Thank you for inviting me TammyJo.
Lis, is this your first children's book?
Yes, it is my first children's book. I previously authored a book for teenagers and their parents called "The Book on Successful Teens". However, I have had ideas for young children's stories for around 6 or 7 years now. And earlier this year I just thought if I don't do it now, I probably never will and I will almost certainly regret it. So I just took the plunge and did it. It was a pretty steep learning curve actually. It was harder to write and publish this picture book than it was producing a print book. You would think that when the language is simple and the words are few that it would be easy, but the requirements for picture books are very stringent. However, I thoroughly enjoyed the whole process and will definitely do it again.
Well, I have 3 young (ish) boys and I love reading to them. I noticed that there are often characters and themes that they resonate with and that children love things which are a little odd or sometimes a little naughty. Well, my boys do anyway. Some children's books are so mind numbingly bland and boring, whilst others really stimulate and excite or have interesting or quirky characters. I wanted to have a go at writing a book that would appeal to children and capture their sense of fun.
Yes it is. My youngest son, the real Daniel, is autistic and he has always had sensory issues especially with food. We found that paying messy games with his food helped to give him a better relationship with the food and to eat more, even though I was really against the idea at the start. Then a couple of years ago on vacation, Daniel and his middle brother went to a party at the on-site Kids Club and they got very messy with chocolate. They both delighted in how wild they looked when I collected them and took them back to our holiday apartment to shower it all off. I knew then that I had the germ of an idea for a story, and so over the course of a few months I just had lots of conversations with my boys to refine the idea.
It is certainly widely understood in the UK, though it is slang that is most likely to be used by young children. There was also a pop song a few years ago - one of those annoying ones that you can't get out of your head, which was called Chocco Latte and one of the back tracks to the chorus is a man singing “Chocco Chocco”. We now use that annoying song at our Chocco Parties. There is a fun dance that goes with it too.
When I wrote the first draft of the book, I never even thought about running Chocco Parties myself. A friend who read the draft just said are you going to have one of these in real life? I then decided to run one for my son's 8th birthday and the concept was born. I decided that if I didn't do it then someone else would. So I set about copyrighting it and have established a franchise system for the parties, which I am managing. I have a background in small business marketing, and so I offer the whole business development package with it.
The biggest challenge is keeping the children's excitement at a manageable level. They start off all curious and unsure about touching the chocolate - although they always want to eat it!! By the end some of them go really crazy with it on their faces, hands and in their hair! Another challenge is managing the expectations of the parents if they do not stay for the duration of the party. I find that warning them in advance that their children will get VERY messy works well enough. The only other challenge of course, would be children with allergies. I always check with the parents for nut and dairy allergies.
The book focuses on a children's party but could adults enjoy a chocco party without kids?
I'm pretty sure that adults could enjoy a Chocco Party too. I've had a number of people asking me if I had plans to do this. I guess it depends if you wanted it to be a sophisticated party where the adults were making and tasting exquisite chocolate or if they would prefer to indulge their inner child and get messy with melted chocolate.
Finally do you have another children's book in the works?
Yes I do, although this one is not about chocolate. It is called "Ribbit's Tune" about a toy frog called Ribbit and his child owner who are searching for ... well, you’ll have to wait for it to be published. I have had the story and the illustrations in my head for about 5 years now and just never got around to writing it. I've simply been too busy with other priorities. However, it is a story that could easily become a series, so I think I just need to get on and do it. I have been asked if there will be a follow up to Daniel's Crazy Chocco Party, but I have said probably not. The story is so self contained that I think a sequel would spoil what we have.
Thank you, Lis, for speaking with us today.
I finished editing my mother's children's stories after her death so children's books currently hold a special place in my heart. Tomorrow check back in for a review of her book, Daniel's Crazy Chocco Party, and see if you and your child might like both the book and the idea of your own crazy event.