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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Interview with author, C Fong Hsiung

Interviews
photo of author Fong Hsiung
Photo credit: C Fong Hsiung

C Fong Hsiung is the author of Picture Bride and recently launched her new book titled, New Land Same Sky (Publisher: Mawenzi House).  You can check her out online at www.FongHsiung.com.  

I purchased both of Fong’s books at her recent book launch. I just finished reading Picture Bride and have lots of wonderful things to say about it.  Check out my upcoming post for a review of Picture Bride.

Old friends

I met Fong for the first time through a mutual friend. We connected instantly – just like an old friend. The three of us enjoyed a conversation-filled lunch, chatting about my upcoming book launch and Fong’s as well. Considering I never met Fong before, I thought it was really nice that she was interested in going to my book launch.  Recently, the three of us met up for dinner and discovered that the three of us are both in September AND we each have three kids! How interesting is that?

I am so lucky to have an opportunity to interview her on this blog.

ME: Fong, as many people ask me, “Where do you find the time to write?”. I ask you the same thing.  You are an accounting and systems consultant, and you lead spinning, and yoga and meditation classes.

FONG: There’s a saying, and I’m paraphrasing as I don’t know who said this. If you want something done, give it to a busy person. I wrote my first novel while I was working full-time as VP of Business Processes and Systems. I wrote at every opportunity—on vacation, on my commutes to and from the office, every evening, and just about anywhere I could open and balance my laptop. Driving was how I used to commute to work, and then in 2010 I switched to public transit so I could write more. By March 2017, I’d quit my full-time job and finished my second novel. I started my third. But then a year later, I started consulting. As a result, my third novel has taken a backseat lately. What I’m finding out now is that when I had a steady routine I knew exactly when I would write. But now that I have flexibility, the writing is suffering because my work time is leaking into my writing time. I’m procrastinating more. So now I’m waking up at 5 AM to write for three hours before anything gets in the way. After that, I go to the gym and then later, I start working on my consulting projects.

ME: How did you begin your writing journey?  Writing is quite different from the accounting field!

FONG: Left brain versus right brain stuff. I’ve always liked to write, but I fell into accounting when I was floundering and looking for my first job in my early twenties. Once I started down the accounting path I couldn’t stop, and I built a career out of it. Still, the urge to write never left. I actually started a website during the nineties. I wanted a place to showcase my stories about the Indian Hakka community. The site is now probably in a cyberspace blackhole! Then I tried to write a novel, an earlier version of Picture Bride. It was awkward and didn’t read like any novel I have read. I borrowed a book from the library to learn how to write, but the book was dense and I gave up. The year I turned fifty was when a sense of urgency took over. I had to write and I needed help. I was browsing the net one Sunday and happened upon an online writing school. Before the day ended I had signed up, and that’s how it all started.

ME: Was it difficult to find a publisher to take on your book?

FONG: Once I started my writing journey, I devoured books, magazines, online articles, online courses, and anything connected with writing and publishing. I was prepared for lots of rejections. Still, after being rejected a few times I decided to explore the assisted self-publishing model. Halfway down that path, I received an email from TSAR Publications, now rebranded Mawenzi House. They were interested in my book. I had sent my manuscript to them several months before and had assumed that silence meant rejection. Now, not only did Mawenzi House publish my first book but they’ve also published my second book.

ME: Where do you get your inspiration?

FONG: I wish I could be more dramatic and say that inspiration hits like a bolt of lightning. But no, it’s really quite mundane. I sit in front of my computer and I start typing. I’ve learned that if I write enough, something will come out of it. When I follow a train of thoughts as I often do when I’m typing random stuff, it is inevitable that ideas will formulate. With my first book, the idea had been percolating in my head for a long time. With my second book, it was just my random typing and the resulting ideas. I’m struggling with my third one right now. Every time I travel, I bring my laptop with me and keep my story outline handy. The change of scenery often brings new ideas. When that happens, I update the outline, and then edit, re-write scenes or add new ones.

ME:  When I interviewed Toronto Star’s, Tony Wong, I asked what happens when you get writer’s block?  He eats junk food.  How do you tackle writer’s block?

FONG: If I eat junk food every time I encounter writer’s block, you’d need a crane to lift me off my chair. Thankfully I’ve developed a less weight-enhancing way to lift the block. As I mentioned earlier, I tend to type anything on my computer without regard for the content. I consider it a warmup to exercise my writing muscles. If I get my fingers moving, my brain will catch up eventually…hopefully sooner rather than later.

ME: What are your upcoming projects?

FONG: I’m writing my third novel. The working title is Learning Dangerously. It’s a somewhat cynical view of the corporate world following a young man’s experience at his first job. I have another novel in my back pocket. It’s going to be loosely based on my parents’ lives.

ME: Thank you so much for your inspiration and time! And best of luck on your third novel. For me, inspiration actually hits me like lightning! Ideas are always floating in my head, but I need that bolt of electricity to hit (i.e. creating of that first sentence in the book) to get the ball rolling. The “hook” came to me while I was driving on my way to pick up my son last week. I am now on page 7 of my book, and ideas are following freely.

In this thing called life, one needs to go with the flow and ride it.