Children's Book Author Interview with Katie Marie of T-Rex and Tuck Explore the Zoo
Books: T-Rex and Tuck Explore the Zoo, T-Rex and Tuck Explore Outer Space (about to be released in '23)
Link to website: https://www.authorkatiemarie.com
When did you become a children’s book author?
My first book, T-Rex and Tuck Explore the Zoo, was published in May of 2022. I wrote the T-Rex and Tuck Explore series shortly after becoming a mom in 2019.
Do you have a writing background?
I don't have a professional writing background. I have always enjoyed writing, especially my creative writing classes in high school.
How did you come up with the story?
The story is inspired by my son, Tucker, and his dinosaur stuffed animal that he loves. We took my son to the zoo for his first birthday so that seemed like the best place to start T-Rex and Tuck's adventures.
Did you hire an illustrator or do the illustrations yourself?
I hired an illustrator for the book series. Jessie Johnson has done an incredible job so far and I can't wait to continue to work with her on the rest of the series. I had originally asked her to draw up character sketches after reading my story and her initial drawings were perfectly matched to what I had envisioned! I feel extremely fortunate to be able to have her as the illustrator on this project!
How did you come up with the character?
I wanted Tuck to resemble my son Tucker and T-Rex needed to look cute, not realistic and scary. I really commend my illustrator, Jessie Johnson for capturing the exact look and feel I wanted portrayed in the series!
Are you self-published or published through a publishing company?
I am self-published. I have used BookBaby for global distribution.
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?
If you count the two years that I didn't quite have the courage to move forward with the stories, the process of writing until the book was in hand was three years. The process from editing, illustrating, printing and finally selling was about 6 months.
What made you want to publish a children's book?
I absolutely love story time with my kids and have always had dreams of being a published author so once I decided the stories I wrote could actually become books, I decided to publish because of children. I want them both to realize that you can do anything you put your mind to if you work hard and don't give up! They are my inspiration and my reason why!
What is one thing you wish you knew before beginning your book publishing journey?
One wish I knew before starting my publishing journey was a better understanding of printing options and Amazon pre-sale algorithms.
Any tips for future children’s book authors?
My biggest tip for future children's book authors besides saying, "don't wait - just go for it because it is possible and extremely rewarding", would be to make sure you realize it is a business. The creative and fun part is obviously writing it and then holding a copy of your own book in your hands, but there is a lot that goes into it to make it successful from social media posting to having a website (I write weekly blog posts to help with engagement) and handling the financial aspect of it all as well. It is time consuming, but I love it!
What is the best reaction from a reader, so far?
The best reaction from a little reader so far has been when I read to 3rd graders just before Thanksgiving. One little girl wanted a picture of me with my book and she said I wanted to take a picture with you with your book and then one day when I write my book, you can take a picture with me and my book! I thought oh my gosh, this is wonderful--she has big dreams and believes in herself. She said "when" I write my book, not "if." Even if she never writes a book, I hope my story and process inspired her and all the other students in some way.
What is something you’d like people to take away from your book(s)?
I hope the big takeaway from this series is the importance of imaginative play and giving kids the tools to be able to play pretend. That no matter what the weather is like outside or where you live, if you have a good imagination or a good book, you can transport yourself anywhere!
Where do you get ideas for your stories?
I get ideas for my stories from life experience. I think of different places or holidays that my family loves or starting school, new siblings etc and build from that.
What's your writing process like?
My writing process is a little bit messy. I start out writing ideas down in a notebook and then different dialogue between the characters. I make notes of where they should explore or what might happen and then I think of the ending. I usually come up with the beginning and then end before I really dig into the story. I know how I want the story to end, now how am I going to get there? Through all the chaos of my notes a real story starts to emerge and from there I edit, edit, edit.
Do you have any other books in the works?
I am beyond excited about the second book in the series that is almost complete, T-Rex and Tuck Explore Outer Space. I might be more excited about this one than the zoo. You can follow me on Facebook and Instagram (@authorkatiemarie) to get updates on the pre-sale for this second book and release dates!
What does literary success look like to you?
This is a layered question for me. The easy answer would be that literary success would be book sales and having so many copies sold, but honestly the most rewarding part of the whole experience has been reading to kids in classrooms. I want to make an impact and spread love and positivity! I always end my story times with the kids standing up and reciting positive affirmations with me. I say the affirmation with an action and they repeat it back to me. Sometimes I get emotional thinking about it because I truly hope what kids take away from those experiences is believing in themselves and the importance of positive self-talk. I hope every child who reads my book loves it, but the bigger picture is that I hope they continue their love of reading, but most of all, realize that they can have big dreams too. The positive affirmations that I recite are listed below and there is a video of the interaction on my website for anyone interested in doing it with their kids or students. My kids and I actually recite them before bed.
I am brave. (superhero pose)
I am strong. (flex your muscles)
I am smart. (point to your brain)
I am kind. (hands over your heart)
Do you read all of the book reviews you receive?
I do read all the book reviews I receive, at least so far I have tried to.
What was the hardest thing about getting your book published?
I think the most difficult part about getting your book published besides deciding how you are going to get it printed and sell it, is actually spreading the word through your marketing efforts. Social media is a must, but in person book readings and author signings have been the most successful part of the process so far.
What is your favorite children's book(s) of all time?
My favorite children's book of all time would probably be my copy of Shel Silverstein's, Where the Sidewalk Ends. I read it so many times when I was younger that the binding is falling apart.
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