I’m happy to announce my first children’s book author interview! Jo Carson-Barr creates adorable stories that are great for kids, teaching them about differently abled kids, and also including New Zealand Sign Language into her novels. As someone who grew up involved in the ASL community, I was happy to get a chance to interview her and share her fun books.
Q. To start, let’s hear a little bit about you, outside of your writing life.
I am a wife, mother, sister, grandmother and I live in Auckland City, New Zealand.
I moved to the city after many years of living in Rural NZ where I was a very active gardener, created pottery and led the ‘good life’. Part of my work history was living and working with people differently abled people.
Q. Your children’s book, Talking to Nannie, was translated into New Zealand Sign Language. How has working with the differently abled community influenced your work?
I am keen to portray them in my books in a very natural way.
Q. You come from a big family with lots of kids. Do their ideas help shape some of the plots in your work?
A. Yes, their life experiences and mine influenced the short stories I wrote for adults.
My children’s picture books feature my grandchildren….exaggerated of course.
Q. Simon Barr has created beautiful, colorful illustrations for your work. Which book do you feel like he’s captured the best?
Simon is my son, so this is a very hard question as they are all amazing…but I would have to say Waata the Weta: Can He Find The Perfect Home? this book has stunning illustrations.
Q. Do you ever foresee yourself writing for an older audience, such as Middle Grade, or do you prefer to stick to picture books?
A. I did start off writing short stories for adults, but because I am now working with Simon I imagine we will stay with picture books.
Q. When breaking into the world of children’s books, what’s been the most challenging part?
A. I think as a self published author the most challenging part has been the marketing, though I have been quite successful.
Q. On your website, you have the option to buy your books as part of a fundraiser. What fundraiser are you taking part in and how is it close to your heart?
A. We have completed two fundraisers, one for a club who help children and the other for a Hospice. At the moment one of my books is being used as a fundraiser to get a Downs Syndrome woman to attend a Conference in Ireland. This is very satisfying.
Q. As a librarian, what did you notice when working with children that’s helped you write educational yet fun books for a younger audience?
A. I must let you know I am not a qualified librarian, just a Play Centre librarian. That position exposed to a large variety of excellent children’s book which fueled my passion to write books and hopefully to add more excellent books to the world.
Q. What did you learn the most from your first children’s book, Talking to Nannie, and how do you feel like you’ve improved since then?
A. I learnt …..’I can do this and it is fun’…..and very rewarding working with Simon as a team to produce The GoodBye Chair, The Chill Out Chair and Waata the Weta.
Q. When it comes to being an author with a family, there’s always a fine balance between being with them and needing to work. What advice can you give to writers who are trying to find time to write with children and grandchildren?
A. If you have a real passion in your heart to do something you will always find time. I virtually never watch TV!!! Just DO IT.
Q. Who’s been the biggest part of your support system when it comes to your writing process?
A. I have a close friend who is an ex school teacher, who reads my manuscripts, helps me when I am stuck, makes suggestions and just tells me to go for it.
Q. What do you think is the most enjoyable part about writing for children that you don’t think you’d feel if you were writing for adults?
A. The best part is seeing the children’s faces, when they see the books, or they tell me this is the best books ever, or they just love one of the books and their Mum or dad tell me they have had to read it ten times.
Q. If you could sit down with any children’s book author, alive or dead, and have lunch, who would it be?
A. Being a New Zealander, my absolutely favourite children’s author is another New Zealander called Joy Cowley and I would love to have a chance to chat with her.
Q. Which children’s book did your children love to have you read to them the most?
Where the Wild Things Are.
Q. You’ve been writing for ten years now. What piece of advice did you receive and didn’t take, but wish you did?
A. To be honest I don’t remember anyone actually giving me any advice. Now days I learn lots on webinars, fb pages, groups etc…..what I wish is that I had started earlier.
Q. Lastly, tell us a little bit about your upcoming projects, and when you hope to have them finished.
We have just finished The Chill Out Chair and are waiting for the books to arrive from the printer. We hope to have our third book in the Nicholas series and two more adventures of Waata the Weta by the end of the year and then I want to do a simpler version of the Nicholas stories for a board book series.
Want to learn more about this author? Check out her websites below, and be sure to look out for her newest children’s books!