I grew up in a sleepy village deep in Bavaria, which was so tiny that it didn’t even have a public playground. As my best friends lived far away, I often went roaming for hours alone with my dog through forests and meadows. A stone was not a stone but a stolen magic gem of a kidnapped goddess. This was because in the stories between numerous book covers I could travel to all kinds of places and meet lots of people. I used to devour books and I had lots of time to let my fantasies run wild.
When I was fifteen, I joined a youth sports exchange with Japan. This was a thrilling and deeply impressive journey for a German teenager. We lived with Japanese families. We were stunned about their customs and about the things we had in common. We could try Kendo and Kyudo, but we also wondered about the Japanese toilet seats that came with heating, washing, and drying functions and about the artistic wax sculptures in the windows of restaurants, which showed their dessert menus in detail. My friend and I once dressed in Kimonos, and one of the host fathers took us on his nightly patrol in a police car.
My strong interest in cultural differences was awakened. In the following years and during my undergraduate studies, I always loved to backpack to remote places around the globe to see how life was elsewhere. My curiosity brought me to more than thirty countries. I wrote my diploma thesis on the creation of images of countries.
To work for insurance and software companies and raise three kids, I had to change my way of travelling considerably. As a mother, I have discovered a new passion that is different but nevertheless related: I love to help children experience something new and to inspire them to think differently.
What inspired you to become an author?
We have our home in Berlin but spent a sabbatical in California. During that time, we took a vacation to Maui, Hawaii. For that trip, we decided to leave home children’s books, because we only could rent a small car. We regretted that decision on our first evening when our kids refused to fall asleep without a goodnight story. I had to make something up. I decided to come up with an ongoing story about a child and its dolphin friend, which was set in our wonderful holiday location and which was about various common adventures, like a trip to a volcano, a whale-watching tour, or the famous Hawaiian feast called Luau—events that were also on our to-do list. I was relieved that the kids seemed to like the stories. One day, after midnight, my youngest daughter woke me up and demanded that I continue the story at that very moment. This was the first time that I thought that the stories might not be too bad. On the last evening on Maui, my second daughter asked me to write them down.
What was your strangest experience as a writer?
During a reading at an elementary school in Berlin, a boy who was sitting next to me moved closer and closer with each turned page until he was nearly sitting on the edge of my chair. After I finished reading my book, which was volume three, “The Journey of the Blue Pearl to Cambodia,” the boy shouted loudly in a very demanding voice, “Why haven’t you written more of this?!”
Please tell us a little about your latest release. What were the best and worst parts for you personally? Which one of your novels is your favourite?
“The Journey of the Blue Pearl to Hawaii” (German title “Die Reise der blauen Perle”) is volume one, the start of a round-the-world trip for elementary school kids. As an author, I want to make the children hungry for more exciting and funny adventures and sensitive to the cultural aspects of countries around the world.
Hence, I will soon publish volumes two and three. They are in the making now. I have also written the first drafts of the Tunisia, Turkey, and Australia volumes and have developed the outlines for the Sweden and Spain journeys. These books are a little bit like children to me—I simply would feel like a bad mother if I picked one of them as my favorite!
The pictures in your books are all your own works of art. When did you first realize that you could paint/draw so well?
I loved studying arts in high school, so I chose it as my main subject and participated in exhibitions. After graduation, I even thought about studying arts at the university. I chose a more rationally motivated subject for my diploma, so my drawing skills enjoyed a long sleep.
For “The Journey of the Blue Pearl” I first wanted to work with an illustrator. During the writing process, however, the pictures became more and more present in my mind. I bought professional drawing equipment and gave my drawing skills a wake-up kiss. The reaction from various sides—for example, children at readings and school teachers—encouraged me to illustrate the whole book. I have chosen a naturalistic style to show things with which kids are usually not familiar.
What do you think are the differences between writing for adults and writing for children?
When writing for children you have to see the world through their eyes and let them find the jigsaw pieces of the big picture. To get into their hearts, you have to address their topics of interest and you have to adapt the tone, which means easy enough that they continue reading but challenging enough that they feel taken seriously. Parents and teachers, as their gatekeepers, also must be convinced that their kids will grow with these works.
Your books are in German right now. Do you have any future plans of writing English books or translating your current ones?
Yes, of course. I also want to reach out to English-speaking kids, particularly since I started book writing in California.
I started writing “The Journey of the Blue Pearl” series with the vision to publish it in several countries, because it conveys the value of traveling and connecting globally. I am currently working on the English translation of the first three volumes of the series. Because my English requires serious proofreading, I am happy to have found Tammi L. Coles, who in addition to doing a great job on the translation also came up with many helpful hints. We now have finished the translation of the first novel, “The Journey of the Blue Pearl to Hawaii”, and it will be published this spring.
Please tell us a little about the challenges of being a self-published author.
Nowadays with a book project you are confronted with heaps of possibilities authors simply didn’t have in the past, like print on demand or reaching out to a crowd on only a low marketing budget. The lower market-entry barrier doesn’t mean that your book sells, however.
After evaluating the pros and cons, I decided to try self-publishing instead of sending my manuscript to publishing houses.
For me, self-publishing is fun, hard work and rewarding at the same time. It is exciting that you can be fully in charge of your books. But you have to think honestly about whether you are the person who manages to do everything that is required. I decided to invest in professional editing help, for example. Self-publishing provides you with a lot of freedom as well as a lot of opportunities to make mistakes. I am deeply grateful to my husband, who helped me with the formatting process, which is not so easy with a book full of illustrations.
In summary, I enjoy shaping this major part of the work but, at the same time, also growing my awareness for the people at the various stages in the book process and business.
Any words of wisdom for our readers/aspiring authors:
Especially if you are also writing for children: Test read your books at schools. That gave me lots of rewarding and valuable experience. Whenever I had doubts about the quality of my book, a test reading gave me great input and feedback, either encouragement by loud laughter and shiny eyes or—and at least as valuable—hints to areas for improvement. Kids usually don’t hide their thoughts, and their faces show their sentiments very clearly. I will never forget the moment when a mother of a child who attended my first reading told me that her daughter came home and said that she wanted to have all of my books!
If your readers would like to share experiences or connect, please encourage them to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org!