Kimberly, I am so happy you could join me today. Can you tell everyone a little about you...
I was born talking, or so my parents claim! (There is a question in the family as to who could take up the most air on a deserted island by talking--me, my mom, or one of my aunts. I vote for my aunt.) I always have loved reading and writing (I wish I could draw and sing!). My favorite books to read when I was a child were the Nancy Drew series and the Little House on the Prairie series, but like my dad (who used to read encyclopedias when he was bored), I would read anything. I also loved listening to my grandmother's stories. She grew up on a farm (that sold tomatoes to Campbell's Soup), and she had some of the most interesting stories, and I loved tracing the scar that was left after a cow stepped on her foot and picturing how (and other things) happened.
I was born and raised in New Jersey (still live there), where we go to the shore, eat hoagies, and put jimmies on our ice cream, and I am a huge Bon Jovi fan.
I have to stop you right there- Bon Jovi! I am a huge fan of his too!!! Ok, I will stop singing, and get back to the important things.
I attended Catholic schools until college. I graduated from Trenton State College (now The College of New Jersey) with a BA in English Liberal Arts and a minor is Psychology. I worked as an editor for a company that published magazines for the pharmaceutical industy. I also tried my hand in market research. Now I work for local government, where I administer and monitor contracts. I also work part-time at a pediatrician's office (some weekends). Writing my book made me realize that my true love has always been the written word. Presentations I am doing also remind me how much I just love talking!
I prefer what I would call "quirky" and/or humorous shows and books, although I watch and read a variety of genres. Psych is one of my favorite shows, along with Monk and Scooby Doo episodes (only the original ones). I have crushes on Nathan Fillion of Castle, Matt Passmore of The Glades, Keith Urban, Tom Hanks (seriously!), and Bradley Cooper (when I am taking time off from obsessing over Jon Bon Jovi).
I am owned by two cockapoos--Nico and Tugger--yes, they really exist. Nico was named after a hockey player (I love sports) and Tugger was almost Deuce (because he was the second dog) or Tillman (after Pat Tillman), but my boyfriend's daughter overruled those. I am seriously considering "unliking" animal rescue groups on facebook because it breaks my heart to see how cruel people can be to animals. I am glad I haven't found any like that that show pictures of child or elder abuse, or any abuse toward others.
People can convince me to do almost anything if they offer me Utz Extra Dark Pretzels, mashed potatoes, Skittles (just the original flavors in the red packaging), and/or the chance to meet Jon Bon Jovi. I make a mean meatloaf, and my buffalo chicken dip, taco salad, and creamsicle pies are crowd pleasers, but generally I am not much of a cook (but I will always eat). I burn off a lot of calories by talking!
I have been blessed with loving and supportive family and friends. Other than to become a best-selling author, there is not much more to ask for...other than a cure for cancer and other God-awful diseases...and to be able to eat whatever I want and still have my pants fit me the next day.
Why do you write children’s books?
I remember when I was asked once as a child what I wanted to be. I replied, "I want to write a book." I have toyed around with starting a novel (my family provides so much material...), and I started a few drafts, but I always found myself getting pulled away or discouraged. And life just got in the way, too.
After Tugger came into the home, I watched how he and Nico interacted...and acted like kids, fighting over toys, for my attention, etc., and remember actually telling people, "There's a kid's book there." Finally, I got the fire under my butt to write the story, and I stuck with it this time.
Also, after I decided to write both sides of the story (it originally was called "Nico Gets a Brother") I thought it was an interesting take, and I thought it could help children understand that people can see the same story differently. My sister is six years older than me, and it's so funny when we talk about growing up how differently we view the same situation (our parents' divorce, our grandparents, a TV show, etc.). We still have completely different views on things. My hope is to continue writing about Nico and Tugger in a series where each dog will tell his version of the story. That was probably the most difficult part of writing this book--trying to make the stories match while rhyming.
After reading the book at schools and events, I would love to continue writing for children. To be honest, it's pure enjoyment (for me) to hear the comments that they make, whether someone is telling me how he or she thinks Nico is mean (he's really not), how they can relate because they bicker with their siblings, someone is telling me I looked like Justin Bieber as a child, or someone is offering to show me his underwear (true story--happened at a Barnes and Noble reading, and I don't know who wanted to crawl into a hole more--me or his mom). Just their untainted comments are so refreshing. At this age, they still don't grasp sarcasm, they see things so much more in black and white than I ever will again, and they are just so sweet or funny (sometimes without even trying). I received some thank you letters from a school visit, and on top of telling me how much they liked the book and my presentation, they wanted to tell me about themselves. They still have big dreams and haven't been told yet that they can't do something, and it was so welcome to just be lost in that world for a little bit. Does that make sense? Perhaps I should have kept my major as English Education, which was my first major in college.
What inspired you to write this book specifically?
A quick answer would be that the dogs (and my relationship with my sister) inspired me to write this book; however, I think you're grasping that there is no thing as a short story when it comes to me.
As I said, I always wanted to write, and the dogs were a great inspiration. The longer story is that I always wanted to write, but never fully committed myself to it. I was always going to do something "later." In 2009 I was able to reconnect with my best friend from high school and college. Kristen was not someone I should have let myself lose touch with. The best way I can describe her is to say, "If you didn't like Kristen, something was wrong with you." She was just one of those rare people who no one could say anything bad about. A few months after we reconnected, she was diagnosed with leukemia. She was pregnant, and the doctors had to terminate the pregnancy so that they could immediately start an agressive form of treatment, which started with a 30-day hospital stay so they could administer chemo every day. Within months she was in remission, but a year after diagnosis the leukemia was back. This time they did a bone marrow transplant, and once again she was in remission. She was cancer-free, but the two years of treatment still took a toll on her body--but never her spirit. If you didn't realize that she didn't have much hair, you would never know how sick she was because she never complained--and she asked you to pray for other people. Anyway, in October of 2011 she walked into the hospital on a Monday to have fluid drained from around her lungs and heart (a side effect of her treatments) and she never came home. She passed away on December 1.
How does a 37-year-old woman who made this world a much brighter place die? If she isn't guaranteed a tomorrow, then neither is someone like me. (Out of all my grammar school friends, I was one parents had to worry about least, but with Kristen I was the "bad" one. HAHA) I needed to start taking charge of my life and doing what I dreamed of doing. It was time to "live life" (a motto associated with Kristen--it's even on her tombstone). I wish I had done this sooner, when she was here to enjoy the ride with me, or to remind me to enjoy it.
Wow! She sounds like a wonderful person, and I know she is thrilled that you are following your dreams and living life to its fullest potential. Thank you for sharing all of this with us... and thank you for sharing your book.
Oh Brother: A Nico & Tugger Tale available at:
Barnes & Noble