Guest Author Dr. Robert F DeFinis
What inspired you to write this book?
The short answer is my children. It sort of came about as we were discussing the coronavirus, and it’s impact on our lives. Specifically, school closing and not being able to see family and friends. All of these things can be very difficult for children to process, and I wanted to be able to provide a resource for families and educators to begin to discuss the important elements of preventing the spread of the coronavirus.
Can you tell me about the book?
The book is a short rhyming book with an emphasis on children taking action to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Sure, we are still learning much about it, but we do know we can take certain actions. The book focuses on three. Washing your hands, covering your cough and sneeze, and practicing social distance. It also touches on gratitude and the hope of returning back to normal life. Personally, I think gratitude is so important for children. The ability to recognize that there are people on the front line that are making a difference each and every day, and we need to be thankful for theirs sacrifices.
What is your writing process like?
With anything that I write, I stick to a very basic process. Research, brainstorm, outline, draft, let it cool off, revise, edit, and peer review. This has worked well for me. However, I think that a writer has to find what works best for them. Possibly try a few ways. You will k ow it’s working if your are creating and finishing.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
There are many reasons that I write. Sometimes writing for me is therapeutic. There are other times that writing can be very energizing because I’m interested in telling a specific story through the lens of a specific character. I never feel that I’m exhausted after writing, but I can see how some writers could feel that way. I know for me my ideas and stories are very important, so I’m protective of them.
What are common traps for aspiring writers?
I think in general, a possible trap is moving from the creative space to the finish line. Tweaking and revisiting ideas and concepts can sometimes paralyze a writer. Striving for perfection, can get you stuck and prevent you from hitting the end goal which is publishing your work. Set the goal, create a plan, and hit your deadlines. Just keep moving forward.
Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
For now all my projects are separate,so they are standing on their own merit. I have an idea for a future project that could intertwine and become something bigger- like a series. However, I also like the idea of working on separate projects at the same time. Sort of bouncing back-and-forth between them.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
Currently I have two unpublished books that I’m now revisiting. Mainly because they were focused on subjects that have changed slightly. I want to go back and revise some pieces of the story. I never intend to start a project before one is finished, but sometimes when you’re in the creative space you have to go with the flow. My personal criteria before starting something new is if I’m thinking of it constantly, and it’s burning at me to get started. Then I know it’s something that’s worth exploring.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
Before I started writing children’s books, I did a ton of academic writing. This requires a good process for doing research and evaluation. I have taken some of these steps into writing within my current genre. I also tend to write about things I have a good foundation in. I’m not one to stray too far away from my lane, but I also want to convey correct information.
How many hours a day do you write?
I try to carve out time each day. Obviously, scheduling is dependent on other parts of the project or other obligations. There are better times during the week, so it really all depends. I try not to go too long without writing.
What did you edit out of this book?
Initially, I was going to have the book a little longer. Picture books Are normally around 32 pages. This is 14 pages. I took out a few things that I felt were necessary. As I mentioned, it’s a rhyming book. I wanted everything to be short and concise. The concept is to help children take action, so I didn’t want to lose the young reader with too many rules or steps. I kept it simple with three.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
This is my first published book. While I’ve been writing for some time, every project has taken a different length to complete. I write children’s books, and I do both the writing and illustration. The current book took me two weeks from start to finish. However, it is based on current events and I wanted to get it to readers as soon as possible.
Do you believe in writer’s block?
I actually don’t believe in writers block. I do believe writers can get stuck because they haven’t developed a good writing process. Or, they are lacking in research and development with their story. That’s why I think a process and sticking to one is a good practice.
What works best for you: Typewriters, fountain pen, dictate, computer or longhand?
For me, everything starts with a legal pad. Then I transition those thoughts and ideas to the computer. I recommend you do what’s best for you. I know tons of writers that have their own way of drafting their stories. Because of my genre I also do a lot of storyboarding. I may have some of the concepts or characters in mind and will start to put illustrations together without having it all figured out. I don’t always do it this way, but I have for some projects.
When did it dawn upon you that you wanted to be a writer?
I don’t think I ever set out to be a writer in terms of a profession. I just enjoy writing. I knew that I wanted to write and illustrate children’s books. I guess more recently I decided that I was going to take action and stop letting my stories sit on a shelf.
How hard was it to sit down and actually start writing something?
It’s not hard for me to sit down and start writing. I’m always writing from a plan or a rough sketch. Things start to really flow when I’m outlining or storyboarding a concept. If anything is an obstacle, it’s completion. I don’t want too many stories sitting and not getting attention. I’ve been more focused on completion and getting things into the hands of readers. This can be tough. Mainly because we are very protective of our work. I know for myself I never completely satisfied.
Do you read much and, if so, who are your favorite authors?
Yes, of course. I do a great deal of reading. I will say that my taste for literature is all over the place. One day I can be reading the classics, the next day a good business book like Good to Great by Jim Collins, or a children’s book like The Seed of Compassion by the Dalai Lama. Whatever I’m in the mood for is what I gravitate towards.
What is the most important thing about a book, in your opinion?
I’d say the most important thing about my book, is the reason I wrote it. I want children to know that during difficult times, even they can make an impact. You don’t have to be an adult, or have some type of formal responsibility to create some good, or make a difference.
Can you tell us about your current projects?
I’m currently working on three separate projects. Two children’s books and a fun poetry collaboration. I’m hoping to have one of these, Lady P’s First Day, ready to go before the school year starts in the fall. My daughter will be entering kindergarten, so it’s important project for me. Also, the poetry collaboration project will be different for me. I won’t be illustrating, and just focusing on the writing.
How can readers find out more info about you and your books?