1. What motivated you to write your book, to force you from taking an idea or experience and turning it into a book?
I really got to know Norman, the muse for my Norman the Interested Cat children’s book series, in 2015 when he and his family came to live with me for about 8 months while their house was being completed. It was a time leading up to the 2016 election and in addition to national politics I was working on a local campaign. My days were filled with people who, at best, were stressed and angry. It felt like no one wanted to have any type of meaningful conversation, they just wanted to spout their opinions.
Back to Norman. I was doing laundry one day and Norman was sitting in one of my favorite blue-velvet chairs watching me work. Norman’s presence can have a very calming effect. I looked at him and said, “Norman, you are an incredibly interested cat. I wonder what you would think about what’s going on these days.” As I folded laundry I began making up poems about what Norman was interested in, what his thoughts about issues might be. It felt so cathartic to give a voice to all the anxieties. I started thinking how great it would be if you reach people through a character that could calm them enough to where they could begin to listen to other people’s opinions?
Almost at the same moment, I realized the adults would be a hard sell, but could children be interested? If you could have an endearing character who modeled how to have calm conversations and how to uncover answers to questions, plus a character who modeled being kind, patient, BUT strong in character…wouldn’t that serve the child well in their development? And, if children learned early on how to listen, research and make up their own minds, wouldn’t they become better leaders?
2. What is it about and who is it for?
Norman’s tag line is: Books That Start Conversations. The reading audience is 6 months to 7 years. Each one of Norman’s books addresses an issue that can be a point of contention among individuals. Issues such as should we wear a mask, how does clothing identify a person, what constitutes being strong: asking for help or keeping troubles to yourself?
Although my books are written for children, I have great hope that adults will discover openings to have meaningful conversations with their children about the issues Norman’s stories discuss.
3. What do you hope the reader will be left with after reading it?
I hope children will realize they are fine just the way they are, as are their friends and family. It would be wonderful if children also understood that asking for help, and seeking answers to ideas they don’t understand is a sign of strength and growth.
4. What advice or words of wisdom do you have for fellow writers?
Just write. Whatever your process is…just write.
I’ve discovered that when I first have an idea, I simply write the idea down in an overview (Norman rents out garden space to a turtle who is preparing for a family reunion, but his family is NOT who Norman thinks they are).
I don’t try to make it flow; I just get the basic idea down on paper. Once my idea is committed to paper and I am confident I won’t forget my ‘brilliant’ ideas, I put it away for the day. When I come back to the idea, the idea has a newness to it, and I can see if I am still engaged or if the idea longer resonates. If it is still exciting, I take some time to flesh out the major points. (Norman is gardening, the turtle saunters up and asks about renting garden space, Norman is excited and they begin at once to prepare and plant the food the turtle needs for his family reunion which can include corn, beans, peas, watermelon and tomatoes…these are good rhyming words. Norman begins to imagine what the turtle’s family is like.
Once I have those down, I again put it away for the day. I just keep coming back to the project with a fresh eye. Every day I do a bit more work and allow myself to celebrate the accomplishment for that day’s work. Before I know it, I either have the outline for my book and am ready to visit with my illustrator to discuss drawings, or I’ve dumped the idea and no longer waste space in my brain to think about it.
5. What trends in the book world do you see -- and where do you think the book publishing industry is heading?
Many more authors are
self-publishing. This has changed the business as people are no longer,
necessarily, dependent on a publishing house to get their book to market.
Don’t misunderstand me, it is still a challenge to self-publish! It’s still
hard to find a home in mainstream stores, libraries, etc. However, I do think
the stigma that a self-published book can’t possibly be any good is
disappearing. Book sellers seem to be a bit more open to independently
6. What challenges did you overcome to write this book?
The writing of the book was, honestly, the easy part. The challenge is the marketing of the series. It’s a whole job in itself!
7. If people can buy or read one book this week or month, why should it be yours?
If you have children, my books can help you to start a conversation with your child about issues that are going to impact their lives. You’ll be able to talk about the importance of accepting oneself and others; you can begin a conversation about what role clothing plays in our lives; and certainly the pandemic and the continuing need for children over two to wear masks is a conversation worth having. And in my newest book, Audie Finds Her Smile, children can become aware that asking for help is a sign of strength and maturity, and they should never fear asking for support when they feel down.
About The Author: Cheryl Cage is the author of fifteen books and counting, including the children’s book series Norman the Interested Cat. Her varied career includes founding the aviation consulting firm Cage Marshall Consulting, and serving as a political consultant and community activist for 20 years. She lives in Tucson, Arizona, with her rescue pups, Jake and Bert. She and Norman have been friends since 2015! For more info, please see: https://www.normantheinterestedcat.com
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