When did you become a children’s book author?
This year! My first book is released on October 11, 2022.
Do you have a writing background?
Writing was my first passion. I have notebooks of poetry I wrote when I was 11 years old. I was Managing Editor of my high school newspaper and went on to major in English Literature in college. However, two years into getting my degree, I decided to switch my major to Nursing. I lacked the confidence to believe that I could make a career out of writing.
I went on to work as a cardiac RN for over ten years and absolutely loved it. But the writing fire was never extinguished within me. It actually just grew stronger the longer I neglected it. So here I am at 38 finally taking that first step. It’s been incredibly fulfilling to finally put my words out into the world. I am definitely not done writing.
How did you come up with the story?
It’s a wild backstory. I wrote this book last year when I was pregnant with my 2nd child. I was determined to write an adult fantasy trilogy that I'd plotted, but life got in the way. I was moving out of state, juggling a toddler, pregnant, and knew I had many sleepless nights ahead of me. I had to shelve the series in my head that I desperately wanted to put on a bookshelf. It crushed my soul a little bit.
So one night I said a prayer to Jesus asking for help with my writing aspirations. Apparently He heard me, because out of nowhere an idea for a picture book fell into my head upon waking up from a pregnant-woman nap. The story was about Him.
I asked, and He definitely answered. I didn't have time to write an adult novel, but I could write a poem for kids.
I never set out to become a children’s book author, so this has been a mind-blowing journey for me. I’m incredibly grateful that my prayer was answered in the most unexpected way.
Did you hire an illustrator or do the illustrations yourself?
I can’t draw at all, so I had to hire an illustrator. Her name is Marissa Napolitano, and she was a joy to work with. We talked in-depth about my vision for the book before she started illustrating. It was important for me to represent Jesus’s presence through the usage of light. She delivered in the most incredible of ways. Often I would email her ugly sketches of what I wanted for a spread, and she always turned it into something magical.
Are you self-published or published through a publishing company?
I chose to self-publish. It was really important for me to have creative control. I had a very specific illustrative theme in mind, so I wanted to choose my illustrator and direct it all. I would have had no say in any of this had I traditionally 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?
My Illustrator and I both were pregnant when we began this project, so things slowed down after we gave birth to our babies. I wrote it in May of 2021 and got the book in my hands in September of 2022.
What is one thing you wish you knew before beginning your book publishing journey?
I researched an immense amount, but there still is such a learning curve with your first book. I wish I had better understood the business side of having your book printed through an offset printer vs. having books printed-on-demand through Amazon and IngramSpark. You have to look at upfront costs, profit margins, printing quality, plan on how much you can use for ad spending, etc. This is definitely something first-time authors need to research thoroughly in the beginning to decide what the best decision is financially for them. Despite all of my research, I have continued to learn new things as I’ve gone along this journey. I’ll be better prepared for my second book.
Any tips for future children’s book authors?
If you have a rhyming book, get the meter professionally edited. Also, on your About the Author page, add a line about how reviews are appreciated if they enjoyed the book. I did not do this and regret it. Reviews are gold for authors, and just by adding that simple line it’s been proven to increase the number of reviews on Amazon.
What is the best reaction from a reader, so far?
I’ve been blown away by the positive responses from strangers. I’ve had four people tell me that they either cried or got teary-eyed while reading the book. That has really touched me. Many have actually thanked me for writing the book because there aren’t many Christmas books for children about Jesus out there other than the classic retelling of His birth story. This was one of the reasons why I wrote it. When I woke up from my nap with the book idea in my head, I researched to see if there was anything out there like it. There wasn’t. So I knew I had to write it.
Do you have any other books in the works?
I have two more unique ideas for children’s books about Jesus. One I have halfway written. I also plan on writing the adult trilogy I plotted because it is alive and breathing in my head. I definitely am not done yet! Now that I have taken these first steps and finally published a book, it has become addictive.
What is your favorite children's book(s) of all time?
I’m a huge book lover and so is my 3-year-old, so she’s amassed an enormous book collection. When reading to her over the years, I realized the best books are the ones that are equally enjoyed by both of us. One of my favorites is Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson because of how fun it is to read aloud, but my all-time favorite is I Love You Forever by Robert Munsch. I can’t get through it without tearing up.
What is something you’d like people to take away from your book?
Since I believe the best children’s books are the ones that impact both children and adults, my hope is that Christmas Begins With Christ will remind people of all ages that they are supported by God’s invisible presence. Perhaps an adult reader is stressed and having a bad day, but when reading my book to a child, they remember how supported they are by God. I hope it brings a sense of peace and connection to Jesus for people of all ages.