My most recent book is titled Remembering Oakley. It’s a children’s book about the experience my family went through when we had to euthanize our beloved family pet, Oakley. The book is meant to be used as a tool to help parents broach the topic of death with their children and to help with the grieving and healing processes.
Tell us something about yourself.
I was born and raised along the coast of New Jersey and will defend it as the greatest state in America, rival only to California. I began keeping a journal and writing around the age of 13. About 7 years ago, I started making art with paper cutouts with an Xacto knife and cardstock. I studied Linguistics in college, because the blip about it in program in the catalog began with: “All language is based on creativity…” I share a birthday with Carl Jung, Mick Jagger, and Sandra Bullock (who I would want to play me if a biopic is ever made). I also like to believe I have one of the greatest imaginations in existence.
What inspired you to write this book?
The poem “One Art” by Elizabeth Bishop inspired the energy behind the work. Her entire concept of nothing is a disaster, regardless of the situation, has always made sense to me. I remember reading it shortly after Oakley passed, and the bulk of the story just poured out of me in one sitting.
There are a couple parts of the story that were written as I prepared the manuscript for print about six years later. I wanted to include some of the “tools” I learned and developed to show the reader how time effected Jacob’s point of view, and how the experience could be seen in a different, positive light.
Why did you decide to self-publish?
I self-published this book because, as a stubborn artist, I didn’t want to have to compromise any of the story in order to make it more commercial. Sure, it would be wonderful to be #1 on every book list, but I really enjoyed the process of hiring an illustrator, sharing ideas with her on the illustrations, and being in control of the entire project. This book wasn’t meant to be a cash cow, but for parents and teachers to use to broach a very difficult topic. Of course I wouldn’t turn down a major publisher if there were an offer for reprinting, but I am not seeking that currently.
How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?
Writing is something that just happened organically for me. In 7th grade, my English teacher had us keep a journal that we had to write in weekly. I’ve been writing ever since.
What do you believe is the hardest part of writing?
Writing is the hardest part of writing! Developing realistic characters that have their own specific personalities and quirks can be challenging at times. It’s also difficult to not re-use the same material.
How do you do research for your books?
Since I want most of my writing to be something of a “go to” model for how people can deal with their current situations in a healthy way, I delve into the psychology of humans and how we can best cope with our own humanity. I spend a lot of time seeking out people’s personal stories and getting feed back about whether or not the work I write is realistic and believable. Most of my writing is pulled directly from life and the people in it.
Did you learn anything from writing this book? What?
I learned a lot about how people grieve in different ways. Some people are manically happy and crash later on, others are destroyed from day one. The most important thing I learned is that regardless of how a person is behaving, unless it’s destructive, to allow them to work through it, and give them time.
What are you reading now?
Humorously, I am tackling DC’s X-Men series.
What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors?
I am a big fan of fantasy and books that can teach me things. I had a slight obsession with self-improvement books because a lot of them give very simplistic ways of dealing with complex situations. Peter S. Beagle is my all time favorite author (his most well known book is The Last Unicorn.) Every sentence he writes is poetic and pure genius. I’ve had the joy of meeting him several times, and he is very personable and gentle.
Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?
I am pretty torn about what next work I will come out with and whether or not I’ll try to find an agent and get it published with a major publishing house or do what I’ve done before. I’m revisiting a lot of work that I’ve written in the past. I have an epic novel that I’ve been working on for the past 10 years or so, that’s always in a state of development. There are plenty of other kid’s stories I’d like to have illustrated.
What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?
Writing isn’t always fun; it’s work. Finding an agent and publisher is a full time job. Don’t wait to be discovered.
What are you doing to promote your latest book?
I’ve contacted organizations and individuals specific to the book’s topic. I’ve also sent it out to different newspapers and magazines for reviews. The best way to get the word out is to spread the word.
Where can readers learn more about you and your book?