Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Author Spotlight with Allia Zobel Nolan: Our Interview

I had fun getting to know Allia Zobel Nolan...her books are a kick to read, and she writes with such heart. Here's a few things I uncovered in our interview via email:

1) First, tell us a bit about yourself and your family.

Well, I had an uneventful childhood, great parents, one older sister. We lived in New York, then my parents moved to Connecticut. But the best story is how I met my husband. I had just written my first book, The Joy of Being Single, and had given up on dating altogether, when a close friend introduced me to a young man who was renting her cottage. I was definitely not looking for a relationship, what with publicizing my book. But I fell in love and within two years, we were married. Because it was so ironic, my wedding was featured in the VOWS section of the New York Times....The hook? Writer of book on joys of being single....ties the knot.

2) I've read several of your children's story books, and LOVED them! What nudged you to write for children?

Actually, I started out as a journalist, working for local papers as a stringer. Then I graduated to feature stories, magazine writing, and humor. Several of my humor pieces were picked up by publications such as The Washington Post, The New York Times, Glamour, The International Herald Tribune. My first book, the one on
being single, started out as an article I wrote that was published in the Hartford Courant, and was carried over the AP wires to papers all over the world. An editor from Ms. Magazine saw the article in a newspaper in France, came back to America, and wrote asking if she could reprint it. After that, I sent a proposal to Workman Publishing, cold, without an agent, just one letter, and he called me to say he accepted my manuscript for publication.

Then I began writing...believe it or not....about cats.... I wrote several cat humor books, had a humor column, and continued freelancing until I got a job with Reader's Digest Children's Publishing. I had written a book of poetry for children, but it was never published, (it has since been published), and I secretly had always wanted to write more for childen. At RDCP, I learned on the job and functioned as an on-staff author, senior editor, and soon was responsible for the entire children's religious line. I had found my niche. I spent nine years at RDCP. Three years ago, though, I wanted more creative freedom, so I left and am now back writing both religious and trade books for kids for various publishers...oh, and more cat books too. I do believe my whole career was a gift from God, heaven sent.It's what I was meant to do.

3) I know many people think it's easy to write a short, rhythmic story for kids...but tell us the real process.

I really don't have a process per se. Many of the books I've written are also novelty books, which means there is some other element in the book besides the text and illustration, i.e., a pull-tab, turn the wheel, or it has flaps or it is a multi-activity book or there is a foil or sparkle element or the book talks or squeaks.... And the text has to take that into consideration. For example, in THE DREAMY, FISHY, HAPPY BIBLE STORYBOOK, I not only had to write well-known Bible stories in eight short lines (sometimes it's only four), write in rhyme using words that are kid-friendly and age appropriate, I also had to incorporate the flaps and what would be under the flaps as the surprise and write to that. And of course, I always try to give children Scripture references to lead them to the Bible to read the whole story. So, contrary to popular belief, it isn't as easy as it may seem. But I love it.

4) We're working together to promote your new book with Zondervan. Share a little with my readers about the book.

THE DREAMY, FISHY, HAPPY BIBLE STORYBOOK has been in my head for a long time. The idea for it came when I was thinking about how to tell Bible stories in a different way....a way that hadn't been done before...a way that would help kids remember the stories. So I thought, well, each of these stories has an element I could focus on Noah, it was the noise, in the Jacob story, it was the dream, in the story of Moses and the Pharoah, it was the plagues, (which involved things that were the miracle of the loaves and fish, it got it....the fish. So I thought why not use these elements to create a memorable, instructive yet fun, book. Then, of course, we had to come up with just the right artist...and I had always wanted to work with Nadine Wickendem, so I suggested her, and voila, the book came together. I love to see the look on children's faces when they open the flaps. That's always a bonus for me.

5) I know this is about Dreamy, but I adore your Bible stories for another publisher. Will you be writing anymore 'memoirs' for Bible characters?

Not right now. But I had the most fun writing that series....Noah's Notebook; Daniel's Diary and Moses Memoirs..... I loved getting "in character" and writing as I though each of those Bible hereos would have. I laughed a lot writing those books, but it was difficult because they were such involved stories and I had to extract what I should put in and what to leave out. We'll see how people like these....I never say never about whether I'll write a book or not. With this publisher, Harvest House, I have a follow-up to THE TEN COMMANDMENTS FOR LITTLE ONES, coming out in January 2011...It's called: THE LORD'S PRAYER FOR LITTLE ONES.

6) How many books can we look forward to from you and Zondervan, another great children's book publisher? And care to give hints as to topics?

Well, for Zondervan, I just finished two more books, both flap books, which feature kids thanking God, and I'm working feverishly on a tween devotional.

7) When it comes to M&M's: plain, peanut, almond...or some weird flavor? Do you prefer tea or coffee? Dark chocolate or milk chocolate?

I like Good & Plenty and Lindt's chocolate. I'm a coffee person, but no coffee after 3:00 p.m., as it keeps me awake. I actually love white chocolate. Funny you should ask about chocolate, 'cause that's how I sign off my emails....."love, blessings, and chocolate," which I'm sure will be a book someday too.

8) Besides books for children, what other books can my readers look for with your name on the covers?

Cat Confessions: A Kitty Come Clean Tell All Book, from Harvest House, was just published this year; and two more humor books about felines. Also (and don't tell my cats) a dog book will be coming out next year. And for worriers, there's my THE WORRYWART'S PRAYER BOOK.

9) If you weren't writing, what would you be doing instead?

I'd probably try to be an artist, though I'm not very good at it. So I'm very happy I chose writing instead.

10) When all is said and done, what do you want your writing to bring to people?

I want my books to make people laugh, cry, think, stop worrying, and above all, know the wonder of God.

All of Allia's books are featured at her website,, and can be purchased on or at your favorite bookstore. And don't forget to leave your comment on our post for Day One to be entered in our drawing this Friday!!

Happy Reading!



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