Author Interview: Rich Okun

THE SUN, THE MOON, THE STARS AND MAYA BY RICH OKUN The Sun, The Moon, The Stars, and Maya by Rich Okun

1) Please provide a short excerpt of what your children’s book is about.
Our lives are bombarded with things that take us away from the special connections we are capable of. Each of us has the ability to demonstrate love, compassion, gratitude and generosity. We can choose to live our lives by the golden rule. We can make time to appreciate the exquisite construction of our planet, and experience the joy of nature. We can look towards the star spangled heavens, appreciate the velvet silence, and draw peace from spirituality. We have the ability to find beauty in simplicity, and we can marvel at the complexity of what at first glance, appeared deceptively simple. Many of us have just forgotten how.  My intention is to help connect and expand the most meaningful of relationships, that of parent and child.

In today’s busy, electronics oriented world, dominated by distractions, special effects, and noisy shoot ’em ups, simple earth based spiritual / moral issues have been all but forgotten, effectively obscured from view, buried in the smoky haze of the fiery explosion of Computer Generated Images. We conceptualize creation rather than competition as a means to engage and grow relationships. We offer alternative perspectives that are meant to evoke awe and wonder in all things and capture the imagination of the child and the child within the parent. With illustrations of Maya, my puppy muse, in complementary settings, accompany bits of wisdom relating to spiritual and moral issues. Notable quotations are the inspiration for Maya’s simple-language lyrical interpretations. Maya represents a reassuring presence, a gentle guide who leads by example. She helps encourage and pave the way for a rewarding dialogue with children, teaching them to appreciate the earth, and to follow the golden rule.

2) What inspired you to write this book?
As part of my spiritual journey, I want to contribute whatever I can through creative expression of spiritually impactful messages in words and pictures. I was inspired to this format and genre during meditation where I felt my inner voice move me to action while on a nature walk with my puppy. Although I am an unlikely children’s book author not having written or read children’s books throughout my life or even when I was a child.

I would post these on my website and social media pages and they became very popular with over 110 countries and tens of thousands of viewers monthly. I then decided to self-publish this book to use as a platform to help Parents and Children to be able to discuss these important matters instead of ignoring them. I use simple language so that all ages can understand, but they express very big ideas. I was picked up by a traditional publisher after a few months and have since published 2 additional books and about to release the fourth.  I use my pets (puppy and cats as well as other animals) not in an anthropomorphic way but recognizing that all living beings have a spirit that speaks the same language. It doesn’t matter whether it is a cat, dog, or wild beast, we all are the same if we can see with spiritual eyes. I want to contribute to this and help awareness to spark a change in the way we have operated on this planet. To help the golden rule to emerge as the way of being – going forward.

3) How did you come up with the title or series of your book?
Maya is my puppy’s name and this series is a compendium of different spiritual topics such as love, compassion, paths, fear, happiness etc. Part of my spiritual practices embrace Native American philosophies that honour the directions, the sky and earth the elements and all things with spirit. The Sun, the moon, the stars and Maya seemed to fit that bill.

The second book is titled Earth, Wind, Fire and Maya along the same lines. The third book is titled Embrace every step; life is a dance, which had more themed poems in life path so it wasn’t as broad in topics. My soon to be released fourth book is all about one specific topic and uses my cat as the main character.

4) As a child, your parents didn’t read you books and you didn’t read any either. Why then have you decided to become a children’s author? Why did you pick this genre?
I want to help. I want to contribute to a positive world and use whatever life experiences and talents I have to that end. Although I have always been a seeker, I became more engaged in my spiritual journey when I turned 47, and I didn’t want children to have to wait until they were that age to discover the magic in everyday life with the right set of eyes. However, I see that todays busy, hectic, two working parent households, time and energy are extremely challenged. Everybody is so tired and there are so many things to worry about. Technology furthers this distance in the family. Everyone has their heads down, surfing the internet on their smartphones, or texting in short meaningless sound-bites, or watching reality TV. Family time is limited and nobody has dinner table discussions anymore.

Spiritual matters are important, but complex, and parents have a difficult time bringing them up in a way that could engage their children. The traditional children’s stories are longer and attentions spans are shorter. I wanted to provide a medium to be a way that parents could discuss and expand upon these issues with their children through colour, language, words and pictures, using my little puppy as a centrepiece to engage.

5) How did you use your illustrations to convey your message? How does the colour palette complement your book?
I was the youngest member of the Art Student’s League of New York, across the street from Carnegie Hall at 6 years old, but I was afraid of color and using it so everything I did was in Black and White. However, when I started this effort, I used color openly and with courage, and vividly as another source of expression and to capture the child’s eye (and the child in you) and draw attention. I found that my fears of the past were unwarranted and that I could approach color with confidence.

The use of color represents the vibrancy of life and stimulates a sense of beauty.

6) What is the most fulfilling thing about being an author?
When I know that something that I contributed to, helped someone. There are many reviews of this book, but this one touched my heart and answers your question best – an excerpt is quoted here:

“I read several of these vignettes to my son at bedtime, and instead of lulling to sleep we ended up having a full discussion about fear and how to deal with it. It allowed him to reveal that he was being bullied in school but he never felt that he could bring it up to anybody without feeling ashamed. But it seems that Maya, has some magical tricks up her sleeve and made it okay for him to tell us before something tragic happened. I am going to buy this book for every parent I know as a Christmas gift. Buy This Book!”

This is why I do it. What I am now trying to do is get some corporate support to be able to give my book away to children’s hospitals, hospices, senior centers, and other places where spiritual voids can be lifted. I would love to take Maya with me and be able to bring some smiles.

7) What do you hope children will take away with them after reading your book?
I want children and adults to gain insight to how they feel about spiritual matters.  Most of us, most of the time do not have or devote time to thinking about things that are not immediately on our plates. We are constantly entertained, distracted, diverted, working, busy, marketed to and, and, and ….. The reasons we are here, the way to be, the things that are more spiritual and ethereal are not something that our society has valued. For too long, society is manipulated into believing that life is a job you hate, that you are the sum of your material objects, and many end up living a life that’s meaningless and the really big questions are replaced by “how am I going to pay my bills this week, what job will pay me the most, what will others think, etc.?”

Religion tries to answer these questions, but spirituality begs the questions. I prefer questions to answers that have a particular point of view. I want to help children to become more self-aware of things the ancients knew, but have been suppressed by our way of life. I would like to give them choices as to how to live their life, and to pursue their dreams, rather than take what they feel is good enough.

8) What are you working on now?
I just submitted the draft for my fourth book, to my publisher. It is titled, ‘Annie and me, a shared journey home.’  This is a different book than the Maya series, which was a collection of various topics.  Annie was my elder cat who was diagnosed with terminal cancer in February.  I decided to journal her progression in my words and pictures format. My intent in doing this was to identify my own feelings and observations about the process of death, dying, grief and loss through the eyes of love and palliative care.

My mother died when I was too young of cancer – I was not able (or willing) to provide the kind of care that I know she needed. For the past 50 years I regretted this as well had unknowingly formed fears, angers and many other hurtful inner feelings surrounding this subject – We all will die, we all have loved ones that die around us at some time in our lives. I wanted to see if I could sensitize to this important event and tell this story. What happened during this sacred journey was that I started to heal, the fears and angers simply fell away from me. I feel that this body of work is my best to date. I want to offer this healing to all.

THRich OkunANK YOU FOR LETTING US GETTING TO KNOW YOU!
Should you wish to know more about Rich Okun and would like to purchase his book, here are all his pertinent details.

Website: Rich Okun
Where to purchase his book: Amazon, Balboa and Barnes & Noble
Rich’s social media connections:

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Author & Illustrator Interview: Kurt Cyrus

TADPOLE REX BY KURT CYRUS Tadpole Rex by Kurt Cyrus

1) Please provide a short excerpt of what your children’s book is about
A prehistoric tadpole grows up in the footprint of a dinosaur, where he gets in touch with his inner tyrannosaur.

2) What inspired you to write this book?
My wife and I found frog eggs in our little backyard pond. I rescued them from the goldfish and raised the tadpoles in an aquarium. At a certain stage of their development, when their hind limbs and tails were large but their forelimbs were tiny, I noticed a resemblance to T. Rex. A little research confirmed that frogs did coexist with the dinosaurs, and this gave me the idea to write and illustrate Tadpole Rex.

3) What do you hope children will take away with them after reading your book?
I hope their love of reading is somehow enhanced, or at least not diminished! And especially I hope that their curiosity about the natural world around them is piqued. I don’t really write lessons or morals into my books.

4) After bouncing from job to job, how did you come to write and illustrate and why did you pick this genre?
All that job-bouncing was getting really old. I had been drawing as a hobby for my entire life, and felt that it was the one thing I could do better than the average person. The writing aspect was something I developed just so that I’d have stuff to illustrate. Children’s books are a good fit for me because of the storytelling, both verbal and visual. My drawing has always leaned toward storytelling.

5) When you have an idea for a new book, what comes first? The words or the illustrations and what is your process of putting them together?
Often it begins with a visual concept, but the writing must come first. Toward the end of a project I’ll often tweak both the words and the pictures to get as perfect a flow as possible.

6) As a child, what books and/or authors/illustrators influenced you the most and why?
There’s no escaping the influence of Dr. Suess. McElligot’s Pool was the big one for me. But I think a guy named Carl Barks had a bigger impact on my style of storytelling. He wrote and illustrated the Disney duck comics for several decades, and spun some great yarns.

7) What is the most fulfilling thing about being an author?
The joy of feeling something finally click into place after having struggled with it.

8) Describe your illustration style and when did you realise you could make a living from your talent?
My drawing skiils exceed my painting skills, so my illustrations are basically colored drawings. The first few books were illustrated in watercolor, oils, or scratchboard. Now I draw digitally. Earning a living from it began to happen after five or six books.

9) What are you working on now?
I’m finishing up a picture book titled Billions of Bricks, to be published next year, and starting illustrations for a picture book titled Shake a Leg, Egg! I’m also revising a middle grade novel. Variety is the spice of life!

THKurt CyrusANK YOU FOR LETTING US GETTING TO KNOW YOU!
Should you wish to know more about Kurt Cyrus and would like to purchase his book, here are all his pertinent details.

Website: Kurt Cyrus
Where to purchase his book: Barnes & Noble and Amazon
Kurt’s social media connections:

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Author Interview: Mariana Llanos

The Staircase on Pine Street by Mariana Llanos

THE STAIRCASE ON PINE STREET
BY MARIANA LLANOS

1) Please provide a short excerpt of what your children’s book is about.
The Staircase on Pine Street is a story that will touch your heart with its tenderness, humor, sensitivity and page-turning narrative. I have crafted a beautiful story of family love to share with readers of all ages. Ten-year-old Lilly has to learn to live with her grandfather’s diagnose of Alzheimer’s disease. Lilly and Grandpa Leo have a close, loving bond but ever since he’s been diagnosed, things have drastically changed. Alzheimer’s is taking away her grandpa’s memory. Lilly feels that there is nothing she can do to help. Until one day, Grandpa Leo gives Lilly an important assignment: to find a long-forgotten treasure. Lilly— with the help of her best friend, Mei Ling— goes on an exciting quest where she discovers more than she could have ever imagine.

2) What inspired you to write this book?
Something funny happened when I started writing this book. The main character, Lilly, popped up in my head with a blank piece of paper asking me to draw on it. Something like The Little Prince. Then I realized she was at a park talking to her grandfather. I learned that her grandfather had Alzheimer’s disease. Then it all came to me, I remembered my own grandmother who wasn’t officially diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, but I’m convinced she was in on the early stages when she died. She inspired me to write it, like a tribute to grandparents everywhere.

3) How did you come up with the title or series of your book?
I picked one of the elements of the book. I didn’t want to give away too much, because there’s a mystery surrounding the story, but I didn’t want it to be bland either. I think The Staircase on Pine Street have a little mystique in it.

4) Why did you pick this genre?
I think it’s just the way I write. I don’t think genre when I write. But I like it that my writing in mainly geared toward children. It’s hard to impress children, and I feel like a champion when I do.

5) School visits is a large part of your portfolio, including your Spanish visits for immersion schools. Tell us a bit about them and what do you hope to gain from them?
Yes, this past year I’ve been visiting schools around the world: Nigeria, India, Canada, Mexico, Pakistan, Australia, Argentina, and Ireland. And around the US: Illinois, Florida, California, Montana, Kansas, Missouri, Texas and more. Also I’ve done visits in person in Oklahoma City, where I live. My goal is to inspire children to write and read. It’s amazing to see how children relate to my stories, no matter where in the world they are. This visits have an unmeasurable educational value for children (and me!) as they get to talk to a real author, ask questions about the book, the process, and life as a writer. Also, for me, as an author, school visits are a great way to build an audience and be in touch with their needs.

6) As a child, what books and/or authors influenced you the most and why?
I was a classic literature geek. I read anything that was on my parents bookshelf: classic tales by the Grimm brothers and Hans Christian Andersen, Alice in Wonderland, The Little Prince, short tales by Oscar Wilde, Hemingway, even Shakespeare.  It wasn’t like it is today where children’s literature is so defined as a genre. Well, at least not at my house.

7) What is the most fulfilling thing about being an author?
Hearing from people that have read your book and knowing that I’ve touch them. I received a message by a gifted 5th grader the other day, regarding The Staircase on Pine Street: “Your book was the first book that made me cry. You lied when you say it will touch my heart. It drilled a hole straight through my sensitive, emotional, heart. Also, can’t wait for the Skype lesson!”

Do I need to say more?

8) What do you hope children will take away with them after reading your book?
I hope this book helps them appreciate their grandparents, and enjoy them while they have them close. Lilly and Grandpa Leo’s relationship is sweet, they’re friends and partners, and I hope children learn from it. I also want to create awareness about Alzheimer’s disease, and help children understand it and be empathic with people who have this disease.

9) You heavily promote #weneeddiversebooks and #biligualkids. Please tell us more about them and why it is so important to you.
These two hashtags where created by people who are serious about promoting diverse literature and bilingual literature. In the case of #weneeddiversebooks, I jumped in the wagon immediately after I perused through their website and learned the lack of representation of minorities in children’s literature, not only ethnic, but also gender, religious, disabilities, etc. I want my children to grow in a tolerant and inclusive world. In the case of #bilingualkids, well, my family is bilingual and I’m always looking for more resources to motivate us. I also use it to promote my own books in Spanish. I started my own hashtag: #multiculturalbooksmatter to help highlight the need of multicultural characters in our literature.

10) What are you working on now?
I’m working on two stories: A Superpower for me, a picture book to help children understand the power of the vote. I’m already working on the illustrations and I hope to have it out by the beginning of the new school year.

The other story I’m working on is about a girl who is afraid of a boy with Down syndrome because he’s ‘different’. Through the story she learns that they are more alike than she thinks. This story is still in development.

THMariana LlanosANK YOU FOR LETTING US GETTING TO KNOW YOU!
Should you wish to know more about Mariana Llanos and would like to purchase her book, here are all her pertinent details.

Website: Mariana Llanos
Where to purchase her book: Mariana Llanos, Amazon US and Amazon UK
Mariana’s social media connections:

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A Brand New Day Review: by Tony Jerris

Tony Jerris is an accomplished playwright, author, and screenwriter. His off-Broadway play TELL VERONICA! ran in New York City before premiering in Los Angeles. As an author, Tony created a trilogy of children’s books. The first in the series, The Littlest Spruce, was featured on Good Morning America. The third book, The Littlest Witch, he adapted into a musical that is being licensed by Steele Spring Licensing. His book, “Marilyn Monroe: My Little Secret,” has been featured on Extra-TV and The Reelz Channel. His current ventures include several film projects, including a new stop-motion feature called The Potters with JenKev Productions. Tony currently lives in Los Angeles and is excited to be working with up-and-coming artist, Oliver Batin.

Taking the time out of his hectic career, Tony has kindly reviewed A Brand New Day:

A Brand New Day – A Banana Split Story, is a charming read, written in rhyme, that doesn’t get preachy about children of divorce (or separation). The author, A.S. Chung, doesn’t focus on the negatives of a child whose parents are divorced, rather, she conveys a positive message of how a child can continue to spend time with “both” parents (not to mention a step brother). Along with Paula Bossio’s delightful illustrations, A Brand New Day – A Banana Split Story is simple enough for young readers, yet entertaining enough for adults. Ultimately, this would be a great book for parents who are divorced to read along with their children. I look forward to reading more from this author.”

How To Use Amazon Giveaways

A.S. ChungPosted by A.S. Chung.
Award-wining author of children’s picture books A Brand New Day: about divorce and Wishful Wedding: about LGBT equality and same gender families. Creator of Pigeonhole Books and blogs about self-publishing, writing, online book marketing, peer bloggers and illustrators.

HOW TO USE AMAZON GIVEAWAYS
ONLINE BOOK MARKETING TIP
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Amazon Warehouse

Amazon Warehouse by Scott Lewis

In February 2015, Amazon introduced Amazon Giveaway, giving indie authors yet another means of promoting their books.

WHAT IS AMAZON GIVEAWAY?
Amazon Giveaway is a self-service tool available via Amazon.com to host a giveaway of any product available on the website. Hence, it is a great opportunity to run a sweepstake on your self-published book that is available on Amazon. Currently, this tool is solely accessible for print editions of your book and is only applicable in the US.

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
The giveaway is at the retail cost of your book on Amazon, including postage and handling. The actual set up and running of the giveaway is free. You will have to pre-pay the cost of your giveaway. Any unused giveaways when the competition concludes, you will be given a refund.

HOW DOES IT WORK?
The process is actually quite simply and only takes a couple of minutes of your time.

Step One – Select Your Book

  • Go to your book on Amazon. Make sure it’s the print edition
  • Scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on “Set Up Giveaway”
Amazon Giveaway Set Up

Amazon Giveaway Set Up

Step Two – Select Your Giveaway Type

  • You have 2 options to select from
  • “Lucky Number” option. Example, every 100th person wins a book. This is perhaps the better option for authors as it enables the giveaway to last longer and also you are able to gain more followers. Don’t underestimate how many people will enter so stretch it out. I did every 75 entrants for 10 books and it only took a couple of days!
  • “First Come, First Served” option. This creates a greater sense of urgency but it would mean your giveaway would end extremely quickly!
  • Once you have decided which type, decide how many giveaways you are putting up for the sweepstake. So, if you select every 100th entrant for 10 books, you would attract 1000 entrants in total
Amazon Giveaway Type

Amazon Giveaway Type

Amazon Giveaway Rules

Amazon Giveaway Rules

Step Three – Grow Your Audience
This was the clincher for me when deciding if I should spend money on this giveaway. Every entrant must follow you on Twitter before they are permitted to enter the competition.  My Twitter account made excellent headway and I gained a few hundred followers in a couple of days.

Important to note however that followers DO NOT translate to an audience. It is merely a prerequisite for the entrants so expect at least a 25% drop off in the subsequent days. It did however increase my follower count and I don’t care what anyone says but it creates the perception of a valuable Twitter account. 1000 followers sure looks better than 56!

Make sure your Amazon account has your right Twitter handle.

Step Four – Design Your Giveaway Page

  • Here you get to design a simplistic giveaway page
  • Add a giveaway title
  • Add a welcome page when users are contemplating entry
  • Create a win message for the lucky winners
  • Create a lose message for unlucky entrants
Amazon Giveaway Welcome Page

Amazon Giveaway Welcome Page

Step Five – What Happens Next

  • Once the above is completed, proceed to checkout
  • You will receive an email stating that your giveaway is now live
  • You will receive a link to your giveaway
  • The email also contains pre-written share options on Twitter, Facebook and via email. Just click the large icon and it automatically goes to your social media
  • The email also gives you a suggestion of what exactly to write for marketing purposes
  • The email also comes with a “View Giveaway” button where you will be taken to the page to see how your giveaway is tracking
Amazon Giveaway

Amazon Giveaway is Now Live!

Step Six – Market Your Giveaway
#AmazonGiveaway is all you need on Twitter. Check it out for yourself and see how many competitions are running at one single time! As you only have a short period of time, make sure you marketing it consistently to capitalise on the competition.

Well, there you have it. This is a very simplistic look of what it is and how to use this tool. If you have entered an Amazon Giveaway, I would love to hear your experiences! I am sure it warrants further analysis and discussion but that’s a post for another time!

Wishful Wedding Review: by Reader’s Favorite

Readers' Favorite Five StarsWishful Wedding receives a 5 star review from Readers’ Favourite! Readers’ Favorite is owned and operated by authors for authors. Their staff and nearly all of our 500+ reviewers are authors who have come together to provide their fellow authors with a valuable set of resources to help them succeed.

Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers’ Favorite.
Click here for original post.

“Wishful Wedding: A Pocketful of Pride is a children’s picture story written by Amy Chung and illustrated by Paula Bossio. It’s the story of a little girl who is quite excited about her aunt’s wedding. She’s to be the flower girl, and she has a special dress and shoes to wear. Her Dad is getting a little panicky about all the preparations for the wedding, but Papa is more relaxed about the whole affair. After she and her aunt approach the altar, she goes back to sit with her two fathers. They’re happy for the bride and groom, but she can see that they’re also feeling sad inside and wish they could be up there at the altar getting married themselves. She realizes that some people are frightened about her dads getting married, but she can’t figure out why. She just keeps on hoping that, one day, she’ll get to see them make their vows.

Reading Amy Chung’s children’s picture book, Wishful Wedding: A Pocketful of Pride, on the historic day that the Supreme Court made its decision to uphold marriage equality across the United States made a compelling tale even more poignant, I loved how Chung’s story made clear just how much the lives of the children of same-sex couples have been impacted by the fact that their parents can’t get married like other kids’ parents. She contrasts the feelings of joy and fulfillment experienced by couples who were allowed to get married with the feelings of those who were denied that right, and she explains the situation in a way that can be comprehended and, to a point, understood by young children. Paula Bossio’s illustrations are marvelous! Her fanciful line drawings and pastel colors are beautiful accompaniments to the plot, and her style is whimsical and inspired. As I was finishing the story, I began to visualize Papa and Dad finally getting to exchange their vows with their beaming daughter as their flower girl. Wishful Wedding: A Pocketful of Pride is most highly recommended.”

Wishful Wedding – AVAILABLE NOW!

Wishful Wedding by A.S. ChungPigeonhole Books is pleased to announce that its second book Wishful Wedding is now available! We are proud to present our first LGBTQ children’s picture book and contribute to much needed diverse books. Wishful Wedding is suitable for children ages 3-6 years and delves into the topic of same gender families and marriage equality.

SYNOPSIS OF THE BOOK:
Papa’s sister is getting married today! Daddy and I get ready, a flower girl I am. We witness in delight and giggle with glee but deep down in our hearts, we’re sad you see? When will my fathers be able to wed? I can only hope for change, in the future ahead.

Here are some of the sites you would be able to obtain a copy from. We shall update this list constantly as the book surfaces across the different websites.

HARD COVER

Alibris      Amazon      Books A Million     Barnes & Noble     Book Falcon

Book Depository     Book Manager     Booktopia     Fishpond

PAPERBACK

Alibris     Amazon     Barnes & Noble     Books A Million      Book Manager     Booktopia

Fishpond     Kent Bookstore    superbookshop

EBOOK

Amazon     Barnes & Noble     bol.com     booklikes    bokus.com     Collins Booksellers

Hugendubel     Infibeam      eBookmall     Feedbooks     Kobo     Rakuten

Illustrator Interview: Shane McGowan

PROFESSIONAL BIO: Shane McGowan
Shane McGowan is an illustrator based in Melbourne, Australia. He has an extensive global client base in the editorial, design and advertising fields. He also loves writing and illustrating picture books which are published traditionally and as e-books. He is always looking to work on new and interesting commissions, no matter how big or small.

1) How did you become an illustrator of children’s books or similar works?
I’d been working as a freelance illustrator in the editorial field for about 10 years before I worked up the courage to write and illustrate my first picture book. Needless to say it was complete rubbish and never saw the light of day thankfully. The next two were just as bad. But eventually I got the hang of it, largely because I was inspired by our 4 year old daughter at the time. Seems when you look through a child’s eyes then all becomes clear.

2) Describe your illustration style.
My style is colourful and quirky I guess. I prefer bold and loud images with a touch of retro. I treat a picture book like a little movie. Characters and sets and costumes all come together slowly in whatever particular little world the book is set. I become quite attached to the characters, especially if it’s a series.

3) When did you realise you could make a living from your talent?
I kind of fell into the freelance life. When I left college I was lugging my folio around to design agencies and publishers in the hope that I’d get myself a permanent job somewhere. Instead I kept getting commissioned to do book jackets, educational books and editorial pieces and it just went from there. The illustration world has changed dramatically in the few decades I have been working. As Illustrators we have to constantly challenge ourselves and be looking for new ways to market ourselves and new avenues to earn a crust. It’s exciting but can be daunting and frightening too.

4) Who are your biggest influences in your artistic career?
I’ve always loved pop artists like Andy Warhol, abstract expressionists like Rothko and De Kooning, British painters like Fiona Rae and Bridget Riley. As for illustrators there are many, Anne Howeson, Robert Mason, Simon Bartram, Lane Smith, Jeff Fisher, Luc Melanson…too many to mention. I believe anyone who can make a living being a visual artist is pretty damn special.

5) When collaborating with an author or a client, how do you ensure you are able to translate their words into art and convey the message they are trying to portray?
I read the brief/text over and over. I’ll always ask questions if I’m unsure. Collaboration is about listening and combining ideas. I always do a few character sketches first off to see if I’m heading in the right direction. I’m willing to take on board changes because generally you get something better at the end of it. Two heads are better than one. When I read a text it takes a little while for pictures to emerge in my head, and then I have to jot down plenty of images before they really take shape. I sketch in pencil for the dummy, scan the images and muck around with placement on my computer.

6) Tell us about the proudest piece of work you have done
I’m proud of every book that I do. Getting the printed copies in the mail is always a buzz. But probably the first is always the most special. I both wrote and illustrated it and it was based on my daughter’s wilful inability to brush her hair when she was 4. The designer was a guy called Mike Jolly at Templar in the UK and he was a dream to work with. It was the most pleasurable and exciting experience the whole way through.

7) What advice do you have for aspiring illustrators?
Have a passion for what you do. Enjoy the journey. Be nice to people. Listen to constructive criticism but always follow your heart, not your head. Draw all the time. Practice and practice. Be inspired but don’t plagiarize. Don’t be hung up on finding a ‘style’ that’ll come organically. Make sure your website is the best it can be. Don’t sell yourself short, if a client offers you peanuts then tell ‘em very politely ‘Tempting, but no!’

8) Please provide a short brief of each of the pictures you have submitted
Spooky Bats Campfire – An image for ‘Ten Spooky Bats’ by Ed Allen and published by Scholastic Australia. They stressed that they didn’t actually want the book to be very spooky so this is about as scary as it got- a spooky story round a camp fire. My original sketches had lots of ghosts and witches and monsters throughout but they insisted on having the bats in everyday situations. Sigh.

Spooky Bats Campfire

Robot Pet Shop. An image for ‘Robot’s Pet’ by Nigel Gray and published by Koala Books. I never turn down a book where robots are involved.

Robot Pet Shop

Gingerbread Man. This image was originally a personal piece for my folio but it’s now available as tee shirts and greeting cards and all manner of things from my shop at Red Bubble

Gingerbread Man

Happy Birthday (Malvern Star). A birthday card, I‘m probably showing my age but this is the bike I rode around on when I was a kid.

Happy Birthday (Malvern Star)

Should you wish to know more about Shane McGowan, here are his pertinent details.

Website: Shane McGowan
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Author Interview: Tony Jerris

THE BIG CHEESE FAMILY – NOT’CHO CHEESE! BY TONY JERRIS The Big Cheese Family by Tony Jerris

1) Please provide a short excerpt of what your children’s book is about.
They are a cheese-loving family of mice that live in a grocery store, giving them free range to the dairy section. There’s only one problem standing in their way- Mr. McGrime, the cranky store owner. Still, that doesn’t stop the playful critters, who somehow always outsmart Mr. McGrime. Written in metered poetry, this series of books will take kids on a fun-filled romp with each new story.

2) What inspired you to write this book?
I wrote a series of book several years ago know as “the littlest” series. So, I thought, why not do another series, only using the word “big,” even though the characters are tiny mice! I was also inspired to write it because I would attend Artisan shows, and couldn’t believe the number of young kids who were Foodies. So, I named members of The Big Cheese Family all after cheeses, like Papa Parmesan, Grandpa Gouda, and Mama Brie. There’s even a glossary at the end of the books that teaches kids about various cheeses.

3) Why did you pick this genre?
I’ve always enjoyed writing for kids, where there is always some sort of moral message and resonance of family values. When my nephew was first born, I wrote a poem for him called “The Littlest Spruce,” about a small blue spruce who gets separated from his parents, only to be reunited with them on Christmas Day inside a family’s home, where they are all decorated. This poem inspired the  book, “The Littlest Spruce,” which was featured on “Good Morning America,” and the third book in the series, The Littlest Witch, I turned into a musical.

4) How do the illustrations complement your book? What was important to you as an author?
I was introduced to up-and-coming illustrator, Oliver Batin, who had never illustrated a book before. When I sent him the initial outline for “The Big Cheese Family,” I instantly fell in love with his work, knowing we could have a continuing series with the characters of mice. As an author, I enjoy working with an illustrator who shares my vision, which Oliver does.

5) As a child, what books and/or authors influenced you the most and why?
Hands down, the Dr. Seuss books are my favorite. I write a lot in metered poetry, which stems from reading Dr. Seuss as a kid. Yet, Dr. Seuss entertains on two levels: for kids and adults. And they still hold up today!

6) What enjoyment do you get out of writing children’s picture books as opposed to screen or playwriting?
You have more freedom writing children’s picture books, meaning, you can truly be creative and let your imagination run wild. That’s not to say you can’t be creative writing screenplays and plays, however, scripts have to follow a certain structure; like a formula, if you will. With children’s picture books, the picture itself is worth a thousand words, so as an author you don’t have to write so many!

7) What do you hope children will take away with them after reading your book?
I hope children walk away identifying with the characters, so that they will want to know more about the mice in their upcoming ventures. But most of all, I want them to be entertained.

8) Tell us about your Littlest Witch project and did you enjoy working with your sister?
As I mentioned before, “The Littlest Witch” started out as a book before I adapted it into a musical with my sister, Corinne, who is a very talented composer/musical director—And I’m not just saying that because she’s my sister! She’s played Broadway and beyond, and it took us over 10-years to workshop and rewrite “The Littlest Witch” before it was finally published (by Stage Rights Inc). To date, it has played nation-wide, including New York and Los Angeles. Last year it ran at the St. George Theatre in Staten Island (3,000 seats), and at the end of March (2015), will play at The Two Roads Theater (60 seats) in Burbank, CA. So, as you can tell, it’s a diverse little play, or as I like to call it, “the little play that could!”

9) What are you working on now?
I’m currently working on getting the second book in the “The Big Cheese Family” series finished, which is called “The Big Cheese Family – Plus Two!” Yep, that’s right. The mice are having more kids! I also have several scripts in the works, including a heart-warming Christmas script called “Lost Claus,” about a Santa Claus with amnesia, who helps a young couple and their children save their failing diner. And I’m excited about a new play I’ve written for Young Adults, called “Snow White & The Seven Felonies!” It’s a comedy of errors, when Snow White is wrongly accused of some very funny felonies in Fairytale Land. I’m also looking to write the third book in my “Holly Weird – 5th Grade Drama Tween” series. The theme in the series is about anti-bullying, and I have donated some of the proceeds from the first two books to various anti-bullying campaigns.

THTony JerrisANK YOU FOR LETTING US GETTING TO KNOW YOU!
Should you wish to know more about Tony Jerris and would like to purchase his book, here are all his pertinent details.

Website: Tony Jerris
Where to purchase her book: Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Tony Jerris
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Author Interview: David Dickerman

MOM, DAD, AND EVERYONE ELSE BY DAVID DICKERMAN Mom, Dad, and Everyone Else by David Dickerman

1) Please provide a short excerpt of what your children’s book is about
Mom, Dad, and Everyone Else is about a boy whose life is turned upside down when his parents tell him they are getting a divorce.  After the initial sadness he discovers something positive and unexpected.  As a result of these life changes, he has the opportunity to meet new people and do new things that he would not have been exposed to before.

2) What inspired you to write this book?
This book was part of my graduate thesis on bibliotherapy in relation to divorce.  I was tasked to locate a gap in children’s literature, support it, and back up my stance with research.  My parents had a very acrimonious divorce, but after the dust settled I had many new enjoyable experiences and relationships that I would not have had if not for the restructuring of my family.  I found that most children’s books about divorced only focussed only on the negative and did not accurately convey what I believe is a common story.  While not a foregone conclusion, I felt it was important to share my experience as it could help reframe the idea of divorce for children and possibly give them hope where there is often none.

3) How did you come up with the title or series of your book?
Mom, Dad, and Everyone Else conveys the idea that a family is not just a mother and a father, but also everyone else that touches a person’s life.  Additionally, children’s worlds are small when they are young.  The title shows the expanding network that the main character will be gaining at a time when it would intuitively appear to be shrinking.  It is not just the mother and father caring for the child, but now everyone else as well.

4) Why did you pick this genre?
I have a history as an educator and have always loved working with children.  This type of content appeared to be missing for children of this age.

5) How do the illustrations complement your book? What was important to you as an author?
I created the characters and several features of the images from clay.  In addition to giving the images depth and texture, this material is found in many classrooms and in that regard, intended to create a stronger connection between reader and text.  The backgrounds were created digitally and added to bring a stronger visual presence while elevating the book.

6) As a child, what books and/or authors influenced you the most and why?
I was a fan of the typical child literature.  Some of my favourites were The Giving Tree, Where the Wild Things Are, and anything Dr. Seuss related.  As I grew into adolescence I enjoyed books such as Bridge to Terabithia and Where the Red Fern Grows (I guess I like to cry!) to lighter, more fun works like comics or choose your own adventure books.  That said, I’ll take a good Harry Potter story any day.

7) What is the most fulfilling thing about being an author?
I enjoy writing because it has always been the easiest way for me to communicate.  Not being blessed with a strong memory, writing allows me to get thoughts out in a timely fashion, and then refine them later once I have had time to process.  Furthermore, I have always been able to express a greater level of passion through the written word which, in turn, gives things that are important to me more weight.  Every writer feels he or she has a perspective that is worth sharing.  I feel this way because I found a lack of my perspective while researching.  It is incredibly fulfilling for me to provide a resource for children going through a tough time that I would have found useful while I was going through that time.

8) What do you hope children will take away with them after reading your book?
As mentioned before, I am hoping for this book to be a resource for teachers, therapists, mediators, families, and most importantly, children.  I want it to give them hope and help them realize that even though this is just one possibility of how changes that seem negative can end up positive, their lives are changing.  Change leads to possibilities and they must use that as something to look forward to for a positive future.  I am hoping that they will then use this attitude moving forward with all aspects of their lives.  Even though they may feel like they are drowning in the divorce, this too shall pass.  Furthermore, it will inform their personality in many ways.  The book is not just about divorce, but also about the perspective one chooses to take on negative events in life.

9) Who is/are your favourite author/s as an adult and why?
I enjoy Chuck Kloseterman very much for his quick witted intelligence and conversational style writing.

10) What are you working on now?
I currently work as an Assessment Specialist at The Educational Testing Service in the Teacher Licensure and Certification division.  In regards to writing, I am currently in the early stages of developing several ideas.

David DickermanTHANK YOU FOR LETTING US GETTING TO KNOW YOU!
Should you wish to know more about David Dickerman and would like to purchase his book, here are all his pertinent details.

Website: David Dickerman
Where to purchase his book: Barnes & Noble, Amazon & Noisetrade
David’s social media connections:

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