As a kid, did you ever wonder how your grandma spent her days when you were apart from each other? Author Beth Navarro has a theory that the sweet, little, old woman that you know and love could possibly be living a secret life. In her first printed children’s book, Grambo, Navarro takes the reader on a fun adventure with a boy named Ryan as he sets out to learn where his grandma really goes when she takes her quick and mysterious trips to “Texas,” always returning home with a souvenir.
Navarro took some time out of her schedule to talk with Marti Ink about what inspired Grambo, to share her writing process and to give us a heads-up about her future plans.
1. How did you come up with the idea for the Grambo story?
I wrote Grambo for my Grandma Jean years ago well before I actually thought I’d make writing for children a career. We called her Grambo growing up. It was Grandma Jean’s nickname for as long as I can remember. I was pretty low on cash one Christmas so I wrote stories for my family members instead. This story made perfect sense! A secret agent grandma with a grandson who discovers her secret. So fun! Granny girl power!
2. How long did it take you to complete the book once the idea was born?
The process was pretty long. After I gave Grandma Jean the story, I put it aside for a few years. When writing began to take over my life, I pulled Grambo out of a file on my computer, dusted it off and began rewriting. I felt like there was something there. I liked the message so much. I tinkered with it for another year probably before I submitted it to Be There Bedtime Stories.
3. What is Be There Bedtime Stories and how did you begin working with them?
Be There Bedtime Stories is amazing company. A friend of mine told me about them, and once I heard what they were about I knew we were a good match. They are a small independent press that really understands how important storytelling is in connecting people. That is something that is so important to me. So I submitted my stories. They published two of my stories as web books. The books are sent through the Internet, and not only does the person you send to get the illustrated web book, they get a video of you (the sender) reading it to them. It’s something they can keep forever. I loved this! They also do great work with Blue Star families in which you can donate web stories to military families to keep them close. The web stories are amazing. But Grambo is their first book in print! I’m so honored.
4. Grambo is beautifully illustrated by Betsy Hamilton. Were you able to pick your own illustrator for this project?
I did make a recommendation for Grambo and they loved her! Betsy Hamilton has the perfect style for Grambo. It was the perfect match. It was incredible to see Grambo go from this vision in my head to sketches to beautiful full color illustrations.
5. What are the other books that you have written?
This is my first printed book. Besides Grambo, Be There Bedtime Stories also published my other picture book, Kiko the Hawaiian Wave about a small ocean wave who dreams of having his own surfer.
6. Why did you choose to go this publishing route instead of using a traditional publishing house?
I’d really say this route chose me. This path feels like the exact right one for Grambo. Mary and Allison at Be There Bedtime Stories love Grambo and are as passionate as I am about the message of the book. That’s exactly what I’m looking for in a publisher. I do intend to go the traditional publishing route with my young adult novel I’m working on.
7. How did your love for children’s books begin?
I was hired to work in Vroman’s Bookstore, my absolute favorite independent book store in California. I was put in the kids department, which was not really where I wanted to be. It ended up being the biggest blessing in disguise. I fell in love with kids books. I could not get enough. I can’t thank Vroman’s enough for sticking me in the kids department. It absolutely changed my life.
8. What were some of the challenges in publishing this book?
Honestly the biggest challenge was sending the manuscript off in the first place. I was feeling doubtful. I had thoughts like: “This isn’t good enough.” “Who do I think I am?” “I’m not an author.” I had to believe in myself and trust in my hard work. I grew a lot in that time.
9. How do you overcome those moments of self-doubt?
Good question. I stop the ramblings in my brain and focus on why I wanted to write to begin with. I get back in touch with the passion part of it and it gets me out of self-doubt completely.
10. As a mother of two, what is the most challenging part about balancing motherhood with writerhood?
I won’t sugar coat this. I find a lot challenging about this. It is a struggle. I have to constantly keep myself in check to make sure I have a good balance and have my priorities straight. They are number one, but I do think it’s important to have time for yourself and time to follow you passion. Kids do as you do. I believe if you take care of yourself, you’re teaching your kids a wonderful thing.
11. What is your writing process like?
My stories usually begin on hundreds of bits of paper. I’ll have all these ideas, characters, dialogue, scenes, that come to me whenever and wherever. Finally when the story just won’t leave me alone I compile all the ideas and create an outline. Then away we go! I keep the outline pretty loose and let it change. Also near the end of the rewriting process I read the manuscript out loud. If it’s a picture book I read it out loud quite a bit throughout the process. For my young adult manuscript, I read it aloud a couple times toward the end of the rewriting process. It is so helpful. It gives you an objective view you are so desperate for at that point.
12. During the day you work & write for a healthcare company. How much time do you dedicate to your own writing?
I write at night when I can, but truthfully writing at night is hard for me. After a long day of working I’d rather veg out on some “Game of Thrones” or “True Detective”. So, usually I write on the weekends in long stretches when I can. I get my best work done what way.
13. What other writing projects are you working on?
I am getting my young adult sci-fi adventure manuscript (Abel) ready for agent hunting! I’m very excited about this one. It’s dark and action packed, but filled with hope.
14. Are there any future plans for Grambo that we can look forward to?
I have ideas of a sequel. My eldest daughter actually fueled this one. She thinks Grambo should bust some jewelry thieves next with the help of her grandson of course.
15. Is there an ebook for Grambo? If so, how can people get it and a regular copy?
Yes. Here is a link to the web story on Be There Bedtime Stories: http://www.betherebedtimestories.com/book.aspx?bookID=230
The printed version of Grambo will be available on Amazon March 26th.
Special thanks to Beth Navarro for stopping by Marti Ink.
To learn more about the author visit her website at www.bethnavarro.com