Good luck on your project, Maya and Tiasha!
1. What inspired you to write your book(s)? My son inspired me to write Average Simon. One day when he was about nine, he said that he didn’t want to be famous, he just wanted to be an ordinary, average kid. That planted the seed that eventually became my book.
2. What is your creative process when writing/illustrating for children? The process is messy. First, I think about it for far longer than I probably ought to. I reach into my mind and try to talk to the characters and ask them what they have to say. I’ll even write out interview questions and have them answer them. I have to be in an emotionally quiet place to do this, though, because characters can be slippery or shy. Then I’ll sit down and start writing. I may or may not create a rough outline of the book. I tend to let the story tell itself instead of trying to make the story fit an outline. Writers often classify themselves as either “plotters” or “pantsers.” The plotters will work off outlines and plot things through. The “pantsers” will just fly (or write) by the seat of their pants. I’m definitely a pantser.
3. Do you have any recommendations for anyone interested in the children's writing field? Write every day. It doesn’t all have to be children’s books. It doesn’t matter what the topic or genre, you can’t be a writer if you don’t write. Also, read. Read as much as you can in as many genres as you like. Definitely read books that fit within the genre you want to write, but read outside the genre, too. Read things you love. Read things you hate. Take note things that stir you or make you feel something. The one thing I’d advise you not to do, though, is to copy someone else’s voice. You are your own person with your own unique voice, so let it out.
4. How did you come up with an original idea? That varies. Sometimes, like with Average Simon, an idea is born from a conversation with someone. Sometimes the idea is a little seed planted by a dream or sometimes it’s a news story. Sometimes it just comes from the either. I basically walk around every day prepared for random thoughts and ideas to come into my head. My husband and son know this about me and we have ongoing jokes about the stories that are always playing, like movies, in my head.
5. How did you simplify your ideas or writing to make it easy to read and enticing for children? Well, I have to know my audience. Average Simon is an upper middle grade novel, so it’s great for kids who are about eleven. Once I know my audience, I let the characters take charge and tell the story. If I’m feeling stuck or unsure if something is too complicated, I’ll ask for input from someone in that age range. My son and his friends were a huge help to me with my book.