Kansas City author, Grace LaJoy Henderson, just released her illustrated series, The Gracie Series, and I had the pleasure of interviewing her about the recent launch! Many of us, especially parents, see the disparage of brown, and black children being represented in children's books nowadays. Grace is changing that with her release of six children's books!
HQ: Introduce yourself!
Grace: I am an author of 26 books. Most recently, I wrote and illustrated The Gracie Series, consisting of 6 children’s books. I write and publish books because it is a natural gift, talent and passion for me. I have a lot of great ideas, thoughts, wisdom and insight to share, so I chose books as my outlet for sharing. However, another way that I have shared is through writing poetry, speaking to groups and conducting educational workshops.
HQ: What inspired you to create The Gracie Series?
Grace: I became inspired to create The Gracie Series after I got an idea to write one children’s book entitled, "Popcorn Behind the Bush." As I was writing "Popcorn Behind the Bush" just for fun, more entertaining stories from my childhood started coming to me. So, I wrote about ten children’s stories back-to-back, then, narrowed my series down to 6 of the stories. The name Gracie was inspired by the fact that I was affectionately called “Gracie” by my siblings when I was a little girl. Note: I desire to add more books to The Gracie Series in the future.
HQ: Why a children's book collection?
Grace: I chose to write a children’s collection because all of the stories that came to my mind, while I was writing "Popcorn Behind the Bush," were entertaining stories from my childhood memories. They are stories I have shared verbally over the years just to get a funny reaction out of people. So, I decided to design the stories in a way that children could enjoy them for years to come.
HQ: The illustrations in your books are fantastic! What kind of creative aspects were you looking to include in the illustrations?
Grace: Thank you so much for the compliment! I wanted The Gracie Series to be a matching set. So, I created the logo using Gracie’s face, then placed that logo in the exact same spot on front and back covers on each of the books. I wanted to show a sense of family. So, even though my mother left me, in real life, when I was two years old, I created both a mother and father for Gracie in the series. In real life, I had a grandmother who was very dear to me, so I created a loving grandmother for Gracie. For continuity, I tried to use some of the same background settings throughout the series (i.e. the living room, family room, kitchen, dining room is the same throughout the series). I even made the titles match; each title is made up of four words (i.e. Popcorn Behind the Bush, Cake in My Shoe, I Trimmed My Edges, etc.) using the same font for each title.
HQ: Could you walk us through some of your creative process for creating The Gracie Series?
Grace: Since I am African American, I wanted the main character to be the same. Since I was a cute, adorable and lovable child, I wanted the main character to be the same. Since I was a very determined and resilient little girl, I wanted the main character to be the same. Since I was affectionately called “Gracie” by siblings when I was a little girl, I thought the name Gracie would be the perfect fit for my main character.
Since I was a very determined and resilient little girl, I wanted the main character to be the same
HQ: What would you like for your readers to take away from this book series?
Grace: I want my readers to laugh! I want teachers to have fun, while engaging their students in the humorous stories. I want teachers to use the discussion questions in the back of each book to help enhance their students’ reading comprehension skills. I want my readers to learn valuable lessons from the key themes that are prevalent throughout the series (i.e. determination, persistence, resilience, problem-solving, acceptance and family).
HQ: What advice would you give to any unpublished writers out there?
Grace: Several unpublished writers have asked what programs I use to create my books: Well, I use Microsoft Word to create and format the interior of my books. Then I save the completed interior as a PDF, since this is the file type that printers usually want. I use Quark Xpress to design my book covers. I save my book covers as PDFs also. For my children’s book illustrations, I used Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop.
There is really not a quick way for me to say all of the things I believe an unpublished writer needs to hear. But, due to the many questions I have received from unpublished writers, I actually wrote a book entitled, Writer’s Breakthrough: Steps to Copyright Your Own Book. One of the things the book teaches is how to produce a professional book (front cover, inside pages, back cover).
HQ: Where can readers purchase The Gracie Series, and find more of your work?
Grace: Readers can purchase The Gracie Series at Amazon.com and find many of my other books there also. For more information about me and my work they can visit my website at www.gracelajoy.comwww.gracelajoy.com
HQ: Would you like to add anything else?
Grace: Adult readers will enjoy the stories in The Gracie Series just as much as young readers!