Sarah, what have you been up to since the last time you were on Homeschooled Authors?
Hi everyone! It's been quite a number of years since I was interviewed on Homeschool Authors! When Sarah Holman last interviewed me (here:http://www.homeschooledauthors.com/2012/10/joining-us-today-is.html), I was 17 years old, still had braces, and was looking forward to graduating from homeschool and going on to pursue a degree in Elementary Education. I am now 20 years old, braces are gone, and I'm getting ready to start my senior year of college through Liberty University Online this fall. Lord willing, I will graduate with my Bachelor's in Elementary Education next spring, 2016.
Not everything has changed in my life, though. I still live at home with my family (Mom, Dad, and two older brothers) in the beautiful Minnesota countryside, and I still work as a part-time secretary/bookkeeper for our family-owned and operated carpet cleaning business. I did, however, begin another part-time job just last fall as a substitute paraprofessional at a local Montessori school. I love getting hands-on experience teaching and working with children. I am still raising puppies too--my dog is actually due to have a litter on August 16th (check out our dog-blog: www.CountrysideCavachons.wordpress.com).
The biggest change since the last time I was on Homeschooled Authors is that I have published two more books, my latest one just a couple months ago. My last interview featured my very first children's book, Learning Lessons From Furry Friends, which was published when I was 16. Not long after this interview, the firstedition of my second children's book, The Prodigal Pup, came out. I released the second edition of the book a year later, with all-new illustrations. My latest book,Cheeper, was finally completed in June of this year.
What draws you to writing about animals?
I love animals! I always have. Growing up, I had (and still have) the wonderful privilege of growing up in the country and having animals of all kinds. Our family has had dogs, cats, horses, chickens, and goats. (The latter three are gone, but we still have our two dogs and two cats, and, as I mentioned above, I'm still raising puppies, though our cats are out of commission.) I have been able to learn so many spiritual and educational lessons from my interactions with animals. I love how they remind me of my Redeemer with their unconditional love for us, how they add a ray of sunshine to the darkest days with their innocent little quirks and carefree happiness, and I love how not one animal is the same as another. They all have their own unique personalities and character traits. Sometimes I see myself in my pets.
For example, our Border Collie, Shasta, is so timid and submissive and obedient. She does everything in her power to please us and is so sensitive to our every emotion. My little Cavachon, Nikki, is the complete opposite. She loves to please herself, obeys when she feels like it, and will think about pleasing us... if it involves getting a treat. :-) I want to have the same sort of in-tune relationship with my heavenly Father that Shasta has with us--where my every motive is to please Him. And yet, far too often, I am more like Nikki--intent only on pleasing myself and doing what is most convenient. At the same time, Nikki is not all bad, and Shasta is not all good. While Nikki (despite being about the size of our tomcat) is completely fearless and will chase away the neighbors big Lab, Shasta's extreme timidity causes her to cower under the deck when the Lab comes around. In the same way, God has given all of us, no matter our faults, certain qualities, perhaps leadership or courage, that He wants to develop in us and use to His glory. It's lessons like these that I learn from observing our pets and other animals in nature, and that I have a desire to write and share with others through my books.
What is the biggest challenge you face as a writer?
Getting a large word count. Which is funny, because, as you can probably see, I am a bit long-winded when it comes to writing. I am the student who asks my professor what the maximum word count is on my assignments, and has to try to find ways to fit my 10 pages of material into a 6-page maximum. However, when it comes to writing books, I haven't been able to exceed more than a quarter-inch thickness. The Prodigal Pup, being a picture book, is about 22 pages. Learning Lessons From Furry Friends is 80 pages. I considered it a rare feat when Cheeper reached 130 pages! But that's still not much compared to authors who write 500-page books. I envy that ability. I believe I know the reason why my books are shorter, though. I could have higher word counts if I were to make my plots broader and more extensive, but, I believe in writing true stories, or stories at least based on true stories. Learning Lessons... is based entirely on our family's experiences raising puppies and kittens when I was growing up, The Prodigal Pup is based on a true story a missionary pastor told me about his dog and the lessons about Salvation he learned from him, and Cheeper is woven around the life of a baby robin that our family rescued, raised, and released back into the wild. Even though I continue Cheeper's story beyond the point when our family released him and no longer knew his whereabouts, I tried to base his story on the habits of robins in general. And so, I try to keep my blots more broad and generalized, so that it will be more likely that they could have happened in real life. The only downside is a smaller word count.
Many reasons. First, there is power in the written word. I have read many books that have greatly impacted my life, and I want to be able to reach out to other through books as well. A book can come into the hands of many a person who would be closed to hearing someone speak the message of salvation to them. Books can change lives!
Then, there is the fact that books are wonderful memories. Someday when I have children or (if the Lord doesn't come before then) grandchildren, I will be able to read them all the stories about the puppies and kittens that our family raised, accompanied by the photographs of our pets that illustrate the book. I will be able to read them the story of Jip the mongrel dog in Cambodia that the pastor told when I was at Young Disciple Camp, the story that really touched my 12-year-old heart at the time. I will be able to read to them about the robin that our family raised, and will be able to tell them the story of the baby sister (Aleicia Ann, to whom my book is dedicated) that our family lost to miscarriage when I was 13 years old. I will be able to tell them how I learned that, in Jesus, sorrow did not have to triumph over song, just as Cheeper the Robin had to learn. All my books are linked to special memories, memories that are now preserved for years to come.
And lastly, there's just the wonderful satisfaction you get from pouring your heart and soul into a project and then being able to hold the final result in your hand and feel perfectly content with how it turned out.
Tell us about your latest work.
Cheeper is the story of an orphaned baby robin, thrown from his nest in a summer storm and rescued, raised, and released back into the wild by the Brown family. Cheeper’s life gets even better when he meets Lady Robin and starts his adventure south to weather the winter. A sudden and terrible tragedy, however, shatters Cheeper’s rosy, self-centered view of life and forces him to deal with sorrow, loneliness, and pain. What will happen to him? Will he learn the important lessons of dealing with suffering? Will sorrow triumph, or will song? This beautifully illustrated book will warm your heart!
Cheeper is woven around the themes of seasons, sorrow, and song, and contains lessons about dealing with the loss of a loved one and the secret to true friendship and love for others. What makes Cheeper unique is that it is the first book that I have not only written, but also done all the design and illustrations myself. The cover illustration is a full-color oil painting of Cheeper flying above the our home, while the inside illustrations are charcoal drawings depicting scene's from Cheeper's point of view. You truly will get to see the world from a birds-eye view! My first two books were published through TEACH Services, Inc., but I decided to self-publish Cheeper through CreateSpace. I was very happy with the experience!
Who will enjoy it?
Though geared towards children ages 9-15, I do believe the story and the message will speak to all ages. A father of three purchased the book for his teenaged daughter, but ended up becoming absorbed in it himself. He called it "a must-read for all ages."
Where can people get it?
Cheeper, The Prodigal Pup, and Learning Lessons From Furry Friends are all available on Amazon in paperback and e-book format (Learning Lessons... is also available in hardcover). Head over to www.amazon.com/author/brownsarahellen to see all my available titles. The Prodigal Pup and Learning Lessons... might also be available in certain bookstores, like Barnes & Noble (they can definitely be purchased online from B&N), but I have not yet had a chance to market Cheeper to bookstores.
How can people stay connected to you?
Get updates on my writing projects, upcoming books, college assignments, recipes, photographs, and more from...
My blog: www.sarahellenbrown.com
and/or Facebook: www.facebook.com/sarahbrownauthor.
Do you have any final thoughts?
Never let what you consider to be your limitations stop you from pursuing your dreams and using your talents for God's glory! Don't put it off till you're "old enough." I was 16 when my first book was published, but I was 9 when I sent in my first manuscript to a publisher, and it was actually accepted for publication (though I ended up not publishing it at that time)!! I am really not that talented of an artist, and yet I illustrated my last book with a painting and charcoal drawings, and am planning to personally illustrate my upcoming books as well! I look at the illustrations that I have done for Cheeper, and I have to give God the glory, because I couldn't have done those drawings through any talent of my own! So, my final thoughts for you are: Be willing to step outside your comfort zone; try things that you don't think you have the ability to do, relying on God to supply what you lack. Put your heart and soul into serving your Maker and Redeemer with whatever small talents and abilities He has given you, and He will multiply them and work through you in ways that you could have never imagined!