Recently I had the opportunity to interview Cheryl Johnson, author, illustrator extraordinare. I had been watching her progress on FaceBook as she shares her progress on her picture books. One day I noticed that had 5 books she had published and working on the sixth to be published within a month. This is truly an amazing accomplishment. For traditionally published books, it can take 1 to 1 1/2 years to publish a picture book. For self published one in 6 months is a exceptional task. How can this be possible? I asked her if I could call her and find out her method.
Cheryl and I did have a phone conversation and I found out more about what makes her tick. She explained how as a single mom of four children she took out school loans to obtain her degree in art. After reaching that goal she found out she had cancer and could not work. She beat cancer but now the interest on the school loans has compounded. Knowing that she had to come up with a plan, she has plans to finish a book per month until she reaches 42 books. At the time of our conversation she had 5 and now has finished a sixth book. As an illustrator I know that the most time consuming part of creating a picture book is the illustrations. When I brought this up, she explained that she does 1 to 2 a day. Convinced that she will meet her goal and pay off her student loan debt, she is also working in her passion, writing and illustrating children’s books. She self publishes her books through Createspace and also has them available as ebooks on Kindle, KDP.
I also asked Cheryl:
When did you decide to be a n author/illustrator and what impact has this had on your life?
Cheryl Johnson: I don’t remember a specific age that I said to myself that I wanted to be a writer. At the age of ten, I was writing and drawing small books to show my friends at school. They were mostly about my friends themselves and usually very silly because I wanted to make them laugh. At the age of 12, I started writing a book that I have continued to expand on for 47 years. The main character is myself. I started creating an alternative existence because I wasn’t pleased with my own reality. I concocted a totally different family and circumstances. It was really freeing and fun, but at times as become an obsession because I am an addictive personality I have to maintain vigilent discipline in order to not immerse myself completely. Full of personal details, I will never publish it. The impact of being an “author” has kept me sane and in touch with my own core over my life. I have a rich imagination and writing and drawing helps to empty some of the hurricane of ideas and thoughts from the crowded spaces between my ears. I’m hoping I can actually make a living doing what comes naturally.
Can you tell us about your latest work?
Cheryl Johnson: I have just completed “The Three Mishkateers and Dot”, the fifth in the Mish series. I wanted to create a story for Mish and his friends that had a bit more action in it and some clearly “bad guys”. I like children’s stories that are moral and teach values. Some of the images in this story were so much fun to create, draw and bring to life in my books. I love writing children’s stories because there are no limits. I stay in touch with my core child and write what feels right from a gut level. I don’t know if it is right or wrong or whether it will be accepted or valued by the general population but I have to follow my heart.
Thanks to Cheryl Johnson for sharing with us about her wonderful books and illustrations. Please visit her websites and check out her books,
Chairulart Store – Cheryl’s Imaginative products
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