Today, I've invited Melissa Moraja to the blog for an interview about her and her Wunderkind Family chapter books. Welcome to the blog, Melissa!
Can you tell me a little about your writing journey? How you got to this point?
Truthfully, I never planned on being a children’s writer. It happened by complete accident. I was on maternity leave from IBM and while my three kids were napping (they were all in diapers and only 15 months apart), I thought I’d try to paint a mural of Madagascar in what was soon to become my kids playroom. I have always wanted to be an artist, but was guided by my high school art teacher to get a business degree first. I did and then found it hard to leave the corporate financial success. Going back to painting the mural. As I was painting, a drop of paint splattered onto the floor. I ended up doing an ink blot of it. As I stared at it, I saw it come to life. This green ink blot became my first children’s character – Splatter! That same day there was a double rainbow in Chicago. It was my oldest son’s excitement as he pointed to it that gave me the idea of where Splatter lived. From there, I started to create friends and family for Splatter. And after about six months, I had created Splatter and Friends and their story. For some reason, I showed it to a friend of mine and he connected me with a licensing agent for Pokémon and Wiggles. He said, “This is such a fresh idea and what the market needs.” He then encouraged me to brand the characters by making them into children’s books. I then spent years learning how to write, illustrate and publish a children’s book and in 2009, I had self-published my first two Splatter and Friends children’s picture books.
But that was just the beginning of a career I never foresaw. In 2008, as I was writing a self-help book, I had included a story about how my husband had all the time in the world to kill this stupid fly in our house, but didn’t have time to read a book to Jake (our oldest child who was five years old). The more I read the story, the more I started to think that it would make a cute children’s chapter book. So I began learning everything I could about how to write, illustrate and publish a children’s chapter book. In 2009, my first proof arrived. And when I showed it to my twins (Josh and Madison who were now five years old), with big smiles, they both asked me when I would write and publish their book. As their mom, I had to create a book for them, about them, just like I did for their older brother. This is when my career as a children’s writer truly began. I took their strengths, their quirks, their beliefs and incorporated all of it into a fictional story that each of them told growing up as a Wunderkind. That is the uniqueness of the Wunderkind Family children’s chapter books. Each story is told by one of the extraordinary Wunderkind siblings. Every child, every person has their own perspective on what happened. And each one of the Wunderkind Family siblings gets to tell their story from their point of view.
As I continued to write and illustrate, I found that I loved what I was doing. I have never been happier. And I’ve found my passion in writing and illustrating has encouraged my kids and their friends to write, illustrate and read.
Can you give me an idea what your book series is about?
Josh and the Gumshoe News Crew ‘The Super Secret’ is the fifth book in the Wunderkind Family children’s chapter book collection. The Wunderkind Family children's book series is a collection of humorous, fantasy stories, each told by one of the four whimsical Wunderkind sibling characters, about what it’s like growing up as a kid with extraordinary abilities in an unusual, yet charming family in the small town of Boring Brook. (Target age: 6 – 12 years old).
In ‘The Super Secret’, Josh Wunderkind, the middle-child sibling, finally discovers his super Wunderkind ability. Every Wunderkind that has existed was born with an extraordinary ability, unique from every other Wunderkind. Josh, however, was the only Wunderkind sibling that didn’t know what his special ability was, until one day a mammoth-sized bird hit him smack on the face with a glob of neon green bird poop. triggering his superhuman Wunderkind ability and leaving him with the responsibility of caring for a baby falcon he named Max. Josh soon realizes that being superhuman isn’t all fun and games. And his previously simple life becomes even more complex when his two siblings and a couple neighborhood friends persuade him to lead a super crime-solving, neighborhood news team—the Gumshoe News Crew. In this story, Josh not only learns more about his ability and how to use it, but also responsibility and leadership. This story if filled with many funny moments and illustrations that share Josh’s humorous life.
Do you have any particular themes in your writing that you love?
I love writing stories that teach kids about themselves. Each of us have been blessed with certain strengths and these stories encourage kids to discover and develop theirs. All of my stories encourage self-awareness, self-confidence and perseverance. In ‘The Super Secret’ Josh is discovering his strengths and how to use them. He also is learning about what it’s like to have responsibility. I also stress that it’s okay to make a mistake. That is the primary theme in Madison Wunderkind’s stories, even Madison’s guardian angel isn’t perfect. Every Wunderkind Family story share’s how each person learns, grows and perceives differently.
Is there anything else you’d like readers to know about you or your book?
All of my books were written and illustrated with the help of my oldest three children. They helped me come up with the story that they wanted to share with the world. They chose their theme, what they wanted to teach, and what they wanted to include. They even chose their extraordinary ability, which is also based off of their real life strengths. They created their fictional character, strengths and growing moments. Every title and every word was reviewed by them before it ever went to publishing (as well as a professional editor). But in the end, I let them be the final decision-maker on what was to be taken out, changed or added. For they were the one’s telling their fantasy, fictional life. In fact, I told them that one day they can take over writing their Wunderkind Family story.
Thank you so much for the interview! If you'd like to find Melissa or her books on the web, check out the links below.
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/melissaproductions and http://www.facebook.com/thewunderkindfamily