Interview with Cheryl C. Malandrinos: “I have a basic idea and then I let things happen as they may.”

Cheryl Malandrinos is a freelance writer and editor. A regular contributor for Writer2Writer, her articles focus on increasing productivity through time management and organization. A founding member of Musing Our Children, Ms. Malandrinos is also Editor in Chief of the group’s quarterly newsletter, Pages & Pens.     

Cheryl is a Tour Coordinator for Pump Up Your Book, a book reviewer, and blogger. Little Shepherd is her first children’s book. Ms. Malandrinos lives in Western Massachusetts with her husband and two young daughters. She also has a son who is married.

You can visit Cheryl online at or the Little Shepherd blog at


About Little Shepherd

Obed is in the hills outside Bethlehem when the angels appear to announce the Savior’s birth. Can he trust that the miracle of the first Christmas will keep his flock safe while he visits the newborn King?

Q: Thank you for this interview, Cheryl. Can you tell us what your latest book, Little Shepherd, is all about?

Thanks for having me here today. Little Shepherd tells the story of the first Christmas through the eyes of a shepherd boy in the fields outside of Bethlehem. Obed is tending his first flock when the angel appears. He wants to join the others to see the newborn King, but he’s afraid something will happen to his sheep if he leaves them alone.

Some wise words from his father help convince him, but Obed is anxious to return to the fields after meeting the Holy Family. What he discovers is that it is a night of miracles.

Q: Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?

There are really only two in Little Shepherd—Obed and his father. Obed is very responsible for his young age of five and is determined not to let anything happen to his sheep. He knows how much his family depends upon them for food and clothing.

His father and the others witness the angel’s appearance. He is the one who suggests they visit the newborn King. His actions that night surprise Obed a bit, but like a good son he obeys his father, despite his anxiety.

Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

In this instance, Obed is imaginary, but I can see Obed’s father having been the shepherd who said, “Let us go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us.”

Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?

Typically, when I’m working on something, I have a basic idea and then I let things happen as they may. My original idea is rarely what the finished manuscript ends up looking like.

With Little Shepherd, I knew I wanted it to be about a young shepherd who visits the Savior on the first Christmas, but the first draft had no conflict. I had to talk it through with a writing friend a bit to discover what Obed’s conflict would be.

Q: Your book is set outside and in Bethlehem. Can you tell us why you chose this city in particular?

God dictated the setting for this one.

Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?

It does because of the need for historical accuracy.

Q: Open the book to page 9. What is happening?

Obed is visiting with the Holy Family. He sees that everything is just as the angel had told them. He hears the wolves howling in the distance but none of the other shepherds, including his father, seem concerned.

Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?

Off in the distance, a wolf howled. Obed moved closer to his flock, scanning the hills for any sign of a pack that might race in and steal his sheep. His family depended upon the sheep for food and their wool for clothing. No sheep would be lost under his watch.

He shivered inside his cloak. While the days were getting warmer, the nights still chilled him. He walked over to the large fire blazing inside the pit. He rubbed his hands together and held them up to the fire to warm them.

Above him, the sky twinkled with millions of stars. Obed couldn’t remember a night so clear.

Suddenly, a bright light filled the sky.

Obed trembled. “Father, what is happening?”

His father dropped to the ground, his right hand blocking his eyes from the intense light.

Obed pulled the edges of his cloak closer to his face as he squinted up at the mysterious form hovering overhead. He shivered, but this time it was not because of the cold.

Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Cheryl. We wish you much success!

Thanks again for having me. I hope your readers will stop by my new blog dedicated to the book, which can be found at  There’s a video trailer for Little Shepherd in the sidebar.

Readers can also find me at, become my friend on Facebook, and follow me on Twitter.

Interview with Children’s Picture Book Author Diana Rumjahn

Charlie and Mama KynaDiana Rumjahn received her bachelor’s degree in social science from San Francisco State University and has worked at the university for over the past two decades. She is currently an administrator at College of Creative Arts, where she received the “Star of the Month Award.” She wrote, directed, filmed, produced and edited the international award-winning film Going Home, which has been shown worldwide. Charlie and Mama Kyna is her first published book. You can visit Diana on the web at

Q: Thank you for this interview, Diana. Can you tell us what your latest book, Charlie and Mama Kyna, is all about?

A: Charlie and Mama Kyna is a charming book with beautiful illustrations for children. The story and illustrations are based on my internationally acclaimed film, Going Home, which was shown worldwide, including 45 film festivals and London Film Festival.

The story is about a little stuffed animal frog, named Charlie who runs away in fear after accidentally breaking his mother’s favorite vase. Charlie makes his way to the city and meets a stuffed animal Lion, named Leo and a stuffed animal giraffe named Joe outside Mrs. Cupcake’s Bakery. The three become best friends and live inside a little orange tent outside the bakery.

After awhile, Charlie becomes homesick, misses his mother, Kyna, decides to go home and invites Leo and Joe to live with them. On the next sunny day, Charlie, Leo and Joe, journey to find Mama Kyna’s home.

Q: Is this your first novel?  If not, how has writing this novel different from writing your first?

A:  Yes.

Q: How difficult was it writing your book?  Did you ever experience writer’s block and, if so, what did you do?

A:  It was a little challenging. When writer’s block happens, I stop writing and take a break. Listening to my favorite music, drinking a hot cup of tea and or taking a walk helps me break up writer’s block. Sometimes I would completely drop the current project and move on to the next. Later on, new ideas for the project being shelved will flow automatically.

Q: How have your fans embraced your latest novel?  Do you have any funny or unusual experiences to share?

A: They have asked me for another book and film. Everyone has a favorite picture in mind.

Q: What is your daily writing routine?

A: I do not have a set routine. When I am inspired to write, I can write every minute of the day until the project is done.

Q: When you put the pen or mouse down, what do you do to relax?

A: I listen to inspiring music by Enya, watch a movie that I have never seen before, concentrate on the next film project, start filming on the new project, take a walk, or hang out at a café.

Q: What book changed your life?

A:  For me, it would not be a book. My film, Going Home, changed my life.

Q: If someone were to write a book on your life, what would the title be?

A:  If Only

Q: Finish this sentence: “The one thing that I wish people would understand about me is…”

A: That I am a filmmaker and author who creates the lives of stuffed animals on film.

Thank you for this interview, Diana.  I wish you much success on your latest release, Charlie and Mama Kyna.

Thank you for interviewing me. It was pleasure.

Interview with Children’s Picture Book Author Susan Chodakiewitz

Susan ChodakiewitzAuthor and Booksicals founder Susan Chodakiewitz believes that children learn best when you engage their imagination: “I believe you can develop a child’s love for reading by expanding the world of a book beyond its pages. Bring the characters to life and bring reading to life. ” And this is precisely what inspired her to create Booksicals.  Susan Chodakiewitz is a writer, composer and producer. She lives in Los Angeles in a lively household filled with music, three sons, a husband, a Dalmatian and lots of visitors. Too Many Visitors for One Little House is her debut children’s book.

Read Susan’s  blog at,.  Follow her on Twitter at susanchodak,.  Find her on facebook at Susan Tresser Chodakiewitz.

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Too Many Visitors for One Little HouseQ: Thank you for this interview, Susan. Can you tell us what your latest book, Too Many Visitors for One Little House is all about?

A: Too Many Visitors is a story about wanting to be included.

The crabby neighbors of El Camino Street can’t stand all the fun, music and laughter coming from the house of the new family on the block as grannies, aunts, cousins and nannies arrive for a big family reunion.

The story is based on the summer we moved into our new house and all these visitors came to stay!

Q: Is this your first picture book?  If not, how has writing this book different from writing your first?

A: This is my first published picture book. Actually the second one I wrote.  The first one called Mr. Blueberry and the Fish from Down the Street is a picture book in rhyme.  Since I am a song writer and I write musical theater, it felt natural for me to approach picture books with rhyme.  All the publishers I sent the book to advised me to keep away from rhyme.  Personally I love rhymed books and love to read them to kids.  Lucky for me this story did not appear in my head in rhyme—otherwise I probably would have written it that way as well.  However I did have a rhythm in mind while writing it.  I am very aware of rhythm while writing and work hard to achieve a rhythmic flow of the words.

Q: How difficult was it writing your book?  Did you ever experience writer’s block and, if so, what did you do?

A: Writing is always hard.  If it were easy, EVERYONE would do it well.  I blurted out the story in one sitting.  While the format for the story remained the same, the tone changed, the point of view changed and the focus of the story changed.

I get writer’s block when I know there is a problem but I don’t know exactly what the problem is. I usually get very frustrated and feel like dropping the project.  I’ve learned to recognize this phase and I’ve stopped getting upset when I feel that.

Once I identify the problem in the writing the writer’s block disappears and I can usually (hopefully) find a solution. I may try various ideas but at least I have a new direction. Then the writing becomes exciting again.

Q: How have your fans embraced your picture book?  Do you have any funny or unusual experiences to share?

A: I’ve been so pleased with the kids and parents reactions at each author reading or a musical performance of Too Many Visitors for One Little House.  The kids seem to really love the family and especially the dog.  I’m also surprised to see that the kids as young as 2 years old totally relate and enjoy the book.  I thought it would be for an older group.

At one reading in Arizona, I brought in the actual grandparents from the story.  The kids were thrilled to meet the real people behind the fictional characters and showered them with hugs and questions.  (It was great for the kids and great for the grandparents)

At the Booksicals musical performance of Too Many Visitors at the Robertson Library the kids were thrilled to meet and greet the actors and were so excited to have one of the characters actually sign their book!

In fact it was the kids themselves that helped me decide to write a sequel to Too Many Visitors and feature the dog as the main character. It took me by surprise when they kids asked me if I would write another book about the family.  I asked them to tell me which character they would want me to write the next book about.  Unanimously they all shouted – the dog!  That’s how the Dog Naming Contest was born and how I decided to write a sequel.

Q: What is your daily writing routine?

A:  If I am in the middle of a story I try to write early in the morning unless life gets in the way and I’m forced to sneak to the computer at night (during family time).

I write everyday, whether it’s working on a story, writing a blog, or writing marketing materials.  If I don’t get to any of this I am not so nice to be around.   Everyone in the family usually knows if I’ve accomplished what I needed to write that day.

Q: When you put the pen or mouse down, what do you do to relax?

A: Love having big family dinners. My kids and husband are all musical so we like to sit and jam at the piano, have drum circles, sing.  I really enjoy going to the beach with hubby or the kids and riding a bike.

Q: What book changed your life?

A: Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky, Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, Night by Elie Wiesel,  The Chosen by Chaim Potok.  To name a few.

Q: If someone were to write a book on your life, what would the title be?

A: The title would be: The world is for those who dare.  That’s always been my motto and it drives me to follow my dreams.

Q: Finish this sentence: “The one thing that I wish people would understand about me is…”

A: that I never give up and don’t take no for an answer.

Thank you for this interview Susan.  I wish you much success on your latest release, Too Many Visitors for One Little House!