T.J. Roberts is an author and illustrator who holds a master’s degree in Counseling from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. He has years of experience as a child & family therapist and crisis intervention specialist. Roberts is the father of three daughters who taught him much of what he knows about girls growing up.
SIX MINUTES WITH T.J. ROBERTS:
Joining LitPick today for a Six Minutes with an Author interview is T.J. Roberts! T.J. is the author of Fairalon, an MG/YA fantasy novel with over 30 full color illustrations.
How did you get started writing?
About 20 years ago, I wrote two children's books that I sent to various publishers. Back then you either had an agent or you snail-mailed your manuscript "over the transom." An "over the transom" manuscript was not a term of endearment. Fortunately, my books landed in the "slush pile" (another delightful term, not!) of an editorial assistant at Macmillan Children's Books by the name of Rachel Ferraro. She liked what she read and encouraged me to keep writing and sending her material. Life intervened and I was sidetracked for a long time. Fast forward and the writing fairy visited me again, only this time she beat me over the head with her wand until I finished Fairalon.
Who influenced you?
I would have to say my English teachers in high school. Unlike many authors who have the writing bug, I did not. I had assignments, a.k.a. homework, blech. But I always enjoyed the creative writing assignments, and apparently my teachers liked what I handed in. They were very encouraging and suggested I keep writing. Like most high school boys, I ignored them completely. I never contemplated writing as a career. I just liked writing to see what I could come up with and how it read.
Do you have a favorite book/subject/character/setting?
I like stories about magic or science fiction where the underdog prevails, preferably using their brain over using magic, though I love the magic.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to be an author?
The best advice I was ever given for writing children's books was to join the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI). Many helpful people and guides. Go to one of their seminars or retreats, at least. You'll learn a lot, and the people are friendly.
Where is your favorite place to write?
I have an office in my house, which is more like a cave than a room. No windows, only computer screens. Quiet or loud based on my writing preference at the time. Sometimes I play music if it fits the mood of the chapter I'm working on. It can be very helpful.
What else would you like to tell us?
Kids, seek out people who support you and leave naysayers behind. If your friends put you down, you need new friends.
If you feel different from everyone else, that no one understands you, chances are all of your friends feel the same way about something.
You are different, that's what makes you special.
T.J., thank you for joining LitPick for six minutes! That was great information to join the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators!