1. I DID LOTS OF RESEARCH.
I am not a history buff like my husband. I had to dig around and learn about historic heroes and monuments, and educate myself on historic documents and speeches.
2. BRAVEN'S OUTFIT.
We had about 30+ revisions of our main character, Braven Young's "look." Everything from his hair, to his tie, to his untied shoe, to his tight skinny jeans, to the design of his long-sleeve shirt. We must have gone through forty different revisions until we found the perfect embodiment of our protagonist!
3. THE CHARACTER OF "DAD."
... is truly based on Ryan’s job! While he is not a congressman, he has worked for the United States his entire career. We had fun and embellished the nature of his job, along with the performative speech he gives at the end. Ryan often writes on behalf of the United States, so it was fun to include him in the writing process.
4. THE SETTING IS BASED IN DC!
The only thing I knew about Washington, DC before we moved here in 2014 was that it is our nation's capital and home to the White House and some very notable monuments. Upon moving here at the age of 25 and to follow Ryan and his work, we learned so much more. Not only did we both fell in love with DC, it became home. We have been inspired ever since, and it only felt natural to write about the city.
5. THE STATUES COME ALIVE.
The biggest plot twist was added at the last minute when a few historic heroes make their debut to help Braven understand what freedom means. And *gasp* the monuments come alive! Many of my favorite parts of the book were added at the last second, including the next point...
6. MY FAVORITE ILLUSTRATION.
The image on this page was slightly different, but the moment in the book is pretty pivotal; when Braven walks up the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to find the Gettysburg Address written on the wall. I wanted the reader to feel the impact this had on the character, and also the weight of the words that might have been felt when Lincoln was actually giving this speech. For that reason, I love this image most!
7. NO ADULTS AND TOTAL FREEDOM?
There is a part in the book when Braven wakes up in his dream smack dab in Washington, DC. The catch? There are no adults to be found! This theme was inspired by the “Home Alone” plot line, my boys’ favorite movie.
8. COMIC BOOK-ESQUE.
My boys love Dog Man and action heroes, so we incorporated a bit of comic book theme stylistically throughout.
9. BRAVEN'S HAIR.
...was inspired by professional soccer player, Cristiano Ronaldo’s haircut. Fun fact: did you know that Ryan played professional soccer too? Before he went to law school, he played for Kansas City and internationally too.
10. BRAVEN’S NAME.
Braven Young, our protagonist's name, is a combo of all my boys' names (minus Quade because he wasn’t born yet!). Beauden, Rhett, Vance = Braven. The publisher disliked it at first, but I convinced him otherwise.
We tacked on "Young" as the last name because the name said together sounds like "brave" and "young", which was fitting for obvious reasons!
What inspired you to write this children's book?
My husband, Ryan. He has worked for the United States his entire career, and his love of country has inspired our family in the best way possible. Our kids look up to him and what he does, and I wanted to capture that in a story.
How did you get the idea for the book?
Over the last few years, I have become somewhat disheartened by the lack of modern day American stories available to kids. I want my kids grow up with a positive message about our country, and great way to expose them to that is through reading. The books I found were either historical non-fiction books that were too serious or books that consisted of certain topics that seemed off-base. This fueled my determination to write a book that I wanted to read, but couldn't find.
What is the theme of the story? The book is about freedom. And how a child might comprehend the meaning of the word initially. But I developed the story so the child would learn experientially that freedom is so much more. The story then takes a little boy on a journey of self-discovery, so that he can learn the meaning... and save the day, of course!
How did you get the opportunity to write a book? Did you have the idea and pitch it to a publisher? Or did a publisher approach you? Coincidentally, around the same time that I was searching for a patriotic story to share with my kids, I recieved a DM from a book publisher. He asked if I'd be interested in writing a children's book and if we could setup a time to talk on the phone. The opportunity felt surreal and in perfect timing.
I was in the car with my husband when Brian, the lead publisher of Good and True Media, called. We immediately hit it off! I was drawn to the vision he had for Good and True Media, and also his interest in my book concept. I pitched him my concept right then and there. I didn't know what the story would be about, but I knew the message I wanted to share. He matched my enthusiasm, so I knew it was the right fit!
Any inspirational themes or books found in this story? Yes! My boys are big into superheroes and Dog Man comics, so there is certainly a superhero and comic book element. In addition to that, one of my boys' favorite movies is Home Alone, and as I was envisioning the story, I kept imagining a little boy venturing into the city, but being able to experience a similar kind of ultimate freedom. Kind of like in Home Alone when Kevin McAllister gets to experience freedom being left at home without his parents. My boys LOVED the idea of being able to do whatever they wanted with no adults around, so I wanted to mimic that theme, while also teaching a valuable lesson (in true mom form).
Tell us about the book writing process! Did it come naturally? I LOVED the book writing process. I am a creative person and LOVE to write, as many people see by following my Instagram account. Writing a children's book was an ideal start to my book writing journey because I could be as imaginative as I wanted, while also ingraining strong values into the words and creating an uplifting message.
That said, the beginning of the writing process didn’t come as naturally as I thought it would. As mentioned, I knew what I wanted to write about - because it was similar to our family's story, but I had a hard time starting it. This is where my publisher came in and we were able to brainstorm the bones of the story. Once we got the bones, I couldn't stop writing. The story was a constant formatting of the messages I wanted to share, and I'm very happy with how it turned out.
What were your inspirations for the illustrations? I wanted a patriotic vibe, but I didn't want it to be too cheesy and certainly didn't want it to be sterile. I wanted it to be colorful and fun, but also classic. My inspirations came from books that my kids have loved: Creepy Carrots, Naughty Mable, Dog Man. Not only with illustration styles, but also with the layout of the pages. To hold readers' interest, we kept a sporadic cadence to how the pictures were presented. Some pages have one big illustration and others have several illustrations per page.
How did you find the illustrator? Oh, gosh. I scoured through soooooooo many illustrators’ work on a website called MB Artists until I came across Juan Manuel Moreno. He is a true talent and has worked with Disney, Warner and Scholastic. He was a dream to work with. Any time I had an idea, he made it come to life tenfold. Any time I had small revisions, even the slightest adjustment to a facial expression, he made the change.
Who was the book written for? Honestly? I wrote the book for myself, as weird as that sounds! There is a quote by Carol Shields that goes, "Write the book you want to read, the one you cannot find." As a mom to four boys, I wrote the book I wanted to find for my kids, but couldn't. Once I knew what kind of book I wanted to write, I wrote it for my boys. My boys love superheroes, so I knew the protagonist had to embody a modern-day hero; someone my boys could see in themselves. My boys also love adventure and conflict, where the hero ultimately ends up on top, but, boy, did he have to fight to get there. Our main character, Braven Young, is exactly that. And finally, I wrote it for the moms that follow me in hopes that they, too, would find this message meaningful.
What is the ideal audience? The ideal audience is four to ten year olds, however, my two year old loves the story, and I could also see kids older than ten enjoying it!
How did you come up with the main character's name, Braven Young? Braven is a combination of all of my boys' names combined: Rhett, Vance and Beauden. Unfortunately, our newest son, Quade, wasn't born, so he was left out of the mix (guess I'll just have to write another book for him!). We loved the last name Young because when said together it sounds like "brave" and "young,” which fits our protagonist perfectly.
Where is the setting of the book? Washington, DC. I was born and raised in Orange County, California. I never really left until I met Ryan on a random trip I decided to take to visit Dallas, Texas. My plan was always to move to Texas and get my masters in business there, but lo and behold I met Ryan on that trip. The catch? He had committed to a job in Washington, DC. He was accepted into the Attorney General Honor's Program, which meant he would start working in the Justice Department as a federal prosector. Of course, I encouraged it. Instead of going to Dallas, I detoured and followed him to DC. I ended up getting into Georgetown University, and we fell in love with the city. We started our lives in DC together, had our first son here, and have so much history here. There seemed to be no better place to write about.
Anything else you want to share? For more about The American Dream of Braven Young, check out 10 Things About the American Dream of Braven Young.