KC: You've just released the picture book Step One, Step Two, Step Three and Four. It deals with the unusual, but extremely important, subject matter of blended families. What inspired you to write the book?
MA: What inspires us to write anything? Experience. In 2006 I went through a miserable divorce. I thought that it would be hard on my two children. It was harder on me. Kids are resilient. In 2007, I met a man who had five children of his own who were close in age to mine. I thought divorce was hard for my kids, but adding more children to our family and sharing momma was difficult for my daughter. That event prompted me write this children's picture book. Sixty-percent of children today are faced with one of their parents remarrying. If you add more siblings into the mix it's a whole new adventure.
KC: How did you approach writing on this difficult topic in a way that would be accessible to young readers?
MA: I wanted a book where the outlook of having a blended family is seen as a positive. Parents could use it as a teaching tool for their child's transition. The story line makes a tough situation bearable and helps them to cope with their new blended family.
KC: How did you approach the illustrating process?
MA: Unga, bunga. This was my first book so I was a newbie. I used Freelancer. And while it was a great tool for finding my illustrator it was difficult to choose. In the future, I'd pay more attention to time difference. The process was much longer due to the one email a day exchange from the states to Romania. My next picture book, a cowboy series, I'm looking for someone in the states. If you're an illustrator email me!
KC: You write picture books, middle grade, and young adult stories as well as writing for grown-ups. What is your favorite age level to write for? Why?
MA: Each genre gives me some kind of satisfaction. Picture books, I love the simplicity. Putting MY words to illustrations is amazing. To see the story come alive and become a real book is a great feeling of satisfaction. My favorite genre? My Middle Grade, Sushi Kitty, I saw a tale that needed to be told. My YA, Live By The Code, emerged on a real life event. Did I ever think I'd write the things I've written? No way. I have a very seasoned critique group which started out as a picture book group. I learned through them. They said I should try my hand at Romance. I said, "No way." I have 45,000 word novel in my computer waiting to be read. So do I have a favorite? Not so much. I love each for a different reason. Trying a new genre is a challenge for me, and I never back down from a challenge.
KC: What advice would you give new writers trying to break into the extremely competitive kidlit market?
MA: Know the industry. Learn as much as you can. Be professional on ALL social media. Build your platform. Build relationships. Don't worry about getting an agent. Don't worry about getting into a house. Worry about getting your book out there before you die anyway you can. You love it. Write it. Someone will read it.
Thanks for your thoughts, Maria, and good luck with the new book!