Military Duo Explains How They Became Popular Kids’ Book Authors

Creators of ‘Connor the Courageous Cutter’ Offer Tips to Entrepreneurs

By Katie Lange
Defense Media Activity

What books do your kids read? The classics like “Green Eggs and Ham,” “The Giving Tree” and “Goodnight Moon?” Did you pick them for their awesome illustrations, or were you focused on selections that support good values?

For Navy Chief Petty Officer Rod Thompson and Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Scott McBride (also a Navy veteran), they realized a dream that combined both.


Video by Air Force Senior Airman Jared Bunn

The two men met in church, and when McBride realized Thompson did screenwriting on the side, he figured he was the right person to help him kickstart an idea a college advisor had given him: writing children’s books.

“I walked up to him one day and said, ‘Hey man, I’ve got this idea for a story called ‘Connor the Cutter’ because I have a son named Connor, and Rod’s like, ‘Dude, I have a son named Connor,’” McBride said.

So the two sat down with their families, hashed out some ideas on a napkin – which is now framed memorabilia – and the next thing you know, “The Adventures of Connor the Courageous Cutter” was born.

“A week later, we had the first draft written,” Thompson said.

Thompson and McBride framed the napkin on which they made their first “Connor” outline.

Defining Connor the Cutter

The series is about a boy named Connor who’s the new kid in school and is finding his place in the world – er, sea, that is. He is a boat, after all.

“Connor, to me, represents the timid spirit within everyone who wants to do well in life but doesn’t know where they’re going, or the rules,” Thompson said.

Connor is courageous and brave, but he’s not perfect.

“One of the things I love about this series is it’s OK that your heroes have flaws,” Thompson said. “Connor the Cutter is kind of this hero character, but he does make bad decisions, he is tempted by peer pressure, and he is afraid. And I think those vulnerabilities make him relatable.”

Illustration courtesy of “The Adventures of Connor the Courageous Cutter.”

So how did they manage to make this happen on top of their military and families duties?

From Concept to Finished Product

Thompson and McBride said their respective branches really helped them set goals and push past any obstacles. There was no stifling of creativity.

“I think we’re blessed that the Navy and Coast Guard have allowed us to do this,” McBride said.

So where does this creativity come from?

“Most of my thoughts come to me, story-wise, driving down the road. Every morning I’ll have random thoughts in my head, and I’ll call Scott and say, ‘I’ve got this really cool idea,’” Thompson explained.

They figure out the overall theme for each new story before they start creating the key details,  time and weather.

“Setting is huge. You can convey emotions,” Thompson said. “It’s the reason why, when you watch a movie, most sad scenes are on a rainy day. It invokes sadness.”

Next, they do a pre-rough draft where they throw all their ideas onto the page in story format. From there, they work as a team to edit it down and bring it together. They’ll often let the stories “marinate” for a few months to make sure they still like them. McBride even has his family read them for input. Then it’s off to the publisher, who sends more feedback, edits and suggestions.

McBride (center left) and Thompson (center right) chat with their families, who have helped them during their book-writing venture.

An illustrator then interprets what they’ve written, and they work together to make sure the drawings are what they want to convey.

“Once we saw the illustration and the colors [for the first book], my mind was blow. I was like, ‘Wow. Connor was just words on a page, and now he’s come to life,’” McBride said. “I think that’s so cool.”

Why Children’s Books?

Their motivation was easy – to inspire and bring hope.

“In the Coast Guard, our core values are honor, respect, devotion and duty,” McBride said. “We hope these books help the younger generation reinforce these values.”

“For every life lesson we’ve learned the hard way, we’re going to teach it to kids the easy way,” Thompson said.

Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Scott McBride signs copies of “The Adventures of Connor the Courageous Cutter” for children.

And it appears to be making a big splash on children and adults.

“We wanted to teach kids awesome messages, and the next thing you know, you’ve got random people coming up to you, thanking you for writing a story that’s touched their soul,” Thompson said.

Advice to Budding Military Entrepreneurs

The men had three major tips for anyone looking to pursue a business dream – write it down, do some research, and make it happen.

“If you’ve got a goal or dream, write it down. … Now you’re accountable to yourself,” McBride said. Then, develop a plan and do some research. “I think a lot of people get so paralyzed by fear of failure, but if you’ve got the goal, reach for the stars.”

Rod Thompson (left) and Scott McBride sit at a table to work on their “Connor the Cutter” series.

Find a way to make it happen – especially since you can almost always find the steps to get you there on the internet, Thompson said.

“Coming from a military lifestyle, you have to be willing to put in those extra hours,” he said. “You have to be willing to put in the extra time, to really put yourself out there, to fail, and to continuously drive yourself – even when you don’t want to be driven – to get things done.”

This duo’s biggest obstacle is that they’re stationed separately – Thompson lives in Norfolk, Virginia, while McBride is in Maryland. But thanks to technology, they can collaborate pretty easily.

So if you have an idea, don’t hesitate to get started!

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