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The Daily Tar Heel

Q&A with UNC graduate Paul Clark, author of 'Nibbles the Squirrel'

Paul Clark reads his book, Nibbles the Squirrel Explores Chapel Hill, on Franklin Street.
Paul Clark reads his book, Nibbles the Squirrel Explores Chapel Hill, on Franklin Street.

Paul Clark is a corporal with the Durham Police Department, UNC graduate, father and a children’s book writer. Assistant City Editor Erin Kolstad talked with Clark about his new book, “Nibbles the Squirrel Explores Chapel Hill."

Clark will have a reading of his book at the Chapel Hill Public Library at 10:30 a.m. Aug. 29.

The Daily Tar Heel: What was the inspiration for ”Nibbles the Squirrel Explores Chapel Hill”?

Paul Clark: I read to my kids a lot. Something I noticed when I was reading to them was a lot of books were elaborate and used either aliens or monsters going to far off planets, which I thoroughly encourage. Imagination is the best thing you can do, but my kids couldn’t relate to anything. I wanted to do something that had landmarks they can recognize and get excited about when we go out in the community.

DTH: How did you come to write children’s books?

Clark: I just thought it would be fun. As a police officer, we train our guys to come up with outlets so law enforcement is not everything that defines you. Art, lawn care, building things. I do all those things, but I wanted to do something that I could look back on with my kids and they could get excited about it.

I knew I wanted to do some illustrations, but I didn’t want to do full-page illustrations. So that is why I do a blend of photography and illustrations in the books.

I’ve also written in the past. I wrote a screenplay a few years back that did all right. It was a finalist in the Charleston International Film Festival. I don’t have as much free time to write an entire screenplay anymore with three boys under the age of 4. This is something that I could do while being with my kids because all the places in the books are places we go together.

DTH: Your first book, ”Nibbles the Squirrel Explores Durham,” is based in Durham — why are you doing one in Chapel Hill now?

Clark: My wife and I have lived in Chapel Hill ever since we went to college here. She graduated in 2004, and I graduated in 2005. We stayed and never left. Chapel Hill is very dear to my heart. I love being out in the community. There is such a great local community here. It was easy for me to do Durham first because I work in Durham, and a big part of law enforcement is getting out in the community.

I’m going to try to do Raleigh next, knock out the Triangle, and then maybe some other cities. I’m from Salisbury, N.C., and my parents still live there. My dad likes photography, so we’ve talked about doing a collaboration. I gotta represent the hometown.

DTH: Why is the main character a squirrel?

Clark: It goes with the theme of something familiar to kids. Squirrels are everywhere. You can look out any window, any car, any building and see a squirrel. I got inspired originally by a squirrel in our yard with half a tail. That made him special to us because you could recognize him. Originally the character was named Half-Tail, but every time I drew a squirrel with half a tail it looked like a chipmunk. So, I gave him a full tail and asked some friends what a good name would be. Nibbles rose to the top and that is how Nibbles the Squirrel came to be.

DTH: How long does it take you to create the book from beginning to end?

Clark: The first one took me a lot longer. I did the photography, the illustrations, the storyline, the cover design, the book layout and I self-published it. For the first book, it was all brand new to me. From the moment I had the idea to finally feeling comfortable handing it to someone to say this is a book I wrote, it took about a year and a few months. The second book took me four or five months because I was already familiar with the publishing process. I already had a cover layout and a cover design, just had to change it from Durham to Chapel Hill.

DTH: Is there anything you would like to add?

Clark: A lot of my passion and desire to be involved in the community and be out speaking to people came from my experience at UNC. It is such a community-based school. There are so many opportunities to meet people and learn where they are from. The whole point of the book is to encourage kids to explore your local community and be a part of the community you live in. You have to be a part of the community to change it, and I learned that at UNC.


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