(Here is the second part of my Q&A with children’s book author and friend, Kelly Garcia.)
PB ~ Have you always wanted to write a children’s book or was this a surprise to you?
Well, I suppose it was a surprise; although, I never rule out anything! I find that I enjoy writing about foreign countries, travel adventures and interesting intercultural experiences. I write about my culinary adventures in Okinawa on a blog called www.okinawahai.com, but other than that have never really written seriously. I guess though that this story is kind of a travel adventure in its own way…a “travel adventure fantasy folktale”!
PB ~ Takako does a lot of things while on her adventure. You use some terms that non-Japanese readers may have trouble understanding. Would you please explain some of the more foreign things that Takako does with her fellow islanders?
Kelly ~ Let’s see. Takako plays gateball with the “obaasans (grandmas) and ojiisans (grandpas)”. Gateball is kind of a croquette game that is very popular with the older folks here. I can think of three gateball fields within about a five-minute walk of my house. A “typhoon” is basically a hurricane that forms over the Pacific Ocean. “Banyan trees” are these gorgeous twisty, gnarly trees that are found in Okinawa. I’ve got some beautiful examples in my neighborhood.
In a few of the illustrations you’ll see these round things on sticks. These are actually mirrors. They are on almost every corner to help drivers navigate through the narrow streets without getting hit by an unseen car. Very typical Okinawa. Also, you’ll see a vending machine in one scene. It may seem strange, but that too is something I would consider to be the quintessential Okinawa.
PB ~ Living in Okinawa myself, I know that your descriptions of the typhoon are pretty dead on. Thank goodness my Shisa dogs do there job well. What are some of the things your family does during one of these powerful storms?
Kelly ~ Not much, to tell the truth. We have a huge water cooler, so we are set there. I try and get some DVDs and books from the library for entertainment in case the satellite goes out! We bring everything in the house from outside, but that’s pretty much it. I don’t do a ton of extra shopping. I guess I’m pretty laid back. When I see the local Okinawans taking a storm seriously, that’s when I know it’s time to be careful! But usually for them it’s business as usual.
PB ~ What was your favorite part in the development of your book?
Kelly ~ This is really hard to say. Practically the whole process, apart from dealing with the folks in the shipping department at the printer’s, was interesting for me. Writing the story itself was enjoyable because it was a creative challenge that shook the cobwebs out of my brain. Also, my meetings with Carmen the illustrator, were fantastic. I especially loved our first meeting after she finished her initial sketches for the book scenes. Seeing how she brought the story to life with her pictures was pretty darn thrilling. We talked through each scene and discussed the things we liked about them and ideas for changes to make them better. I loved that collaborative aspect of it. Being able to bounce around ideas with another person who was also enthusiastic about the project has been invaluable. It was fun working with Erin, the graphic designer, too. She brought me different ideas about page layout, fonts, book cover options and things like that. So many things to decide! But totally fun.
If I hadn’t gone the self-publishing route, I doubt I’d have a hand in any of that kind of stuff. I’m sure it would have been a slicker/cleaner book if I’d gone through a traditional publisher, but I am learning SO much doing it this way. Heck, I just built a website for the first time and right now I’m learning all the multitudes of things that go into book promotion. Figuring everything out is actually causing me to lose sleep. I have a to-do list about a mile long. But I just love it!
PB ~ Do you think you may write a book that represents all the places you will live in the future?
Kelly ~ I don’t know. I foresee myself having lived in a lot of places, so that might be tough. This book, though, was written for my son, Gabriel. So, if I have any more kids, I guess I owe each of them a book too! Hopefully it’ll get easier each time I do it.
PB ~ How can people get their own copies of Takako and the Great Typhoon?
Kelly ~ They can click on www.shisastory.comand order a copy there via Paypal. If they live in Okinawa, they can stop by the AAFES Bazaar at the Foster Field House April 17th-19th. Or they can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can work something out.
Also, you can get a sneak peak of the book on the website in a video my fabulous hubby put together (the image quality is MUCH better in person! Carmen’s color is awesome!) Even if you don’t get the book, I’d be just as thrilled if you became a fan on Facebook (search Takako and the Great Typhoon) or mention it to some friends or rate the video preview! Or e-mail me some nifty marketing ideas! I’m really, really excited about the book and just trying to share any way I can. Okay, enough shameless promotion from me. If you’ve read down this far you deserve a medal! Karen, thank you for your questions and your post! xxoo — Kelly
You can learn more about Takako and the Great Typhoon, Kelly and life on Okinawa by checking out the website HERE. To enter to win a signed copy of Takako and the Great Typhoon leave a comment and on this post and tell us your favorite children’s book when you were little. The drawing will run until Sunday at Midnight, EST. Good Luck!