I’m the Chief Servant to the Emperor (our 4-year old son) and his newly hired Chief of Staff (our 14 month old), so I spend a lot of time fetching sippy cups and pulling the playdoh out of the carpet. On my good days, I hole myself away in a room and peck away at my MacBook and hope someone will slip enough cookies under the door to keep me going.
I also blog about finding extraordinary friendship in a sometimes too ordinary world.
What inspires you to write?
In the case of The Donkey In the Living Room, I was inspired by wanting a book that didn’t seem to exist.
I was searching through the Elf on the Shelf and all these other fantastical Christmas tales, which are cute and definitely clever, but I just didn’t want to bring home another book that revolved around being good so you can get more toys. I don’t know about other kids, but mine have plenty of toys as is. You’ll find them jammed into toy boxes, crammed onto shelves, and discreetly lost in places where adults are guaranteed to step on them barefoot and incur an injury.
I just didn’t need another book to celebrate elves and Santa and toys. There’s no doubt my kids will love all the Christmas list making and the rush to the presents Christmas morning, but I wanted to balance that with some meaningful family time. Some sort of tradition families could do with kids that gets into the reasons behind Christmas. But I just couldn’t find a book with a tradition like that.
So I decided to write one.
Tell us about your writing process
For The Donkey In the Living Room, I snuggled under a blanket with my lap top on one chilly November day, and I tried to build a concept based on a tradition my parents did with us as kids.
We used to open one manger scene figure at a time, on the days leading up to Christmas, and then they would tell us the Christmas Story from that character’s perspective. My initial idea was that the book could be a sentimental Christmas presents for my nieces and parents.
But as I started to share the idea, I realized a lot of my friends were like-minded. They were sick of commercialized Christmas and holiday sales that start earlier and earlier every year. So I started to wrestle with how to turn our childhood family experience into something simple and repeatable that every family could easily replicate.
After I had a core concept, I started outlining the story of the characters–what we would guess the cow or the donkey or the sheep might’ve observed. And then I spent all night–literally, I stayed up the whole night–crafting their stories into whimsical rhymes and finding illustrations to inspire the first self-published version. It was an amazing holiday experience and it got snapped up by publishers just a few months after it released.
How do you think writing for children and young adults is different from writing for an adult audience?
There are less rules with kids.
With adults, if you’re shaping a character or a storyline, you have to worry about Suspension of Disbelief. Will the reader believe the character could survive five back-to-back massive explosions simply by going underwater, for example?
But with kids, there’s no believability requirement. They aren’t there to analyze the book. They just want to be entertained. So talking hippos or 40 foot tall giants or squishy slime that turns into frogs at midnight–everything’s game!
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
I don’t know about talking TO the character, but I spent a good chunk of time kind of reading the character’s lines aloud in my best, frumpy little donkey voice. I listened to the words fall out of my mouth and tried to assess, is this something a whimsical talking Nativity donkey would say?
How did you decide how to publish your books?
With this book, I just knew self-publishing (initially) would provide the quality of product I wanted to produce for my family. But then as sales began taking off, I realized the donkey was onto something. I sent it to a few publishers and got an immediate hit, which gave the story an incredible upgrade. The book has now been fully re-illustrated with a colorful, fantastical manger scene that comes to life on a mantle. It’s breath-taking. Kids love it. The new version is available as an e-book or i-book this year, but it will be released as a paper book for 2014.
There might even be a manger scene toy for those who don’t already have a Nativity set in their houses.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
I am so hopeful. I know there are always doomsday prediction and yes, the industry has been turned on its head. But as long as there are good stories stirring inside of writers, those stories will find a way to the surface to be shared by the public.
What do you use?
Professional Editor, Professional Cover Designer
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