Q1. Hello Sir, can you please introduce yourself? Readers would love to know more about you.
I was born in Queens Village, NY. Educated in Catholic Schools on Long Island and absorbed all I could from the energy of New York City. I am the oldest of 7 and the father of 4 grown children. My mother read illustrated stories to me and I did the same with my Children. This is my first published work. I have also written poetry and short stories.
Q2. Tell us about the process of coming up with the book cover and the title ‘Jazzy and Kettle’?
Well, two separate and distinct processes: The title came first. I wanted, from the beginning, to write a story about 2 kids. I had been to bookstore and library Children’s Sections, and all I could see were books starring animals, with kids mixed in. There was nothing about kids having fun with kids. I wanted to create a story that made kids the stars, having fun with each other, and no parental interference.
I also wanted a book to serve as a reading primer. If kids are eager to look at the book themselves, read it over and over, they will eventually figure out the sounds the letters make. I constructed the book so that the text is on the left and the illustrations are on the right. That allows a child, after hearing the story first, to begin glancing back and forth and see the words explain the pictures.
So, I picked the names Jazzy and Kettle to be unique nicknames, which many little kids have. They are also two syllable names, not complicated. The first two text pages of the book are only one word each: ‘Jazzy’ (with picture) and ‘Kettle’ (also pic). So, they are introduced to the readers immediately, with one word each. Easy first reading lesson!
I had always planned to pick the cover from Sefira’s illustrations. The one I picked is also the climax of the story. It is magnificently captured, extremely colorful and full of positive energy! It is eye catching!
Q3. When writing a book how do you keep things fresh, for both your readers and also yourself?
When I sit down, if I have started something, I will re-read what I have done and see if I would think it good work if done by someone else. If not? I do it over..
Q4. What’s your favourite spot to visit in your own country? And what makes it so special to you?
Well, I was born and raised in New York, and that was always a favorite jaunt. I love going to Maine because of the traquility. I also love the southern cities of Charleston and Savannah. The people are wonderful there, the cities are civil, energetic and have a small town feel, although they still are cities.
Q5. Is there lots to do before you drive in and start writing a book?
No, get a pad and paper and begin to scribble ideas. It is very much a self-motivated and cathartic process.
Q6. How long did it take you to write this book?
Hard to say… Often I carry things around in my head, switch ideas around without sitting at a desk. Sometimes I will jot a word or two of an idea on a post it and get to it later.
I think my first version took about a month. Then it took me awhile to find the illustrator I wanted. Sefira was referred to me a friend, who knew her mother. I scrolled through work on her social media page and came across a picture of a mother and child. BINGO! Exactly the softness I wanted.
As we talked about the process and she read the story, she commented that it needed more pics. I had thought 8 originally. She was correct. So when she was finished, I went back and re-wrote the text to make sure I could keep my original construct of one page of text per illustration.
Q7. What does success means to you?
To a degree, it means having produced something unique that is now available to the public. However, getting it in front of eyes is now a task. I do want to see sales growth as a sort of verification.
Q8. What were the key challenges you faced while writing ‘Jazzy and Kettle’ book?
Like any author, I think, I need blocks of uninterrupted time. Usually, I do my best work at night. I challenge myself to be good. Sometimes I will spend an hour plus, looking for the right word.
Q9. What books or authors have most influenced your own writing?
Well, growing up in and near NYC, there was a cornucopia of writing talent in the newspapers. That was where I first discovered great writing. One just passed away, Pete Hamill. Politics and sports and even entertainment had star writers: Murray Kempton, William Safire, Red Smith, Jimmy Cannon. In terms of illustrating writers.. obviously Charles Schultz is an immortal and Gary Trudeau was excellent. Novelists? Joyce is the best. He was stunning. Love Phillip Roth and Hemingway.
Q10. Are there any secrets from the book (that aren’t in the blurb), you can share with your readers?
One aspect that hasn’t gotten much mention is that the children’s racial appearances switch back and forth in the story. It doesn’t play into the story, but it represents to me how kids see each other: As Kids! Nothing else. I didn’t want a patronizing, condescending, preachy book. Kids don’t need that. They know how to get along.
No secrets per se. I hope to have their story continue and introduce other cultural indentities, such as headscarves or yarmulkes, just as another unspoken comment about how we are all the same.
Book Is Available On Amazon