Interview with Mary Jean Kelso

Yesterday, artist & illustrator K.C. Snider, was featured and told of her work with THE CHRISTMAS ANGEL and ANDY AND THE ALBINO HORSE series. Today, the author of these books–Mary Jean Kelso–welcomes us into her world of words.

Interview with Mary Jean Kelso


Mary Jean, do you consider yourself to be a born writer?

Yes. From the time I was able to pick up a piece of paper and a pencil. I spent a lot of years not knowing that was the direction I was going, so I trained as an administrative assistant and fortunately became a very fast typist!

Tell us about THE CHRISTMAS ANGEL. What was your inspiration for it?

The Christmas Angel was a piece I made into “mini” books about 1 inch by 3 inches and totally “hand made.” I did it because kids were wanting to buy books when I did a signing, and the parents didn’t want to spend $6.95 for a book. So, I sold “mini” books for $1 just so the kids could get them. Then I found, since it was Christmas time, adults were buying 24 at a time. They wanted to include them in their Christmas cards. So, I knew the story was a hit.

Tell us about your children’s books.

K.C. Snider illustrated the first, The Christmas Angel. She is also illustrating the sequel (One Family’s Christmas) and the Andy and the Albino Horse series. We are both very excited about our work with Guardian Angel Publishing.

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? If yes, how did you “cure” it?

Yes! How I cured it was to stop listening to all the people that were telling me “how” to write. I was looking at hard and fast rules I was afraid to break, and until I became honest and wrote what I wanted to the way I wanted to write it I wasted a lot of time worrying if I was doing it right.

Are you a disciplined writer? What is your working style? Do you like to outline and plot ahead, or are you more of a stream-of-consciousness writer?

I’m a steam-of-consciousness writer. I like the surprise when the story takes a turn. I like getting the excitement the first time like the reader does. I will go through the rough draft and list the chapters and put down a sentence that describes what it is basically about just to make sure I’m tracking properly. I tend to do a lot of rewrites and have fun with the things that “pop” up to add.

Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your works?

I have a website and an author’s page at AuthorsDen.

What are you working on now?

I am a multi-genre writer. I write for a newspaper, write for adults and YA as well as for children. Right now I am working on my Homesteader series — #4. #3 is due out in May so the editing starts in a couple of months. I am working with K.C. Snider in the sense that we teleconference on the illustrations for the next several books for GAP and trying to keep up with the newspaper as well as doing signings as often as possible.

Where are your children’s books available?

My books are available at Guardian Angel Publishing, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and a lot of gift shops.

What advice would you offer aspiring writers?

Listen to your own voice. Only you know how you want to write the book and what works for you.

Artist & Illustrator, K.C. Snider

Today, artist and illustrator, K.C. Snider, shares her story in this interview by Mayra Calvani, author and book reviewer.
Do you consider yourself to be a born illustrator?
Yes! I’ve been drawing since I was 10 years old. I can’t remember wanting to do anything else but to be an artist. I greatly admired the work of Norman Rockwell, America’s most famous illustrator; his work had a great influence on me. As a young adult, I attended commercial art school and graduated with honors. I intended on becoming a commercial illustrator, but marriage and family came first. With encouragement from many people including my husband, I began to paint again and became more of a fine artist. Now through my association with Mary Jean Kelso and then Guardian Angel Publishing, I have been able to add illustration to my portfolio.Did you always want to be an illustrator?
I would say that I have always been an illustrator because even when I am painting a piece that is just for my own enjoyment, I am telling a story.

What do you do for inspiration and unleashing your creativity?
When I was illustrating Mayra’s picture book, “The Magic Violin,” I played classical music. It was a great inspiration to me. Usually, it is not hard for me to get inspiration. Because I love my work so much, sometimes my fingers just itch to pick up the brush or pencil.

Describe your working environment.
I have a studio with lots of windows in my home that is devoted to my work. Right now, we are doing a little remodeling and I’ll have a new wood floor and a cabinet with a glass door to display my ribbons and awards for my art. My studio is my sanctuary. My husband, Fred, has a separate studio for his framing which we built this past year. That has given me a lot more space in my own studio which I needed because I may have a number of pieces in progress at any given time.

Are you a disciplined illustrator?What is your working style?

Yes, I am very disciplined. As a trained commercial artist, I know that I have to complete my work in a timely manor. And I love my work; I love the sense of accomplishment when a piece is finished and I get kudos from my family and friends. Although I work at all times of the day, I do a lot of my work in the evening. At times I will get so engrossed in my work that it will be 2 am before I put down the brush or pencil. When I’m illustrating, I typically have a work of fine art in progress that I switch to from time to time just to give me a break. Right now my work in progress is a painting of some pioneer children, their teacher and a one-room school house in the late 1800’s.

Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your works?

What are you working on now?

I’m illustrating the second in the series of ‘Andy and Spirit’ books written by Mary Jean Kelso, titled “Andy and Spirit Go to the Fair.” The first in the series, “Andy and the Albino Horse,” [was] published by Guardian Angel Publishing in April 2008. This has been a very challenging series for me because the subject is much more complicated. Andy is a young boy in a wheelchair, so I have a new dimension to think about. And Spirit is an albino mustang, a very unusual horse. This series promises to be a wonderful story line for children and parents as it teaches about tolerance and compassion.

Where are your books available?

Guardian Angel Publishing, B&N, Amazon or order in person at Barnes and Noble or Borders book store.What was your experience in working with a writer? The first book I illustrated was “The Christmas Angel” written by Mary Jean Kelso who happens to be a personal friend. During the process of illustrating that book, Mary had very little input. Then I was given the opportunity to illustrate “The Magic Violin” written by Mayra Calvani. Mayra wanted more input and I want to thank her for all of her assistance during the process. I learned so much about working with a writer as the emails flew back and forth from Oregon to Belgium. It was a great experience. Now that I am illustrating another book for Mary, we are communicating constantly about the illustrations and I feel that my work is better because of this collaboration.

Click here to read a review of THE CHRISTMAS ANGEL at STORIES FOR CHILDREN ezine.

Andy and Spirit now have a blog you can visit to learn more about the series, as well as its illustrator–K.C. Snider, and its author–Mary Jean Kelso.

For information on Mayra Calvani, here are additional links: