Today's author interview is with the lovely and talented Denise Nicole! Denise has published two books so far, with more in the works. I first came to know Denise through Instagram when she had bought one of my books! She's wonderfully supportive of other authors. She is also a reading machine and hosts many readathons! I always enjoy chatting with her and feel like she's a friend already even though we've never met in person. I was so glad she agreed to do this interview after the release of her new book The Secret Life of Debby-Sue: The Unexpected Friend, the first in her new series. I hope you enjoy reading and learning more about Denise!
Hi Denise! Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
D: Hi! I’m Denise Nicole and I’m a newly-published author living in Washington state. I enjoy writing books for a variety of ages, from very young children who have not yet learned to read, up to young adults. I just love having the opportunity to tap into different stages of life and relate to characters of all ages. I am a huge animal lover, so you will likely see an animal character in the majority of my books. I am also an avid runner, with my longest continuous distance being 14+ miles. I’m obsessed with all things French, especially Paris. I studied French academically for four years and now continue to study on my own. My family is also part French!
Oh, I love that you write for different age groups! It's not easy, but you have written two very different and beautiful books (May I Please Have a Hug for ages 4 to 7, and Debby-Sue for 8 to 12). The language and themes are so different but you did an amazing job bringing both of them to life and making each story relatable for the different age groups.
So what inspired and motivated you to write your first book, and how long did it take from the initial idea to publishing?
D: My first book, May I Please Have A Hug?, was inspired by my experience with COVID-19 in January 2021. I felt really sad and lonely after testing positive for COVID, knowing that I would have to be separated from my family for at least a few weeks. Of course, physical connection was something that was important to avoid, but it was also very difficult. My mom encouraged me to put my feelings into a story, which is how I came up with the idea of a character who wanted someone to hug. The story blossomed from there. I started writing the story in January and published it in October, so the total process was about 10 months.
That must have been a tough period of time, going through COVID... But all these experiences, even the difficult ones, can also be our inspiration. I'm sure writing your feelings into a story helped you to process and cope with all the emotions too. It definitely helps me.
What are some of the challenges you have encountered on your author and self-publishing journey? How did you overcome them?
D: I think the biggest challenge was, and still is, the learning curve. There is so much to learn when you’re doing it all yourself. I had no knowledge of marketing as an author, including running advertisements and promotions. I had to learn a lot of technical aspects of publishing a book, such as obtaining ISBNs, formatting for paperback versus an eBook, and so much more. It was also so different to format my picture book compared to my chapter book. It’s rewarding to learn and know how to do so much on your own, but it is definitely challenging. I’ve learned the most by talking to other authors, like Y.Y. Chan herself, and getting insight from their experiences.
Aw thank you! There really is a lot to learn... and it seems to be never ending! I'm also grateful for such a helpful and supportive author community, and glad that we can help each other out!
What has been the most rewarding experience since publishing your first book?
D: My favorite thing is seeing pictures of people with my book(s). It’s an incredible feeling and makes me so happy every time. It makes the whole experience feel much more real, like you can’t even believe someone owns your book unless you see it!
It's the sweetest thing! Makes all the effort worth it.
What was it like launching your first book? What did you learn from the experience? If you could do it again, what would you do differently?
D: It was an amazing experience to launch my first book. One thing I learned is that the process can take a lot longer than you expect it will. But on the opposite side of that, sometimes it can go a lot faster than you expect too! It really depends on the project and situation. My picture book journey took longer than my chapter book one due to the illustration process, so that is one thing I will keep in mind when envisioning how long it will take me to publish a book.
It's very unpredictable sometimes how long the process will take. I guess the good thing about being an indie author is that you control your own timeline and there's no rush.
Have you had any negative experiences or disappointing moments throughout your publishing journey? How did you handle them?
D: I did have a negative first experience when hiring an illustrator for my first book. The first illustrator I spoke with told me that my budget was too low for my book and that they wouldn’t do it. I attempted to negotiate and ask what they would like to charge for the job, but they refused to give me any offers at all and just said my budget was too low. It was so frustrating and led me to a point where I thought I wasn’t going to be able to even get my book illustrated, let alone published.
Thankfully, I found a different illustrator who not only gave me a fair offer, but even complimented my book. That was shocking to me after my previous experience. I’m glad I got past the roadblock from the other illustrator and was able to find the one who illustrated the beautiful pictures you see in my picture book.
This is always a struggle when we outsource and hire freelancers. Balancing our budget and paying what is fair for their work is not always as simple as it seems! I do think the illustrations of your book are very beautifully illustrated, so it's great you found someone who worked well with you in the end.
What’s the best thing someone has said about your book? Or something they said that made you really happy.
D: I think my favorite comments I received about my new book so far are readers saying that they relate to my characters, they loved reading the story so much they didn’t want it to end, and that they can’t wait for the next one. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Oh, I definitely can't wait for the next Debby-Sue book! It was getting good, and then it ended! I hope we don't have to wait too long for book 2.
So what are you working on now? And what are your plans for the next few years?
D: The second book in The Secret Life of Debby-Sue is definitely up there as a top priority. I wrote most of it last year and am now ready to get back to finalizing it. I have ideas for the whole series, so I will probably focus mainly on that for awhile. At the same time, I have many other completely unrelated stories that I might want to alternate in between my Debby-Sue books. We’ll just have to see!
I plan to keep writing and putting out as many books as I can. I hope to commit to a schedule that allows me to finish books quicker, especially now that I’m working on an actual series. I plan to write 4-6 books for The Secret Life of Debby-Sue, but I also have maybe eight other books that are either completely drafted or close to it. Those ones all range from picture books to young adult. In a few years’ time, I hope to have more books out for a variety of ages.
You've been busy! I'm glad to know there are at least a few more books in the series. But I'm also interested in your young adult stories. I need to learn from you and get more books done.
What advice would you give to other aspiring writers or authors?
D: I think the best thing you can do is write often and write for yourself. No book will be for everyone, so make sure it’s something that you love and that you aren’t just writing what you think others want.
That's great advice! I think I have a tendency to try to write something I think others want and it loses its heart and uniqueness. But we can't please everyone.
So what are some of your hobbies besides reading or writing?
D: As I mentioned earlier, I love to run! A fun fact is that I actually won the first race I ever competed in. I mainly do 5K races in my community, but have run many 10/15/20Ks and half-marathons on my own. I actually come up with a lot of story ideas and dialogue when I’m out running.
Wow, that's amazing! I think you would enjoy this memoir by Haruki Murakami: What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. Surprisingly, I learned a lot about writing from that book! Maybe you could write a book about running some day!
What was your favorite book growing up? Why?
D: I loved so many books as a kid and I loved reading them over and over again. Some of my favorite picture books were The Curious Little Kitten, Clifford the Big Red Dog, Corduroy, Madeline, Noisy Nora, Berenstain Bears, and more. I think the book series that most defined my childhood was The Babysitters Club Little Sister series.
So many great books! Oh, I loved the Babysitters Club when I was little.
And what is a good book you have read recently which you would reco