When did you become a children's book author?
A few years ago, I had a couple of ideas for secular books for children. I looked around and couldn't find the kinds of books I thought should be out there for kids, so I decided to start making them myself.
Do you have a writing background?
I have written for thirty-plus years now, mostly adult fiction. I have a Master's Degree in Philosophy, so I've written a good deal of non-fiction as well.
How did you come up with the story?
I came up with the story after reading several books on atheism by Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens. I began to realize that we need more books to help counterbalance the brainwashing most kids get about religion.
How did you come up with the character?
A friend of mine told me that his son – who was raised without religion – was told by some classmates that he would go to hell for not believing in God. I realized then that many children must be told his sort of thing, which to me is a frightening concept: children telling other children they are going to go to hell. That is terrifying. This shouldn't even be a thing at this point in our collective history.
How do you select names for your characters?
Oddly enough, the character in this book has no name, primarily because I wanted all children of either sex to relate to him/her. The child is also rather androgynous, looking on purpose.
Did you hire an illustrator or do the illustrations yourself?
I did the illustrations myself for this book. I have another book coming out that teaches the concept that everyone is different, and that's okay. It is going to be illustrated by a ten-year-old, which I think is pretty cool.
Are you self-published or published through a publishing company?
This book is self-published.
From the day you came up with the idea for the story until you were holding your published book in your hand, how long did it take you to complete this book?
From start to finish, this book took about a year to make.
What made you want to publish a children's book?
There are tons of books in the world dedicated to indoctrinating children into various religions, but there are very few out there that tell children it's okay to be a non-believer. I think it's a valid point to help children understand that there are many ways to look at the world, not just religious ones. This is also the first book I have ever encountered where it is even hinted that religion is a man-made idea and is actually a supernatural way of looking at things. Kids are very smart, and I don't believe we need to lie to them at such a young age.
What is one thing you wish you knew before beginning your book publishing journey?
There can never be enough ideas out there in the world, especially for young people. Don't dismiss yourself before you have even begun. I did this for a while, and I shouldn't have.
Any tips for future children's book authors?
Write the story that hasn't been written, or write the story that has been written, but in a different way. Humans are natural-born storytellers. Go tell your story. It will be good.
What is the best reaction from a reader so far?
Someone told me that they wished this book had been out when they were young because they were naturally skeptical as a child and no one around them was putting forth the idea that there is no proof for the existence of God(s). She felt very lonely as a child in this regard, and I think there are many children today who feel the same way, especially in parts of the world where non-belief is a punishable offense.
What is something you'd like people to take away from your book(s)?
I would like people to understand that it's okay to be an atheist, that it's okay for children to be non-believers, that they can grow up and decide for themselves what they want to believe in - or not believe in. Not believing in any sort of God is a valid alternative to what most of us are taught as young people. Religious indoctrination can be a very dangerous thing. Just look at what is happening in the Middle East right now. The fighting that is going on between Palestine and Israel is because, for thousands of years, children were indoctrinated into believing that anyone who doesn't agree with them is an infidel and it's a justifiable act to want them dead. I want the future children of the world to shun this belief entirely and live in peace with one another. I hope this book will help to change ideas and, therefore, save lives.
Where do you get ideas for your stories?
I read a lot, and I read widely. I read fiction and non-fiction, adult books, and kids' books. I read as much as I can. Knowledge is the key to enlightenment, and imagination is the key to creativity. We all possess the innate capacity for creativity and imagination.
What's your writing process like?
I write every single morning. Every one. I jot ideas down in the middle of the night or when I am running errands. Some ideas turn into stories. Some don't, but the important thing is to get things down on paper or on a computer.
Do you have any other books in the works?
Too many to count. I've written two thriller books. One is out for agenting; the other is a work in progress. I have an idea for a book on Mohammed and an atheist book for people in prison.
What does literary success look like to you?
Success to me is reaching people with ideas, whether or not they believe or even like what I'm saying. The world will not progress without the free exchange of ideas, and I would like to be a part of that exchange. I also believe that religion tends to stunt the furthering of knowledge because the religious claim to already have everything they need to know inside their own religious texts. I will feel successful if I can challenge the already firmly held beliefs that hold us back as a civilization. We are on the brink of destruction already as a species party due to religious extremism.
Do you read all of the book reviews you receive?
I do my best. I generally set aside a portion of my morning to look at reviews and letters people send me, even the negative ones! Haha. People can send me an email to email@example.com I love to hear from people, so please send me something.
What was the hardest thing about getting your book published?
The hardest part was in the beginning when I didn't believe in myself enough.
What is your favorite children's book(s) of all time?
I have so many, but I truly love the Sheep books, Sheep On a Ship and Sheep In a Jeep, etc., by Nancy Shaw. They make me smile any time I read them. Plus, the illustrations are really cute.