Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Donna J. Shepherd, Ava's Secret Tea Party, plus #giveaway

AUTHOR: Donna J. Shepherd
BOOK TITLE: Ava’s Secret Tea Party
PUBLISHER: Guardian Angel Publishing
WHAT IS IT? Donna will give away a paperback copy of the book.
HOW DO YOU WANT THE WINNER TO BE CHOSEN? Random commenter so please leave contact information.
WHO WILL DELIVER THE PRIZE TO WINNER? Donna will send directly to the winner.

Tell me a little about your book.

The files on my computer tell me that this story started way back in 2005 as a short poem. I was in a critique group at the time and everyone thought I had a good idea, but it needed a lot of work, and it would take more than I had written to flesh out the idea.

What gave you the idea for this particular story?

I wondered if, in fairy tale land, characters know each other. And if so, do they ever meet or compare notes? But I had a timing problem. Some characters have jobs nightly, some only once a year. How would they ever meet? Plus I had a little girl who wanted to have a tea party and meet them all. How could I accomplish all these different variations and it still make sense – in an imaginary way, of course! It took many, many revisions and even a change in POV for me to finally be happy with the story. Oh, and it rhymes, too. But then, that’s my favorite part of writing for children.

Is there anything in your story based upon a real life event? If so, tell me about it.

Nothing is based in reality in this story. In fairy tales, anything can happen! The only part based on a real life event would be the fact that there’s a tea party. When my daughter and her cousin were little, they used to have tea parties regularly.

Why did you choose to write a story with a Christmas or winter theme?

Any story that involved multiple fairy tale characters had to include Santa!

Do you see special challenges to marketing a book with a seasonal theme?  If so, what are they?

I see marketing a book as challenging any time of the year. Having the addition of seasonal characters does make marketing easier during the times leading up to the holidays, but with children, if the book is fun and a favorite, I don’t think reading a Christmas or Easter book in August would make one bit of difference to them.

How and why did you choose this publisher?

I had been published by Guardian Angel Publishing before and hoped that this book would be accepted, too. I was very glad to see the contract land in my mailbox soon after my submission.

What about your book makes it special?

After many, many revisions, I had polished my rhyme and was satisfied with my story, but passing my ‘baby’ into the illustrator’s court was scary. When I saw Bella Sinclair’s first sketches, I almost danced all over my office. She perfectly captured the wonderment of the tale. Bella even included a parody of Edward Hopper's oil painting "Nighthawks" (1942). Gottfried Helnwein's "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" (watercolor, 1984) with Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, and Humphrey Bogart brought together Hollywood icons in one setting. Bella Sinclair has done the same for our most cherished fairy tale characters in a delightfully imaginative way in one of her intricate illustrations.  She also went on to illustrate a book for Jane O'Connor, author of the Fancy Nancy picture book series. After you read Ava’s Secret Tea Party, have fun making the crafts and recipes included in the back of the book. I know I had fun coming up with easy, kid-friendly recipes and crafts that complement what happens in the fairy tale.

What does Christmas and/or winter mean to you?

As a Christian, I celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. As a wife and mom, I relish the season as an excuse to serve and spoil my family, and as a friend, I always connect with good friends throughout the season. It’s a busy time of the year, but I love it!

What is your favorite Christmas or winter memory?

I have so many precious memories, but one of my earliest memories is being four years old and running down the wide wooden steps in our old two-story home to find a beautiful baby doll under the tree. I spent the rest of the day giving her a bottle and changing her diaper – that really got wet! I put the cloth diaper on the radiator to dry. I still have that doll.

What was your favorite stocking stuffer?

Why – jewelry, of course! Don’t good things come in small packages? I’ve found that to be the case.

What was your favorite Christmas present?

I actually received a second-hand Christmas present that ended up being my favorite. My sister’s new husband bought a puppy for her for Christmas, but his old cat abhorred the new puppy, so guess who ended up with a toy poodle? I had Angel for twelve years and just lost her to cancer December12, 2012. She was the inspiration for another of my children’s books, Poodle and Doodle. I miss her every day.

Where can people learn more about you and your work?

I have a fun blog for children called Topsy Turvy Land named after my first book (http://www.topsyturvyland.com) with coloring pages, hidden picture puzzles, and lots of fun things to do.

I also run a fan page on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/donnajshepherd where I post information, writing tips, links to freebies, and updates about my books for both children and grownups.

Thanks, Penny, for taking the time to interview me about “Ava’s Secret Tea Party.”


  1. What a wonderful interview. I think it is so sweet that you still have the doll that you received when you were 4 years old. Such a cute book cover for Ava's Secret Tea Party. Merry Christmas to you both!


  2. Penny, wonderful and heatwarming interview of Donna. I enjoyed getting t know her better.

    Donna, wishing you a world of success. You are an inspiration.

    Warm regards,

    1. And to you as well! Thanks for stopping by to read.

  3. Thanks, Penny, enjoyed the interview with Donna. Since I'm also a Penny, I'm sure you get a lot of "Penny for your Thoughts" comments and questions, too! Wishing Donna great success with this lovely story that I also reviewed on my blog! Blessings of the Christmas season!

  4. Loved the interview. I am a big fan of Donna's books. She is truly an inspiration sensation.


    1. I LOVE that - an "inspiration sensation." I may have to quote you on that, Dixie! Thank you.

  5. Donna, Beautiful interview. So much of the beautiful person I know shows through. The book looks so adorable. Be Blessed and successful in Jesus name!

    1. *blushing* Thanks for stopping by, Gina. I receive that blessing!

  6. Great interview, Ladies! :) Donna, your favorite stocking stuffer is one of mine too. ;) ashleyn.bohmer@gmail.com

    1. lol! I hope you received your favorite gift this year.

  7. That sounds like a book little girls will enjoy any time of the year, not just at Christmas.

    1. I agree! Since the Easter Bunny is included, it could be a beautiful addition to an Easter Basket - or really, like you said, anytime! Thanks for stopping by, Jan!

  8. I drew a name using "The Hat" and Janet Ann Collins, YOU are the winner! Email me privately with your mailing address and I'll get a copy of "Ava's Secret Tea Party" to you ASAP. I hope you enjoy it! Thank you to everyone who entered.

    1. Donna, thank you so much for following up on this contest. Congratulations to Janet!