Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Interview with illustrator and debut children's author Roni Kennedy

Today’s special guest is illustrator and debut children's writer Roni Kennedy. We’re chatting about The Boy That Grew Teeth in His Ear.

Roni Kennedy was born in Cincinnati, Ohio and comes from a family of eight. She is the oldest of six brothers and sisters and was taught at an early young age that she needed to set the example for her younger brothers and sisters. In her later years she moved to Salt Lake City, Utah and has three children and four step children.

Roni is a self-starter and has her own sign business which she used to run out of her home for 20 years and now at a location in Tooele, Utah for the past 10 years of her life. In her shop she designs, prints banners, does vehicle lettering and all types of signs. She has an artistic talent that she has been blessed with to support her family and lively hood. She also has and still paints windows as well seasonal and promotional for businesses and homes. She is a hard worker and likes to do crafts in her spare time and spend time with family and keep a clean home.

In the early 1996 Roni and another partner had two clipart books which were called Primary Paraphernalia Volume 1 and 2 that were published by Sounds of Zion in Salt Lake City Utah and were distributed all over the United States In Deseret Book Stores. She considers herself accomplished and when the going gets tough the tough get going.

Welcome, Roni. Please tell us about your current release.
First of all before I get started I want to give all my credit to my mother who was from Eunice, Louisiana. She left her family when she met my father in the service and married and moved to Cincinnati, Ohio. She is a strong woman and a brave woman. She was a school teacher and continued her education to getting her master's degree while she was raising us and teaching. She wrote a few books and tried to get them published but at the time it was quite expensive raising six children. Our needs came first.

The Boy That Grew Teeth in His Ear is about how sometimes we can get caught up in following the crowd and wanting to be popular. Since bullying has been a problem from the beginning of time this book is to invite children to realize they can be good friends and not pick on others and make fun of others that are different than them or new to a school or neighborhood.

Aaron has moved to a new neighborhood and is being teased and picked on. In order to fit in he starts doing bad things to make himself fit in to the group that's picking on him. He soon finds out that a tooth is forming in his ear and he tries to hide it. When his friends discover it they want to have one just like he has. They think it's cool. The tooth makes him more popular and he and his new friends start picking more and more on others. Then more teeth grew in Aaron’s ear until he had none left in his mouth. He starts hiding out in his upstairs bedroom and won't go out and play or anything. He feels like a total freak and sobs and cried himself to sleep. Then the ear talks to Aaron in his sleep and tells him to repent of his wrongs - he will get better. So Aaron regains his mouth full of teeth and also lots of friends.

What inspired you to write this book?
I think part of it has been my life events. My mother was a school teacher and 3 of us older siblings went to the same she taught at and were somewhat picked on. I remember one time we were spit on and called teacher’s pet. A few other things have been insensitive people that I have encountered throughout my life. 

I have been married 3 times. I was verbally and physically abused in my first marriage and he did not want to work. My second marriage was not so good either. He lied about money and to me about a lot of things and when I did the Primary Paraphernalia books he became very jealous of my ability to do something for myself. Part of the book starting ideas came from my hard times. 

At the time I wrote this book I was doing well with the Primary books and wanted to make a career of it. Everything was put on hold due to a divorce in 1998. At one point I sent it in to Agreka Books and they wanted me to publish and do a second book about morals. I did not have the funds and this book was put on a shelf for 18 years. I had to raise my daughter and just worked on getting the sign business going. 

Due to more humbling experiences in my life and moving to a small town with my sign business, I decided to blow some dust off of it and get it published this year. I cannot tell you it all except small towns have bullies and mean people as well as very good people so this book was a perfect time to get published. I have been bullied by a newspaper out here that was trying to put my sign business under when they advertised in their paper that they did signs and banners and undercut my prices after I closed my sign shop up in Salt Lake. I had two shops at the time and the economy was going south. I did not go through them for my published book needless to say.

What exciting story are you working on next?
I would like to work on my mother’s book. I have done the illustrations for her years ago. It needs to be edited and shortened. It is called the story of Timmy Mitton.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I was probably in my teens. I used to babysit the neighbor’s children and would write poems.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
No I do not write full time. I have a full time business. I wish I could write full time and use my creativity.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I wrote and pencil sketched this book in a snap. The idea came very quickly to me.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I loved horses. Maybe live on a farm with lots of horses.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I am a really good person. I care about others and have empathy towards them. I try to help others but I also know there are boundaries and not to let others take advantage of me. I am trying to accomplish morals, values, true principles and good teaching lessons.


Thanks for being here today, Roni! Happy writing.

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