Author Spotlight: Mark Stevens

Bestselling author Mark Stevens loves to tell stories. Ever since his Golden Retriever "Sky" was a puppy, Mark would put him to bed every night by reading a story to him. Now he has written a very special book about his very special dog to bring smiles to little readers all over the world.

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Where did you grow up? 
On the streets of New York. And literally on the mean, lower middle-class streets. 
 
Did you read a lot as a child? 
Voraciously for an interesting reason. Somehow, I was attracted to the famous men of the Old West – Kit Carson, Daniel Boone, General Custer – and read all of their biographies. It was as if I was transporting myself to a time and place I never lived in but somehow knew. 
 
What were some of your favorite authors and books? 
The book that had the biggest impact on my life to this day, is Hemmingway’s A Moveable Feast. He was right. “If you are lucky enough to live in Paris as a young man, it will stay with you the rest of your life because Paris is truly a moveable feast.”
 
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I came from a broken family, wildly dysfunctional, violent, and nearly psychotic, and the last thing I had was the ability to plan what I wanted to do with my life. Except to survive. 
 
Tell us about some of the jobs you’ve had before you became a writer. 
On the surface, every job you could have – porter in a children’s hospital, bus boy, magazine subscription sales in the inner city – but paradoxically, they proved to be the greatest training ground and the most rewarding experiences a person who goes to prep school at Harvard could only dream of. 
 
How did you get started writing? 
I was always a storyteller. And the stories turned somehow to plays. And I became the Neil Simon of my elementary school, writing the now world-acclaimed “The Case of Safety Sam and the Rocking Chair.” I was a playwright first and then I took on the school newspaper. But my proudest coup was getting published in Poetry Magazine: The Lobby of the St. Agnes Hotel. 
 
Why do you write books? 
To continue the storytelling tradition and equally important, to educate myself. 
 
What do you like best about writing? 
The experience of discovery. What I mean by that is I don’t write with a plan or an outline and I am always amazed at what materializes before my eyes. This is particularly true for my first novel Evidence of Love. Each time I sat down to write (which I only do on my iPhone), I didn’t think I was creating characters’ tales, I believed I was joining them in action. Like they had lives of their own. And of course, my beloved dog Sky is the son who stayed home, who hikes with me every morning, who gives his life to my happiness, who I thank God for every day. So who wouldn’t want to write about such a beautiful creature who has magical powers? 
 
What do you find the most challenging about writing? 
Nothing. 
 
What do you think makes a good story? 
One that opens your eyes and your mind to something that you never knew, absorbed, experienced, or understood before. 
 
Where do you get your inspiration? 
The eternally mystifying, gorgeous, perplexing and exhilarating interaction between men and women. 
 
Tell us about your latest book.
I hike every single morning with my Golden Retriever, Sky, in rain, sleet, snow and sun. And I talk to him as if he’s a wonderful human being. Which, in part, I think he is. One morning on one of our hikes, a woman approached us, embraced Sky and said almost as if to the heavens, “You don’t have a mean bone in your body.” That day, I wrote a story about my boy, printed it and forgot about it. About a year later, my wife Carol found what I had written, as Sky’s loving mother, recognized it for the book it could be, arranged a photo shoot for Sky, and the rest is history. 

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Sky’s Amazing Dream is the story about a real Golden Retriever named Sky. He has a phantasmagorical dream: he can turn rocks into gold, he takes poor and sick children to happy times in a hot air balloon and he makes amusement parks appear. Sky goes to Hollywood to make movies, but only if they are free for children, including the popcorn! Word travels fast and the president of the United States visits Sky and names him “King Sky!” But Sky starts to get homesick for the big white house and his mommy and daddy so the president gives him a ride home on Air Force One. 
 
What’s next for you? 
I don’t plan. 
 
Is there anything we didn’t ask that you’d like people to know about you and/or your books? 
How I’ve managed to stay so devastatingly handsome. I wrote 25 books which have been translated into many languages around the world including the bestseller, Your Marketing Sucks, I am also the sole biographer of Carl Icahn, King Icahn: The Biography of a Renegade Capitalist and I also became a successful entrepreneur who built and sold a successful marketing firm.

For more information about Mark Stevens and his books, visit www.skysamazingdream.com

Author Spotlight: Shanalee Sharboneau

When Shanalee Sharboneau's son was born, he had severe reflux. She spent countless hours of the day and night rocking him and humming nursery tunes to calm him. None of them worked, until she began to hum a melody which later became an illustrated book series about the everlasting love between a parent and child.

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Where did you grow up? 
My childhood was spent in Texas, out in the country of Round Rock.

Did you read a lot as a child?
Of course I did read, yet not as much as the child you saw on the playground with a book in their hand. It was imagining mythical creatures and lands that I loved doing the most as a child. Books added to my ability to create and invent.    

What did you want to be when you grew up?
An archaeologist, studying Egyptian ruins and dinosaur bones. You will see these influences in my books.  

What are some of your favorite books/authors?
Anything SciFi. Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown and The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo 

Tell me about some of the jobs you had before you became a writer. 
Surprisingly, it was never my intention of becoming a writer. I obtained a degree in Mathematics/Statistics from the University of Houston and went into the medical device field. I made it all the way to vice president of Physician Sales and Services.

How did you get started writing? 
My son, Braydon, was very sick with severe reflux when he was born. My husband and I almost lost him twice. In my desperation to keep Braydon calm and alive, I started singing to him. What was created was a song that expressed all of the things I would do with him if he promised to fight his reflux and live. The words in my picture books are the actual song I sang to him in my darkest hours.    

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Why do you write books? 
When the first book came out, My Mama Loves Me: I'm Her Little Boy, I never would have foreseen the impact of the book. Many moms receiving the book for the first time would start to tear when they would get to page 3 or 4.  It was such a surprise to me and still touches my heart when I see this happen.  

What do you like best about writing? 
When moms and dads write to me explaining their child will not put down the book for months. I had one mom ask me to "not take this the wrong way," but she hides the book from her daughter on a nightly basis. Somehow, the daughter finds the book and asks her mom to read it to her one more time. It just doesn't get any better than that.  

What do you find the most challenging about writing? 
In the books, for me it was critical to capture the relationship between a parent and child. For example, in the first book, My Mama Loves Me: I'm Her Little Boy, since it was about my son and I, working with the illustrator Israel Dilean to capture the beauty in our relationship was fun. When I was asked to do the second book, My Mama Loves Me: I'm Her Little Girl, it was a challenge because I did not have a daughter. For this, I asked friends who had daughters and referred to my own mother multiple times. When I went onto the Dad books, this was one interview after another starting with my father. And studying fathers and their daughters or sons out in public.  

What makes a good story? 
Krakens, Loch Ness monsters, exotic animals and mythical fairies ... of course! Truly, what makes a good story is one that touches people, whether it be by words or pictures.  

Where do you get your inspiration?
In the beautiful relationships between a parent and a child. It's amazing to watch and this is where I capture moments for my next books. Many parents and grandparents never know why I'm staring at them when at the coffee shop, or restaurant, or in church.  

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Tell me about your latest book. 
Coming out on Father's Day this year, is My Daddy Loves Me: I'm His Little Boy. It was really enjoyable producing this book. It is made of the journeys that my husband, Perry, and our son, Braydon would like to take in the future. They both had strong influences over the book.  

What’s next for you? 
My illustrator and I are working on the Grandparents series. When working on the scenes, I do start laughing at times. Grandparents are an influential part of a child's life. I have so many great memories of my own grandparents, and my son is just as attached to his grandparents. We call his grandma the love of his life and his grandpa his partner in crime. I believe most grandmas are the inspiration of our lives and grandpas are best to get in trouble with when your parents aren't looking. Hopefully these great relationships show themselves in the next books.   
  
Is there anything we didn’t ask that you’d like people to know about you and/or your books? 
Life is such an adventure, made to be lived. Learning about the world and other cultures is the definition of true happiness and awareness. My wish would be that this is felt by every child and parent reading my books, and inspires them to go see what is outside their front door.  

For more information about Shanalee Sharboneau and her books, visit myfamilylovesme.org.