. So I think that's kind of helped us with the books, you know, it's also a business at the end of the day. But, you know, collaboratively speaking, I think it's I think it was our first book we did, where Matt sent me like the illustration of the house. And I text him an edit. And as soon as I text the edit, he had already sent me the edit. Like, um, also, when I was, I think it was last year, Matt and I actually were partners in a game of charades, wasn't it? And like, we like, when I was in Tampa, remember? Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. We really were like, we're killing the other team.

Brandt Ricca: Yeah, I know, kind of in sync in that sense, the creative sense.

Matt Miller: I think it was like one of us just did this and then one goes elevator.

Brandt Ricca: Yeah, I think we do definitely though. Brandt is more I think we just have different ways of approaching this creative and collaborating. So one of us is good at one thing, the other is good at the other. And like when we're laying out a story, we usually do it on like a big marker board or something. I'm usually thinking in terms of like the visuals because that's like, you know, what I'm doing for the book. And that's kind of how I see it when I'm reading. But Brandt is coming up with storylines and I'm like, how are you like thinking of this right now? I don't know. It's just I think it works really well together that we're both good at different things.

Matt Miller: Yeah. I'm definitely more of the like whimsical, like philosophical. Yeah. And Matt's more dark.

Brandt Ricca: Yeah. Brandt keeps it children's themed. And if it was just me, I'd be turning into like crazy stories that kids wouldn't want to read because it's too scary.

Matt Miller: I think as we've gone throughout like we're on book five like it's they're getting a little bit more darker as they go because you're realizing oh kids today aren't so naive with some things and so um it's getting a little bit darker and I know I remember when I came we were coming up with this Bernice and the Shadow Witch Matt was like oh I love this because it was dark um and the the sixth book which I'm starting to write now like takes place in Halloween time so it's like New Orleans, like all the history there, like it's been really fun to kind of incorporate some New Orleans, you know, myths and tales into some of this storylines.

Rob Lee: Thank you. And that's almost a, almost a ham-fisted way to get the segue into this next question. With having the South, you know, the American South as sort of the backdrop and the setting of the books, you know, it's a character in itself. You know, one of the things I was sharing before we got started, I was down there and I interviewed an author who has ties to Baltimore. So I was just like, oh, and we're talking about it. And I was like, so, bro, this place is haunted, right? And he's like, oh, yeah, absolutely. One hundred percent. So, you know, talk about sort of like having, you know, the story setting to the set in the South and really being sort of reflective of the South. And why was that an intent? Why was that part of the story from a cultural and maybe historical lens?

Matt Miller: I think because, you know, being from there obviously, but I've always loved even stories set in New Orleans. So like, you know, the Mayfair Witches, like Anne Rice, like Interview with the Vampire. I know Matt's also obsessed with like the architecture there. I think it's the only city really, I think, in the country that's kind of, it's almost like its own state a little bit. It's very mixed with the cultures, like deep history of like, you know, witchcraft, voodoo, vampires, like ghosts, like every Everything that goes bump in the night, I think New Orleans carries a story for. And every time I've gone there, a lot of times I do those haunted tours. And you see like the, what's it called, the place, the convent where like Anne Rice based the Lestat character off of. There were myths of a Lestat living in the attic with the coffin. And I just, I just liked the history of it. Like, so everything like Haunted Mansion just came out on Disney Plus. I watched that right away because it takes place in New Orleans. I've watched, I think, three times already. I think it's just fun stuff and especially when you're writing fantasy it just creates an easy segue that like anything can happen in terms of your writing like nothing's too crazy.

Brandt Ricca: Yeah, and I think just obviously, Brandt wrote the book before he the first book before he came to me, but I've always I don't know what it is. I don't know what what is the reasoning. I grew up in Maryland, so I don't understand why I'm attached to this like antebellum and Victorian architecture style. But New Orleans has so much of it. And I felt like I would have been doing an injustice to New Orleans to not include some the architecture in each of my illustrations for the book. And even in the dream worlds, I try to include at least part of it, but just with a little twist.

Rob Lee: I mean, that's that reference point. So with the success of the first book, Talk, talk a bit about sort of the recognition and sort of like, you know, maybe those reader responses like that have kind of shaped or perhaps perhaps shaped the development and direction of sort of, you know, the works following it, the subsequent like, you know, work following it. It's like, oh, you know, you touched on a bit like, yeah, we're getting a little darker. So talk about maybe those responses and how, you know, it's maybe shaped a direction that you're looking to go into or have gone into as, you know, we're recording this prior to the next book coming out.

Matt Miller: Yeah, I think, you know, with the first book, I think one of the downfalls, though, also was that it was during a pandemic era. So we didn't have direct access to the reader, so to speak. So all the feedback we were getting were from adults or actually other authors. So sorry, that was my dryer. So other authors, so we had like Flora Bradley who writes Middle School Mystery. She's like an award-winning author. She reviewed the book. So I was getting feedback from other authors and writers who give great advice of like, you know, your first book is, like you go back and you look at your first book and you're like, wow, what was I writing? I think that was when I realized, especially with Flora Bradley and reading her books also, uh you know kids today like you kind of forget the mentality of like a third grader because you're not a third grader anymore but you forget that when we were in third grade like we were pretty with it like i knew a lot of stuff um so i think it enabled me especially like the harry potter books being like oh we can write darker and go darker and um i think also sorry i'm gonna cut you off

Brandt Ricca: Oh, I was gonna say when we this is kind of like we so we did the first three Barris books that was like the first three books of this five book series that we're talking about. When we went to a school in Arlington to do like a little exercise in the library with like fourth, fifth graders. We actually came back a few months later to give them the newest book we'd done and they were all really interested. This is when we had just had Barris books. So they were all interested in Barris's sister, Bernice. And I think that's when we were like, all right, we kind of had a feeling about Bernice taking the lead at some point with the books and just that the kids were interested in her I think that was like a big reason that that was good feedback, honestly, from our direct from our actual readers, our audience that we want to be reading the book.

Matt Miller: Yeah and I think the perk of writing a series too is that you get really comfortable with the characters and you get more of like oh dive into backstories and you get comfortable like being sassy and sarcastic with them and um yeah but like Matt said we walked into the library not even planning to see these children again we were just dropping the books off. And they just happened to be in the library when we went there and they ran up to us and were like quoting the books. And I was like, I forgot I wrote that. But they referenced Bernice. They were like, Bernice wears all black because it's the color of her soul. Because that's what Barris had said about Bernice in the first series. So Bernice, I will say, we have a ghost editor who's actually Matt's mom, who's a former editor and journalist. So she actually has even said that she's loved Bernice so much. So I feel like almost like the Barris books have been almost like a launching pad for what this bigger story is going to be.

Brandt Ricca: Yeah, I think Barris was, his personality was a little more generic, I guess, and Bernice had a little bit more edge, which I think is what, that was just getting the feedback, even ourselves reading the book and then doing more about Bernice is kind of like that that led us to have her take the lead.

Matt Miller: Actually now that I think about it, Matt, I'm like in that third Barris book, we don't even really focus on Barris. We focus on his best friend. The story, the lesson is with Barris's best friend, Pavanya Wallendrop, and her mother. So they call her Pevy. So we already kind of started shifting away from Barris, I think, in the third Barris book. It was going to his friend, and then we set up Bernice at the end.

Rob Lee: So it's almost like the sort of backdoor pilot, let's lead into sort of this next arc on the trajectory. And one thing, you know, definitely I'll touch on and kind of getting those those points where you encounter someone that's, you know, familiar with your work. And they're like, you remember you said this in this episode? I was like, no, I don't. Am I expected to remember that? You know how many things I say in an episode? But it is cool to get sort of that feedback, however it comes, whether it's through a review, whether it's through someone like stopping you in the street when you're trying to buy like bok choy or something. Well, in the market, you don't buy bok choy for the street most of the time, but you're trying to get your items and Hey, love your podcast. Hey, love your book. Hey, love your work. That's a really cool feeling. Have you like either of you like really adjusted to sort of when folks are reaching out and they're like, oh, I dig this about it. And, you know, what is that feeling like? Because I'm not comfortable with it yet. But what is that feeling like for the for the two of you?

Matt Miller: Well, I think also like I've texted Matt this before, because Matt also isn't in D.C. a lot. So but remember, I've been out socially and grown people are coming up to me, recognizing me about the books at that bar that one time I was there. Yeah. But they recognize us also just from our the Bears Books Instagram. And so because of the reels we will do or the media coverage we get. But I will say it's been it's It's very nice, obviously, but sometimes I'm like, how do you know about that?

Brandt Ricca: I think we do get a lot or maybe I maybe it's both of us, but people reach out on Instagram that I don't really even talk to or not that I don't like them. I just don't really know them. And they'll be like, oh, I just read this or pick this up, this Barris book or Bernice book, and I loved it. And it's just I don't know, that just feels good. But it's also I don't know. To me, I'm like, it's kind of crazy that it's not someone that I that I gave the book to to read, you know?

Matt Miller: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. For every we have that and like people are giving it to their kids. And we my aunt, we were in New Orleans and Louisiana for the thing. My aunt who lives there, like distributed the books and merchandise basically all over Louisiana. One of my cousins actually said she was at a baseball game and saw someone wearing a Bears books hat. which was very weird, but I think it's almost like how I would approach my business a little bit. Like I know what goes on behind the scenes, so I don't have the same like maybe awe factor that some other people would have. So if someone comes to my one of my events and there's, you know, complimenting it galore, I'm like, oh, is it? Because just an hour ago, it was like a mess. So I think it's almost like that, because Matt and I are so behind the scenes with like, we know the process, like the editing, the the business side of it. And also just, I think we obviously love the story and the characters, but it's kind of it's very, I will say it feels nice, obviously, when other people do the same.

Rob Lee: Knowing how the sausage is made. So I got, I got two real questions left and the next one definitely spotlighting Bernice and the Shadow Witch. Can you give us a glimpse? Can you give us just a taste, a skosh, leading into like, what can folks expect sort of, you know, in terms of the, the storytelling? And I know we teased it a little bit as far as, you know, being a bit darker and such, but. What can folks expect and what will be explored, maybe surprises? What's in mind as far as, just a taste, just a little sprinkling?

Matt Miller: Well, you know, Bernice and the Shadow Witch comes out next Tuesday, and it's really starting to dive into Other characters like Nona Devereaux, the kooky neighbor who tells stories of witches and ghosts. And it's the holidays in New Orleans. It's eerily cold, a lot of snowfall. And then this book after that, which will conclude the Bernice books, is Bernice and the Broken Dream. And it takes place almost a year later, Halloween time, New Orleans. really just diving into Broken Dreams, Shadow Witches, Keepers of Dreams. And Matt's already wanting to kill me because I already have an idea for another spinoff after that. So the books take place in 1950s. And so to have the next series take place 20 years later, in the same tall greenhouse, and it's Bernice's daughter, to have it be the Bobby books. So we'll see how it all goes. But yeah, it's been it's It's been a fun journey, um, Raising the Shadow, which I think is my favorite so far.

Brandt Ricca: Yeah, I agree. I think we say that about every one that we do, every new one that we do, but I definitely, this one, I would say, is the best overall. And it also, this time we kind of incorporated a cliffhanger, which I guess, I think every other story we had, it's like a beginning and an end, and then there's the next story. This one is kind of leading into a continuation of that story.

Matt Miller: Yeah, it's not like the cliffhanger of each book has its own problem, but there's an overall issue that expands over all of them. So the cliffhanger in book five is almost, it's closer to the answer of the overall issue, which is Gracie, who's the narrator of the book, she's a keeper, which means she monitors children's dreams while they sleep. And her grandmother Lucy has been lost in a broken dream forever. And so this book five ends with almost like a semi-answer to what's happened to her.

Rob Lee: I mean, cliffhangers, I mean, come on, let's go, let's go.

Brandt Ricca: All right. I mean, you have to buy the next book. Yeah.

Rob Lee: I mean, when I think of the collaborative thing that, you know, I'm doing, I write a comic with my partner and it's sort of that, I'm like big picture guy and she's all whimsy. I mean, I'm 6'4", like 300 pounds, huge black dude. She is 5'2", pink hair. It's it's a juxtaposition. And when you go to like small press expo or any of these cons, you're like, is she cosplaying? I was like, no, that's what she looks like in her day jobs. But definitely being able to bounce off of each other and thinking through sort of what fits. So when we're doing this, this comic, I have all of these references to like 90s action thrillers in there. And she's like, how can we make it cute, though? How can we make it about friends? La la la la la. That's her sort of energy that curves the direction I'm going with this thing that is about cat attorneys. So this sort of John Gresham of it all or Brian DePalma of it all doesn't quite work with cat lawyers that are like, I'm going to be late because I'm really washing myself before going to court. So, yeah, I don't know. But this is the last last question I'll throw out there before I get to those rapid fire questions. And this kind of touches on the collaboration thing and just, you know, sort of the journey and the arc here. What advice would you would you share with aspiring authors, entrepreneurs, illustrators, you know, collaborators that, you know, to if they are saying, look, I want to make something like you're doing, I'm very inspired by how you go about your work and sort of the output. what is that like sort of one piece of advice that you would want to pay forward?

Matt Miller: So Matt and I actually talk about this a lot because we get it's I think since we've started this it's like people come out of the woodwork of wanting to write a book or do whatever and I always tell them like there's no guidebook to this. Matt and I didn't know what we were doing and we're still figuring it out. We've been very fortunate with the success we've had and the coverage we've had. But a friend, someone I know, is actually wanting to write also fantasy, and he's been struggling with this story for over a year. And so finally, I kind of got a little slightly annoyed that he kept coming up to me like, oh, I'm still struggling. I'm like, you're obviously not writing about anything that you love if you're still struggling about this. And he was like, I never thought about that. I was like, yes. So yeah, I think it's the same problem with Matt with illustrations.

Brandt Ricca: Yeah. I mean, I would, I would say if it's not a hobby, you should be treating it like one, um, and carve out time. Even if you're just, I guess the way I think of it is if I'm like swamped with work and I know I have to do these illustrations, I just think of it as like, Oh, just, it's like an activity to do, um, carve out time and make it a routine in your week or something. Um, because I think that's just like the best way to actually commit to it and yeah, take it from there. It's like a creative outlet for me. I think this is obviously the same for you, Brandt, and it's a good way to distract yourself from the rest of the real world.

Matt Miller: Yeah, and I actually have a successful children's book author also give me advice when I first started. She just said, enjoy this time now when you're not beholden to Like, for example, when the books make it bigger to not be beholden to a lot of other people. So to enjoy this time and let your creativity flow, because I think it was Elizabeth Gilbert who wrote You Pray Love, and she said, you know, never give your writing or their books the stress of paying your bills. So she because she says, you know, I'll hear someone who writes a screenplay and they quit their job. Because they're hoping to sell the screenplay. So, you know, Matt and I have been doing this for a couple years. We're actually talking to production companies also about adapting them maybe. And they even tell us the same advice. They're like, people don't realize from the time something's on screen to then it's like years of development. And so I think it's about just being also content with the process. I think entrepreneurship has taught us both that, just being content with the process and not being so overwhelmed by the big picture that details of the success, basically.

Rob Lee: Yeah, that that's that's really good advice. I think it's something to really, you know, tap back in on. You know, I think we were touching on it a little bit earlier, too, when it comes to sort of just something like feeling like it's the not the fun stuff. It feels like it's the work stuff. And, you know, any of those opportunities where, you know, someone is like, oh, I really like this or, you know, I'm getting sort of some level of prestige, I always have to like look back. I don't keep a file, I don't keep a dump file of like all of my bad episodes, all of my mishaps. But, you know, just being aware of that, being aware of like, all right, never get too high, never get too low. And also thinking about sort of the process. And, you know, this podcast is four years old, essentially, but I've been a podcaster for 15 years. So it's sort of like they were 10 years before people started noticing and caring for me to be an overnight success. So it's really being mindful of that and knowing that in any, I think, creative endeavor and treating it that way and definitely having the entrepreneurial mindset. Like I have a business degree and I apply that same sort of idea behind it of, all right, we got to really have this sort of sorted out and you're a small team. you know, duo, you might have a, you know, freelancer here or someone supporting you in this other way. It's still like, you want to be mindful of folks time, you know, the energy and the effort that's being put in and the resources. So yeah, so it's all important stuff. So now that the real stuff is kind of out of the way. It's time for the rapid fire questions. And as I always tell people, do not overthink these. These are just, you know, whatever, you know, what I said is what I said. That's the way we're kind of going about these. All right. So here is the first one. If your universe, the, you know, the, the barrows that beneath the universe, if that could cross over with another universe, what universe would it be? Like, there's another children's book universe that pops up, like, hey, my characters in this world, or having their characters in my world, which sort of crossover would, you know, would be interesting to you?

Matt Miller: Anna Rice is the Mayfair Witches. I was waiting for that. I don't know.

Brandt Ricca: I'm the king of overthinking. You can't ask me not to overthink.

Matt Miller: Before this podcast, Matt was like, I'm going to study the questions.

Brandt Ricca: I don't know. I can't think of a specific story. I just think like something in like The first thing that came to mind was Mars. I don't know why, but I love outer space and I like that kind of sci-fi. You know, like a 50s take on, like, what did kids think space was like, you know, in a world like that.

Rob Lee: And a little Philip K. Dick-like sort of, like, connection there, getting really deep nervous.

Matt Miller: I just lost interest in that crossover series.

Rob Lee: Yeah. All right, let me hit you with the next one. Let me do the next one. Is there I'm always interested in food, so I'll just have that context there. But, you know, is there a particular ritual or sort of a favorite snack that is definitely a part of the creative process? For me, it's cashews. Whenever I'm recording is either I have coffee with me or like a handful of cashews. It just makes the situation run better. I know it's a lot of fat and cashews as brain energy and the caffeine, obviously. is caffeine. So what are parts of that process that are maybe rituals or maybe like food related that really you see showing up within your creative process?

Matt Miller: I would say I don't have any food actually ever involved in my creative processes. My accessory, I guess, would be I listen to scores of movies. And so whatever vibe I'm going for in the chapter I'm writing, I'll set the tone with like the score from Edward Scissorhands or Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium or whatever to feel that

Brandt Ricca: vibe with the writing. I'm the same way. I mean, I always have coffee. I literally have my iced coffee almost gone. It's probably like my fourth cup today. But and also not so much movie scores, but I like Max Richter and Nicholas Bertel, like the succession theme songs and those kind of things. The music that goes along with like TV series or movies.

Matt Miller: I always listen to, like, with the Halloween book or the Christmas book, I was listening to Ella Fitzgerald's Christmas album while writing it because it takes place in the 50s. And I was trying to get into that mindset.

Brandt Ricca: I can't do words in songs. It's got to be, it's got to be like instrumental. You know, I don't know why I think the words distract me.

Matt Miller: I don't know what to ask her, ladies and gentlemen.

Rob Lee: I've heard that. I've heard that. Um, I, uh, I recently did this, um, I do movie reviews outside of this podcast and, uh, I got on this arc where I was revisiting, um, like RoboCop from, you know, 87 and I'm just playing the theme on loop and I'm like, this is becoming a problem. I need to like really get this ear where I'm out of there. Like, I just thinking I'm here to serve and protect old Detroit and I'm in Baltimore. So that's just not going to work. Uh, so.

Brandt Ricca: I think about the Spotify, you know, at the end of the year when they do the Spotify, they tell you your top artists. I think mine last year was like Max Richter or like a composer. And like your top song was some random song that it's like, I'm not going to share this because no one's going to know what the hell this is. But they listen to it a lot.

Rob Lee: Yeah, when I'm really trying to get into the zone, because I'm an IT person during the day and it's just like classical music. It's just classical music going, no lyrics, Paganini, let's go. Let's just, you know, doubles violinist. Let's make it happen. So I got two left. This one is specifically for you, Brent. Favorite Disney show? Oh, show or movie? I'm going to go show because I'm a fellow Disney person. Like whenever there's a weird day or a bad day, I tune in to like Phineas and Ferb or something like that. And I just feel a lot better.

Matt Miller: So I don't watch any Disney shows currently, but, um, oh. Or movie, you know, let's go with movie. I would say, uh, so my partner, Chase, I met and it was always yelling at me cause I will watch Hocus Pocus 2 to death. Um, um, I think that's one of my favorite Disney movies probably is Hocus Pocus 2 or also like a lot of the Pixar stuff. Nice.

Rob Lee: Do you have one, Matt? I didn't want to leave you out. I just thought about it. I didn't want to belittle you.

Brandt Ricca: Yeah, no, no. Well, Fairly OddParents, do you ever? That was Nickelodeon. That wasn't Disney. That's Nickelodeon. We're in Disney. But still, I love that show. That show, I mean, I don't even know if it's on anymore, but that show, they always had like the dark humor or adult humor kind of mixed in to the point where kids wouldn't know. But if you watch it as an adult now, you're like, oh, I know what they were doing.

Matt Miller: Why just start watching and rewatching Are You Afraid of the Dark? And it still holds up to this day.

Rob Lee: All right. So here's here's the last one. And I may have teased it earlier. You know, for for those who were listening, paying attention here.

Matt Miller: Favorite pizza topic? Pepperoni. I'm a classic type person.

Brandt Ricca: OK.

Rob Lee: Extra cheese. See, I can hang out with the two of you. That says, you know, if one of you would have said mushrooms, I'm like, okay, we're in the same group. Like, what are we doing here? But no, that all of those work. I mean, I'm like a nice thin crust with some good pepperoni. Oh yeah.

Brandt Ricca: And I know this isn't a popular one, but Frank's red hot sauce. I put it on all anytime, anytime I have pizza, I always put it on the pizza.

Rob Lee: There's a saying that goes to Frank's red hot as well. Yeah. So that's pretty much it. And with the sort of red hot, you're off the hot seat, as it were. And I want to, one, thank both of you for coming on, making some time to chat it up with me and share your journey and, you know, about the book and what's coming forth. And in these final moments, I want to give both of you the space to you know, do sort of those final pitches, those sort of final, you know, thoughts on, you know, the book and what's next and sort of signing off. So if you will, the floor is yours.

Matt Miller: Yeah. So, you know, it can be found online where books are sold. So the next book will be out November 14th. Our next book, we're thinking fall next year. You know, we're online on social media at Barris Books. That's where Barris and Bernice live. And also And hopefully you'll be seeing us in the movies very soon. I like that.

Brandt Ricca: Yeah, I second that. And like going back what we said before, every book gets better. So this one's gonna be great, the one coming out on Tuesday, but just wait for the one next fall.

Matt Miller: Wait till those broken dreams start happening. Yeah.

Rob Lee: See, I like I like the teaser. I like that. It's just like, no, no, this is going to be on fire. It's going to be good. That's the thing we did. But also just wait.

Matt Miller: On Endeavor wrote this book was, you know, tipsy on eggnog giving away secrets. So just stay tuned for next book when she tells some more stories about witches.

Rob Lee: There you have it, folks. I want to again thank Brandt, Ricca, and Matt Miller from Barrist Books discussing Bernice and the Shadow Witch on The Truth In This Art. And for Brandt, for Matt, I'm Rob Lee saying that there's art, culture, and community in and around your neck of the woods. You've just got to look for it.

Creators and Guests

Rob Lee
Rob Lee
The Truth In This Art is an interview series featuring artists, entrepreneurs and tastemakers in & around Baltimore.
Brandt Ricca
Brandt Ricca
Brandt Ricca is a D.C.-based entrepreneur. Having a writing background and a family history of owning a newspaper, telling stories has always been at the forefront of Brandt’s mindset. Creating a narrative is a must for Brandt, who always wants to convey a message with events or imagery through his branding agency, Nora Lee by Brandt Ricca. Brandt was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and loves the Southern culture and creative atmosphere of New Orleans, which inspired the setting for the life of Barris Hart.
Matt Miller
Matt Miller
Matt Miller is a designer and artist that bounces back and forth from D.C. and Florida. For as long as he can remember, Matt has had a passion for expressing his ideas and creativity in drawings and paintings. His artistic background and love for interior design and architecture are the foundation for his interior design and rendering business, Perspective.