Jeanne McNaney e-interviewed by Deb Kincaid (March, 2009)
Jeanne McNaney was born and raised in Bardonia, New York, moving to Greenwich, Connecticut in 1982. In 1995, she received a Bachelor's degree in veterinary technology and behavioral science from Mercy College. Today, McNaney and her husband live in Greenwich with their three children, and a coterie of animals. In January 2009 Ovation Books published McNaney's first book, The Legend of Honey Hollow.
Q: The Legend of Honey Hollow is your first published work, and the first book of the Honey Hollow series, which is directed at children ages 4-8, and has environmental preservation as its theme. Was this your idea? How did The Legend of Honey Hollow get from idea to publication?
A: I wasn't seeing books like Honey Hollow in school libraries or bookstores, so I wanted to be the one to do it, to fill a gap that I felt was missing. I wanted to write a book that was memorable in the traditional sense of having engaging and lovable characters, but I also wanted to impart an important message to the younger generation.
I've had The Legend of Honey Hollow story in my mind for years, as well as my own artistic vision for the book. I wanted to create a Disney-esque environment to engage the children, so they would learn without even realizing it. I didn't want to self-publish due to the lack of distribution and negative connotation associated with that venue, so I was searching for a publisher who would respect my vision. Ovation Books was the perfect fit for me because they have phenomenal distribution and give authors creative control and decision-making power.
Q: Did you rely on "kid expertise" from your own children in writing this book? What made you select this particular age range for Honey Hollow?
A: My kids are definitely my in-house focus group! I wanted to choose the picture book age range because illustrations are so integral to the impact I wanted. I anthropomorphized the bears and their facial expressions so the children could understand what the animals were feeling. As the saying goes, "a picture tells a thousand words."
Q: How aware do you think kids this age are of serious environmental threats? How do you determine what's appropriate on this topic for this age?
A: I believe the children are very aware of the serious environmental threats because they are seeing it in the media, as well as learning about it in their classrooms. I wrote this book in hope that rather than scaring and depressing the children, it would instead encourage them, to help them realize they have choices and can make good decisions. They can raise awareness and take action to change the world for better, whether in an environmental sense or any other arena they choose.
Q: The Legend of Honey Hollow is ambitious, incorporating themes of (1) multi-cultural collaboration and empowerment of seemingly powerless (little) people; (2) causes and consequences of unchecked environmental devastation; and, (3) the good result of action and cooperation. Did you start with all these themes in mind?
A: I did want to incorporate as many themes as possible into The Legend of Honey Hollow without it becoming dense, slow-moving or uninspiring. Empowering children to take positive action in life, and the encouragement of cross-cultural cooperation were the deeper themes I was trying to incorporate. The different species of bears represent the different ethnicities of humanity living together harmoniously and lovingly despite their physical differences. Of course, the overt environmental message is paramount.
Q: Do you feel there is enough dialog about the environment between parents and kids, and between schools and kids of this targeted age range?
A: I really don't know if there is enough dialog between parents and kids about the current environmental crisis. With the current economic crisis, people are more focused on immediate needs such as food and housing. I know, from what I've seen in my daughter Caleigh's class, that more schools are educating children on environmental issues. Her fourth grade teacher Cindy Williams is passionate about animals and nature so she stressed environmental themes in her classroom. Each child wrote their own book on an endangered animal of their choice.
Q: How do you foresee your book being used, and what do you hope it will accomplish?
A: My hope for The Legend of Honey Hollow is to help children understand how all life forms are connected and a special part of God's creation. I would love to inspire our future scientists and ecologists to study hard and help develop our future world with better and cleaner energy solutions, and to make good individual choices for their own lives. And, to enjoy life and have fun!
Q: How many books are planned in the Honey Hollow series? Can you tell us some upcoming themes?
A: I don't have a set number of books in mind for the series. I know there will be at least one more, as I am currently developing story lines for the sequel. As far as upcoming themes, I will be stressing the importance of our government leaders to make better laws that encourage green and clean energy solutions. I don't want to say much else, but, Grendel (character of The Legend of Honey Hollow) has a secret that she has been keeping, and we find out what it is in book two!
Q: I loved the illustrations of David Cochard. Will he be illustrating upcoming books in the series?
A: David Cochard is absolutely going to be illustrating all of the books in the Honey Hollow series. He is amazing and the only person I could ever consider. He brought my characters to life in an incredible and vibrant way. I love him!
Q: Anything else you'd like to add?
A: Just that I am so happy to have this opportunity to write books that have meaning.Find out more about the author and her new children's series at HoneyHollowBears.com.
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