Children's Book Author Interview with Janis Rafael of the book, Playing It Safe With Mr. See-More Safety - Let!s Rap and Rhyme
When did you become a children’s book author?
In 1997. Back then I felt there was a need to help children become more aware of their surroundings, having 4 young children of my own. Now I’m a grandmother of 14. This knowledge is just as timely today as it was back then. Unfortunately, we now have to be concerned with internet safety which poses a big risk for our children’s physical and emotional well-being.
Do you have a writing background?
No, I never thought of myself as a writer per se, but having a passion to help kids pushed me in this direction.
How did you come up with the story?
I felt that a children’s character (in this case a stop sign who came to life) would be the best way to share important safety information, along with repetition and rhyme. It seems children are more apt to listen and retain what is being taught.
How did you come up with the character?
I remember my sister and her friend thought up the idea of a stop sign. Mr. See-More Safety was named after my father Seymour (See-More). It was an aha moment because my father was extremely influential in my life. I am so glad I was able to dedicate this book to him.
How do you select names for your characters? The main character, Mr. See-more Safety, was chosen for me in a moment of brainstorming.
Did you hire an illustrator or do the illustrations yourself?
My niece did the illustrations in those early years. She is a talented artist in her own right. I was lucky she was available at the time.
Are you self-published or published through a publishing company?
I am self-published which is why I need help getting Mr. See-More Safety on the map so he can continue to help kids everywhere! His one and only goal is to save lives!
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?
It took lots of research. I actually wrote another book on safety entitled Accident Prevention Awareness Program: A Nine Step Guide In The Prevention Of Serious and Life threatening Accidents. It took me 2 years to write. Lots of the examples were from my own close calls. I’m updating it as we speak. It took me over a year to write Playing It Safe With Mr. See-More Safety using all the research I had previously done. That was in 1997, but remember there was no internet back then. With all of the new technology at our fingertips, it is much easier for writers to fulfill their dream.
What made you want to publish a children's book?
I never thought of writing a children’s book. What I did have is a passion —- having 4 children of my own - to help kids identify serious risks when they are out on their own. The books I researched in the library were for very young children and toddlers. I felt there was an important niche that was not being filled.
What is one thing you wish you knew before beginning your book publishing journey?
I am glad I did not know the difficulty of publishing, or I may never have begun. There were only vanity presses which were frowned upon. Now there is more opportunity with self-publishing than ever before. There are no guarantees that your book will be a bestseller, but the most important thing is believing in yourself and your love of writing!
Any tips for future children’s book authors?
As just mentioned, there are no guarantees that your book will be a bestseller, but with the help of self-publishing it can give a new writer an opportunity to put his or her words on paper. That is exciting in and of itself. My best advice is not to compare yourself to anyone. Don’t listen to the naysayers. I have found that most self-published authors are the most critical of themselves because they want their book to be well received! Professional criticism is fine but don’t let anyone squelch your dream!
What is the best reaction from a reader, so far?
The children that have learned from Mr. See-More Safety don’t forget his warnings because he is seen as a friend. An example: One little girl told her brother that Mr. See-More Safety said it was not safe to be lying down while eating. Another child asked her mother to get her stuffed toy because Mr. See-More Safety said a bureau could fall on you if you tried to climb on it. These were just two examples of many.
What is something you’d like people to take away from your book(s)?
There is no doubt this book can accomplish what it set out to do, which is to give children the critical thinking skills that they will need as they begin to explore their world.
Where do you get ideas for your stories?
There are a plethora of dangerous situations that children need to be aware of. I included as many as I could but it is up to parents and teachers to expound on these potential dangers. There is a fine line between teaching kids to think “safety first” (which is a positive thing), and causing undo fear.
What's your writing process like?
I really don’t know how the words came to me. I think when you have a passion for your topic, then the words show up.
Do you have any other books in the works?
I hope to create more books focusing on one topic of safety at a time. For example, bicycle safety, holiday safety, stranger danger, good touch bad touch, bullying, drugs, etc.
What does literary success look like to you?
If people like your book, it’s a literary success in my opinion. I hope writers don’t get caught up in labels. There is no standard that says a person is not good enough to write. If you have something to say, then by all means say it. It would be nice to be well known for one’s literary skills, but I wonder how many good books have been overlooked and thrown into a scrap heap. That is why self-publishing has opened up avenues for writers whose books may not have been accepted by big publishing houses. It’s now an even playing field.
Do you read all of the book reviews you receive?
I don’t have many at this point. The ones I have received are 5 stars. I hope parents who read this book with their children help Mr. See-More Safety by giving him a positive review. This will help him spread his safety messages near and far!
What was the hardest thing about getting your book published?
Finding the right avenue to take. I decided to create my own publishing company and buy my ISBNs. Yes, it’s a little more costly but it gives me complete control over my work.
What's your favorite children's book(s) of all time?
I can’t think of one book in particular (I loved so many) but more recently my son loved Harry Potter. He’s now passing his love of reading to his children.