My most recent book is entitled Joshua, That’s Sooo Slimming! and it is the third book in my No Small Victories Autism Awareness Children’s book series. The title is actually a play on the word ‘stimming’ which refers to auto-stimulation, a characteristic common to children on the Autism Spectrum.
Tell us something about yourself.
I am a mother of three sons (oldest by marriage and two younger sons now aged 29, 21 and 13). I am a published author of a children’s book series, poet, autism awareness advocate, student and wife…and most days pretty sleep deprived!
What inspired you to write this book?
Initially, this book as well as my other books, were inspired by my youngest son, Joshua, who carries a diagnosis of autism. My motivation now is to help others understand autism and the challenges it presents to those diagnosed.
How did you choose the title?
In each of my books I try to introduce the reader to a characteristic common to autism to promote awareness and understanding. People with autism sometimes will “stim” which is usually characterized by repetitive movement or sound like hand wringing, rocking or throat clearing. This usually occurs when the person is trying to regulate sensory input and/or is overwhelmed by it and is a coping mechanism. I wanted others to see that this is not something to be afraid of or to make fun.
What obstacles did you encounter in getting this book published? How did you overcome them?
As I am self-published my largest obstacle is funding for publication and promotions. I look to literary grants and scholarships which can be hard to find, but I feel that if you truly believe in your work success will come. You just have to be willing to put in the work, a lot of it!
How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?
I had written all of my life. Poetry has always been my passion and through these books it became a catharsis for the flood of emotions I was dealing with once I received my son’s diagnosis. I am actually working on a book of poetry under my pseudonym, GaiLyn Night, which I hope to have published soon. This is my work geared toward an adult crowd. It’s kind of like getting to play dress up and be someone else though it’s just another part of me that people seldom get to see.
Do you have any writing rituals?
Not really. My writing comes to me at the oddest times. I have work written on napkins, the boarders of newspapers…whatever is handy at the time.
If I am lucky I will be in front of my laptop but that doesn’t happen often. I usually end up transcribing to my laptop from other sources. I try to carry a notebook with me but it kind of jinxes my creativity so I just let it flow when it hits.
How do you come up with the names for your characters?
In my children’s book series the protagonist is named for my son Joshua with other characters usually having names of people I have met and who have inspired me.
Did you learn anything from writing and publishing this book? What?
Well writing my current book gave me an opportunity to truly give voice to the main character because his thoughts and actions were based on my son, Robert. The one thing I have learned about publishing my first three books was if your motivation is money writing may not be for you.
You truly have to believe in your work and have it be a labor of love because writing is the easiest part. Committing to getting it in the hands of readers is work.
If you were doing it all over again, what would you do differently?
I don’t believe I would have done anything differently because this experience has helped me grow as a person. I have learned so much about the publishing process and about promoting my work that I don’t believe I would have learned otherwise.
What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors?
I love to read though with my busy schedule now I don’t get much time to do so. My favorite authors are Stephen King and Toni Morrison. King is amazing in the way that he weaves a tale and gives you such detail that engages all of your senses. He is a master. Morrison gives insight into the human condition like no one else. Characters from their books have remained with me to this day, years after I have read their work so that when I reread them and discover some detail I overlooked the first time it is like getting reacquainted with an old friend.
Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?
“Joshua, I’m Over Here” is my next children’s book that I hope to publish soon. It is actually the forth in my No Small Victories Autism Awareness children’s book series. This one is dearest to my heart because it is written from the perspective of my middle son, Robert, who in the story is ten and trying to cope with having a little brother with autism. Those with autism often have a difficult time making eye contact so I thought this would be a good theme. Once I started thinking about the concept and asking for input from my older son about what it was like being a sibling of a diagnosed child I began to think more about what siblings go through. Often siblings feel as if the diagnosed child gets all of the attention and they are usually just as anxious and overwhelmed as their parents in trying to understand it. I wanted to give voice to the struggles siblings face.
What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?
Write what you know and what is close to your heart. If you don’t believe what you are writing then neither will your reader. It is not to say that you can’t write from multiple perspectives but you have to believe in your topic. Research multiple companies if self-publishing and don’t be afraid to contact some of the authors published by the companies to ask how they feel about the services. Most important, be ready to put in the work. Promoting your book will be a lot of work so be committed from the start.
Who is the perfect reader for your book?
I initially wrote my books for my son’s school age peers so from that perspective I would say grades 3 through 6, though I have had many teachers, therapist, child care givers and even first responders say that the books have been informative. I would say anyone who may come in contact with a person diagnosed with autism.
Where can readers learn more about you and your book?
Readers can contact me directly through: Dana R. Swinney-Murphy, Public Relations Consultant, DRS MEDIA CONSULTING, Email: email@example.com, Office phone: 413-426-9539, Cell phone: 518-694-1204, Fax: 413-426-9679,www.drsmediaconsulting.com.