Hi Jeni. Thanks for joining us at The Jovial Hall Blog.
Glad to be here! Thank you for inviting me.
So your first children’s book, Little Mouse Finds a Friend is available for pre-order. What is it about? What inspired the story?
Little Mouse is based on stories I used to tell my kids at bedtime. Since my kiddos are 10 years apart in age, both of them frequently encountered the problem of “no one to play with”. This story is about a little guy who goes out alone and discovers a new friend who shares his interests - they travel the full journey of friendship. Life is not usually what we expect it to be. I wrote this story to encourage kids to get out there and see what they can find - to look for the miracle. Or at least a really cool bug.
Is it too much of a spoiler to ask what the name is about?
The name of the story is purposefully vague. Little Mouse finds a friend, but that friend has a lot more to him than Little Mouse expects. The friendship draws the entire family closer together - that story is told through the illustrations of Little Mouse and his family doing more things together, especially when something unexpected occurs. And in the end, there is hope and a promise of a new adventure.
How long was the whole writing process of Little Mouse? Were there any discouragements that you had to overcome as you were writing the book?
C.S. Lewis once wrote that children “grow quicker than books.” That has proven to be very true! The entire process for this book was 7 years. I encountered some discouragements. Some people in my life were very discouraging, telling me I was wasting my time. The entire process of book creation is a long series of intensive work interrupted by months of waiting. Now that I have been through it, though, I know what to expect of myself and of others. Hopefully the next books will be more fun and less freaking out.
When you are looking for character inspiration, where do you look? Are there people in your life that are secretly also characters in your fiction?
Every person I meet astounds me. Personality, history, hopes, fears, dreams, and interests, all in one individual…I’m in a nearly constant state of amazement at the diversity of people God has hand-crafted. Each person completely irreplaceable. My main problem is choosing which inspiration works best with the plot. And which traits are compelling to the reader. For example, Dr. Vole has a well known Adventure Vlog—but that isn’t part of this story. Every character has a blend of traits from people I know or have known. (If you want to know a little more about the characters in Little Mouse stories, there are short bios on each of them at www.littlemousefamily.com.)
Are there writers or books or illustrators that you continually find inspiring?
During this particular project, the illustrator and my very dear friend, Jessica Evans, was enormously inspiring. My favorite writers are all of the eclectic ones: CS Lewis, with the way he weaves truth into a story in such a way the reader believes it was their idea, JRR Tolkien and his wonderful worlds and cultures, GK Chesterton’s humor…I could go on and on. But for children’s books, the cadence of Seuss and the easy family of the Berenstain Bears reassure me that children need and enjoy good stories they can understand.
While you write, do you listen to music?
For me, music is an immersive experience. It takes my whole brain and I want to stop everything and soak it in. Writing while I listen to music would be like watching a movie while dining on a gourmet meal. I want to give everything I can to both experiences. When I do listen to music, I like nearly everything! But not Jazz. Never Jazz. Sorry Jazz people.
What is the most significant lesson that you learned while writing Little Mouse Finds a Friend?
The most significant and transformative lesson has been an appreciation for word economy. Picture books are very limited by recommended word count. Even more importantly, text and illustrations actually drive the story in tandem, so removing any text that can be illustrated is a new essential. Once an author prunes out every unnecessary word, and the illustrator ignites the story with color and form, something miraculous happens. Truth and beauty collide in the hands and mind of the reader. That was a spectacular discovery for me.
When can we pick up a copy of Little Mouse?
This very moment you can pre-order a hard copy of Little Mouse Finds a Friend at Jovial Press: Jovial-pub.com/shop. My long-suffering publisher will know better than I do about Amazon and local bookstore dates. I will say we are currently completing the Kindle and Audible formats of the book. One very exciting element is an opportunity to make Little Mouse accessible to visually impaired folks. The digital and audio books will have an option to choose a Full Image Description version where I read the text with accompanying descriptions of the illustrations. I hope that will be a fun option for our visually impaired fans. (It was really fun to record!) We hope to also make Little Mouse available in braille.
Any other projects forthcoming? Anything else that you re working on?
The next Little Mouse book will introduce a new, quirky character - and you’ll see Little Mouse getting into and out of trouble again. I’d like to keep the educational component as well, since science is fun and nature is too remarkable to miss!
Thanks so much for joining us here at The Jovial Hall Blog.
Thank you! This was so much fun!