Thank you L. A. Kefalos for joining us today. It is always fun to get to know the author behind a book.
When did you first know you wanted to be an author?
I don’t think I ever thought, “ I want to be an author.” It all happened sort of gradually. I always liked the idea of storytelling, though. Did you ever see the movie Six Degrees of Separation with Will Smith and Stockard Channing? In the movie, Stockard Channing gives a final speech that I just love, but maybe for all the wrong reasons. The movie is loosely based on a true story about a guy named Paul (played by Will Smith) who is trying to insert himself into a circle of New York socialites by pretending to be Sidney Poitier’s son. In the movie, Paul wreaks havoc in all their lives in one form or another. There is scene after scene of these affluent couples gathering at their various social events entertaining one another by telling the latest ghastly incident inflicted upon them by Paul. At the end of the movie, Stockard’s character gives a speech where she berates everyone, including herself, for not caring enough about the welfare of Paul, who was obviously in need of help, and instead “turning him into an anecdote to dine out on.” I love that line. It rang so true to me when I heard it. If you think about something bad or embarrassing that has happened to you, maybe you were mugged, maybe you fell in public, I don’t know what, but I bet you retold the story to someone, perhaps more than once. It becomes yours to keep and yours to entertain people with forever. I think that is how I became an author. I started telling my stories, then writing them down, and when I ran out of stories, I just started making things up.
When you are not writing, what other hats do you wear? What do you do for fun?
I am an electrical engineer by day, currently serving as a lead automation engineer for a company in the entertainment industry. Most of my time is spent writing code that will make things move in concert halls, sports arenas and theaters. Next time you are at an event, look up and you will see things I control with my software. My writing primarily takes place on the weekend. Writing after a long day’s work is an impossible task for me because all my creative juices are dried up by then. My biggest joy is international travel. I have been all over the world and lived in Chile for almost two years. Now I live in New York City, which I think is the best city in the world because of the diversity the city offers. I just read that Queens is the most diverse place on the planet. It makes me very happy to be surrounded by people from different backgrounds. Plus, eating at restaurants is my second favorite pastime, so how lucky am I to have so many wonderful, diverse options in my reach!?
JM: My son is studying computer science – I admire anyone who writes code. I know from my son that just one misplaced letter, number or symbol can create problems.
What is your favorite genre to read? What about that genre draws you?
If I had to pick a favorite, I guess I would have to say historical fiction. I say this because it is the style of my favorite writer, Toni Morrison, who we sadly lost this month. It is such a huge loss to the literary world. I started reading her books when I was in high school. They always had a historical backdrop to them,many of them taking place during the time of slavery or right after. Besides her amazing writing and her ability to draw you into her world by combining words that mere mortals would never think to combine, she gave you a history lesson; one that you could never get from a schoolbook. I think that is what draws me to the genre. It takes you into the lives of the people who endured history. You learn so much more that way.
JM: Historical fiction is my favorite as well – I agree that it is so much easier to learn history from fiction.
What is your favorite holiday? And why? I always say Groundhog’s Day is my favorite holiday. Think about it. There is no stress about the holiday. You don’t have to worry about spending too much money on gifts. You don’t have to deal with the huge crowds when you go shopping. You don’t have to worry what you are going to cook for the big meal. There is no big letdown when the holiday is over when all the lights and merry people go away. And the biggest reason – Punxsutawney Phil is so darn cute.
What historical figure do you admire and why? Hands down, Sojourner Truth and Her “Ain’t I a Woman speech, which, coincidentally, was delivered near my hometown in Akron, Ohio. Anyone who fights for equal rights is automatically put onto my list of favorites. The fact that Truth was born into slavery and escaped it to become an abolitionist and a Women’s Rights advocate is mind blowing. Born into horrible circumstances, having unimaginable atrocities done to her and yet still rising above it all and, quite frankly, accomplishing more than what most of us will ever achieve, easily puts her at the top of my list. I should also mention, as a kid I was obsessed with Abraham Lincoln. I read every book I could find on him in my local library. For some reason, I was especially interested in reading about his early years, growing up in Kentucky and Indiana .
JM: I think I read every book our school library had on Abraham Lincoln as well – I think there used to be more biographies about him than anyone else.
In a library or a bookstore – what section do you head to first? Well, first I look at all the books on clearance – always. I like to buy books even if I don’t have time to read them. Just holding them makes me happy. Lately, after that I head to the non-fiction section. I have always been interested in history and, as an adult, politics. With all that is currently going on in our country and around the world, there is always a wide assortment of interesting books to choose from. I especially enjoy reading memoirs and autobiographies. I sound way too serious, but I do read plenty of fiction as well. I especially enjoy humorous essays. No matter how busy I am, I always find time to read David Sedaris. Earlier you asked me what I do for fun– add seeing David Sedaris any time he is in town to my answer!
Oh, also, I never leave a bookstore without visiting the children’s section. I could spend hours in the children’s section. I think the best gift to give a child is a book. I really have fun picking them out as gifts, trying to match the child to the book. Many times, I pick my childhood favorites. Of course, now I am handing out copies of This is A. Blob and A. Blob on a Bus!
JM: I couldn’t agree more – I often give books as a gift to the kiddos in my life.
Where did the inspiration for this story come from? Well, A. Blob on a Bus is the second book of a three-part series. It all started with This is A. Blob, which is about a playground bully. Sadly, it was inspired by the news I was reading of children committing suicide as a result of being bullied at school. I wanted to write a picture book because I thought it was important to start a discussion with kids at an early age. A discussion about the effect their actions, both good and bad, have on others. Because it was a picture book, I knew that it needed to be a series to allow me to tell A. Blob’s story. I am hoping those who read the books will be less likely to pick on others and more likely to have their schoolmate’s back. Obviously, I don’t think my book can accomplish this completely on its own. It is just one line in an enormous conversation. But I think my books are a great vehicle to start the conversation.
JM: Thanks for approaching this difficult topic.
Who did you have in mind as you wrote the book I had everybody in mind when I wrote the book, – the victims, the bullies and the bystanders. They all play a role in the solution to this problem. I needed to speak to everyone. It was also very important to me that the series represented children of all races and walks of life. I wanted the children to open the book and be able to find themselves in it, especially those children who are discriminated against. I can’t do this without the help of my illustrators. Clearly, you can’t have a great picture book without a great illustrator. Jeffrey Burns took on that role for A. Blob on the Bus. Flipping through the pages of my book, you will see his wonderful illustrations, a beautiful blend of what makes us great as a nation – our diversity.
What is your current WIP? What can you tell us about it? Well I can tell you a little bit about it, but I can’t tell you the title because that is under wraps. I am very excited about it! To begin, it is my first chapter book. We will be targeting kids ages 7 and up. It is about a little girl who really digs math and science. I really want to get more girls interested in the math and science fields. When I was attending college, I was always the only girl in my electrical engineering classes. Working in Corporate America, I witnessed more women entering the field but not nearly enough. Girls accelerate at math and science but for some reason they don’t pursue engineering like the boys do. So, I wanted to write something to get kids, especially girls, enthusiastic about STEM and also to celebrate the men and women who have contributed so much to our world through their genius.
JM: I can’t wait to read it!
Because I am a K-12 school librarian I have to ask – what is your favorite children’s book?
I want to say The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, but I don’t know if that is fair. I read it when I was young and enjoyed it, but it wasn’t my favorite at the time. It wasn’t until I read it as an adult when it became my favorite. As a child I did not grasp the deeper meaning of the story and the philosophical questions that it poses. I probably should read it again in 5 years or so and see how I interpret it then. I am thinking the meaning will change for me again! When I was a child and not trying to figure out the meaning of life, I loved Beverly Cleary. My second-grade teacher read us Henry Higgins and I was hooked. I read all her books. Her character Ramona was my favorite. So, if the question is what my favorite book as a child was, it would be one of hers. I have a vivid memory of discovering the library for the first time. It was such a magical place, filled with so many books AND we could take them home with us! I remember walking out of the library with a stack of 6 or 7 at a time. I love the library so much, I wrote and produced an animated short about it called Croc, Pots and Wildebeests. As a matter of fact, the main character – Alexandra the Great Pretender appears in my new book. She has grown up a little (thanks to the brilliance of Jeffrey Burns!) and like in the animation, she is someone to be reckoned with!
Every year I organize a Young Authors Day for the kids at our school. What advice would you give to a child who wants to be a writer? Oh, this is an easy question. I would tell them, yes, it is very important to understand their craft, to study composition and storytelling. Taking classes will certainly improve their writing skills. But I think the most important advice that I was given is don’t wait for anyone’s permission to write, just start writing. The best way to learn how to do something is by doing it. You will learn along the way.
JM: Thank you for contributing to my blog today. I enjoyed learning more about you.
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Kefalos, L. A. A. Blob on a Bus. Illustrated by Jeffry Burns. Peninsula, OH: Laughing Leopard Press, 2019.
I honestly wish a book like this did not need to be written. The unfortunate reality of our world is that there are bullies out there and children have to deal with uncomfortable situations caused by the bullies in their lives. Kefalos has created a character that most children will probably recognize. A character who pokes and prods and otherwise aggravates those he comes in contact with. One young lady stands as an example to all – she stands up against A. Blob.
I will be adding A. Blob on a Bus to my K-12 Christian School library.
I want to thanks Laughing Leopard Press for the complimentary copy of A. Blob on a Bus. This is my honest review.
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