Bookpleasures.com welcomes as our guest, Thelma Allen Watkins author of Harpoona: The Diary Of An Ugly Tuna.
Thelma is a graduate of Southern University, with an advanced degree in Accounting. This is her first children's book.
Norm: Good day Thelma and thanks for participating in our interview.
How does it happen that someone with a degree in Accounting comes to write a children's book?
Thelma: Norm, I want you
to please pay close attention to what I am about to tell you, and
My loving parents demanded that we should always have
a back-up plan, or a plan B should something terrible happen to any
one of us; A terrible anything that prevents us from our primary
means of making a good and decent living.
Well., something awful did
happen. On October 13, 2006, at 3: 45 in the morning, on Thursday, I
suffered a major heart attack, which seriously changed my outlook on
The doctors insisted that I seriously contemplate early retirement. So, I did. To make a long story short, from 2006 to 2008, while my husband tended to the daily business of running our home, he suggested to me that I should try writing children’s literature, since I could not work a 9 to 5 job ever again.
For five long years I mastered the art. I read how-to books, studied with other writers until I thought I was ready to give it a whirl. The idea for writing The Diary Of An Ugly Tuna, came about from a very weird dream I had about a very ugly tuna that had been severely hooked by sport fishermen, but managed to get wiggle off the hook, leaving a deep long facial slice across the face. This is where it began.
Norm: Did you read any special books on how to write a children's book?
Thelma: I actually read literally hundreds of articles on writing books for middle grade readers. That age group was my targeted audience.
Norm: How has your environment/upbringing colored your writing?
Thelma: My upbringing was very hard. Because I was the eldest, I had to set the example. Always. If my sister brought home a 3.5 GPA, I had better be higher. . .and it was. No brag, just fact. If my brother landed a promising job, mine was a little better. If another sister was going to travel New York or Las Vegas, I was headed to London, Paris, Rome, and Madrid. I just had to be the best in everything. But, all that constant pressure resulted in my heart giving out.
Norm: What were your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them?
Thelma: When writing The Diary Of An Ugly Tuna, I wanted to convey a very important message to young readers as they develop slowly and grow. . .that despite any difficulties they may have to confront in life, conditions can be changed, forgiving those who have hurt us is an attribute of strength. This story will add meaning why people treat you the way they do, and why you respond the way you do. We as loving, responsible parents can only hope and pray that our kids will learn how to move past these annoying and negative attitudes to a bright future of great hope and promise.
Norm: Did you see your book from an outline or did it come from a completed manuscript?
Thelma: It was simply one page at a time. If something didn’t fit, to the slush pile it went. It took me almost two years to actually complete the manuscript. The manuscript was revised 5 times. . .I wanted it to shine in every way.
Norm: What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
Thelma: It was the actual gathering of the undersea guests at the Aqua Ball. From describing Prince Marlin, to the actual participants. The literary flow was fantastic. Norm, just listen to this: There were ladies with colorful, interesting faces, others more somber from other races; exotic females with rainbow tails, and squadrons of well-bred ladies with emerald scales. Do you now see why it took two years to complete.
Norm: What was the most difficult part of writing your book?
Thelma: It would have to be the rhyming at a much higher scale, and the ending. So, I just had to make Prince Marlin just as ugly as she was, to make it all fit. It worked out very well.
Norm: What do you believe makes your book stand out from the crowd of children's books?
Thelma: The color illustrations in this book, I am told, are some of the best illustrations. Kids all over will give it the WOW factor.
Norm: What was the time-line between the time you decided to write your book and publication? What were the major events along the way?
Thelma: I finished the
manuscript on April 20, 2016. My husband suggested that I give it to
Oxford House Publishing, since he was accepted for publication for
his historical epic drama, A Story Of A Forgotten Hero-Turning
Back The Pages Of Time. It took him nearly ten years to get it
published. But it was well worth the wait. The book was a success.
Not a huge, blockbuster, but a book the publishers were proud of. Mr Tee Jackson informed me personally that I had something very unique. He stated that kids all over will want to read about Harpoona. It’s so universal in its approach. Any and every middle grader, white, black, hispanic, asian will want this. There is no color barriers with this book. This is what he said to me. I was in tears when he said all those nice things about the book.
Norm: What has been the best part about being published?
Thelma: The respect you get from people. They come up to me and hug me and kiss me all the time. Our local paper will offer an interview in January.
Norm: Where can our readers find out more about you and Harpoona:The Diary Of An Ugly Tuna?
Thelma: Oxford House will be sending out information about me and Harpoona when the book comes out and the local paper has its interview with me.
Norm: What is next for Thelma Allen Watkins?
Thelma: There will be a second Harpoona. She gets married and becomes queen. Yes! A gala affair! Kids, will not be disappointed.
Norm: Thanks once again and good luck with all of your future endeavors.