Author of Oli’s Uncommon Cents
Hi, Deb. It’s great having you here at Kid Lit Reviews. Tomorrow your middle grade novel Oli’s Uncommon Cents will be reviewed, but today we are going to find out a bit about the author.
Deb, what is the inspiration behind Oli’s Uncommon Cents?
It must have been about fifteen years ago when my family and I were traveling to south Idaho to visit our oldest daughter who was attending college. I remember looking out the window and the thought suddenly occurred to me, if money could talk what would it say? I turned to my husband and two teenage children and said, “wouldn’t it be weird if money could talk, think of the stories it could tell”. We all laughed and discussed some of the possibilities. That started me thinking, and, wa-la, Oli’s Uncommon Cents emerged.
Does the title come from the story or is there a deeper, inspired story behind the title?
Our three children’s names are, Anna, Emily and Ian…A, E, I, if my husband and I were to have had a fourth child it’s name would have to start with an O…, Oliver, if a boy, and Olivia, if a girl. My character, Oli, is my fictional fourth child. Given her money was talking money who advised her with both reason and good sense, I thought it fitting to call them, Uncommon Cents. Put the two together and there’s the title.
I like the cover, it too is uncommon. Is that a picture of you?
No, that is not a picture of me. The illustrator drew the picture and when she finished it I was surprised at what a strong resemblance it was of me, as a seventh grader.
Tell us a little about your illustrator.
The artist was a young high school student, Sophie Mattinson. Her talent is stellar and I’m privileged to be able to feature her work in my book. Sophie took this illustration job as an elective project for her school work. In keeping with the theme, I wanted someone who was young, inquisitive and brave, just like Oli.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I have always loved writing. I left high school with the aspirations of being a grade school English teacher. That didn’t work out though; my swimming scholarship was cut short due to injury which left me without funds and in a slump of discouragement. After marriage and three children I returned to college to pursue a completely different interest, Landscape Architecture. For over 25 years my husband and I owned our own design/build firm and during that time most of my writing was business writing; creating business proposals, financial reports, and design concepts. I found myself throwing quirky tidbits and overly-descriptive details into my business documents.
My clients and colleagues mused at my creative ramblings, I’m sure they were confused about my version of a formal document. I decided I better find an outlet for my creative writing, I returned to my previous interest of English and enrolled in creative writing courses; I was addicted from then on. Some of my instructors would post my pieces on their websites and that got me thinking, “Maybe I’m not so bad at this?”
I have published one children’s devotional book and continue to work on others, those remain unpublished at this time.
Why do you write? What drives you to write rather than something else?
I primarily write because I love kids, and love writing for their enjoyment. Their perspective on life is fresh, intuitive and fun. Truthfully, I’m not sure I ever grew up in the area of literature. Even now when I buy books they are typically children’s chapter books. I have done other things in life but nothing excited me like writing, specifically for children. I’ve worked as a designer, business woman and financial manager; however, that career did not energize me like writing for children.
Could you describe where you like to write? Do you have a studio, extra bedroom, or write in bed after everyone else is asleep?
I write every day, but I do my best writing after I’ve spent time with kids. When I listen and watch the way they interact with one another I can write in a convincing voice, and feel like I’m talking their language. I have an office where I write, but, my place of choice is outside on my back porch, especially when I am writing adventure scenes.
Does this mean you plan to be a children’s author?
I have written some short stories for adults, but it’s not my passion. If I only wrote for children from now on, I’d be perfectly happy. Children are amazing little people who inspire me in every way. I presently work part time as our church’s Children’s Director, I also visit as many grade schools as possible reading my stories to children. Between those children and my seven grandchildren I experiment with stories and writing styles that engage and enthuse, if I can pique their interest then I have something worthy of developing.
Many children’s books contain a message. Do you think this is important to include in children’s books?
The beauty of writing fiction is that you can create characters, conflicts and situations that pose for teaching moments. Without the child ever knowing what is happening to them, as readers, they are learning through the characters actions and choices. I love teaching lessons through books. It would be my opinion that books that teach life lessons well, are the ones that stick with children all their lives; take for example, To Kill A Mockingbird, The Watsons Go To Birmingham, and Star Girl.
What is the message in Oli’s Uncommon Cent?
The lessons I hope to teach in Oli’s Uncommon Cents are those of self worth, not judging others by appearance, discovering what is valuable in one’s life and generousity. I think there are many other messages a child can take away from the story, but I’m intentional about those named. As I’ve read my book in elementary schools I’ve been amazed at the range of discussion that arises from the story; kids perceive up a lot more than we think.
Is Oli’s adventure going to continue?
I am presently working on the second book of the, Oli’s Cents, series. This one is also very exciting! Pieces of the puzzle in Oli’s relationship with her dad begin to come together but in a very different way than one might expect. There is a side to her father that is less than desirable and Oli finally discovers why her inhibitions towards him made sense.
Additionally, a new-comer joins the Uncommon Cents in their coin pouch; kids will enjoy the adventure and tension the new-comer creates. Lessons of acceptance, bullying and reconciliation will be whispered behind the scenes. Kids will become engaged with the characters and be tempted to take sides, but may find every side has its merit.
How many books will be in the Oli’s Cents series?
At this point I don’t know if there will be three or four books in the series. I hope to explore lessons of self worth, respect, peer pressure, bullying, tolerance, forgiveness and reconciliation; if I can keep the action alive and story fresh then I’ll keep writing until those messages are clear.
I’d like to ask you two last questions. First, will there be another book from you soon?
I’m currently working on the sequel to Oli’s Uncommon Cents. I’m very excited about it. If you think Oli and her coins had some challenges in the first book, look out, because she ain’t seen nothin’ yet! I hope to have book two in print by the end of July.
Oli’s Uncommon Cent was printed by Xulon Press, a Christian Print-on-Demand. I think Oli’s Uncommon Cent is well written, has great characters, and an original plot. Why not take it to a traditional publishing company?
That is an interesting question, one I’ve been asked often. Initially, I submitted Oli’s Uncommon Cents to a couple of publishers, they both liked the story and wanted to publish it, but because I was a first time author they would only publish it as an ebook. I protested that direction because I felt my audience of grade school children needed to have books in hand. I wanted to wade out in the waters of the publishing and promotion sea slowly. Xulon Press allowed me the freedom to do so. As I’m learning more about the pros and cons of self publishing I’m compelled to submit my manuscript to additional publishers in hopes one of them will take a risk with me and the, Oli’s Cents series, and agree that a physical book in hand is worth two in the e-bush.
Oli’s Uncommon Cents
Author: Deborah Allen
Illustrator: Sophie Mattinson
Publisher: Xulon Press
Deb, thank you for being here. I appreciate your frank answers and hope your writing career takes off. I hope your next book is as good as your first. Tomorrow your book Oli’s Uncommon Cents will be reviewed here. Maybe you can stop by and answer some questions.