What kind of feedback have you gotten from the intended target audience, vegan children and parents of vegan children?
The feedback I have received was much better than I anticipated. I honestly did not know what to expect. The reaction was one that I hoped for. For me, it was important that the book taught about being vegan through compassion, not fear, and not anger. There’s enough negative emotions like that in the world, and I didn’t want to contribute to it. Parents seemed to like the message the book portrays. It educates the concept of being a vegan, without pushing “being a vegan” on people. I’ve received several emails from people commenting on how their child loved the “Which part of the chicken is the nugget?” question. The book also serves as a means for a vegan child to combat potential ridicule and bullying. This was also received well by the vegan community.
Is the story autobiographical in any way? If so, please explain.
It is, and it isn’t. I know that’s not a very good answer. I was not vegan when I set out to write the book. My journey to veganism happened along the way. I was a pescatarian. Living in South Florida my whole life, I’ve been surrounded by fresh sea food, and it was the hardest thing to give up. The inspiration for the story came from an article I read that stated that children did not know where their food came from. Apparently they never connected “pig” with “ham or bacon”. So I knew the story had to involve farm animals. I struggled with the story, and it went through several rewrites. One day it just hit me … use an animal sanctuary. A few hours later I had written the outline for the entire story. But something was still wrong. I had no real connection to the animals I was talking about. So, I visited a Central Florida animal sanctuary, Kindred Spirits Sanctuary in Ocala, FL to be exact. I made several trips to the sanctuary and learned first hand about each animals’ unique personalities. But even after that I was still missing something, and I finally realized … it was me. I was being hypocritical. How can I write a book about being vegan, talk to people about it, encourage kids, and not be vegan. That same day, I went vegan.
How are you promoting the book?
Social media has been extremely useful in promoting the book. I contacted several online retailers like VeganCuts.com, Karmavore.ca, and VeganEssentials.com. I sent each one of them a sample book. I donate copies to help promote fundraisers for animals and as prizes for other events. I joined a few online groups and promoted the book. The book is also available on Amazon.com and has received some great reviews.
What’s the one key takeaway you hope readers will glean from the book?
For parents, I hope they use the book to help teach by compassion. Find a local farm sanctuary and experience the animals just like I did, and like Steven does in the book. Give your child something to link the book to reality. For the children, I’d tell them that being vegan doesn’t make you strange, it makes you a hero. Other children may not understand why you are vegan, but that’s because they haven’t opened their eyes to see what you have. To see animals as friends, and not food is like a super power. Because one vegan at a time, we are protecting animals from harm.
Steven the Vegan was inspired by an article you read. Where do all your other ideas come from?
I’ve always been a creative person. Ideas come from all around me. I’ll see a tree, or a bird, and my mind links it to something else, and then that snowballs into another idea. I keep a digital notebook of all my ideas so I can access it from my phone or computer. Lately ideas have been coming to me when I ride my bike. After my ride, I often rush to the computer to get the ideas down. I’m also lucky to be working with a great illustrator. Ron Robrahn and I have been friends since the 6th grade. We lost touch for several years, but once we reunited the concepts just exploded. As fast as I can come up with the idea, Ron can sketch it. I can tell him I need to see a kangaroo wearing a poncho and a sombrero, while carrying 4 baby raccoons in it’s pouch, each wearing a baseball cap … and Bam! Ron draws it. This is great because visual aids help the writing process.
What are your future plans?
My mind is always going. My next project dives into the realm of imagination. It is designed to help restore the concept of imagination in children. When I was a child, my imagination is what made me the creative person I am. Today’s toys DO all the things we imagined our toys did. Instead of imagining a toy helicopter is flying, today’s helicopter toys actually fly. Albert Einstein once said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” And I truly believe that. I don’t want to reveal too much about the project yet, but it has to do with a scarecrow … with an overactive imagination. Readers, both adults and kids, will be able to interpret the story in their own way without the storyteller (me) getting in the way.