In our continuing series of BAIPA authors interviewing BAIPA authors, BAIPA board member David Kudler interviewed author Christina V. Kueppers. Enjoy!
No matter what their origin, folktales always come from the “old country.” They speak to a primal, universal part of us, serving as what mythologist Joseph Campbell called “the primer to the picture-language of the soul,” from Flight of the Wild Gander. — David Kudler
A: I started writing at age twelve. I wrote fairy tales and short stories about UFOs. There were no computers at that time (in the 1980s), so I hand-wrote my stories and illustrated them myself. I created books by sewing the pages together. My mom still has all these handmade books and suggests that I publish them one day. Maybe I will . . . There is something very special about children’s books written by children. At the age of 18, I started to write poetry. Perhaps many people write poetry at this age. As an adult, I wrote articles related to my career in the legal field.
Four years ago, my daughter asked me to write her a fairy tale. This is when I rediscovered my passion for writing fiction. I began writing and cannot stop. Being an author is a big part of my life, and who I am as a person now.
Q: What do you find so interesting about fairy tales?
A: When I think about fairy tales, I think – wisdom. Why wisdom? Every fairy tale has a moral – a lesson. When this lesson is embedded in the tale, it becomes a very powerful educational tool. Both folktales and literary fairy tales have the same purpose – to teach a valuable lesson.
Of course it’s fun to write fairy tales; you can let your imagination go wild, and everything is possible. Magic – is what we all love; we want to believe in magic. This feeling – believing in the unbelievable – is so sweet and so special, and is the main reason most adults and children love fairy tales.
When my daughter asked me to write her a fairy tale, I came up with a story line really fast (it was Prince Alexander and His Moustachioed Adventures). My daughter loved this fairy tale and suggested that I should actually write a book, so many children could read it. I agreed . . . and I wanted to do it the right way. This is when I began my research, which took many months. I read dissertations on various subjects examining fairy tales. I spent days in the library learning everything about fairy tales. There are people in the world who have dedicated their careers to the study of fairy tales. I am very impressed with the achievements of Professor Donald Haase from Wayne State University in this field. I am also very interested in the topic of “psychology and fairy tales.” I guess I need a separate interview just to talk about fairy tales in general . . .
Finally I was ready to put my fairy tale on paper. I did it by keeping my original fairy tale, but following the rules of fairy tale writing. I also wanted my fairy tale to feel like an old fairy tale, but have modern messages in it. Modern fairy tales don’t mean princesses use cell phones. When I say that my fairy tales are modern, I mean there are lessons in the tale that are current to children in this modern age. For example, we live in a very competitive world, and parents often tell their children to choose a career that pays a good salary. Do you have to be a software engineer, lawyer or doctor to be successful? No. You have to find something you love to do, something you are passionate about and work hard to become good at.
Main message in my first fairy tale – everyone has a talent; you just need to find it. Try different things in life. If you do what you love, you will succeed. I am also a strong believer in multiple intelligences. Have you heard about Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence Theory? I would suggest to read about it. I believe that we should restructure our educational system in accordance with the multiple intelligence approach. It would make a huge difference in the society.
Q: Interesting. Let’s get back to our discussion about your fairy tales.
A: Well, in 2014, I published my first book, Prince Alexander and His Moustachioed Adventures, in Ukraine and received the Best Children’s Book Award in my hometown. I gave away many books to schools and libraries. I felt so happy doing this. It just felt right! I was overwhelmed with joy. At that time, I knew that I will never stop writing and creating books for children.
Soon I published another book in Ukraine, nursery rhymes for little kids. It was so fulfilling, seeing little ones enjoying and memorizing my rhymes.
Anyway, my second fairy tale, The Kingdom of Sunnymerrylandia, has many important messages in it, too. The main message is about the importance of an active way of life and proper nutrition for good health.
I am very excited about my new fairy tale, which is the third in my Kind-hearted Fairy Tale series. I have to say that this one is the most magical one of all. We have already finished working on the illustrations.
Q: Are all of your fairy tales original?
A: Yes, all my fairy tales are original. I am not a big fan of retellings (fractured or subversive fairy tales)… I wouldn’t want someone to twist my tales.
Q: Do you like Disney’s approach to fairy tales?
A: Many people love Disney, and I do too! However, there are critics of the approach Disney takes to the fairy tales genre (for example, issues about feminism). But it’s always easier to criticize than to do something. In my opinion, Disney has done an amazing job with fairy tales. However, I think they overwhelmed the market; Disney princesses are everywhere (try to Google search images for the word “princess,” and you will see the results. Princess Diana or Kate Middleton would probably not even come up in Google images if you search for the word “princess.”) In fact, many children are exposed to fairy tales only through the lens of Disney. Children need to have choices.
Q: Why did you choose self-publishing?
A: Having the opportunity to self-publish my books is important to me, because I can have complete control. It is especially important with children’s books because, for example, illustrations play a very important role in telling a story. If I took the traditional publishing road, I would have to send my manuscript to a publisher, who would choose the illustrator, and then my books would look completely different from what I have imagined. As a self-published author, I have the opportunity to find an illustrator who has a style I believe reflects my story. In fact, I work very closely with my illustrator, Helen Chernova, on every picture in my books. It usually takes around two months to illustrate a book. Every book is an art piece. I have been contacted by illustrators from many different countries who love my fairy tales and want to work with me. I am always thrilled when I receive e-mails from talented artists.
I also work closely with my editor, wonderful Linda Jay. I’ve realized that I love the process of creating books, not just writing a story.
It would be fair to mention that there are some challenges to self-publishing. You have to understand the business side of publishing – advertising, marketing, branding, and everything that relates to sales of your books. Having a great book is only half the journey; putting your books into the hands of readers is the other half. Frankly, at this point, when my books have been created, I would be interested in selling them to traditional publishers, because this way I would be able to reach a wider audience. The more children who have access to my books – the better.
Self-publishing can be extremely easy or extremely difficult, and it is up to you (the author) what road you choose. You can write a short story in the morning and self-publish it in the evening, which is great (it promotes creativity). But if you take a professional approach to self-publishing, it may take years of hard work, research, and writing, working with illustrators and editors, and investing a lot of time, energy, financial resources, and your heart and soul. Then, you will not think that self-publishing is easy. I have chosen the professional road of self-publishing and I enjoy every step in this journey. I work with wonderful people and I love the books we create, but most importantly, children love my books!
A: My new book, Excursion To Mars, is about family relationships, love, and support. A five-year-old boy named Nole from Berkeley, California, had a big dream to go to Mars. His family did everything possible to make his dream come true.
Children’s imagination has no limits, and that is great. Unfortunately, adults often lose this ability and teach children to be realistic. Who knows what is realistic? We need to be open-minded and always believe that everything is possible, if you really want something in life. As there are no limits to imagination, there are no limits to what you can achieve in life.
This book is a work of fiction; however, there is an educational piece. Children will learn basic information about Mars. For example, that Mars has two moons—Phobos and Deimos—and that there is a large crater on Mars called Hellas Planitia, and a volcano called Olympus Mons.
Also, if we as a society want to learn about space and eventually to be able to travel to different planets, we definitely need to inspire the new generation to become explorers. Books are always a great way to inspire people. I believe that everything we dream about in our childhood reflects in different ways on choices and decisions we make as adults.
This book is easy and fun to read. There are educational messages in every book I write. For example, please take a look at the illustration on page 7. Nole, his sister Emma and their parents bought balloons and are driving home from the store. So, I told my illustrator, let’s draw an electric car and write “zero emissions” on it. We created this green electric car that I called Electric Eel. I took the opportunity in the illustration to send a very important message to our children. I was hoping to spark a conversation between a parent and a child about environmental issues and how we can save the Earth by driving electric cars. Perhaps a child will look at the picture and ask, “What does Zero Emissions mean?” Parents can tell children about air pollution, of course, in simple language. To be healthy, we all need clean air to breathe. I personally hope that our children will drive EVs (Electric Vehicles) when they grow up. It is very important for our future generations.
Q: Congratulations! I know that your new book Tommy the Brownie came out this month.
In folklore, Brownies are legendary creatures that inhabit houses and help in tasks around the house. My book is a heartwarming and educational story about a Brownie who made friends with a 5-year-old boy named Sam. It’s a fun short story with amazing illustrations. Kids love it. I do read my books to children even before I publish them, of course.
Q: Tell me about your new projects and future goals.
A: My main goal: To sow the seeds of kindness in the hearts of children.Being kind to people and animals – this is something we can teach our children. Books are an excellent teaching tool.
In the modern world, children are exposed to too much negative information. We need to bring more positive experiences to our kids. Today there are violent computer games, and easy access to a lot of content on the Internet that is not age-appropriate and negatively influences children’s development.
My way of teaching – through my kind-hearted books.
Promoting literacy, of course, is one of my main goals. Reading is a life-saving skill. I was shocked by data showing how many people in the world can’t read. Providing the opportunity to read, giving books to children is important. We are always happy to see children reading, but we also need to ask an important question: What do they read? The quality of the book, age-appropriate content and language are vital in the reading experience.
I have some ongoing projects. For example, I’ve been working with my illustrator on a Paper Dolls book based on my fairy tales. I want kids to play with my characters. Children learn through play and imagination. I will offer this book for free to my readers. Parents will be able to download this book directly from my website.
Someday, I would like to see my fairy tale characters come alive in movies or animated movies. Many people have been suggesting that my fairy tales will make great movies. I agree. I am still young, and I hope this will happen in my lifetime.
Plans, plans, plans . . . Some of my books are available only in the electronic format. I need to make sure that the paperback or hard cover books are offered to my readers. I also would like to create audio books, so children can listen to my stories while in the car. No secret, we are a generation of commuters and how we utilize our time in the car is important.
Q: Do you see yourself growing and changing in your writing journey?
A: Certainly. An image people have of a writer is of a person with a laptop and a big cup of coffee writing in the comfort of their own house. In reality, modern authors can’t be passive. Children’s book authors should spend a lot of time connecting to readers (children and their parents, grandparents, caregivers), which means visiting schools and participating in family-centered events. When I asked myself what I can do to become a better children’s writer, my first thought was taking writing classes. Many authors do this, and it is definitely a great idea.
But the more I thought about it, I realized that in order to achieve my main goal and teach children through my books, I needed to have a clear understanding about how children learn. So I took time off from my legal career and spent almost a year taking classes in early childhood education and working in preschools here in the Bay Area. I learned a lot about children’s growth and development, brain and genetics, and the role of creativity in education. I took every opportunity to read to kids.
Children are wonderful; their capabilities are limitless! Every child is unique and we adults need to help them to reach their full potential by inspiring and supporting them in whatever they want to achieve.
I would like to emphasize that being a writer in the modern world requires you to take steps in the direction that will help you to become knowledgeable in your area of expertise, to understand and connect to your reader. Making a difference in children’s lives is a big deal.
Q: You are a BAIPA member. What role does this organization play in your career as an author?
A: I am proud to be a BAIPA member. This organization brings together the most amazing people with such diverse backgrounds; everyone has a unique story to share with the world. Meeting all these interesting people is probably my favorite part of being a BAIPA member. Of course, it’s important to note that BAIPA provides great resources for self-publishing authors, and unlimited support. I would say we have a BAIPA family that grows all the time, as every month we welcome new members!
Christina V. Kueppers was born in Russia, grew up in Ukraine and immigrated to the United States in 2003. Her father is of German descent and her mother is of Russian and Ukrainian descent. She currently lives in sunny California (SF Bay Area) and is the proud mother of two beautiful children.
Writing fairy tales was always Christina’s passion. Keeping in the tradition of fairy tale-telling, she sends modern-day messages to children. Christina introduces you to her kind-hearted fairy tales, with very special characters that children and adults love.
Christina V. Kueppers also writes nursery rhymes for little children and short stories about space travel and aliens.
Please visit Christina’s website: modernfairytaleteller.com
BAIPA vice president David Kudler is a published author, an expert provider of publishing services, and a consultant to independent and self-publishers. He is the founder, publisher, and editor-in-chief for Stillpoint Digital Press. For more information about David, visit stillpointdigital.com