To begin with, please tell me a bit about yourself—your background in writing for children and in other genres.
Hi, everyone! I’m 55-years-old, been married to my husband for 33 years, have 4 children, 5 grandchildren, 2 daughters-in-law’s, a son-in-law, and a special young lady who will officially become our newest daughter-in-law in May 2022.
Reading has been a passion of mine since the day I read my first sentence. I’ve written poetry and short stories on and off my whole life, but I didn’t really begin writing longer works until my early 40’s. It may sound silly, but I’ve always had a profound fear of paragraph breaks – i.e. where to break a paragraph – and that kept me from writing for a long time, believe it or not. It sounds silly after having written ten books now, but there it is. I was also spurred to begin writing in earnest at that time after going through a significant trauma in my life – it was one of those “now or never” moments.
I’m now the author of ten books – an award-winning tween time-travel trilogy, an award-winning children’s chapter book, a British murder mystery, and five faith-based novels.
Tell me about your tween time-travel trilogy.
I wrote the trilogy as a gift for the children of a good friend of mine. They’d been asking me to write them a story for a long time, and the In Time series is the fruit of that request. The main character of the trilogy is a twelve-year-old girl named Emarie Gordon. She lives in a small, historic town, and because she loves everything to do with the olden days, she frequently hangs out with Glenda, an eccentric, elderly woman who owns the local antique store. One day, Glenda shows Emarie an antique Underwood No. 5 typewriter she found in mint condition. When Glenda walks away, Emarie puts her fingers on the typewriter keys and immediately experiences a buzzing sensation in her fingertips. The more she plays with the typewriter, the stronger the feeling grows. The swivel chair she’s sitting in begins to rock, and a whirlwind fills the shop, opening a time-travel portal which carries Emarie away to 1901. There are three books in the series, so you’ll have to check them out to discover where in time Emarie goes in each of the books! There’s a lot of history that kids will learn as they read the stories, and at the end of each book, I include notes that point out to them the history they may have learned without even realizing it.
What inspired you to write about time-travel?
I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of time-travel, and it seemed like a great vehicle by which to introduce history to kids as the main character travels through time.
What inspired the premise of A Nose Apart? How did this story come to be?
While riding my bike on trails in a nature preserve type area near my home during the lockdown in spring/summer 2020, I would overhear bits of conversation as I rode by groups of people. Some of the tidbits I heard were quite interesting! I also saw a lot of chipmunks scurrying across the trails during my rides. With those two things combined, the idea somehow came into my head to write about a tiny, unique creature who lives in a nature preserve and who loves to eavesdrop on the humans who walk through the preserve. This character named Boba has a unique, curly-tipped nose she believes she was given to sniff out information. She lives for information! However, her need to know things gets her into a predicament she could never have anticipated!
How did you come up with your characters?
From here on out, I’ll be focusing on A Nose Apart, but I wanted to first say that the characters from the In Time series are loosely based on my friend’s six children who I wrote the books for. Some aspects of their personalities are in each of the characters. That made for fun writing!
Boba in A Nose Apart isn’t based on anyone in particular. She was just cooked up in my imagination with all her eccentricities and oddities. Darrin from A Nose Apart is loosely based on my good friend’s sister who had Down syndrome, as well as other individuals with Down syndrome who I’ve crossed paths with during my lifetime.
What makes this book important right now (feel free to apply this to either the trilogy or A Nose Apart)?
A Nose Apart is a book that celebrates the uniqueness’s we each possess. In this time of great division, I feel we need to hear and read about that perspective more than ever.
What do you hope young readers, and perhaps even parents take away from this story?
The co-hero of A Nose Apart is a teenage boy named Darrin who has Down syndrome. In the story, I focus on what he can do as opposed to what he can’t do. He is loving, wise, brave, and devoted. That’s something I want to come across to young readers and their parents as well – that those who are differently-abled have inherent worth and should be embraced and rejoiced in.
What scene from the book is your favourite, and why?
It’s a small scene, but my favorite scene in A Nose Apart is the back and forth between Boba and a turtle named Ernie who has nothing but contempt for Boba.
What was the most challenging part of writing/creating this particular story?
The most challenging aspect of writing A Nose Apart was keeping the wording simple. I tend to write long sentences, so paring my sentences down for young readers was the most difficult part of writing it.
Where do your ideas for stories generally come from?
Something I see or hear usually sparks an idea, and it builds in my imagination from there.
For the other children’s writers out there in my audience, could you share a little advice (perhaps something that feels particularly important to you right now) on either writing or marketing children’s picture books?
It probably sounds cliché but write about what’s important to you. If you do, readers will sense your sincerity and be drawn to what you’re writing. If you write merely for sales, I think readers sense that insincerity. Of course, that isn’t always true, but that’s my take on it.
Also, expect to work hard at marketing and don’t expect it to come easily. It’s an arduous process, and every writer attempting to get their work out into the world eventually comes to realize this reality. Even traditionally published authors work hard to market their books. It’s an across-the-board reality. So, don’t think the hard work is unusual in your case – it’s not – every writer/author must work hard to promote their books.
How has the current pandemic changed or shaped how you write, how you publish, and/or how you market your books?
The pandemic has given me more time to write, and that’s something I often feel guilty about. When so many are living in uncertainty, I’m able to write more. That’s emotionally tough to process sometimes.
I always have, and still do, publish independently through Amazon. They have amazing tools in place through Kindle Direct Publishing, and at this point, my hardworking husband, who handles the technology end of publishing my books, has the KDP technology down to a science. The printed books through KDP are high quality, and their customer support has been excellent for me thus far.
As far as marketing, I maintain author accounts on both Instagram and Facebook to promote my work. I’ve run more ads on Facebook during the pandemic than I usually do and have had some success with those ads regarding sales. I keep the cost of the ads low and am very careful to target my audience and research parts of the country where each individual book would sell well. I also enter writing contests, and to-date, have won the Story Monsters Approved! designation for each book of the In Time series and an Honorable Mention from the Purple Dragonfly Book Awards for A Nose Apart. I participate in local author fairs and I’m a member of a local author/writing group that is extended opportunities throughout the year to sell our books in various locales. Word of mouth is also huge. If you have a core group of friends/colleagues who will share and promote your books on their social media and in their family/friend’s circle, that goes a long way in getting the word out!
Please tell me more about your other books (you can talk about your Victorian murder mystery here, too).
I released a Victorian-era murder mystery this past summer. I love that era, so writing A Just Measure was a joy. So far, most people have been surprised by the ending, so that equals success to me as a longtime lover of mysteries.
My other adult novels are faith-based. I think they’re unique in the sense that they tackle some very difficult and messy topics and don’t supply pat answers. As a person of faith, pat answers don’t cut it for me, and I wanted my books in this genre to exemplify that perspective.
What’s next for you? The sequel to A Nose Apart comes out soon, yes? Is there anything you can tease?
If all goes according to schedule, A Nose Apart: The Second Adventure will be released shortly before Christmas.
I’ve also begun working on a sci-fi mystery novel – something that is most definitely out of my comfort zone!
Tell me an interesting fact about you—something outside of the world of writing, and something maybe not everyone knows about you.
For the first ten years of my life, I lived in a community where I was a minority. As a white individual, I feel that experience was one of the most beneficial of my life. It opened my eyes to so much and is probably why equity and justice are themes in several of my books.
Where you can find Deborah...