An interview with children's book author, Elyse Fox!
If you had told me a year ago that I would be a children's book author come March 2023, I would have rolled my eyes and sighed, laughing half-heartedly. It was a dream that felt so distant and unattainable at the time -- like a bubble that kept popping whenever I tried to grasp it (not my best analogy, but I'll roll with it). Stepping into the world of publishing has been nothing short of amazing, filled with ups and downs and countless learning experiences. And I could not have done it without the advice and support of the incredible writing community I've found through various in-person events, online groups, and social media platforms.
One of the most exciting and inspiring aspects of being a children's book author is connecting with fellow writers who share the same passion and vision. I've been fortunate enough to exchange insights and form friendships with both new and experienced authors all over the world. And while it should come as no surprise, I've found that each one has their own incredible story to share (aside from the one they wrote for children!)
So, I'd like to hold space for one of those stories today. Check out my interview with Elyse Fox, co-author/illustrator of Rexy Learns Self-Confidence from Jolly Fox Books. This adorable picture book was written and illustrated by Elyse and her husband, Garrett, and it follows a little dinosaur named Rexy as he learns what it means to grow confidence and self-esteem. Obviously, the message is one I share a passion for, and I recommend this book wholeheartedly. But I'd also like to take you behind the scenes to meet one of the masterminds behind the pages, so let's dive in!
Written and Illustrated by Elyse and Garrett Fox
Interview with Elyse Fox
Q - Rexy Learns Self-Confidence was written and illustrated by both you and your husband, Garrett Fox. I have so many questions! What is that dynamic like? Does one of you do the writing and the other the illustrations, or are both aspects a team effort? Do you ever have disagreements? Spill all the tea!
A - First Kim, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to speak with you about our book. It means a great deal to us that we are able to share our message and stories with your audience!
I wish our dynamic was a bit more spicy with that introduction you gave, but I would say that the dynamic between myself and my husband works fairly seamlessly. I do the majority of the concepting and writing, and Garrett does the majority of the illustrations, and then we’ll collaborate together throughout the process.
I may suggest some tweaks to his rough sketches and illustrations, and he may suggest some wording adjustments. I probably am the one giving more direction, as I get a pretty clear vision in my head as I’m writing of how the story should look and facial expressions the characters should have to convey certain emotions. I do my best to articulate this, but sometimes it takes a bit of back-and-forth. And sometimes Garrett knocks the illustration out of the park in a totally different direction that I end up loving.
And yes, we do have disagreements - “artist’s vision” and all. But I believe we do a healthy job of turning those disagreements into opportunities to find a nice middle ground. It’s honestly been a great exercise to improve communications between us and in our marriage as a whole.
Q - What inspired you to write for children, specifically?
A - Well aside from both myself and my husband still being kids at heart, I have always enjoyed coming up with stories. I used to do a lot of cartooning myself where I’d draw and come up with little stories for all my characters. Growing up, I spent more time living in my imagination than I did the real world. And as an adult, it’s been a really fulfilling creative outlet.
And with Garrett having a lifelong love for dinosaurs, it felt like a natural marriage of creative interests. Also, there are few limitations or rules with children’s books, so you just have pure creative freedom. You can tell a story and temporarily transport yourself into a whimsical world where anything is possible. It can have a deeper underlying lesson, be filled with adventure, or it can be complete nonsense - as long as it’s entertaining!
Q - Obviously, you have a passion for teaching children about confidence and self-esteem (like me!). Where does this passion come from?
A - This passion comes from my own childhood - art imitating life through my past experiences I suppose. While I had an enjoyable childhood, growing up I struggled a lot with self-confidence and feeling secure in who I was. This is something I had to learn to overcome in adulthood and really learn to shift my mindset around. Each book, while cute and dinosaur-themed, shares the lessons I learned and obstacles I overcame as an adult. The rhyming verses contained in those 30-40 pages represent years of very intentional work to redefine the way I thought.
So with writing these books (yes, we have more planned!) I'm passionate about the fact that it might help these lessons get into the hands of more kids and parents from an earlier age.
Q - I love the activities at the end of this book! Do you ever practice exercises like these yourself?
A - Oh all the time! There are certainly times where I feel that the stresses of life start to take me out of my groove. I’ve gotten much better at recognizing when this is happening so I can give myself a timeout and get back on track. I’ll take a break to go for a walk, speak some positive affirmations, and be thankful for all of the opportunities that my life has given me so far. But this is something I’ve learned how to do and be intentional about doing it over the years. And this is why I feel that the activities allow our books to be more than just a “bedtime story.” My hope is that it gives parents time to connect with their kids and help to facilitate conversations about how they feel about themselves and begin ingraining these things into them from a young age.
Q - All of your children's books teach valuable lessons. How do you strike that balance between entertaining children and imparting wisdom in a meaningful way?
A - It can certainly be challenging at times. I try to weave the lesson in and almost hide it within the story so that it doesn’t feel like it’s being pushed onto you. I generally take the core problem I’m trying to tackle (negative self-talk with Rexy Learns Self-Confidence and anxious-thinking with Pip’s First Flight) and work around the best practices on improving/resolving the issue. Typically the flow of that conflict and resolution works roughly into a good character arc. And from there Garrett and I will brainstorm on what dinosaur would fit best, what characteristic of that dinosaur’s life plays into the issue, and so on.
Q - In the spirit of "authors supporting authors", what advice would you give to aspiring children's book authors who are just starting out? Any key insights or tips that you'd like to share with them?
A - Oh wow, that’s such a daunting question to answer, especially when I’m only two books in myself! I think it’s really important to write about something that makes you feel passionate and fulfilled. If you don’t enjoy it or feel like you’re contributing to some good, it’ll be really tough to stick with it.
I’m also fortunate in that I get to do this together with my best friend, so I would also say find a good support group! I partnered with another author to start up a mastermind group where we recruited a small group of newer authors and we’re all going through the beginning stages together and collaborating with one another. If nothing else, it’s super validating to hear that others are going through some of the same challenges and you can share experiences to better one another. They also act as accountability partners, so I highly recommend finding a good support group!
Besides that, just know you can do it. And trust me, the whole process may feel like a mountain at first, but know that consistent, small progress each day will turn that mountain into a bunch of little bunny hills.
Sending a BIG thank you to Elyse for sharing these insights about her author journey! If this interview piqued your interest, I encourage you to check out Rexy Learns Self-Confidence, available on Amazon. I also highly recommend checking out the supporting resources and blog on the Jolly Fox Books website here!