Author G.A. Whitmore Three Random Questions Interview



25% of the proceeds from the sale of A Place to Call Home: Toby’s Tale are donated to a rescue dog organization.

G.A. Whitmore’s passion for writing and her love of dogs come together in her series The Rescue Dog Tales. The first book in the series, A Place to Call Home is based on the true story of Toby, an abused dog she adopted from the Connecticut Humane Society. She works and lives in Connecticut.  Her current day job in health care management can be stressful, and her rescue dog, Daisy, is an expert at calming her down and making her laugh every day.

Bonnie Ferrante: Tell us a little about yourself.

G.A. Whitmore: I love having her at my feet while I’m writing.  I also need to have a window to look out of when I write, so my desk is positioned so that I face the window in my study. I can stare out into the world that I am trying to keep at bay while I mull over what word to use, or imagine how one of my characters will react in a certain situation.

Ferrante:  Your book, A Place to Call Home, is based on a true story. Toby is a dog you adopted from the Humane Society. He’d been severely abused. Would you recommend that other people follow in your footsteps? 

Whitmore: Yes, of course. If you have room in your home and heart for a dog, visit your local animal shelter. Usually, the staff members know their animals well and can offer good advice on choosing one that will be right for you and your family. Sometimes, abused animals need more attention, but most shelters do not put animals up for adoption until they are socialized and ready for a new home.

Toby was seven months old when I first saw him at the Connecticut Humane Society. He had been physically abused and was severely traumatized. His backstory, as told to me by the woman who rescued him, fascinated and horrified me at the same time. He was found in northern California in a box in a dumpster with a white female puppy, presumably his sister. They were discovered by a young couple travelling back to Los Angeles, who took the puppies home with them. The local vet, upon examining the dogs, thought they might be part wolf. Toby ultimately ended up in Connecticut after relatives of the couple, who had stopped by to visit while on a cross-country driving trip, decided to adopt the puppies.

I couldn’t stop wondering how and why Toby and his sister ended up in a dumpster in a box, and were they really part wolf? And more importantly, what would drive someone to abuse a defenseless puppy? My musings turned into a story. The story turned into a book.

The impetus to finish writing the book came from my realization that Toby’s story could help raise awareness of the plight of abused and abandoned dogs. When A Place to Call Home: Toby’s Tale was published earlier this year, I decided to donate part of the proceeds from the sale each book to a rescue organization in honor of Toby and all rescue dogs in need of a place to call home.


Click here to buy A Place to Call Home: Toby’s Tale

Ferrante: That’s wonderful. What advice would you give someone considering adopting an abused pet?

Whitmore: Be sure you are ready and willing to put in the time for your animal to get to know you and your family and to give it the attention and love it needs and deserves. Visit animal shelters and talk to the staff members, most of whom know their animals and will be happy to introduce you to those they think would fit your family and home. Ask questions about the pet’s background, habits, exercise abilities…anything you would want to know about a new family member. That is what this animal will be, after all, so do not be shy about asking.  The staff may not know every answer, but whatever information you receive will help you and your pet get to know each other better.

Ferrante: You have other pets as well. Are any of them rescued animals?

Whitmore: Yes, I have a cat who I rescued, and I have rescued four dogs since Toby. I will always have rescued animals in my home. I cannot imagine my home without them!

Ferrante: What kind of response have you had from children who have read your book?

 Whitmore: They love Toby and his kind and adventurous spirit, and they love the idea of animals talking to each other.  But they also wonder how some people can be so mean to animals. Even the adults who read this book (and there are nearly as many of them as child readers) say they are saddened by that part of the true story.  Most of the children say they cannot wait for the next book in my series.

Ferrante: Yes, it is unfathomable to me that people do these things to animals. Do you have another book in the works? 

Whitmore: I am currently writing the second book in my series, The Rescue Dog Tales, A Place to Belong: Kadee’s Tale.  It was inspired by an article I read in a Reader’s Digest several years ago while sitting in my doctor’s waiting room. (Yes, I am guilty of tearing it out and taking it with me.) Kadee is a mixed breed border collie who is rescued from a dog fight and finds herself part of a training program that pairs juveniles who get in trouble with rescue dogs. The lead human character, Sam, is a good girl who gets into some trouble, ends up at a ranch for juvenile offenders, and is ultimately accepted into the rescue dog-training program. As you might guess, she is paired up with Kadee and the two of them become inseparable.

three random questions

Ferrante: If any one of the national holidays had to be celebrated twice a year, six months apart, which one would you want it to be?

Whitmore: Thanksgiving, although I’m a vegetarian and do not eat turkey (or tofurkey, either), because I have so much to be grateful for and because I love pumpkin pie.

What is not a national holiday, but I wish it were, is Rescued Animals Day.  I would like to see shelters have open houses on that day and offer incentives to suitable people to adopt one of their shelter animals. Maybe someone you know will start the movement to make that happen!

Ferrante: Sounds like a great idea. Maybe one of the children who read your book will lead the way.

 If you were on an African safari, what would you absolutely have to see for your trip to be complete?

Whitmore: Like most people, I am fascinated by elephants, so seeing them up close and free would be amazing. But I also love the big cats…and the wild dogs…and the graceful giraffes…and the tiny meerkats…and….as you can tell, I would be one of those folks jumping around in her seat to see and photograph every wild thing!

Ferrante: If you had to choose your own epitaph of eight words or fewer (besides name and dates), what would it say?

Whitmore: She loved animals, and they loved her, too.

Ferrante: That’s beautiful. What a wonderful way to be remembered. Thank you for spending time with me today. I look forward to reading your book.  And thank you for being a refuge for unfortunate animals.

Read the book review here.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Exploring Our Darkness – Author Audrey N. Lewis Three Random Questions Interview

Audrey N. Lewis has retired after 25 years of running an International not-for-profit. Now she is able to focus on her writing and has completed two very different books.


Bonnie Ferrante: Hello and welcome Audrey. Reading through your bio I was struck with how many similar interests we have. We both enjoy furniture restoration, scrabble, gardens and nature. I don’t know if I would ever have the courage to keep bees though.

Audrey N. Lewis: Thank you for having me Bonnie. I would love to play scrabble sometime. It’s interesting that you mention needing courage when it comes to beekeeping. Really it isn’t about courage as much as it’s about the ability to keep calm. It has been a hobby that our whole family was able to be involved in. I actually discovered I am allergic to honey bees and my husband had to take over the hive care and I was responsible for extracting and preparing the honey. It’s an awesome experience and as a nature lover feels good to increase the bee population.

Ferrante: One of the characters in your short story collection, Everybody has a story… These are ours…, is also a highly creative person. Megan is an artist. But the rest, seem very different from you. When you write, do you draw on your own experiences or like to explore new ways of looking at things?    

Lewis: I think that when I write it is difficult not to draw from either something I have experienced on a physical level or an emotion that an event may evoke.

When I write I think I have a tendency to throw myself into the story and that although a particular story line might not be real or something I have personally experienced I tend to  immerse myself into a character or characters often letting it take over for a bit, until I can finish it and let it go.

Buy link for Everybody has a story…. These are ours…..

Ferrante: At one point in Megan’s story, she draws detailed, amazing pictures on frosted store front windows that melt away with the sunrise. This is a Buddhist activity, much like water sketches, chalk drawings, or sand mandalas. It was quite symbolic of her life. If you had to choose an artistic activity to represent your life, what do you think would be most suitable?

Lewis: Since we share many hobbies, I think you might understand my dilemma in saying I am not sure I can answer this question. I feel that I have come a long way from the little girl I was when I wrote my first poem or painted my first painting. More so now as the woman I am and continue to be, there is not one activity I feel that would represent my life, but rather an ongoing living canvas that would incorporate all of the arts and senses as well as emotions, including Mother Earth and all that she bears.

Ferrante: Although Megan’s future was taken from her, most of her life really, she never lost her true self. At one point she resorted to cutting herself and using her blood in an attempt to paint. Do you feel the creative impulse is essential to fill?

Lewis: I do believe that it is essential. I believe that as a creative person it would be so  difficult to be chastised, or forbidden to use my creativity in some way. In fact if I was no longer able to be creative at will in some way, I think I would just be empty and fade away.

Ferrante: Absolutely. It would be hard to get up in the morning.

The theme of parent and daughter seems predominant in your short story collection. Were they written as a group with that in mind?

Lewis: I am a mother of a son and daughter and a daughter who grew up with 3 sisters. I have witnessed myriad relationships throughout my years and with bearing witness to so many life events and experiences I felt I could draw most realistically from those. When I wrote them, they were written at different times and I did not really think about how they might go together.

Ferrante: The first story in your collection, “The Closet” had a sci-fi touch that was about a universal problem. The child in this story has special needs that her parents and teachers seem unable to fill. Because of her innate personality, she has great difficulty with self-control and interpersonal relationships. Consequently, she is excluded socially and even bullied. This raises the question of nature versus nurture. Are you coming down on the side of nature?

Lewis: This was a very emotional story for me. I think all too often we hear about children who need help but either aren’t recognized as having a problem or who slip through the system in one way or another. I believe that often times it is due to nature that problems present themselves and when this happens it is difficult not to over compensate with nurturing. But even with all the nurturing one can give without defining the nature of the problem or in the case of Lexi in The Closet, addressing and acknowledging it. I believe that you cannot nurture someone so disturbed without acknowledging that nature may indeed continue to take its course.

Ferrante: The mood of this story collection is quite sombre, even dark. Were they all written at a specific time in your life? Did you set out to explore the theme of helplessness or despair?

Lewis: It’s interesting that you ask me this question, because I have discussed this with close friends. Most of the stories were written at a different time and not necessarily shadowing where I was emotionally. I do not think of myself as a dark person, so I was surprised at how dark they turned out to be. I think that it is not so much helplessness or despair as much as my perception of the various life events and the reality of them. There are two sides to everything and I think that when I wrote them I was attempting to show the side of life’s stages that one doesn’t always look at. Thinking about these stories sort of makes me sad, because I feel that they do indeed reflect those emotions.

Ferrante: Your other book, Dreamseeker, Wish Keeper is totally different. It is a children’s book illustrated with crayon drawings. Why did you decide to switch from adult short story writing to a children’s picture book?

Lewis: Actually, Dreamseeker, Wish Keeper was written and illustrated in 1991 for my daughters 6th birthday. I have written many stories of various genre since then which includes the collection of short stories, Everybody has a story….These are ours. I don’t actually decide what I will write but rather let where I am and what I am feeling dictate my writing at a specific time.

 Click here to buy Dreamseeker Wish Keeper

Ferrante: The picture book almost seems as though it is written for adults instead of children, or at least teenagers. I felt the theme was to dream big, but worthy, dreams, be curious, work to fulfill your wishes, don’t give up, and share your gifts. Who do you feel you are speaking to in this book? Why did you choose this message?

Lewis: Like I said, Bonnie, I wrote Dreamseeker, Wish Keeper for my daughters 6th birthday. This was my gift to her, so when I wrote it I was speaking to her. I wrote it understanding the old soul in her and the gifts she shared with all of us. As the younger sibling of a physically disabled brother sometimes she didn’t always understand the fairness of life and yet her heart screamed the dreams I wrote about. I guess it only seemed fitting to give her messages that she might carry with her through life and remember how incredible human nature can be when we look at each other and at life itself in a positive way.

 Ferrante: What is your next project going to be?

Lewis: Phew. I am working on several projects right now. I am working on a novel that has been evolving for the past 40 years, about how differently we view expereinces at different times of our lives, how they may look differently depending on where one might be at the time. It is about going back, forgiving and letting go.

I am working on a sci-fi book with several writers. It is about a parallel dimension of powerful women and what their lives are like as they create their world. It should be interesting with different voices coming together.

I am also working on what was originally going to be a short story which is becoming a novella. It was inspired after the tragedy in Orlando and I am hoping will open up some deep discussions and perhaps change some reader’s views on the human race.

three random questions

Ferrante: What special talents would you like to possess?

Lewis:  Without sounding too altruistic, I would like to be able to alleviate the world of diseases, hunger and the carbon footprints and pollution that are causing climate change.

 Ferrante: As a child, what was your favourite game?

Lewis: I think this is another hard question, Bonnie. It depends on how old I was. I think what I remember that made me happiest was playing with my imaginary friend, Jeffery.

 Ferrante: What word do you most dislike? What do you most like?

Lewis: I really dislike the word “hate” it is such an unfriendly word and always seems to instill such sad feelings. I don’t think there is ever anything good that comes from that word.

The word I like most depends on the day. But if I think about it as a word that makes me happy when I think about what it means than it would be two words, Love and Peace. These are the words I really wish we could all live our lives believing and sharing.

Bonnie, thank you again for having me and I hope we can play a game of scrabble sometime soon.

 Ferrante: Thank you for participating. It’s always great to make a connection with someone of similar interests. Best of luck with your many endeavours.

The author’s short story collection was reviewed March 31, 2017.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

The Three Random Questions are from a Bit of Banter, the Game That Gets You Talking

What If You Overheard a Murderer? – Author Philip Cox Three Random Questions Interview

Today we will meet an author who writes for adults. Do you remember the cold February weather? Philip Cox’s thriller/mysteries will make you shiver just as much as that northern wind.


Bonnie Ferrante: Welcome, Phillip. You began your writing career as a stay-at-home father. How did you find the time and the energy to write After the Rain, Dark Eyes of London, Something to Die For, Don’t Go Out Into the Dark, and Wrong Time to Die all within four years?

Philip Cox: Actually, it’s six years now, and She’s Not Coming Home and Should Have Looked Away are somewhere in there too. Writing a book is something I’d always wanted to do. When our eldest daughter was born, I took a career break from my job in banking and started After the Rain, which finally came out in 2011. Time management and self-discipline are very important: there are always potential distractions. As far as the energy is concerned, that’s just lots of black coffee and chocolate cookies!


Click on the book covers for more information.

Ferrante: Several of your books take place in the United States of America. Why have you chosen to write in that setting instead of England?

Cox: For a book to enjoy any success it has to sell in necessary numbers in both the United States and the UK. US readers are more likely to be interested in a story set in their own country. Places like London or Paris might be an exception. As far as UK readers are concerned, with a story set in somewhere like New York or Los Angeles, there’s that familiarity because of the movies and TV, and at the same time the exoticism and foreignness. I tend to pick New York and LA as they are places I know very well. In Wrong Time to Die the main character visits several restaurants and bars: they’re all real places. I’ve been to them.

 Click on the book cover for more information.

Ferrante: Why do you write in the thriller genre? Are you inspired by anything in the news or real life?

Cox: The authors I enjoy reading most range from Lee Child and James Patterson right through to Agatha Christie and Denis Wheatley. I took inspiration for After the Rain from a newspaper article I read about a guy from South London who was on vacation somewhere and went missing. Don’t Go Out in the Dark was something on Facebook. I was sitting in one of the stalls in a restroom and overheard a conversation. I got to thinking how scary it would be to be to hear a murder, even scarier if you had one of your children with you! So I took the plot of Should Have Looked Away from there.


Click on the book covers for more information.

Ferrante: Your interests include the history of cinema and model railroading. Is your basement filled with models? Have you ever written about either of these?

Cox: Ha! Not the basement – some years back I had the garage converted into a den! No, I’ve not thought about including model railroading, but I’m also interested in full sized ones. The Underground (subway) in London is the oldest in the world and has lots of history. A lot of the action in Dark Eyes of London takes place there, and there is a suggestion at the start of the book that readers download a system map so they can follow the events.

Ferrante: I’m assuming that since you write thrillers, you’re a plotter.

 Cox: Generally, the outline isn’t too precise when I start. I have an idea what the story’s going to be about and how it will end (generally) but I’ll flesh details out as I go along. Sometimes the story will develop in a different way to how I first envisioned it. I’ll always start at the beginning, and have never written the climax first; however, if I’m suffering from block, I might write a future chapter or two, then tailor the action to reach that stage. Better than stalling.

Ferrante: With two children to care for, a quiet and private place to work must be a challenge. Do you have a routine that you follow every day?

Cox: I tend to write when the children are at school or when they’ve gone to sleep. If that’s not possible, I’ll take myself off to the local library, but there are distractions there as well. I tend to pencil out a couple of chapters in rough – just an outline – one day, then hit the keyboard the next, alternating like that. With everything else going on, I’d find it too tiring to be typing day in, day out. I do target myself, not numbers of pages, but numbers of words. When I start a book, I’m aiming for around 65000 words. When I know when I need to finish the first draft, I can then calculate how many words I need to achieve each week. I also try to keep it Monday to Fridays: that way, I have time weekends to make up any shortfall.

Ferrante: What do you find the most challenging about writing?

Cox: Trying to come up with something original. Not easy. For example, the one I’m working on now is the third in a series featuring an LAPD detective. I came across a piece a few weeks back about an old Navajo superstition which says if someone’s on a journey and a coyote crosses their path, they have to abandon the journey, as it means they will meet with a fatal accident. The mystic side of that appealed to me and I planned on working that into the plot. I even thought up a title: The Last Coyote. As I always do, I checked on Amazon if there was already a book with that title and there was – a Harry Bosch novel! So it was back to the drawing board on that one. I’ve found it a good idea to have a notepad and pen with me 24/7 because little ideas will always flash through my mind at the most unexpected times. Another challenge can be boredom: if it’s hard going, and nothing’s coming through, it’s easy to get distracted to just do something else, so yes, you do need the discipline.

Ferrante: What do you find the most rewarding?

Cox: Getting the royalties! That’s not as glib as it sounds: whilst everybody likes to see those credits on their bank statements, to receive a payment for something I’ve personally created is an amazing feeling. Of course it’s not 100% me: others proof-read, and help with research, but in the main, it’s my achievement. When I worked in banking, that was all down to the guys who founded the bank however many years ago, and I was working something that others had set up and created.  Here, the books are my creation. Hope that doesn’t sound too lofty. Also rewarding is when I either first see the eBook on the Amazon sales pages or when I unwrap my copy of the paperback version. I was present at the births of both my children, and the feeling of seeing a new book is second only to how I felt then. Not a close second, by the way; some way behind, but second nonetheless.

Ferrante: What advice would you have for beginning writers starting their first novel?

Cox: When it’s finished, get somebody else to proof-read: you will miss loads, and lose your credibility.

Ferrante: Is there something you would like to share with your readers that I haven’t asked?

Cox: My favourite movie genre is horror, the black and white Universal pictures from the 30s and 40s, and the colour pictures from Hammer Films years later. I met and had a conversation with Christopher Lee once, an unforgettable experience.  I have a couple of CDs of soundtracks of the Hammer horror pictures, and once I got my wife to play excerpts, shuffled, to see if I could guess the movie. I got 100%! How sad is that!

three random questions

Ferrante: If you could create a memorial to yourself in a city park, what would that memorial be?

Cox: I think a life-sized statue of me sitting reading a book. Hopefully that will encourage more kids to get off their computer games and read a book. E-books allowed, of course.

Ferrante: If you could go back in time and ask any famous person in history one question, whom would you question and what would you ask? Assume that you would be given a completely honest answer.

Cox: Jesus Christ. I’d like to ask him: all the stuff I’ve heard, all the things I’ve read – is it actually true?

Ferrante: If, with your safety guaranteed, you could experience something considered very dangerous, what would you want to experience most of all?

Cox: To go into space, and see the world as it really is, as an actual planet, with the moon over there, the sun over there, and the stars way out there in the distance. That might link in with question 2.


Twitter:  @philipcoxbooks

Instagram: philipcox_books

Facebook:  /Philip Cox

Don’t Go Out in the Dark book review.

Not Afraid to Write the Truth: Activist/Author Eric Lotke Three Random Questions Interview

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages


Note: the three random questions are from “Chat Pack – Fun Questions to Spark Conversations”.

Writing/Righting History & Getting Toddlers to Eat – Author Delin Colón Three Random Questions Interview

delinglasses1aDelin Colón is a writer and freelance editor with a background in clinical psychology.

Bonnie Ferrante: Welcome, Delin. You have had a number of career paths. Tell us a little about them and how they led to your writing.

Delin Colón: Thank you, Bonnie. Actually, I wrote my first poem at the age of eight (in 1958). Several were published in minor literary magazines during my high school and college years. Then came essays and short stories.

While I had majored in French and French literature in my undergraduate years, I turned to clinical psychology in graduate school which combined my love of research and working with people, and led to counseling children and adults in a variety of clinical settings such as psychiatric hospitals, halfway houses, walk-in clinics and a juvenile detention center. This background led to a job as a technical writer for Sociological Abstracts. I loved the challenge of reducing an experiment or study down to four sentences describing the essence of the article.

A decade or so later, as the co-owner and manager of a stairbuilding company, I saw a need in the marketplace for a clearinghouse of all kinds of writers and formed a company that matched freelance writers with jobs. But the real impetus for publishing my first book, Rasputin and the Jews, came from reading the memoirs of my great-great uncle who spent a decade as Gregory Rasputin’s secretary/manager.

Ferrante: You have written two very different books, a historical nonfiction called Rasputin and the Jews and a picture booked titled Zeke Will Not Eat. Let’s talk about the first one for a bit. How much research did that involve? Did you have the plot and then do the research or did you discover the plot as you researched?

Colón: Actually, Rasputin and the Jews: A Reversal of History is the culmination of 15 years of researching the writings of people who knew Rasputin. My father had always told me that his great uncle, Aron Simanovitch, had been Rasputin’s secretary. For years I tried to research my ancestor but with little luck until the late 1990s when I found, on the internet, an out-of-print copy of Simanovitch’s memoirs in French. It did not seem to have been professionally edited at all, as there was a lot of repetition and poor organization of the manuscript. However, what struck me about it, first of all, was that my great-great uncle was one of the few Jews permitted to live outside Russia’s Pale of Settlement where most Jews were confined. But even more importantly, his memoirs conveyed a completely different image of Rasputin than history and myth have recorded.

My second book was my English translation, with historical annotations, of Simanovitch’s memoirs, titled Rasputin: The Memoirs of His Secretary by Aron Simanovitch.

Ferrante: How do you organize your research and make it easy to find something you read later on? I read that you worked on the book for 15 years. You must have been buried in documents.

Colón: Most of the books I read about Rasputin propagated the demonic myth that had been fabricated by the Russian nobility to discredit him. But there were quite a few quotes and memoirs from those who knew him intimately, on a nearly daily basis (such as my great-great uncle and Maria Rasputin), that told the story of a humanitarian (who, okay, loved to party) who, contrary to government policy and to the wrath of the aristocracy, advocated equal rights for oppressed minorities as well a voice in government for all citizens.

With regard to organizing the research, I used a simple index card file with the subject and date of the quote or event at the top, the quote in the body of the card, and the title, author and page of the resource information at the bottom. The cards were then organized by subject matter and then chronologically within each chapter’s subject.

Ferrante: Can you give us a sentence or two about Rasputin and the Jews?

Colón: Rasputin and The Jews: A Reversal of History is the product of research providing evidence that the Russian nobility, clergy and bureaucracy conspired in a smear campaign against Rasputin because they saw him as dangerous:

  1. for advocating equal rights for Jews (in opposition to the laws restricting their lives)
  2. for the popularity of his upbeat sermons of a loving God (in contrast to the fear of God preached in the Russian Orthodox Church)
  3. for being anti-war and preaching peace during World War I.
  4. and for believing that all citizens should have a say in government…the biggest threat to the nobility.

Ferrante: Why did you challenge the tradition beliefs about Rasputin?

Colón: History is written by the victors, not by the common man.  It became clear to me that Rasputin became a collateral victim of, among other things, the virulent anti-Semitism of the aristocracy, bureaucracy and clergy. My research revealed that it was not only my ancestor’s experience that Rasputin was a generous man, a healer and a progressive humanitarian, but that others who knew him well witnessed the same traits, refuting the demonic image. For me, it was a matter of righting a century-old injustice. Interestingly, Rasputin and The Jews led me to a correspondence with Rasputin’s great-great granddaughter in France. She tours Europe and Russia lecturing to dispel the myths about Rasputin.

Click on the cover to buy Rasputin and the Jews

Ferrante: Your latest book is a picture book for children, Zeke Will Not Eat.  Why did you choose this subject?

Colón: I’m in the process of writing a series of books for 2 to 6 year-olds, addressing typical toddler issues. Zeke Will Not Eat is the second one. I’ve done some research on the most common problems parents of this age group face and not eating is high on the list. The first book, Katy Rose Likes To Say NO!, addresses that stage where children assert their independence and establish themselves as separate from their parents by saying “no.”

Click on the picture to buy Katy Rose Likes to Say NO!

Ferrante: Did the technique used in the book come from personal experience?

Colón: Yes it did. It was a technique I devised for myself as a child, using my imagination to make mealtime more interesting for myself. It was completely internal and not something I mentioned to my parents or siblings.

Ferrante: Do you have any other tips for parents having mealtime difficulties with a child?

Colón: At the beginning of each of these little books, there is a note to parents explaining the behavior and its purpose in the child’s development. With Zeke, I note that, barring medical issues, there are a variety of reasons for a child’s unwillingness to sit down at the table for a meal, from filling up on snacks and drinks too close to mealtime, to feeling excluded from the conversation, or simply exercising newly found manipulative abilities.

Click on the cover to buy Zeke Will Not Eat

In Katy Rose, my note to parents stresses that it is not only normal, but developmentally necessary for children to go through a “no” phase in order to assert themselves in the world and establish a Self, an identity separate from their parents. As powerless beings subject to adult authority, “no” is often a child’s first taste of power and individuality. But when it becomes routine defiance or is hurtful to friends, it is an opportunity to teach compassion and the unfortunate consequences of negativity. There is also discussion on when it is important to say “no.” One way to avoid “no” is to make statements rather than ask questions, reducing the possibility of options. Rather than asking, “Do you want to go for a walk?” saying, “Let’s go…” or “Now we’ll go…” assumes the event will occur and doesn’t give an option.

Ferrante: The illustrations seemed odd at first glance until I read how they were done using the same 150 shapes arranged and rearranged to create pictures. Why did you choose this technique?

Colón: I grew up in a small town on the east coast that was essentially an artists’ colony. My mother is an artist and we were always given art projects to do, in a variety of media. One of the most famous artists in our town was Ben Shahn. His teenage daughter, Susie, happened to be visiting at my friend’s house when I was about 7 years old. She sat us kids down on the floor, cut a huge variety of shapes from construction paper and had us arrange the shapes into an image on a blank piece of paper. It was like doing a jigsaw puzzle with no ‘right’ outcome; just whatever our imaginations could conjure.

I’ve been enamored of this technique ever since, and have a website of other images I’ve created, in addition to the book illustrations. (

I have nothing in mind when cutting the pieces of varying shapes, lengths and sizes. The challenge is in turning them into illustrations that convey the text. One image might take a couple of days to a week to produce. By the way, all of the pieces used in Katy Rose were also used in Zeke, with a few dozen more added for the latter. Instructions for doing such a parent-child art project are at the back of each book. Alternatively, a child could color in the black and white images, as one would in a coloring book.

Ferrante: I don’t think people realize how challenging it is until they try it.

What are you working on now?

Colón: I’m conjuring the third book in the series which will be about telling the truth, a more difficult and abstract concept than the first two. Interestingly, my research revealed a study showing that children are more likely to tell the truth after hearing positive stories (like George Washington being praised for admitting he chopped down the cherry tree) than they are after hearing stories with negative consequences for lying (like The Boy Who Cried Wolf or Pinocchio

In addition, I have half a dozen rough chapters of an existential coming-of-age novel illustrating how Self and Identity are shaped and the conundrum that there is no absolute Self without outside influences.

Ferrante: Interesting. That’s similar to Buddhism.

Is there anything I haven’t asked that you would like to share with my readers?

Colón: This is the most thorough and in-depth interview I’ve done, with questions that pertain specifically to my work, as opposed to the general, stock questions that others ask every writer. I’ve really had to think about them. I just hope that your readers find some of my work of interest.

Ferrante: I’m sure parents of toddlers will appreciate your tips.

Three Random Questions:

Ferrante: What was the craziest thing you ever bought?

Colón:   I’ve never been a lover of shopping and have generally stuck to practical items but several decades ago I was intrigued by an ad for an electric device that could be set at various brain wave frequencies to induce alertness, memory, sleep, creativity, or relaxation. I was especially interested in increasing the Theta waves for creativity. At different times, I tried each different setting, wearing dark goggles that pulsed light flashes at different rates and head phones that played tones in the desired frequencies. They all tended to produce the same result for me: I’d fall asleep and have some very bizarre dreams. Not long after, I’d be awakened by one of my teenagers asking when dinner would be ready. Frankly, I never noticed any greater creativity, fatigue or relaxation in the ensuing meal preparations.

Ferrante: In your opinion, what song has the most beautiful chorus?

Colón: That’s a tough one. I guess the one closest to my heart would be Helen Reddy’s “You and Me Against the World:”

You and me against the world,
Sometimes it seems like you and me against the world,
When all the others turn their backs and walk away,
You can count on me to stay.

It describes perfectly the close relationship I had with my older son, a musician who, even at the age of 27, before his death eight years ago, proudly described himself as “mama’s boy.”

The song continues:

And when one of us is gone,
And one of us is left to carry on,
Then remembering will have to do,
Our memories alone will get us through
Think about the days of me and you,
Of you and me against the world.

Ferrante: Oh, I am so sorry. I can’t imagine losing my son. My deepest condolences.

Last question. Do you like your first name? What would you like to have been called?

Colón: I do like my first name (accent on the second syllable: de-LIN) mostly because I created it. It is not the name on my birth certificate, but a mash-up of my names that I’ve been using for over 50 years. I was given a Hebrew name, Chana Dvora, and though I like it, it doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, especially with the guttural “ch.” But if I had it to do over, from scratch, I always thought “Kate” suited me.

Again, Bonnie, thank you so much for this opportunity. I don’t think I’ve ever given such a heartfelt interview … probably because I was never asked such well-considered questions.

Ferrante: Thank you. I try to make my interviews unique to the interviewee. You’ve shared a lot of information with us. This is, by far, the longest interview I’ve printed but it is chock full of value and cool ideas. Thank you for participating.

Zeke Will Not Eat was reviewed on this blog March 20, 2017.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Three random questions are from a Bit of Banter, the Game That Gets You Talking)

On the No Fly List? Lesley-Anne Caporelli Three Random Questions Interview

Lesley-Anne Caporelli is the author of Can I Bring a Giraffe on the Plane? She lives in United States with her wonderful family and her big-nosed, wee-tailed puppy, Pippin. She loves music of all kinds and her morning lattes.


Bonnie Ferrante: Welcome, Lesley-Anne. Let’s discuss the evolution of your first picture book.

Rajesh appears to be East Indian. Why did you write from that perspective?

Lesley-Anne Caporelli: I used to travel from the USA to India on business.  There were always families traveling with young children.  It is a 16 ½ hour flight, and you have a lot of time with not much to do.  I was very bored and wished I had a friend with me; therefore, I could only imagine how bored they were!  Rajesh was named after a colleague in India who has the most wonderful smile, and his name is Rajesh.  The story evolved from those trips.

Ferrante: How many versions did you write?

Caporelli: Too many to count!!  I am a visual person.  I develop storyboards and then develop the text.  There were several changes to the story until I thought it would work.  Even in the final drafts, the story changed.  The ending changed at the last minute.

Ferrante: I firmly believe losing count of the number of versions is a sign of a professional, always striving to do better.

Why did you choose a giraffe as opposed to any other animal?

Caporelli: There was no specific reason that I chose a giraffe.  When the idea popped into my head, it sounded good.  Choosing the other animals was harder because I second-guessed each one.  Some of the other animals did not make it into the final cut.   

 Click here to buy Can I Bring a Giraffe on the Plane?

Ferrante: What do you feel makes your writing original?

Caporelli: I believe my writing is original because I create stories in a world where all things are possible and no one else creates from that world but me. I take every day experiences and/or observations and put them into my creative world.    For example, in my creative world bringing a giraffe on the plane is a normal thing to ask – but in our world, it is silly.

Ferrante: What is the most important thing you have learned about writing picture books?

Caporelli: The importance of letting an illustrator have creative control was a big lesson for me.  The illustrator of my book, Tina Modugno, utilized colors and a style that appeals to children.  Her input made the book much better than I could have done on my own.

Ferrante: What is your next project about?

Caporelli: I have a few books drafted.  One is about a child who is having a difficult time coming up with something to do on a very rainy day.  I hope Rajesh will make an appearance in that book.

Ferrante: Is there anything else you would like to tell us?

Caporelli: I am thinking about approaching my day job in the same fashion as I approach the creation of a children’s book.  I am half-joking – it may be the next management craze!

three random questions

Ferrante: If you were completely blind but could somehow see for just one hour each month, how would you most often spend that time? 

Caporelli: I would gather up my family, including the dog, and go to the beach, the mountains, the city, museums — anything as long as I could gaze at my beautiful family for that hour.

Ferrante: If you could be the spokesperson for any product on the market, what product would you choose to enthusiastically represent?

Caporelli: It would have to be Starbucks!!  I am a huge Starbucks fan – the shops, their lattes, etc.  I am most impressed with their college benefits for their part-time employees.  I believe everyone should have access to affordable, high quality education.  In the US right now, access to quality education at all levels is not available for all of the population, and it is hurting our future.

Ferrante: If all drinking fountains could dispense another liquid in addition to water, what would you want it to be?  

Caporelli: I guess I answered this question above.  Coffee…specifically lattes!

Ferrante; Thank you for sharing with us today. Good luck with your new projects. I guess it’s time for a coffee break. 


What If You Overheard a Murderer? – Author Philip Cox Three Random Questions Interview

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Note: the three random questions are from “Chat Pack – Fun Questions to Spark Conversations”.

Watch Out for the Jumping Cactus! Not Kidding: Illustrator Guy Porfirio Three Random Questions Interview

Guy Porfirio has illustrated over 18 picture books. Grandpa’s Little One was #3 on the New York Times Best Selling Children’s Books, and Junk Man’s Daughter was featured in the Bank Street College of Education’s Best Children’s Books of the Year list in 2007. His latest release is Jump.


Bonnie Ferrante: Welcome, Guy. Is your newest book, Jump, the first one that you have also authored? It’s about a cactus, correct? Could you tell us how you came to choose this character and a little about the story?

Guy Porfirio: Yes, I have illustrated many picture books, but “Jump!” is my first as Author/Illustrator.

The story for Jump originally came to me while visiting relatives in Tucson Arizona when I was 12 years old. Having grown up in Chicago, the idea of cactus was as foreign to me as thin crust pizza. Be that as it may, I was willing to accept both ideas with an open mind. That is, until we took a family hike through the desert where my aunt turned to me and said, “Watch out for the jumping cactus.” What? At that point I was ready to be airlifted out. I remember thinking, I didn’t sign up for this. No one told me that there would be deadly cactus parts flying through the air. Whose idea was this anyway? The worst a plant could do in Chicago is give me poison ivy. Let’s go home, I’ll take my chances.

Years later, and now living in Tucson, I decided to take a walk through the desert to mull over several story ideas I had been considering. I made it back to my studio unscathed — but not alone. A small cholla, aka, jumping cactus, had somehow stuck to my shoe and followed me home. My aunt’s words came flooding back. It occurred to me as I studied the stowaway, perhaps jumping cactus is just misunderstood. Everyone knows nothing ever happens in the desert. What if jumping cacti are just plain bored? What if they just want a change of scenery? What if they just need a vacation once and a while? …Light bulb! New story idea!

I named the main character Barb for obvious reasons. Barb is a clever cactus with a great sense of adventure and plenty of spine. All she wants is an adventure. But, in the desert, nothing ever happens, and nothing every changes. Barb sees an opportunity. She holds her breath, takes the leap of a lifetime, and never looks back… until she realizes that having a great adventure is not that great if there is no one to share it with. Which is when things really get interesting.


 Click here to buy Jump!

Ferrante: That’s hilarious. Tell us a little about your writing process from the perspective of an illustrator.

Porfirio: Through my years of illustrating books I’ve trained myself to look for the less obvious – to put an unexpected spin on things. Whatever the most interesting aspect of a character or a scene may be, it’s even better when it comes from a surprising point of view. When I see a thing, or have a thought that strikes me in a funny way (and just about everything does – just ask my family), I sort of come up with a quick back-story complete with dialog snippets and voices to go along with them. If they crack me up, I’ll share them with my wife. I figure if I can make her laugh I just may have something.

Then, I start making lists. I write down everything I can think of that pertains to the character, its situation, its goal, why it can’t reach its goal, and how it reaches its goal anyway — you know the drill. Then, I start sketching scenes. When I get stuck sketching, I switch to writing. When I get stuck writing, I switch back to sketching. If all else fails, I take a long walk.

Ferrante: Grandpa’s Little One, written by Billy Crystal and illustrated by you, was #3 on the New York Times Best Selling Children’s Books, a phenomenal accomplishment. Did you collaborate?

Porfirio: Collaborating with Billy Crystal was quite an amazing experience. Billy was very easy to work with. I learned a lot about the creative process though our collaboration. We communicated through emails and phone conversations. I’d send him sketches and we’d discuss them over the phone, batting new ideas around till the story was working just right. I was able to meet Billy in Phoenix while he was doing his 700 Sundays show tour. I’m proud to say that I actually made him laugh a couple of times through the process, a true badge of honor.


 Click here to buy Grandpa’s Little One

Ferrante: You have illustrated several books for Harper Collins but you have worked for other publishers as well. How does this come about?

Porfirio: I’ve had publishers call me seemingly out-of-the-blue, or as a result of my agent’s work, or, having one of my promotional post cards come across their desk at just the right moment. The trick is to get your work out where it can be seen. Maintain a website, send out promotional materials, be on social media. Just keep putting out your best work on a regular basis and people will notice.

Ferrante: Good advice. Do you set aside time to free draw daily?

Porfirio: Always, no matter what I’m working on. It’s very important to make deadlines, but it’s also important to keep the creative river flowing. I think there is a real need to keep a sense of wonder and possibility while working on anything creative. The obvious answers to concept and composition will always be at the shallow end of the creative ocean. You’ve got to swim out a ways to get the good stuff. Sketching and drawing unrelated pieces helps the process along. Being creative feeds on being creative.

Ferrante: You illustrated Junk Man’s Daughter, released in 2007 and written by Sonia Levitin. It was chosen as one of Bank Street College of Education’s Best Children’s Books of the Year. Could you tell us about the book and this award?

Porfirio: Junk Man’s Daughter is the story of Hanna and her family emigrating from Germany, because, as Papa explained, “In America, there are streets of gold!” Papa couldn’t find work in America, and the family’s hopes and dreams vanished. Until Hanna saw something winking out of the snow, which turned out to be bottle caps, milk bottles, soda bottles, bent nails, and tin cans — the beginnings of a thriving junk business.

Both sets of my grandparents lived similar stories to this. Understanding and identifying with this project came pretty easy for me. I worked hard to imbue the artwork with a sense of era and hardship.  The book has done very well.

The Bank Street College of Education’s Best Children’s Books of the year includes more than 600 titles chosen by the Children’s Book Committee as the best of the best published in any given year. Committee members consider literary quality and excellence of presentation as well as the potential emotional impact of the books on young readers. Other criteria include credibility of characterization and plot, authenticity of time and place, age suitability, positive treatment of ethnic and religious differences, and the absence of stereotypes.


 Click here to buy Junkman’s Daughter (Tales of Young Americans)

Ferrante: Which book was the most challenging to illustrate?

Porfirio: Actually, my first book dummy was the most challenging book project I’ve ever worked on, period! I had such a hard time getting used to working within the 32 page, 16 spread format. Planning the scenes. Deciding what to illustrate and what to leave out. How to introduce characters, how to lead the viewer’s eye. I actually tried to give the project back at one point. Thank goodness I was working with an editor who understood what I was going through more than I understood storytelling. My editor listened to me, then said, “I know you’ll get this, and once you do, you’ll never forget it.” And I never have.

Ferrante: Wonderful. Which book did you have the most fun illustrating?

Porfirio: Well, first of all, I’ve enjoyed every book I’ve illustrated, but Jump! tops them all. Having complete creative control over story and imagery is a dream come true!

Ferrante: I can see that and it’s probably good that it wasn’t your first book as well. What advice would you give a beginning illustrator that you wish someone had told you?

Porfirio: I wish someone had told me not to spend time comparing my artwork to artists’ work I admire. Other than being spurred on and inspired artistically, comparing one’s artwork to that of another artist’s work is a complete waste of time. Don’t ever suppress your own uniqueness by trying to be like someone else.

Ferrante: As Oscar Wilde said, “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.” Is there anything else you would like to share?

Porfirio: I’d just like to say how important to have fun while you’re working. Having fun doing something keeps the creative sparks flying. If I’m not having fun, I find a way to make it fun. Sometimes it’s just a matter of changing focus. But, if all else fails, I opt for a diversion: A walk, a movie, lunch, or, a good night’s sleep.

three random questions


Ferrante: If you could bring back any deceased superstar for one final performance in their respective fields, whom would you choose?

Porfirio: That’s easy!  N.C. Wyeth, just so I could watch him paint one more cover from start to finish.

Ferrante: Cool. In your opinion, what is the most beautiful man-made object in the world?

Porfirio: I think the X-Wing Starfighter from StarWars comes pretty close to perfection. But, if I have to choose from earthbound man-made tangible objects I’d have to go with the 2016 Jaguar F-Type V6. I’m not really a car guy, but I think I could get the hang of it with one of those parked in my driveway.

Ferrante: I’ll bet you could. If your name were given as the description for any one word in the dictionary, behind what word would people find your name?

Porfirio: Storyteller. 

Ferrante: Apt choice. Thank you for sharing your funny and fascinating stories with us today.

Jump book trailer

Web site





Rio Chico Books for Children


Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

The book Barb was reviewed on this blog on February 24, 2017.

Note: the three random questions are from “Chat Pack – Fun Questions to Spark Conversations”.

Not Afraid to Write the Truth: Activist/Author Eric Lotke Three Random Questions Interview

Eric Lotke is a writer, an attorney and an activist. His writing and advocacy have impacted the American criminal justice system even leading to new laws.

Lotke Eric headshot

Bonnie Ferrante: Your first book, 2044: The Problem isn’t Big Brother, It’s Big Brother Inc. discusses the problem we seem to read about at least once a month where amazing inventions and progressive practices are shut down so that powerful industry can continue accumulating wealth. Does your book offer any solutions? 

Eric Lotke: My novel 2044 starts where George Orwell’s 1984 left off. In 1984 the problem is the leviathan government, personified as Big Brother. In 2044 the leviathan is the private sector, which has taken over everything, including the government. The story in 2044 follows an engineer who discovers a cheap, easy way to take the salt out of seawater. The new discovery is good for everyone — except the giant corporations who control the water supply.

 I snarkily call one corporation Big Brother, Incorporated, and even give it the sunny Orwellian slogan, “Big Brother is Looking Out for You.” But both stories were intended as wake-up calls not as predictions or policy briefs.


Ferrante: Your book, The Real War on Crime: Report of the National Criminal Justice Commission, must have ruffled some feathers. How was it received?

Lotke: The Real War was groundbreaking. Published in 1996, it outlined the issues that define criminal justice to this day – mass incarceration, hyperactive policing and radical racial disparity. It offered solutions that remain relevant today – treatment not jail, and true community policing. We described minority communities as “overpoliced and underprotected.” They still are.

The Real War definitely ruffled feathers. It was an early step around a corner that’s (finally) starting to be turned.


Ferrante: Making Manna is your latest fiction novel. Why did you change from nonfiction?

Lotke: I still write non-fiction in my day job. Fiction is just more fun. 2044 ends in despair but I’m not a pessimist. So I wrote Making Manna to give myself a happy ending. Making Manna is a Horatio Alger story. It explores real-life issues but it gives the reader (and writer) a very different experience. 

Ferrante: Why did you choose to write about 14-year-old girl who flees an abusive home with her baby instead of a using man as your major protagonist?

Lotke: I didn’t choose the characters. I chose the story … and the characters are simply the people who would populate a story like that. Making Manna explores the justice system from the victim’s point of view. Who needs justice more than the victim of a childhood sex crime? I started with the worst crime I could imagine. Then I wondered: What does she need? What does the system offer her? What happens next? That’s Making Manna. BTW the 14-year-old girl shares the stage with her newborn baby, a boy. As the story matures, so does the baby. One smart reader called it a “coming of age” story of both mother and son at the same time.

Both characters are finding their way in the world. The son wants to learn the truth of his parentage; the mother needs to heal her own wounds and make peace with her past. The story feels real because it solves real problems the way real people would.

But don’t worry. The bad stuff happens off-screen. You know it happens but you don’t have to watch. Yuck! I want you to have a good time. My challenge was to turn dire circumstances into an uplifting tale of healing and hope.

Ferrante: What does the title mean?

Lotke: Thanks for asking.  The title operates on many levels. At a fundamental level, Making Manna is about food. Food appears throughout the book, as a matter of both physical subsistence and personal independence. As the story develops, so does the characters’ relationship with food. First they eat from the McDonald’s Dollar Menu. Later they learn to boil spaghetti, and still later to bake their own bread. That’s literally “making manna,” I think.

Obviously it’s a biblical reference, too. But in the Bible, manna comes from heaven. In the real world, people need to make their own. Whether manna is food or money, we have to take care of it ourselves. Manna doesn’t fall from the sky.

This isn’t rugged individualism, though. Sure, they have to make their own manna. But they aren’t truly alone. People survive in partnership. Everybody is always giving and receiving help from others.

Ferrante: What was the most challenging thing about writing fiction? What have you learned from this experience that you could share with other writers?

Lotke: I didn’t find it all that different from non-fiction. Even when I work with data (I usually do) I think of it as helping the numbers to tell a story. These are the figures: what do they mean? How can people relate? I feel like I’m doing the same thing both times.

What have I learned that I can share? Give it a try. See if you like what you wrote – but honestly make changes or quit entirely if you don’t.

Ferrante: You must’ve done a huge amount of research for your nonfiction works. Did you draw on this for Making Manna or did you have to do new research? How much do you research before you actually start writing?

Lotke: Making Manna comes from my non-fiction life. I worked in and around the justice system for more than a decade, and before law school I earned my living as a chef. All of that goes into the mix that became Making Manna. With that factual baseline I could research specific questions as needed. For example, I knew enough about criminal trial work but nothing about appeals: I needed to research that. But just enough to support the story. Making Manna is not a legal thriller.

I wanted to be accurate even at the most trivial level. When they first learn to bake bread, one character shouts instructions across the kitchen to another. She’s shouting a real recipe. You can bake from it if you want. Angel’s favorite recipes on page 208 are my favorites, too.

Making Manna is also about parenting. Anybody who has loved a sick child or struggled to find (or pay for!) day care will know what I’m talking about. It would have been a very different book if I weren’t a dad. But that isn’t research. That’s life.


Ferrante: All of these books must’ve been emotionally draining to create. What do you do to stay positive in your personal life?

LotkeIt was strange. I found that when I wrote a sad scene I was gloomier at bedtime. When I wrote a happy scene I was in a better mood afterwards. To put myself in the mental state of my characters I needed to go there myself.

How do I stay positive? Just like everyone else with a stinky job or sickness in the family. I think positive, eat well and get plenty of exercise. I’m lucky because I have a crush on my wife and two fabulous children. They’re even nice, even if somehow they got to be teenagers.

Ferrante: What are you working on now? Do you plan on continuing in the fiction genre?

Lotke: I’m conceiving a new story that’s fundamentally about labor unions. I’d like to continue working in fiction but it’s so hard to market except in a fixed genre with a target audience – young adult fantasy, adult romance, horror, police detectives, whatever.

When I get a good weekend, I’ll take my own advice. I’ll bang out chapter one and see if I like it. Stay tuned … but no deadline, please.

Some readers of Making Manna have asked for a sequel. That’s tempting, too.

three random questions

Ferrante: If you could be the editor in chief of any magazine in circulation, having significant input as to the style and content of the publication, which magazine would you choose?

LotkeThat’s easy. I want to be in hard news. I’d want to edit Time or Newsweek. I think they can be less stupid and still sell copies.

Ferrante: Which punctuation mark would best describe your personality?

LotkeHeavens! I’m a semicolon. Semicolons are infrequently used and subtle in their purpose. Semicolons connect parts that are different yet related, and that can be considered together or apart. They are often misused, but perfect when used correctly.

Ferrante: Considering all the big screen movies that you have ever seen, which one do you believe had the greatest emotional impact on you?

LotkeHmmm. I can’t think of any knock-outs. But I do enjoy Shakespeare in Love, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and the original Terminator. And I never want to go more than a few years without seeing The Princess Bride again. I was jealous when my wife and daughter watched Thelma and Louise without me, but I understand why they did.

Ferrante: Thank you, Eric, for participating in my interview series. I am in awe of your courageous and important writing. Congratulations on writing Making Manna.

Making Manna was reviewed on this blog on January 13, 2017.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages


Note: the three random questions are from “Chat Pack – Fun Questions to Spark Conversations”.

A Childhood Toy Never Forgotten: Author Gina Lobiondo Three Random Questions Interview

Gina LoBiondo has published two award-winning picture books. She is presently working on her first novel.


Bonnie Ferrante: Welcome, Gina. Pegasus was your first published book. You hired an illustrator to create 25 black and white illustrations to keep down the cost of the book. In 2011,you changed it. Why?

Gina LoBiondo: Hi, Bonnie, first thanks for having me here!  Yes, the original illustrator did the artwork in black and white.  I have several editions of Johanna Spyri’s HEIDI, which have black and white illustrations, so the decision to do Pegasus that way was mine.  I thought the artwork was adorable but no one else seemed to like it!  I had several judges at book award competitions that really criticized it so I made the decision to redo the artwork in full colour.  In addition to that, I also changed the size of the book from the original 6×9 to the current size of 8×10.  After I made the change the book started to sell and win awards so I guess I made the right choice.  I think the most difficult part of creating the book was that neither Stephanie nor I knew about saving the artwork at 300 dpi.  Once she gets the time, we plan to redo the illustrations and I’m going to add to the book, with sections similar to what I did with Button Nose the Sad Little Bear.


Click here to by Pegasus — A Dragon’s Tale

Ferrante: Pegasus won the Pinnacle Book Achievement Award in the Category of Children’s Interest. Please tell us about this award and how your book was chosen. Why do you think it has so much appeal?

LoBiondo: Well, according to the website, the Pinnacle Awards are chosen based on book content, quality, writing style, presentation and cover designPegasus is the story of two young bear cubs who find and raise a baby dragon and follows the friendship of the three characters.  Since I’ve been writing for so long I’ve pretty much got the quality, style and presentation down pat.  As for the cover, I designed it myself, as I’ve done with all my books.  I think the story is so appealing because it touches on something that many children’s books today don’t – real friendship and the bonding of the three characters.

Button Nose the Sad Little Bear is based on a toy you had as a child and found again on eBay as an adult. Why did this bear appeal to you so much? Why do you think it connects so much with children today?

LoBiondo: You know, Bonnie, it was just one of those things where this little bear was just so appealing to me.  I think it was his sad little face that must have touched my young heart ‘cause I hugged him and cuddled him all the time.  Even today I still love him to pieces and was so thrilled when I found him on eBay. I also had a medium sized bear and a very large bear that I called his mommy and daddy, but I wasn’t attached to them like I was to him. I really don’t know if kids today have that kind of bear – Knickerbocker went out of business years ago!  I love the Build-A-Bears and even got one for myself after giving several as presents, but all their bears are smiling and I don’t know what else is out there.  I think the more sensitive kids like me are missing out.


Click here to buy Button Nose the Sad Little Bear

Ferrante: Did you approach your second picture book differently than your first?

LoBiondo: Actually, yes I did.  I had already learned about saving in 300 dpi, so I made sure when Brittany had her artwork scanned she did it that way.  Then, I added more reviews at the beginning and then the photo gallery and other books section at the end in order to expand the book.  With Pegasus being only 34 pages, I had a hard time finding a printer who would print the info on the spine.  Many bookstores refused to carry it because it lacked the spine info.  I use CreateSpace to print Pegasus and they won’t print the spine info on books less than I believe either 120 or 130 pages.  Fortunately, I use Lightning Source to print Button Nose and they will print spine info at 48 pages. With the added information, Button Nose came out to 54 pages.

Ferrante: Both your picture books have received a large number of awards. Do you feel the effort and expense of entering these award opportunities is worth the increase in sales of your books? Or are you looking at the long tail?

LoBiondo: I’m still weighing the awards – I have spent quite a bit entering the competitions but, sadly, I don’t think they’ve really made much of a difference in sales, at least for the short term.  Since Pegasus has been out for 5 years, I’ve sold more books and have sold some of Button Nose, but not nearly as many and sales seem to be stalled on both books.  I’m hoping that will change closer to the holidays.

As for the competitions, I do enjoy entering them and especially winning.  I actually created one label to put in the corner of the books that says “Multi Book Award Winner” instead of putting award labels all over the cover.  I think the single sticker looks much more professional.

Ferrante: I understand your next book will be a novel based on the Cinderella story. Could you tell us a little bit about it?

LoBiondo: Yes, the title will be Cinderella – A Love Story and it’s my own retelling of the classic faerie tale.  It was always my favourite story as a child – I had a beautiful book illustrated by Catherine Barnes that I read a gazillion times – so it was only natural that one day I’d write my own.  I originally wrote this story as a full-length, 2-act stage play – I had taken a theatre course in my last year of high school and loved it so I decided I’d try my hand at it.  By that time, I had already been writing for 6 years.  My version is the traditional tale but with a twist that no other version has that really makes it unique.  It doesn’t happen until chapter 8 so you have to just keep reading.

Ferrante: You have posted chapter 1 of your Cinderella novel on Create Space asking for feedback. Have you received many responses? Have they been helpful?

LoBiondo: Sorry to say I’ve only received 7 responses – they’ve all been good, though, except for one guy who complained.  He said the story was so familiar he didn’t feel the need to read any further.  However, when I was trying to find an agent years ago, I had one tell me “Taking on faerie tale icons is a tall order and you’ve done a good job.”  So that was encouraging.  Everyone who has read this book has given it positive reviews so I think it will do well.  My only problem now is the one I’ve had for years, that being I can’t find the right illustrator.  It’s kind of frustrating ‘cause I really want to get this book out!!!!!

Ferrante: I think 7 responses is worthwhile. It isn’t that easy to find feedback on a work in progress.

three random questions


Ferrante: If you could at this very moment to take a ride on anything in the world, what would you most want to ride?

LoBiondo: My bicycle!  I used to ride all the time before I got my driver’s license; when I was a teenager there were still Blue Laws on Sunday, where all the stores were closed.  So my brother and I would ride up to our local shopping centre and just ride from one end to the other as fast as we could!  It was awesome and boy, do I ever miss doing that!!!!!

Ferrante: What is one major problem, either in your own nation or throughout the world, that you honestly feel we will have pretty well solved within 20 years?

LoBiondo: I’m hoping for a cure for either Alzheimer’s, diabetes or ALS.  I lost relatives to all three so it would be awesome if they could all be part of history during that time.

Ferrante: What is one vacation destination that many of the people think is just fabulous, but which you personally have no desire to ever visit or (revisit)?

LoBiondo: I would have to say Mexico or South America, and this is in no way saying anything against the people there.  They’re just not places I’d have any interest in visiting and I, personally, can’t see the appeal.

Ferrante: I enjoyed seeing the Mayan ruins in Mexico and I love the food. I guess it all depends on what appeals to you.

Thank you for talking with me today. Good luck with Cinderella.

Book Trailers  for Pegasus  for Button Nose

Pegasus, A Dragon’s Tale was reviewed on this blog January 16, 2017.

Dueling Parasols & Steampunk Mysteries: Author Jayne Barnard – Three Random Questions Interview

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages


Note: the three random questions are from “Chat Pack – Fun Questions to Spark Conversations”.

Guest Post: What’s the Motive?


Tuesday’s Tales: Bonnie Ferrante


I believe a positive attitude is essential for happiness. This includes being mindful and grateful. In Buddhism, there is a saying, “We make the world with our minds.” I could write an entire book on what that means but basically what we focus on influences the internal and external world in which we live. I keep this in mind in my writing for adults, young people and children. I was a grade school teacher for 33 years, 10 of those years as teacher librarian. I believe it is important to create picture books that help them develop interpersonal skills and internal strength.


Flying Squirrel Secrets: Author Nancy Gee Three Random Questions Interview

Award-winning author Nancy Gee is an entrepreneur and business owner. For more than 30 years, she has owned and operated Maywood Industries, Inc., a certified woman-owned wood fabrication and building materials supplier. Her books have earned the prestigious Mom’s Choice Awards, and are distributed throughout Europe.

For generations, her family has called Orland Park, IL, home. Nancy’s two main characters (Al and Sal the flying squirrels) frequent the woods in her backyard, and give her lots of story ideas. She loves writing rhyming picture books that open children’s worlds to unique information and the joys of reading and storytelling.

Bonnie Ferrante: Welcome, Nancy. Your first book, The Secret Drawer, is based on a true event. Would you like to tell us a little about that?

Nancy Gee: The Secret Drawer began when an unknown animal got into my sock drawer. We didn’t notice, but our family cat did! Odis guarded that drawer for two days until the drawer was opened! We didn’t know what it was. Later, we learned this amazing creature was a flying squirrel.

As you might guess, this was a favorite story of my grand boys, who were nine and 10 at the time. They loved having me tell and retell the events and asked me to write a book for all children to enjoy. I was thinking I already have a full time job, so my initial response “I don’t have time to write a book.” They promptly reminded me that I always tell them “You can do anything! We challenge you to write a children’s book!” And the rest is history.

Ferrante: What was the inspiration for your second picture book, The Secret Path?

Ferrante: What is the most interesting fact you have learned about flying squirrels?

Gee: Just one? There are so many fascinating facts about the flying squirrels, starting with I don’t know they lived in the Chicago area. As for most interesting, I would have to say it goes to their babies. Flying squirrel babies are born with only one tooth and in one week they have four.

Ferrante: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing? How do you manage it?

Gee: My greatest challenge is pacing myself. My creative ideas are limitless, and I am always thinking about new ideas. I laugh that I have two full time jobs. My daytime job is running my company and my full-time night job is writing my books.

I manage by simply putting in a lot of hours and sleeping a little less . With a strong desire, drive, and high energy level it just happens. 

Ferrante: Who is your favourite picture book author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

Gee: I have a passion for rhyme, so it is probably no surprise that my favorite children’s author is Dr. Seuss. I find his writings absolutely amazing, magical, and still capturing the hearts of children. His books are simply ageless.

Ferrante: You are quite a determined and inventive marketer. Can you tell us a little about your most successful strategies?

Gee: Being a business owner, I know how important marketing is; and being an author is a business. Those books don’t just appear in the hands of children and families. The only way to get them there is through tireless hours of marketing. I have worked on marketing every hour of every day since the day The Secret Drawer was published in October 2014.  My enthusiasm is relentless and never tires.

Believe me, marketing has a lot of closed doors and disappointments but those things only encourage me and energize my enthusiasm. Failure is only success turned inside out. My most successful strategies is listening to my child readers, as they have directed my journey.

Ferrante: Out of all the awards contest out there, why did you choose to enter the competition for The Mom’s Choice Award? Do you feel it is helped your sales or brand recognition?

Gee: Being a Mom’s Choice Awards Honoree was very important to me. The Mom’s Choice Awards is not a competition. It is a product evaluation company, where books and other products are measured against a very strict metric, not compared with peer products. The company’s commitment to identifying the best in family-friendly products speaks for itself, and awarded products provide families, educators, librarians, and even booksellers a guideline for making good, healthy family choices.

Children think it is fun to have an award sticker on their book. For parents it is meaningful to know that what they are looking for in reading material for their children is what Mom’s Choice awards represent.  As an independently published author, having that sticker on my books helps it stand out on the bookstore shelves. So to answer your question, yes, I believe having the Mom’s Choice Award gives parents a comfort, makes the book even more special, and makes my books stand out for my buying audience!

What stood out for me was their commitment to its award winners. The MCA team stands by its commitment of building a relationship by providing Honorees lifetime marketing support.  The company offers a lot to its Honorees and helps me, as an award-winning author, in any area I might need help. I cannot say enough positive things about the Mom’s Choice Awards.

I would add, though, that the recognition that comes with awards is great, but the greatest awards have come from the children with whom I share my books.

Ferrante: What methods/routines/steps do you use to create a picture book?

Gee: When I begin my books, I rehearse the story over and over, first. That repetition helps me formulate the pages and flow. I start with an outline of what I want to have on the page conceptually. Then sketch the visual for the page; after that, I add the words. I repeat the same process for every page and go back over it again and again until I am satisfied that I have capture the magic of where the story is going.

Ferrante: Are you working on a third book? Tell us about it.

Gee: My third book is completed and in the hands of the illustrator! Our release date is Spring 2017, so winter is going to feel long to me. Like The Secret Drawer and The Secret Path, the next book is also based on a true event!

When I was doing an author event at a local library this spring, I noticed a dog and a handler in a room next to where I was reading. My curiosity got the best of me, and after the event, I just had to know what was going on. When I went in, I discovered a dog laying while a child read to him. I had no idea about this pet therapy program in our library, and learned that many other people didn’t either!

One of those “creative ideas” I talked about popped into my head! That day I decided to write The SECRET ROOM. I want to celebrate reading and also bring awareness to this amazing program.

There is no shortage of ideas. Books four, five, and six are all well underway.

Ferrante: Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included?

Gee: Always remember you are not writing for yourself but for your audience. In my case, children. Listen and observe what your listeners say. They bring me endless ideas and directions for my writing and similar projects.

three random questions

Ferrante: What is the longest line you have ever stood in?

Gee: March 2016 at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, France. I was trying to get home after my international book signing. We stood in line for well over five hours trying to get to the counter to confirm our tickets. This was right after the Terrorist attack in Paris.

Ferrante: What is the one item you own that you really should throw away but probably never will?

Gee: I was going through one of life’s moments, and my daughter gave me Go Dog Go! by Dr. Seuss, with a note that read “You always made me happy when you read this book to me when I was a kid. So I thought it might brighten your day!!”

Ferrante: If you could stand at the pinnacle of any natural object or man-made structure, what would it be?

Gee: Man-made structure would be standing in the Sistine Chapel looking up at the wonders of Michelangelo’s work on the ceiling.

For a natural wonder, it wouldn’t be the pinnacle, but immersed in it. Standing in the Redwood Forest, surrounded by those majestic trees. The smells and silence of nature. Breathtaking, peaceful, inspirational, and restorative.

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March 24, 2017 Helping Out a Friend – The Secret Path by Nancy Gee. Illustrated by Kathleen Newman. Book Review on this blog.

February 27, 2017. Trapped! – The Secret Drawer written by Nancy Gee. Illustrated by Raye Ann Saunoris. Book Review on this blog.

Note: the three random questions are from “Chat Pack – Fun Questions to Spark Conversations”.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages