Recently, I had the excellent opportunity to speak with the talented Sandrian Nelson-Moon, who is releasing her new children’s novel, Our New Friends, The Dragons over the upcoming weekend. In the interview below, you’ll discover what inspired the author, and what challenges she’s faced to get here.
Tellest: Hi there Sandrian. I wanted to tell you I appreciate having the time to speak with you. Knowing what I know about you, it must be a challenge to find any time for anything extracurricular with everything else you have going on. I’m excited to let readers pull back the curtain and learn more about you!
Sandrian Nelson-Moon: Hi How are you? I’m happy to be here …Well you can say I run around all day everyday like a chicken with her head cut off lol but thank you I’m excited to be here, I appreciate the opportunity to meet you. I’m excited to share. Interestingly because I do work for myself and I have great family support I actually can find time for certain things it however takes very detailed planning, and organization. Especially now with the kids’ home for school.
T: So, one of the first things I want to talk about is multi-tasking. I mentioned the word “extracurricular” earlier, but that may not adequately describe what you’re all about. You’re incredibly well-educated, you serve your county as a committee member, and you’re always working to better yourself. How did you find the time to work on Our New Friends, The Dragons?
SNM: Well I find when its quiet at home and the kids are asleep it’s the time where I truly get to home in on my thoughts. So, while most people sleep, I’m up either studying, working on projects and writing. The story kind of came to me years ago while home with my son who I spent many a night making up stories with so I thought hey well how about a story that represented how magical the world can be if we truly found an access way into other worlds.
T: What was the process like for you going from the initial concept of the story to getting it published? How did you work out the details for the plot and incorporate the illustrations?
SNM: The initial process was not long actually; the manuscript took a little but once it was done, I began researching for a great illustrator and as that took form, we kind of moved fast because what normally would take 3 months we completed collaborating in detail for each page in only a month. Learning how to publish and market became the focus after that and as I learnt the process and watched it come to life, I became more and more excited about the final draft.
T: I ask this question of a lot of my interview subjects, but what made you decide you wanted to write in the first place? And what gave you that final push to begin committing your words to the page?
SNM: Honestly, I’ve been writing for years, it was the only way I could express how I felt. Crazy enough my trauma made me write. I used to have a notebook I hid in a hole in the ceiling in the home I grew up in. I would write my feelings and then tuck it away in that hole. Then I didn’t feel safe to speak about the things I felt tormented me, so everything I couldn’t say even the pain I felt was put in a book. Interestingly enough also I was a walking book of secrets so writing it was therapeutic for me. I jotted things all the time and made up fiction stories with my son for bedtime so coming up with the story came from an idea my son gave me. I got the final push when I was asked to write a personal statement for law school applications and the question was based around why I chose to do law and I was forced to give the real reason, my trauma and my wanting to fight for others that can’t fight for themselves. I wrote, and it left me in tears not due to pain but realizing what I lived through. The advisor who read it called me and said you need to write this in a book. That pushed my thoughts to actually publish things I’ve written.
T: That must have been difficult to begin working through. Have you had any troubles since writing fiction? Does any of the memories of your trauma sort of bleed through because you’re leaning on the same methods you used to unleash your feelings?
SNM: Yes, it was, pretty painful but actually while doing fiction it didn’t bleed in or overlap. I think because writing fiction had me in a complete creative space, my mind was more focused on the things I wished to see and feel. I got to dream up or fantasize my ideas and then put them on paper from a fun and relaxed place. See back then I created a world of fiction and a personality to survive, a place where I had control and a place where I was happy. So fiction I thrive in but, writing my other novel that will be released in June however I find is more difficult, mostly because I feel like I’m retracing my steps into the pain I lived through and resurfacing them and who I was to explore who I have now become.
T: Do you find it difficult to balance the two different sides of your work in writing? Are there any jarring feelings shifting from something more lighthearted to something rawer and more emotional?
SNM: Actually, not really, I think both sides are a part of the whole and since I’ve always separated them in certain aspects somehow that seemingly kept a balance. Have they intertwined at times? Yes. I’ve learned to not let the negative emotions I experienced seep into the world in which I create. I don t believe there are any jarring feelings as I shift, however I think for me at this point I am able to dig in and speak from a place of healing instead of pain so transitioning isn’t bad, however I have to also maintain that I am uprooting things that if I don’t keep a cool head and remind myself you’ve come through it, it can possibly have me feeling uneasy. I thank God for my ability to somehow see myself from a different place today. That has helped maintain peace and balance. I know from experience that you can overcome only what you choose to overcome so maintaining control is a daily thing for me.
T: What served as inspiration for this children’s book?
SNM: My inspiration was my 2 younger kids. I always admired the relationship they share with each other. At moments they disagree but they would do anything for each other. So, the characters were forged around 2 siblings that expressed that unwavering love that in the end proved a big deal. My son spent years with me creating bedtime stories and I remember thinking hey I can create one that represents him so he can see himself on the page. In the story, stumbling onto a secret portal in their house, Nason falls into what seems to be a never-ending sky. Hoping to save her brother, Kaela jumps in after him. Awestruck in what seems to be a dangerous world, they soon become friends with the dragons in their beautiful, magical world. But time is running out and they need to get back home before their mother wakes up.
T: How do your kids feel about being the inspiration for characters for your book? Have they been encouraging you to write more fantasy for a younger audience?
SNM: My kids found out when the illustration process began, and they were pretty excited they were the inspiration. My daughter Makaela actually had a lot to do with the little girl character and what she should look like and so did my son Mnason. He helped choose clothes and what Nason did etc. My older boys were always supportive, while my husband was along for everything. “Hey, tell me what you think about this step” lol. Having their input… It was awesome it became a family project.
T: What have you found was the most challenging aspect of working on a children’s book? Was it coming up with the idea, writing it, having it illustrated, promoting it, or something else altogether?
SNM: This being my first children’s book I actually found marketing to be more challenging. It’s a big world out there with vanity press etc. and initially I opted for a company but quickly found there were safer ways to go about it thanks to my illustrator Bex. I also found that there is so much to learn during the process of how the children’s market works. The whole process taught me so much but if you research properly, you’ll be able to handle it.
T: What advice would you have for someone who is thinking about getting into telling their own story, whether it was a children’s story, or something else altogether?
SNM: Think long and hard about it, make sure you are ready to stand back and watch yourself on a page. It is so therapeutic, eye and heart opening all at the same time. Know that you can start from the middle of the story. Its ok to begin in the middle and build on that. Just write something down it doesn’t have to be polished you can always fix it later. Don’t get discouraged writing, everything is a process so writing about you especially if its detailed parts of you can be even harder but take breaks in between if necessary. The reward at the end is massive. You will begin to realize things about yourself you never realized and truly be able to close some doors you thought were closed. It is one of the most amazing things about writing. You get to tell a story—even your own—how you choose to tell it. Do it with everything in you.
T: What’s next for you regarding the novels you might be working on, children’s or otherwise?
SNM: I am actually working on my autobiography that I hope to use to inspire the woman or man who’s experienced tragedy, sexual trauma, and abuse. The book is about how to transition hurt into peace and pain into victory. It’s about realizing that until you chose to not only deal with and recognize that pain can be a precursor to propel you into greatness, you’ll instead remain in a never-ending cycle of hurt and pain that repeatedly resurfaces. I’m hoping to grab onto victims before what they experienced becomes what they live and breathe daily.
T: For Our New Friends, The Dragons, are you planning on any follow-ups in the future?
SNM: Funny you asked my husband asked the same question recently, but for right now, I haven’t decided. I have however begun work on another kid’s book.
T: That’s great! Is there anything you can tell us about the new book yet? Are you using the same artist?
SNM: The new one is more of a motivational and activity type book for kids. The goal of the book is to reassure kids that they can do anything they put their minds to. I want to encourage kids to venture into careers that do not have a large number of minorities. I may use the same artist but I’m deciding on the book’s direction. Interestingly this was Bex’s first time illustrating African American characters and she did an amazing job.
T: Where can readers who are interested in your work learn more about you?
SNM: Well, I am present on social media on Instagram @driajd_esq36 & @nelsonmoonkids, Facebook: Sandrian Campbell (Mrs. Nelson-Moon), Twitter: Legally_Dria @SandrianSpeaks
The website is www.nelsonmoonkids.com
T: Thank you once again for taking the time to talk with me about your upcoming book, and what comes next for you on your journey. I appreciate it and wish you well on your projects!
SNM: Thank you so much for having me, this was a great conversation. I truly appreciate the opportunity. Wishing you and your family a great Holiday Season.
T: I want to take this opportunity to thank Sandria again for helping to pull back the curtain and see what makes her tick. Her first children’s book, Our New Friends, The Dragons, is out now, and you can check out the promo on Tellest!