The lovely author C.E. Robinson very kindly nominated me for a Tour Through Blogland award (you can check out the rest of my awards and see me in a lovely dress in my awards page). The rules include answering four questions about my creative process, in order to let other bloggers and visitors know what inspires me.
My latest book is Runaway Smile, which you can read for free on this blog, so I thought I’d focus on that.
1. Does creating a children’s book bring any new challenges?
In my case, my childhood friend Dimitris Fousekis is as much the creator of my children’s book, Runaway Smile, as I am. In fact, the book started out as a silly poem that I was playing with in my head (you can read the final version of it at the end of the book). One day, back in 2012, I was having him over for lunch. He’s a professional illustrator and liked the poem so much, that he suggested we turn it into a children’s book. This was before I decided to become an author, and Pearseus had not even been conceived, so I was intrigued by the idea.
The book was written by me, but I used several ideas that had come up during our conversations. We then read through it together, improving it and coming up with gags and ideas for illustrations. Obviously, everything has to be approved by our pets, as you can see by the photo.
2. Does Runaway Smile have a moral?
Runaway Smile has been described as “a humorous book with a serious moral”. People have made similar comments, but I always wonder which moral they’re talking about. An author sits down and writes, and only later does he analyze what he has written. Or at least that’s the case with me. So, I’d be happy to share my personal take on the story, but that assumes I have got the same thing out of it as everyone else.
What prompted this thought is a strange call from a psychologist family friend the other day. She said she loved the book, because it said exactly what she had been struggling to convey through her own unfinished book: that all men would turn into criminals if not for the mother’s love.
When I indicated that this was not my personal understanding of the story, she refuted me, explaining that I obviously did not understand what I had written.
For me, it’s the story of how we wake up one morning and realize that we’ve forgotten how to be happy. We seek happiness in our work, in money, in power, in humour, in knowledge… All these can offer us fun, symbolized by the false smiles worn by everyone (I’m not sure that people have noticed this, but everyone except for the boy and the mother are wearing strapped-on smiles). However, true happiness lies with sharing. With love. And sometimes we forget that, and we need someone to reach out to us and help us through this dark time of the soul.
As to what prompted it, I have been struggling with my own version of a mid-life crisis, I guess, where I find myself giving up a twenty year-long career to become an author. This is because my previous career no longer made me smile. Sharing my stories, however, has put the smile right back on my face!
3. What are you working on now?
I have written a total of six children’s books so far, including Runaway Smile. Dimitris is currently illustrating the next one, called Musiville. If Runaway Smile is my Little Prince, Musiville is my Animal Farm.
Animals-musical instruments share a picturesque village. When they all start carrying their own tune, an unexpected invader wreaks havoc. Can Musiville be saved from its own discord?
4. Was writing a children’s book easy?
It’s funny, as I don’t have children of my own yet, but I love the genre. One of my favorite books is Little Prince, and I feel really comfortable writing for children. I’m fascinated by the “anything goes” kind of imagination children have, and love to connect with that part of myself.
However, there are also times when we connect to something higher than us. Call it inner self, call it muse, call it God. All I know is that it’s the greatest feeling in the world. It’s almost like someone is dictating the story and you’re but a conduit for the words.
I have written a dozen books, both for children and adults, but the only time when I felt fully connected with that feeling was when I was writing Runaway Smile. Don’t get me wrong; I genuinely like and am proud of all of my work, but every day I hope and pray for that feeling to return. Will I ever get it back? I have no idea. But it’s what makes me look forward to another day of writing.
Read Runaway Smile for free on my blog!