Happy Thursday Critters! I hope you are all enjoying the holiday season with family and friends. I’m very excited to share today’s interview with debut author Monique Fields!
In addition to writing picture books, Monique is an incredibly accomplished journalist, with essays appearing in Ebony magazine, NPR’s All Things Considered, and TheRoot.com. Her debut picture book, HONEYSMOKE: A STORY OF FINDING YOUR COLOR, illustrated by Yesenia Moises, will release on January 8, 2019. Monique’s debut is a wonderful book that encourages children to find and create their own identity in the world.
So without further ado, please welcome Monique Fields!
Where do you live?
I live in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, home of the University of Alabama.
When did you know you wanted to write picture books?
I was a journalist for about 20 years, and I always have enjoyed writing. After I had my girls and read a trillion picture books over and over again at bedtime, I started to think I could write one, too.
Tell us about your road to publication, what did that involve for you?
Oh, I don’t know if this blog post is long enough. It’s been a long, winding road. I wrote a manuscript, but I didn’t really know how to write a children’s book. There was a learning curve as I figured out page turns and the other mechanics of writing for children. As a journalist, I didn’t know much about critique groups. I had to find one. When I couldn’t find one in my hometown, I started a digital group. After I polished off a few manuscripts with the help critiques from writers, agents, and editors at SCBWI events, I still had to find an agent. Thank goodness Kevin O’Connor took a chance on me. That’s the short version. Whew!
Can you share a bit about your process?
I mine my life and the lives of others for ideas. I can see a potential picture book in almost anything I witness during the course of the day. When something strikes me as interesting, I write it down in my electronic notebook.
When it comes to writing, I get the beginning and the ending on the page first. That’s a throwback to my journalism days. The hardest part is in the middle.
What do you do to shake the rust off or get new ideas?
Read. When I read, I am inspired.
Anything you can’t live without while you write?
Chocolate and Twizzlers.
Any authors and/or illustrators who inspire you?
There are two author/illustrators whose work I truly adore: Yuyi Morales and Vashti Harrison. Both bring such dreamy intricacies to their work. Oh, how I wish I could draw and tell a beautiful story.
Dream project to work on?
I’d love to work with Tracee Ellis Ross and Serena Williams on pretty much anything.
Tell us about your debut book.
HONEYSMOKE is about a little girl who discovers her very own color. Simone, the main character, looks around her world to find her place in it. Her skin color is not like any of her friends at school or her parents. So, what is her color? She chooses one of her own, and creates a new word: Honeysmoke. It wrote the book so that all children can create their own identity.
What inspired you to write your debut book?
The manuscript that became HONEYSMOKE started as a question from my three-year-old daughter: Who am I? She didn’t ask her question in such succinct terms, but that’s exactly what she wanted to know. I was surprised and a little disappointed when I couldn’t provide a satisfying answer.
What is Honeysmoke?
Honeysmoke is my childhood nickname, and it is the color of my skin. When I was growing up, I decided that my mother, a light-skinned black woman, was the honey and that my father, a dark-skinned black man, was the smoke. I was the same as my parents but also different.
How did your nickname become a children’s picture book?
As I considered how I could help my biracial daughter understand the complexities of race, I turned to my childhood nickname. She was the same as her father and me but also different. She had inherited qualities from us, and she would soon discover that she had some of her very own, that she was more than what she looked like on the outside. The little girl who inspired HONEYSMOKE is now a teenager, and she continues to discover her world and her place in it.
What’s up next for you?
Well, I hope to be a nonfiction picture book author soon. That’s all I can say about it for now.
And last, but not least, favorite 80s movie?
The answer to this question is going to date me. Purple Rain is my favorite 80s movie.
Huge thank you to Monique for stopping by Critter Lit today! We can’t wait to see HONEYSMOKE out in the world!
Monique Fields is an award-winning journalist. Her essays about race and identity have appeared on air, in print, and online, including NPR’s All Things Considered, Ebony magazine, and TheRoot.com. She is the founder and editor of Honeysmoke.com, a site for parents raising multiracial children.
FOR MORE INFORMATION about Monique and her work visit her website: www.MoniqueFields.com or follow her on Twitter @honeysmokeblog
TO ORDER Monique’s debut book, ring up your local bookstore, or click here.
Want a chance to win a copy of HONESMOKE?! Comment on this post or share it on Twitter. One lucky winner will be selected Thursday, January 3rd! US addresses only please.
What's up on deck? Tune in next week for a Critter Lit Craft Post to kick off the new year!