Interview with childrens’ book author, Kelly Charleson

book reviews, Interviews, Uncategorized

This post is dedicated to my new friend, Kelly Ann Charleson, who took the time to DM me on Instagram — pointing out that we are both children book authors, plus HUGE fans of Matthew Good!  On top of that she has the same name as my daughter and has two sisters as well!

photo of childrens author kelly charleson
Photo credit: Kelly Charleson

Kelly Ann Charleson is the author of “If I were a Dinosaur”, and The Woodland Series: “The Deer”, “The Den” and “The Socks”. She is a passionate writer and illustrator. Kelly is originally from Australia, but now lives in Ottawa.

You can follow her on Facebook: Kelly Ann Charleson and Instagram @kellyanncharleson

Below are the links to her current four books:
https://www.blurb.ca/b/9334245-the-socks
https://www.blurb.com/b/9337555-the-den
https://www.blurb.ca/b/9311692-the-deer
https://www.blurb.ca/b/9337490-if-i-were-a-dinosaur

Kelly’s story

I am very lucky to have the opportunity to interview Kelly, as she is one busy lady! 

I wanted to share Kelly’s story, because she is so genuine and has such a lovely message behind her books.  As well, her stories are not ‘typical’ – three of her books deal with difficult life issues written in a way that children can understand and relate to: such as miscarriage in pregnancy/loss of a sibling (The Deer), living with an auto immune disease (The Socks) and loss of a parent/adoption (The Den).

Me: Recently, you posted a copy of an ‘old treasure’ – a book titled: “Kelly’s Holiday Story Book” on Instagram.  You wrote: “Looks like I’ve been an author/illustrator from the start.”  It’s amazing what children are capable of creating on their own, if left to their own vices.  I find that these days, kids don’t have a lot of down time -just a chance to sit down and be creative.  I remember spending my childhood engaged in creative play and drawing, but my own kids don’t really like to read (think electronics!).

So, what exactly motivated or inspired you to begin writing and illustrating for publication?

Kelly: I’ve known for years that someday, I would like to be a foster mom, so until I’m in a position to do so I’ve joined a few groups so that I can learn more about the reality of it all. One thing that stood out to me was the amount of parents asking for recommendations of books that deal with issues relating to foster care and adoption, and how few fictional resources there were to meet those needs. Initially, I was making books for the little ones in my life just for fun, but once I realized that there is need for these very niche, touchy topics to be addressed, I decided to create The Woodland Family series, and started making my books available to a wider audience.

Me: It’s hard enough to be a self-published author and your book content is very unique.  I asked you why you included a full free preview of your books on blurb.ca, and you replied that you wanted to “make sure that any child who could benefit from reading one of my books is able to access it, whether or not an adult can buy it for them.”  That is ABSOLUTELY amazing! So, with this in mind, what are your plans to reach your target market?

Kelly: Once I start taking my books to markets, libraries, schools, etc., I’m hoping that the exposure and word of mouth will help the books to find the children who might need them. In addition to that, I hope to continue teaming up with local organizations that are relevant to the topics covered in my books. I really enjoy supporting worthwhile causes, so if an opportunity for working together to bring attention to an important issue arises, I’m more than happy to go for it. My latest book was loosely based on a local project, and we’ve both been able to see some of the impact that partnership has had already, which has been really exciting.

Me: I learned about your books because of your DM through Instagram.  Do you think that social media is a helpful venue for you to market yourself and your books?

Kelly: At the very least, it’s great for networking. I created an Instagram account to promote my work, but have found it to be more a place of community and support than a marketing tool. It’s great seeing all of the other authors on there, and sharing/receiving tips and encouragement.

Having said that, hash tags do seem to attract people to the themes of my books when it’s something the individual has a personal connection with, and I’ve found Facebook helpful for advertising and promotion. I am rather oblivious when it comes to any social media platforms outside of those two!

Me: I saw online that the first book you wrote “The Garden Thieves” is no longer available.  Can you explain why?

Kelly: The Garden Thieves was originally written a year prior to publication under the title Princess Akeeba and the Night Thieves. The first edition was created as a gift for a little girl who I loved very much, and I re-designed the illustrations of the book as a part of my grieving process when I lost her. Removing the book from circulation was a tough decision, because I really liked the book, but ultimately I realized that it was an important step in that process for me.

Me:  I am very sorry for your loss and hope that your book has helped you heal.  I love that you allow people to contact you with special requests for book topics (a note at the end of each of your books).  For “The Deer” – you mentioned that you were asked by a mom to write a book about miscarriage, after she suffered the loss of her baby and didn’t know how to explain to her son why his sister would not come home. 

There are so many sensitive issues that we might experience early in life, so I am thrilled that you have found a way to address them in your books using very simple language and illustration. Reading, “The Den” brought tears to my eyes – children not feeling ‘loved’ because of a new addition to the family.   I believe that life is uncomplicated from the view of children, so parents paying more attention to the ‘baby’ is equal to them no longer being loved.  But in real life, this is not true at all, yet it takes growing up to learn this.

I have two suggestions for book topics: 1) death of a parent/sibling 2) divorce of parents.  I have seen the impact on friends/family who experienced these traumatic events as children.

That being said, are you working on your next book?

Kelly: Thank you for your feedback – those are definitely important topics, and I’ll see what I can do with them.

I’m taking a bit of a break over the summer (I can’t believe I ever took sunshine and warmth for granted! Living in Canada makes me want to LIVE outside between April and November…), but I’ve started putting some notes together for the next stand-alone book. I’ll be diving back into my counselling study notes for this one, but it’ll be an easier read than The Woodland Family books, in more ways than one!

Me: Kelly, thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions.  It’s been great learning about your creative process and hopes of helping children deal with real life issues.  I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavours!

Kelly: Thank you so much, Monica! It has been an absolute pleasure interviewing with you.

In this thing called life, you never know who you might touch with your words.

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Review of C Fong Hsiung’s Picture Bride (Book review)

book reviews
photo of C Fong Hsiung's book
Picture Bride and New Land Same Sky – written by C Fong Hsiung

Picture Bride

Picture Bride is C Fong Hsiung’s first book. She recently launched her second, New Land Same Sky. I had the pleasure of attending Fong’s second book launch and listening to her speak about her writing experience. It was also wonderful to listen to a powerful reading of a few excerpts from her book, New Land Same Sky.

If you read my post titled “Interview with C Fong Hsiung” you would know that like many of us out there, we work full-time jobs unrelated to book writing. She is an accountant and I am a law clerk. But through our passion for writing, we can express ourselves and tell stories for all to enjoy and experience.

Picture Bride: Story line

A young Hakka (Chinese-Indian) woman named Jie-Lan is forced by her parents to marry someone through an arranged marriage. She travels all the way from Calcutta, India to Toronto, Canada to be with Peter Chou. But when she arrives in Canada, she is greeted with hostility and indifference from her husband-to-be, which shocks her and makes her want to cry. She is naive to expect that her new husband would want to make love to her after their marriage. Yet she tries to be adaptable. She tries to engage Peter in conversation but he always scoffs her off. She decides to find work in Toronto and make the most of her new life. One day she feels sick and goes home early. Everything becomes clear to her when she walks in on her husband and his male ‘friend’ in his bed.

She wants so badly to end her marriage – but it’s not so easy with tradition and shame that would be brought to her family. Yet how can she continue to endure her marriage? Would falling in love with a fankwei (a white man) be her destiny? Find out when you read Picture Bride. Check out her website www.fonghsiung.com to find out where to buy her books.

Here are my comments:

Having never been to India – I enjoyed having a snapshot of life in Calcutta. Leather tanning being the way of life. The wealthier families owned factories, while the poorer locals often tried to break into the factories to steal money. Arranged marriages, which were (and probably still are) popular in Indian culture brought two people together, initially without love. But can love grow from this type of relationship? Maybe. I would like to hold onto that hope.

In Picture Bride, Jie-Lan is a heroine as she endures so much for her want to be loved and cared for. She leaves her country with an open mind for an unknown life and fights bravely against the man called her husband when he threatens to have her sent back to India if anyone finds out he is gay.

There is an underlying story of Jie-Lan’s sister who died after being discovered dating a non-Hakka. There is a great reveal near the end of the book. A family dynamic unique to each family. I didn’t think Fong could wrap it up with just a few pages left – but she did!

I felt very satisfied when I put down Picture Bride. Will work on reading New Land Same Sky next after I finish up the book I am reading now.

My favourite line

My favourite line of her book which is about arranged marriages:

“Too young to choose my own husband, but old enough to marry.” It so nicely summarizes contradictions in life in general.

In this thing called life – reading is one of the greatest joys. I love to read. We can go on an adventure or emotional roller coaster without physically going anywhere.

Review of David Usher’s Let the Elephants Run (book review)

book reviews
words on a page: breathe
Photo from inside of his book

To: Fong: Your book review is coming soon! I shouldn’t have waited because now it’s not so fresh in my mind.

Fav musical artists

As I mentioned in a post or two, David Usher has been one of my favourite musical artists since I was about 18 years old. Yes, I did wait in line for a couple of CD signings! But I was not the crazy screaming type.

Multi-talented

His music has been playing in the background over the years, but for a few years, I didn’t really follow his career too closely. Recently, I decided to Google him and what did I find out? He is so super-talented – he does not only write songs, sing and play guitar -he wrote a book; developed/developing some AI; is involved with Amnesty International; gives presentations (can’t say I am 100% sure what he talks about- but does it really matter? He’s got my attention).

Let the Elephants Run

When I found out he wrote a book about unleashing/unlocking creativity, I knew I had to pick up a copy. So Tuesday night I began reading. Cover to cover took me just under two hours.

Here are my comments:

  1. The actual book: it feels really solid when holding it and it’s a good size for easy reading. Very eye-catching.
  2. Pages: loved the rich texture and page thickness- the feel underneath my fingers.
  3. Content: Really inspiring. Love the creativeness of the book itself. The pages are colourful and you can have fun looking for the pink text (like the pink elephant running around) throughout the book and little black elephant on the bottom of all pages. You might even find some ants…There are many interesting concepts David writes about like structure of society; how we are born creative, but lose some of our creativity as we get older mainly because of structure and rules. Our society tries to make everyone conform, but we need to think outside the box; and how the creative aspect is only about 5% of the work and the rest is just hard work and good business planning.

I learned a few things:

  1. School systems were set up a certain way to basically train people to sit for long hours in factories. I never really thought about this before, but now it makes sense.

2) The difference between a commercial book and a non-commercial book. I struggled with understanding this when I first started working on my own books – even a publisher contact that I knew tried to explain this to me about five times (but I still didn’t get it because her explanation was a bit weak). So thanks David for helping me to understand this.

3) It is A-OK to write in a lovely book. David encourages that you just jot down notes all over. His book is like a workbook with steps to understand yourself, your business plan and how to bring back your creative side.

4) Momentum. It is important to just scribble down anything even if you can’t focus on a written piece. My momentum slowed for my novel, but then I started just to write down random thoughts like David suggests, and sure enough, my groove is back!

In this thing called life – don’t think, just pick up a copy of his book (FYI -I don’t get any commission lol) and see if you can release your creative self again. You can buy at Chapters in-store and online.