Author and Illustrator Interview: Maria Knier

The BezertTHE BEZERT BY MARIA KNIER

1) Please provide a short excerpt of what your children’s book is about.
 The Bezert is a unique, imaginative and poetic parable about the value of trust. The main character, Bezert, has never left the safety and comfort of his island home. But when a box magically appears below his window, it proves too tempting not to take a look. By entering the box, the Bezert begins a journey of self-discovery in a dreamlike world of unknowns and mysterious inhabitants. Ultimately expanding the view of himself, his world and learning the value of trusting himself.

2) What inspired you to write this book?
I was working as a freelance editorial illustrator when I created this book many years ago. At the time I also had just begun studying Ayurveda, a timeless   healing philosophy and sister science to Yoga. This book was inspired by a combination of other books I was reading at the time based on universal truths. I first created 8-10 illustrations based on these concepts, spread them on the floor of my studio and sat down to write about each one of them. The end result was the outline and origin of  The Bezert.

3) Why did you pick this genre? How did you come to be a children’s picture book author?
I have always considered myself to be a ‘conceptual communicator’. In other words, I love to take words, stories or verses and bring them to life in a visual way. This book is the result of the interplay between my own writings and my own visual interpretations. I really decided I wanted to be ‘an artist” when I was about 4 or 5 years old so that has been a pretty solid path for me, but although I have always enjoyed writing, I never really considered myself to be ‘a writer’. Now in hindsight, the combination seems perfectly appropriate! I also consider this book to be appropriate for “kids of all ages”. Although it appears to be for children, adults sometimes need colorful illustrations and poetic verse to help tap into their creative side as well.

4) Tell us about the illustrations. What is your style and how did the artwork come to be? What inspired you?
I have always been drawn to a mixed media type style. Collage was my medium of choice in art school and the more I worked, my style morphed into a collage/mixed media combination. I like to use as many tools as I can get my hands on. It keeps things fresh and interesting for me and I doubt that will ever change. Most of my work is still done by hand because it wouldn’t feel right if I couldn’t get my hands dirty and work with paint and pencils, but I also enjoy the polish of digital media and the ease of integrating pictures and images into hand rendered work.

5) As a child, what books and/or authors influenced you the most and why?
I have always loved C.S. Lewis/Alice in Wonderland, Roald Dahl/Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, L. Frank Baum/Wizard of Oz and especially everything by Madeline L’Engle. A Wrinkle In Time is one of my all time favorites! All of these books opened up my world and conjured a certain special magical quality within me. It is what has inspired me and has helped me to create a healthy creative process.

6) Tell us about your audio book campaign for The Bezert.
As of October 21st, 2015 we have officially released the audio book version of The Bezert! It has been a long road to get here as we started work on the audio book shortly after The Bezert was published one full year ago. I had no trouble finding a brilliant narrator almost immediately. He was an artist ‘friend of a friend’ from Santa Barbara with the perfect voice, great character skills and a strong desire to narrate a book. We began work in the studio shortly before I learned that my publisher was going out of business and needed to close their doors. Needless to say, I then ran into some challenges with the many other extra financial expenses necessary to keep The Bezert promotion alive. After just coming off of winning 2 indie book awards in NY, and a fantastic book tour event in CA, I realized I was tapped out and needed to start an Indiegogo campaign in order to raise enough funds to complete the Audio Book project. I humbly asked 30 friends and supporters to play small roles in a video I produced and we pulled together a fabulous campaign earning over 60% of the necessary funds to complete the project and finalize the music & studio contracts. Through this process I wholeheartedly learned the importance of support, collaboration and trust.

7) What is the most fulfilling thing about being an author?
I really love the opportunity to go to schools and read to classrooms. Each experience is unique but always inspiring. I have yet to come home without being artfully challenged in some way by the kids, their fabulous questions and their insightful comments.

I also have really enjoyed each of the different creative events we have put together to bring The Bezert further in to the public eye. We have had dramatic readings by kids wearing masks, circus type events with actors miming along with the audio version, social media campaigns with people taking pictures of Bezert all over the world, and someday I’d love to create an interactive art experience where people can walk through an installation of the book and be fully immersed in the sensory experience through sight, sound, scent and touch.

8) What do you hope children will take away with them after reading your book/s?
I hope this book inspires children (and adults) to dig deep into their own creativity. I hope it challenges them emotionally and gets them to think about concepts bigger than themselves. I also hope it gives them the reassurance that they too can write their own story and share it with the world in their own special way. And in the end maybe they will learn to trust just a little more, in both themselves and the greater world.

9) What advice do you have for aspiring author and illustrators on how to navigate this world of publishing?
Although it is a nine month process in itself, the actual act of publishing a book is just a very small part of the picture. The bigger job comes when you need to tirelessly promote yourself and your book at every given opportunity for as long as you possibly can. The thing I have found to be helpful is to use as much creativity as you can when you do this. To try not to seek out the way that your book fits in, but rather find out how it stands apart from the rest and market yourself from that platform. If it is a book filled with flowers, market to unique gift stores and garden shops, if it is about animals, find creative ways to talk to businesses who work with animals, humane society events, farms etc. In a bookstore you are just one book among thousands, but standing alone you can get much more positive attention and help build awareness in the process. And then never, never give up. Make the book your passion. Embrace it and intuitively follow every possible opportunity that presents itself.

10) What are you working on now?
I always have a few irons in the fire, but my main project after nearly a year of promoting The Bezert, is getting back in the studio and illustrating a second book in this series. Many years ago when I wrote The Bezert, I also penned a sequel. My next project is to illustrate and publish the second part of Bezert’s journey. As I said at the end of the first book…”Not The End” now I need to follow through on that promise.

Maria Knier

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

Website: Maria Knier
Where to purchase her book: Indiebound, Amazon and Barnes & Noble
Maria’s social media connections:

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Author Interview: Jolie Della Valle

Ants in the Pants GEORGIE AND THE ANTS IN THE PANTS BY JOLIE DELLA VALLE

1) Please provide a short excerpt of what your children’s book is about.
Georgie and the Ants in the Pants encourages children to embrace their individuality, silliness, and excitement – otherwise known as the “ANTS” in their pants! My book promotes dancing, laughing, and acting silly! The ultimate message of my book is to inspire children to believe in themselves!

2) What inspired you to write this book?
A few years ago I started Ants in the Pants, which originally was just a children’s clothing line that I created. I stopped making the clothes because it became too challenging. When my niece Sloane was born a few years later, she changed everything. She sparked me with inspiration that I never felt before! I wanted to create something to encourage her (and every child out there!) to believe in themselves. I started making the clothes again, and then the idea for Georgie and the Ants in the Pants came to me. The fact that wanted to be a good role model for Sloane was the force I needed to following through with it. I know the best way to teach kids is to lead by example, so this is what holds me accountable everyday throughout my journey.

3) Why did you pick this genre and how did you come to be a children’s picture  book author?
Georgie and the Ants in the Pants evolved out of my children’s clothing line, Ants in the Pants! Prior to this, I worked for another children’s company, and I always loved writing and poetry. I believe this is what I was meant to do… it just took some exploring of my creativity and whole lot of self discovery!

4) How do the illustrations complement your book? What was important to you  as an author?
I trusted my illustrator completely. I had known and admired Leigh Ann for years as an artist. I gave her the manuscript and told her to work her magic! My only request was that she create a character of a little girl to look like Sloane! That was very important to me! She did an amazing job!

5) Tell us about your school visits and why do you love doing them? Do you ever  go anywhere without your ukulele?
Oh my goodness- I could write a novel here! I absolutely LOVE doing school visits! This is another example of how my business has evolved in a way I never would have expected. I love doing them because I get to see the impact I am capable of making first hand. The children are so cute, and they fill me up with so much fuel to keep going and reaching for the stars. I visit to inspire them, but the truth is that they are inspiring me! The BEST is when I whip out the ukulele and get to watch them dance their hearts out! My ukulele is with me during every author visit or event! I play and practice almost every day. I never sang or played an instrument before I wrote the book. Then, a theme song came to me, and I just had to follow through with that too.

6) What is the most fulfilling thing about being an author?
The most fulfilling thing is the fact that I made something that will apart of a child’s life forever. Many people have told me that Georgie and the Ants in the Pants is a story time favorite ! A person never forgets their favorite books from their childhood. Children’s books eventually become a reflection of so many special and cherished memories! It also makes me so happy to think that one day my great, great grandchildren will be able to read a book that their great, great, Grandmother wrote!

7) What do you hope children will take away with them after reading your book?
I hope it makes their day brighter. I hope they feel encouraged to do the dance moves, and be silly, and have fun! I hope they are reminded of how special they are.

8) Tell us about your blog and what is it about?
My blog is a space for me to share special “Ant” news, poetry, and anything else that I feel is inspiring and uplifting for others!

9) Do you have any advice for aspiring authors about chasing their dreams?
Yes. Stop only thinking about it. Start being proactive. Take however many babysteps you need, but be sure to move forward a little bit everyday! Your future self will thank you so much! The place outside your comfort zone is magical.

10)What are you working on now?
My head spins at times because I have so many exciting things I’m working on. Creativity surely breeds more creativity. I have to focus on one thing at a time though, otherwise I nothing will get accomplished! The main things I’m currently working on right now include more song writing, my second book, manufacturing a “Georgie” stuffed animal (everyone asks for it!!), and expanding my reach by selling my book to Specialty gift and toy stores across the United States!

Jolie Della Valle

THANK YOU FOR LETTING US GETTING TO KNOW YOU!
Should you wish to know more about Jolie Della Valle and would like to purchase her book, here are all her pertinent details.

Website: Jolie Della Valle
Where to purchase her book: I Love Ants in the Pants
Jolie’s social media connections:

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Illustrator Interview: Alison Edgson

Alison EdgsonPROFESSIONAL BIO:
Alison Edgson was born in County Down in Northern Ireland. She worked in the computer department of a bank before studying Visual Communication at the University of Ulster in Belfast. After graduating with a First, she and her husband Jeff moved to an old chapel in the Usk Valley in Wales where she now paints and illustrates children’s books and greetings cards. She spends most of her free time trying to tame the tangle of Welsh hillside that is her ‘garden’, indulging the cat and walking her two energetic Labradors, and loves running and generally getting involved in village life.

1) How did you become an illustrator of children’s books or similar works?
It was a career change after 15 years working in the bank in IT – I got voluntary redundancy and took the opportunity to fulfil a long held dream to go to Art College. I completed a foundation year, followed by a 3 year honours degree in Visual Communication at the University of Ulster, graduating with a first in 2000. After that we moved to Wales and I started to pick up illustration work here and there until my agent Advocate offered to represent me. I’ve illustrated lots of children’s books since then and still love what I do – I’m very lucky!

2) Describe your illustration style and creative process. What makes your illustrations unique and different?
My work is colourful and usually quite atmospheric and I also hope it’s humorous – that’s what I strive for. I work in acrylics with coloured pencils at the moment but am always trying to develop and try new things and am currently working on a new style which is really challenging me as it is very different and fresh and right out of my comfort zone!

3) When did you realise you could make a living from your talent?
Really not until I began to get real offers of work – before that I hoped I could but never felt confident that it would work out as I knew there was a lot of competition in the field.

4) Has technology changed your trade and the way you work?
I’ve always used a computer to some extent with my work although it is painted in a traditional way. My work is reproduced digitally and I am comfortable with using traditional methods as a starting point for an illustration that can be worked on further in Photoshop if necessary. Coming from an IT background I’m okay with that and technology is useful for me in other ways too – simplifying the early stages of a project and reducing the need to dash to the post office with bundles of artwork every week!

5) Who are your biggest influences in your artistic career and why?
My family were all artistic especially my Mum who was able to draw horses beautifully – such a tricky subject! My Dad used to do big funny posters for his am-dram society too.

6) 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?
Once I’ve read their words (and I nearly always love the stories and get very excited when I read them for the first time) I try to  trust my instincts as I can usually visualise the story as I read it. Getting it down as I see it is the challenge!

7) Tell us about the proudest piece of work you have done.
I was very chuffed to win the Picture Book category of the Red House Children’s Book Awards for Yuck, That’s not a Monster – it was especially nice as the winning books were chosen entirely by children, and I got to meet Michael Morpurgo at the award ceremony!

8) What advice do you have for aspiring illustrators?
Try to find out as much as you can about the industry and keep up to date with what’s popular – there’s lots of good information in the annual Writers and Artists yearbooks, and the Association of Illustrators is well worth joining to get free portfolio consultations and they run workshops and offer useful publications on the business side of things as well.

9) Please provide a short brief of each of the pictures you have submitted.
This is a spread from Waiting for Santa – I loved painting this atmospheric scene where the friends settle down in the snow and hope that Santa will see their tree and bring them presents

Waiting for Santa

This illustration is from I Want my Mummy, the challenge here was to make an interesting, warm and colourful bedroom scene and as it was the opening spread for the book to introduce the characters of Arthur and his mummy. Adding the little details – the toys and the décor are the fun part!

I Want my Mummy

Should you wish to know more about Alison, here are her pertinent details.

Website: Alison Edgson
Alison’s social media connections:

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Author & Illustrator Interview: Carin Bramsen

Just A Duck by Carin BramsenJUST A DUCK? BY CARIN BRAMSEN

1) Please provide a short excerpt of what your children’s book is about.
Duck has decided to be a cat, and tries to show his good friend, Cat, that he’s just like her. He strives gamely to climb a tree, but when his best efforts fail him, his confidence begins to ebb. In an attempt to cheer him, Cat accidentally lands in deep water, where they both learn just how lucky they are that Duck is a duck. This book is a sequel to Hey, Duck!, told in rhyming dialogue.

2) What inspired you to write this book?
A mental image of Duck trying to slink like his friend, Cat, was the first spark for Just a Duck. I already had a strong sense of Duck’s character from my previous book, Hey, Duck!. He is wildly enthusiastic, inclined to silliness, but with some instinctive wisdom, too. I could imagine his giving his all to being a cat, and struggling to prove it when challenged. I sympathized, suspecting this new goal might not serve him well – and that’s when I thought there might be a story in it.

3) What do you hope children will take away with them after reading your book?
I’d love to help kids understand there are many, many different ways to shine, all eminently worthwhile.

4) How did you come to write and illustrate and why did you pick this genre?
My first picture book project was illustrating The Yellow Tutu, by my sister, Kirsten Bramsen. From then on, I was hooked on the possibilities and demands of the picture book form: the dance of words and images to tell a story, and the challenge of doing so in such a short space.

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?
So far, my books have all started with a nascent sense of a scenario and a feeling for the characters involved. That might come to me with some words or an image attached, but at first it’s more about the general dynamics and where they might lead.

From there, words, images and plot ideas arrive, higgledy-piggledy – during a walk or shower or some household chore. I usually jot or sketch whatever pops up, knowing the selection and sorting will come later. At some point early on, I set up sixteen two-page spread templates in Photoshop. This will become my working dummy: the sketched version of the book. I scan sketches in, alter or move them as the story evolves, or sketch directly into the computer with a digital stylus and tablet. I can type right on the Photoshop dummy page – that’s sometimes where I write and rewrite the story. Words and pictures continually change and inform each other as I develop the book.

6) As a child, what books and/or authors/illustrators influenced you the most and why?
My first book love was Dr. Seuss. Oh, the places he drew! I felt he threw the world wide open with his wild spaces and infinite invention. I still want books to do that for me.

7) What is the most fulfilling thing about being an author?
The most fulfilling by far is hearing that a child enjoys my book, and feeling that maybe I’ve added a little happiness to someones life. I also relish the first stages of writing and sketching a book – that primal buzz when something new begins to take shape.

8) Describe your illustration style and when did you realise you could make a living from your talent?
My published illustrations so far are brightly colored, with tangible-looking textures and volumes. Recently, I’ve been playing around with a more linear style. Regardless of style, I love most to show character through expressions and movement. As to the second half of the question, I’m still trying to figure that out.

9) What are you working on now?
I’m now working on the third Duck and Cat book for Random House, as well as some other seedling projects.

THCarin BramsenANK YOU FOR LETTING US GETTING TO KNOW YOU!
Should you wish to know more about Carin Bramsen and would like to purchase her book, here are all her pertinent details.

Website: Carin Bramsen
Where to purchase her book: Amazon, Indie Bound and Barnes & Noble
Carin’s social media connections:

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Author Interview: Michelle Worthington

My Brother Tom1) Please provide a short excerpt of what your children’s book is about.
This picture book is Tom’s story through the eyes of his big brother and was written to help brothers and sisters of the 20,000 premature babies born in Australia every year understand what is happening and encourage open and age appropriate discussion between family members. Proceeds of the sale of this book are donated to The Life’s Little Treasures Foundation.

2) What inspired you to write this book?
I am the mother of 3 boys, all born prematurely. My youngest son, Tom, was born by emergency caesarean at 28 weeks with a birth weight of 1350g. He developed respiratory distress syndrome soon after birth and was ventilated. Subsequently, he developed bilateral pneumothoraces and a broncho-pleural fistula with total of 4 intercostal catheters inserted.  He also suffered a mild pulmonary haemorrhage. Tom was extremely unwell, fragile and distressed and stayed in hospital for 58 days. Tom is our little miracle.

3) Why did you pick this genre? How did you become a children’s book author?
Tom is one of many little babies who are born early in Australia every year. Older brothers and sisters of sick babies can be scared and confused, especially if parents find it hard to explain to them what is happening in an age appropriate way. This picture book is designed to be a tool to help parents and caregivers of older siblings talk about what is happening, know that their little brother or sister is in the safest and best place for them at that time and have hope that everything is going to be alright. I started writing children’s books because I believe in the power of words. My stories are empowering for kids and give hope and courage to be anything you want to be, as long as you believe in yourself.

4) How do the illustrations complement your book? What was important to you as an author?
Ann-Marie Finn did an amazing job on the illustrations for Tom’s book, considering how difficult the subject matter is to portray in a child friendly and colourful way. Her insight and compassion into the story are evident in the time and talent she shows throughout the creation process of working with an author on a book that is very special to them. It was important to me that Ann-Marie felt as much ownership of the picture book as I do.

5) As a child, what books and/or authors influenced you the most and why?
Most of the stories I read when I was little were fantasy stories about escaping up faraway trees, living on a prairie or having a best friend named Diana. I used books to escape. The authors that influenced me then are not the same ones that influence me now as a picture book writer instead of a chapter book or novel writer. I love to learn more about writers who were the pioneers of picture books to see how they overcame obstacles, such as Beatrix Potter and Dr Seuss.

6) What is the most fulfilling thing about being an author and why do you believe picture books can change the world?
Sharing your stories with children all around the world is an amazing privilege. With modern technology making international connections a daily occurrence, I can skype with kids at an international school in Beijing, then read stories to a group of kindy kids 5 minutes from home. Picture books can change the world because there are no rules or restrictions on what you can write about. Anything is possible.

7) What do you hope children will take away with them after reading your book?
I hope children stay children for just a little bit longer after reading my books, and not be in such a hurry to grow up. It takes courage to be yourself and I hope they get confidence from my stories.

8) Tell us about your blog and what do you write about?
On my blog, I share insights into how I became a published author, current trends and changes in publishing and literacy and tips on marketing your books via social media. I love connecting with my readers and hope they find some inspiration in my blogs. More than anything, I want my blog to be useful.

9) What are you working on now?
My boys said to me I write too many books for girls. I told them before I was a Mum, I used to be a girl, So now, I am working on stories that help boys break gender stereotypes and give them confidence to follow their talents, no matter what they are. I always have some idea for a story spinning around my head, so I hope to share may more books with you in the future.

Michelle Worthington

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

Website: Michelle Worthington
Where to purchase her book: Michelle Worthington and Dragontales
Michelle’s social media connections:

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Illustrator Interview: Stephan Lomp

Stephan LompPROFESSIONAL BIO:
Stephan was born in Düsseldorf, Germany, where he studied visual communications at the University of Applied Sciences. Stephan has been drawing for print and web agencies, publishing houses and event marketing companies since 1996 and is very fond of the diversity of his profession. Stephan published his first children’s book in 2011 which became the starting point for his new found passion, to write and draw his own stories.

1) How did you become an illustrator of children’s books after having a professional career drawing for print and web agencies, publishing houses and event marketing companies?
Wimmelbücher are picture books with crowded scenes and are very popular in Germany. I was very fascinated with them at a very young age and the images of artists like Ali Mitgutsch are branded in my mind. Comparable to these books outside of Germany are probably only the Where is Waldo? books. I saw that a befriended illustrator published a wimmelbuch at a brand new publisher which was specialized on these books. So I wrote a quick email to the publisher and got a chance to do a 4 spread book. It became a success and 2 other books followed. These books gained the attention of a UK Agent and after signing up with them I got the chance to do 3 more books for the UK market. The books took over my work time until I basically do only books now.

2) Describe your illustration style and creative process. What makes your illustrations unique and different?
It’s hard to describe what you do subconsciously. I would say it’s colorful, bright, joyful and a bit edgy. The form of the characters are stylized and abstracted. I try to mix my influences of 50s and 60s flat shape illustrations with my personal twist.

3) Has technology changed your trade and the way you work?
My pencil drawing are very different to my digital art. I could not do my digital style analogously. My work is much more clean and crisper, which I try to break up again and make it look more handmade lately.

4) Who are your biggest influences in your artistic career and why?
This changes through the years. It used to be Comic Books from Europe as well as the US, artists like Möbius and Frank Miller, then Chris Ware and now it’s old school children’s books from Alain Gree as well as contemporary artists like Marc Boutavant.

5) When did you realise you could make a living from your talent?
This was always my intention to live from my talent, so I took every job I could find, even during my studies. And that includes everything in Graphic Design,  Webdesign and Programming.

6) 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?
It is key to talk to the client via telephone or in person. Only that way you can fully understand what they want. A lot of things can be misunderstood if you only communicate via email.

7) Tell us about the proudest piece of work you have done.
There is one image of a walking tree and a small boy walking through a dark forest. The illustration was done pretty quickly and without much thinking, but the reaction was huge, because everybody can see a story in there. I am currently working on it and hopefully this will be a book one day.

8) What advice do you have for aspiring illustrators when first dealing with a publishing house?
If they have a script for you ask yourself if you really like it and if you really want to tell the story through pictures. If you have your own story, they will try to tweak it here and there. This can be a good thing and it can improve your work. But always ask yourself, is it still fun to draw and is it still your story at heart. Lastly take a close look at the contract. Do you get enough out of this? And do not work without getting royalties, because that’s your real payment in the long term.

9) Please provide a short brief of each of the pictures you have submitted
Follow That Car – the mouse following the gorilla on a big red background is a eye-catching image I am really proud of.

Follow That Car

Find The Frog – the park scene is a lot more colorful than my work before.

Find The Frog

Mamasaurus – this image was done just as a quick scribble and gained enough attention from a publisher so that I did a whole picture book around it.

Mamasaurus

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

Website: Stephan Lomp
Stephan’s social media connections:

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Author Interview: Kirstin Lenane

Charlie and the CreatureCHARLIE AND THE CREATURE BY KIRSTIN LENANE

1) Please provide a short excerpt of what your children’s book is about
Charlie is a mouse who lives in a small town and works at the local diner.  One day, a creature comes in for a cup of coffee.  Needless to say, the regular customers aren’t quite sure what to make of him.  But Charlie, being the service professional that he is, tries to make the creature feel at home.  The creature explains that he is on his way to see the world and can’t stay long.  This comment sets Charlie’s imagination spinning and inspires him to seek out an adventure of his own.

2) What inspired you to write this book?
I was inspired by the day-to-day life in a small-town diner and the pleasure that comes from being part of such a community.  To the diner patrons, Charlie is more than just a waiter.  He is someone they count on seeing and speaking to every day.

When the creature enters the diner, he throws off the town’s homeostasis:  “They weren’t used to outsiders in town.  No one ever did much coming or going.”  Rather than shutting the creature out, I decided to have Charlie (and the other diner regulars) make the more interesting choice to invite the creature into their lives, to experience the initial discomfort of the unknown, and then to reap the benefits of being open to new people and new ideas.

3) How did you come up with the title or series of your book?
The title comes from the encounter between the two main characters, Charlie and the creature.  This encounter sets the story in motion.

4) Why did you pick this genre?
I used to write short stories for adult readers, but found that I had a lot more fun when I started adding pictures.  Combining drawings with writing seems to place me in a more natural place as a writer.  The drawings help the writing flow and vice versa.

At this time, I’m a little less clear about how to market an illustrated picture book for “all ages,” so I’ve been trying to write more for children, where there is a clear market.  I have a two-year-old son and I work as a counselor at two elementary schools, so this helps me get out of my adult head and into the world of children, but this is not always easy.  I think I am still learning who my audience is and how to write for them.

5) How do the illustrations complement your book? What was important to you as an author?
When I am creating a story, I begin by drawing pictures.  Because I am not a professionally trained illustrator by any means, the drawings often come out looking a little funny.  For example, a hat on a mouse’s head might end up looking more like a pancake.  Why is there a pancake on his head?  And so it begins….

If I had my way, I would draw with pencils and markers, and create books using paper, cardboard and glue.  However, in today’s “modern age,” I’ve also enjoyed the capacity to reach readers by creating books that can be digital.

6) As a child, what books and/or authors influenced you the most and why?
As a child, I enjoyed books that didn’t treat me like a child, but as a person.  Some of my favorites included, the Frog and Toad books, The Velveteen Rabbit, the Frances books, George and Martha, books by William Steig and Tomi Ungerer.

7) What is the most fulfilling thing about being an author?
By putting my human questions into the world of a mouse who lives in a made-up place in the world of a book, I am able to grapple with some serious, difficult things, in a manner that feels less heavy, but is liberating at the same time.

Being an author helps me to take life less seriously, and more seriously at the same time.  It’s a way of creating meaning.

8) What do you hope children will take away with them after reading your book?
Fear can make us very resistant to trying new things or considering new ideas, especially if we seemed to be doing just fine before these new ideas walked into our lives.  One of the messages of this book is that it is much more fulfilling to keep learning and to keep growing than it is to try to keep everything the same.

9) Who is/are your favourite author/s as an adult and why?
My favourite book is To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf.  There is beauty and joy in her characters, but there is also this sense that everyone is alone, as she moves through a scene and through each character’s private thoughts.  She captures people’s moments of connection to each other, as well as their inability to truly connect and relate.

10) What are you working on now?
I am writing a children’s book about a character who is obsessed with time and keeping lists.  Fortunately, there are three pesky rabbits who live outside and teach him a thing or two about stopping to enjoy the moment.

THKirstin LenaneANK YOU FOR LETTING US GETTING TO KNOW YOU!
Should you wish to know more about Kirstin Lenane and would like to purchase her book, here are all her pertinent details.

Website: Kirstin Lenane
Where to purchase her book: Amazon
Kirstin’s social media connections:

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Blogger Interview: Shari Anderson & Cheryce Thompson

Optimistic Divorcees by Shari Anderson & Cheryce ThompsonOPTIMISTIC DIVORCEES BY SHARI ANDERSON & CHERYCE THOMPSON

PROFESSIONAL BIO:
The Optimistic Divorcees was created as a way to share our experiences surrounding our marriages and divorces in an effort to encourage, support and relate to those who are experiencing separation or divorce. We realize that this transition is not easy and often times you may feel alone or believe no one understands. We do. It is our hope that this blog connects with those who need to know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, life goes on and there’s reason to remain optimistic.

1) Tell us what your blog is about and what inspired its conception?
The Optimistic Divorcees blog is about encouraging, supporting and inspiring those who may have dealt or are currently dealing with or contemplating divorce through our stories and the stories of others who have experienced it. We aim to show that although divorce is painful, there IS life after divorce!

2) Who is your ideal reader and what do you hope they can gain from your blog?
Our ideal reader is anyone who has experienced divorce or may be contemplating a divorce. We hope that through the content of our blog, readers realize that they are not alone in their experiences and that leading a full, enjoyable, happy life is possible after divorce.

3) Where do you see your blog in 5 years’ time and will the topic continue to be as prevalent?
In 5 years time, it would be great to have a larger following of our blog as well as products based on our blogs – books, etc. The statistics for divorce haven’t decreased, so the topic will definitely continue to be a prevalent one.

4) How do you continually find content for your blog?
We typically find content for our blog just by conversations we have with one another or with friends, and of course pop culture. Relationship talk is always big among women. 🙂

5) How to do you remain committed to each other to keep the blog going?
There aren’t many successful blogs out there that are a collaboration! Admittedly, it’s hard to remain committed to keeping the blog going. It’s a much bigger task than we’d originally anticipated. We are actually just coming off of a three-month hiatus. However, we believe that our experiences and what we share in our content can be of help to those dealing with divorce. It’s also encouraging to hear from readers who tell us that were encouraged by something that read on the blog.

6) Tell us about your Hump Day Haiku and OD Adventures segments of your blog.
Our #HumpDayHaiku segment is a fun and creative way to poetically share our thoughts on topics related to relationships and divorce. We like to think of them as quick therapeutic exercises. Our OD Adventures segments seek to show us just living life and doing things we love – being tourists in our own city and other places we visit, dining out (we consider ourselves foodies), etc.

7) What would you say to a new divorcee on how to remain optimistic and positive?
Our advice would be to take the process one day at a time, surround yourself with those who will encourage and support you and keep moving forward. Don’t look at what was lost, but instead look for the lessons in how you can be even better in the new chapter of your life. What will help them get through the initial stages of loss? What will help them get through the initial stages of loss is actually allowing themselves to really acknowledge what their feeling and allow themselves to feel every emotion – anger, hurt, confusion, etc. Masking how they really feel during this time can only prolong the healing process.

8) Do you have any advice for aspiring bloggers?
When you want to give up, DON’T! Recognize and remember that what you have to share, someone needs to read to be inspired or encouraged!

THANK YOU FOR LETTING US GETTING TO KNOW YOU!
Should you wish to know more about Shari Anderson & Cheryce Thompson and would like to follow their blog, here are all their pertinent details.

Blog: Optimistic Divorcees
Shari & Cheryce’s social media connections:

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Author Interview: Michelle R. Eastman

The Legend of Dust Bunnies, a Fairy’s Tale by Michelle R. Eastman

THE LEGEND OF DUST BUNNIES, A FAIRY’S TALE
BY MICHELLE R. EASTMAN

1) Please provide a short excerpt of what your children’s book is about.
The Legend of Dust Bunnies, a Fairy’s Tale is a light-hearted story about a serious topic: Being Yourself.

The Legend of Dust Bunnies will open your eyes to a world of dirt and dust that you never knew could be so magical and fun! Did you know that Dust Fairies come into our homes at night and spread dust, drape spider webs, and even spit crumbs into the carpet? They do!  It’s true!  Well, not all fairies. Artie is different. He doesn’t like messes, and he doesn’t fit in. At first, Artie is lonely and unsure of what to do, but then he takes matters into his own hands. When given lemons you’re supposed to make lemonade, right? This story does one better, it turns DUST into DUST BUNNIES. The Legend of Dust Bunnies is the story about how and why a misfit Dust Fairy turns dust into cuddly dust bunnies and the joyful aftermath that follows. It will have families looking at dust bunnies in a new light, and may actually give kids an excuse NOT to clean their rooms.

2) What inspired you to write this book?
My story’s main character, Artie, was inspired by my eight-year old son’s habit of collecting things.  He notices and appreciates the beauty in items that most of us would cast off as trash.  Artie uses found items to create unique treasures and happily shares them with his fellow Dust Fairies.

3) Why did you pick this genre?
Rhyming picture books are my favorite books to read. My son and I make a trip to the library once a week to fill our bag. He is now 9, and I still read aloud to him each night. I have wanted to write a picture book for most of my adult life. Publishing this book has been an incredible experience.

4) How do the illustrations complement your book? What was important to you as an author?
The book’s illustrator, Kevin Richter, created the cover and the entire layout and design of the book. I connected with Kevin via Elance. He is an incredibly talented guy, and he’s a pleasure to work with. He is in the UK, and I am in Iowa. All of our communication has been via email. Despite the distance, it has been a wonderful collaborative partnership. Kevin “got” the story immediately. Not only did he bring my vision to life; he brought elements to the story I hadn’t even imagined. Kevin is an experienced comic book illustrator, and I think his experience with that genre gave the characters and scenes an action-packed quality that further enhanced the story.

5) As a child, what books and/or authors influenced you the most and why?
I grew up in a low-income household with teen-aged parents. Books were not a priority in our house.  I am pretty sure I was never read to as a baby or as a small child. When I started school, I began to develop a love for books. It was exciting when the book-mobile rolled into our neighborhood and I could climb on board and check out a few books. One of my favorite books was Charlotte’s Web. I won a copy of it as part of a RIF sponsored contest at school. I cherished that book. I also loved Beverly Cleary books and anything relating to history and biographies.

6) What is the most fulfilling thing about being an author?
Visiting schools and libraries and interacting with kids is the very best part of the whole author experience. I am also proud of a literacy initiative I started called Picture Book Pass it On.  I encourage people to collect/donate books to kids in need. This past March, I hosted a special drive called MARCHing Books to Kids. We collected over 300 books for children of incarcerated parents. Children’s authors from around the world donated signed copies of their books to the project.

7) What do you hope children will take away with them after reading your book?
The main character, Artie, has a hard time finding his place among the other Dust Fairies. He wants to be accepted, but he isn’t willing to change who he is to do that. Although there is a take-away message, I try to subtly weave it into the story. Kids are smart cookies-they take away what is meaningful to them and their life experiences.

8) Who is/are your favourite author/s as an adult and why?
I spend a lot of time reading children’s picture books. I enjoy reading them and I find them comforting and inspiring. I like to read short stories (especially sci-fi from the 50’s and 60’s). It is fascinating to see how many of the futuristic elements are now commonplace. I also like reading and re-reading poetry from Langston Hughes.

9) What are you working on now?
Kevin and I just released our newest book, Dust Fairy Tales: Absolutely Aggie. This book takes a light-hearted approach to the compelling desire kids have to fit-in. The story validates the need we feel for acceptance, while imparting a gentle take-away message of the joy that can come from embracing one’s individuality.

Here is the synopsis:
Fairies, music, and dust! Oh my! Aggie is a little Dust Fairy with a big problem. She wants to join the fairy band, but they do not approve of her offbeat style. Aggie is determined to impress them, but that turns out to be harder than she imagined. Just when she thinks she will never find a way to fit in, Aggie discovers it might be more fun to stand out.

Michelle R. Eastman

THANK YOU FOR LETTING US GETTING TO KNOW YOU!
Should you wish to know more about Michelle R. Eastman and would like to purchase her book, here are all her pertinent details.

Website: Michelle R.Eastman
Where to purchase her book: Michelle R.Eastman, Amazon and Barnes & Noble
Michelle’s social media connections:

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Illustrator Interview: Keika Yamaguchi

Keika Yamaguchi

PROFESSIONAL BIO:
Keika Yamaguchi is a children’s book illustrator of Sick of Being Sick written by Justin Sullivan, and Puddle Pug written by Kim Norman. Her newly illustrated book that came out this June is What About Moose? written by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca Gomez. She is a graduated from Pasadena Art Center College of Design with honors. She studied Entertainment Arts, and work for clients including Walt Disney Imagineering and Walt Disney Publishing.

1) How did you become an illustrator of children’s books or similar works?
A friend of a friend, Justin Sullivan, was looking for an illustrator for the story he wrote. He owned a children’s app company, and at the time, there were only few companies that specialized in phone apps for children. I enjoyed the story that he came up with since it allowed me to illustrate variety of environments. While working on that book, I rediscovered my passion for children’s books. After self publishing that book, I was going to bookstores to see if people will be interested in having my book in their stores. I was then referred to checkout Society of Children’s Books for Writers and Illustrators. I went to one of the events and there, I was immersed into this industry.

2) Describe your illustration style and creative process. What makes your illustrations unique and different?
It’s hard for me to identify what exactly makes my work mine and how it appears different from other people’s artwork. I enjoy placing my focus on characters, the layout of the pages, and the amount of details I place in each page. Perhaps that makes my illustration distinct.

3) When did you realise you could make a living from your talent?
When I was in highschool I have done multiple art competitions and won few awards. That games be confidence that maybe I can get somewhere with this talent. A  teacher outside of my school made living out of doing art, so convinced me that it’s probably possible to make a living pursuing art.

4) Has technology changed your trade and the way you work?
Yes, technology has changed the way I work. It has added few short cuts for me compared to illustrating traditionally that been coming in handy when under tight deadline. Sending my artwork to clients became much easier when painting or drawing using photoshop. I do not have to scan my work and alter the colors in the scanned image to match what I have in my traditional artwork. I don’t have to go to the post office, wrap my work, then send my originals to my client in NY.

5) Who are your biggest influences in your artistic career and why?
At the moment, my biggest influences are my peers at my coworking place–Kleverdog. People there are either self employed, small business owners, trying their best to maintain their business. They’re full of passion and we share openly of what’s working for us what isn’t. Every time I talk to someone I feel inspired to work harder and keep going.

6) 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?
Usually, before getting hired to be the illustrator, the publishing company that I would be working for would ask to draw or paint the main character in the book. The feel of the book is usually determined at that stage. If there are details that they would like for me to depict in the book, there are usually artist notes included when they provide me with the final manuscript so I make sure I put in what they asked.

7) Tell us about the proudest piece of work you have done. Did you enjoy working on Puddle Pug and its subsequent book by the same publisher?
Each illustrations within those books had it’s own challenges that I had to solve. Knowing that I’ve done my best with all of them, I’m proud of all the pieces I‘ve illustrated. I enjoyed working on all of the books I’ve illustrated too!

8) What advice do you have for aspiring illustrators?
I always feel weird giving advice since I feel like I’m still learning…Perhaps “Don’t forget to have fun! And do it for you.”

9) Please provide a short brief of each of the pictures you have submitted
A spread of Sick of Being Sick by Justin Sullivan

Sick of Being Sick

A spread of Puddle Pug by Kim Norman

Puddle Pug

A spread of What About Moose by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca J. Gomez

What About Moose

Should you wish to know more about Keika, here are her pertinent details.

Website: Keika Yamaguchi
Keika’s social media connections:

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