Belinda Mays is an award winning author, speaker, and IT Professional. Her fourth children’s book I Am, God’s Affirmations For Little Boys, teaches boys about God’s definition of wisdom, power, and confidence.
Her third children’s book, I Am, God’s Affirmations For Little Girls, debuted as Amazon’s #1 new release in Children’s Bible Study Reference and received a Book Excellence Award. The book teaches teach young girls about God’s affirmations of beauty, intelligence, and strength.
Her first two children’s books, My Amazing Dad and 7 Days With Daddy, are a tribute to fathers everywhere. My Amazing Dad is a Tall Tale about a dad who can do anything and fix everything but ends up meeting his match in the form of an unlikely protagonist. 7 Days With Daddy honors fathers while teaching early time concepts like before and after and the days of the week.
Belinda has also published several poems and won numerous poetry and speech contest. She lives in Texas with her husband and three children.
1) First, I want to thank you for taking the time to do this interview with me! When did you know that writing is what you were called to do? What is it about being a writer that you love the most? What about being a writer frustrates you the most?
I have been writing all my life. When I was in the third grade I won a writing competition after doing a research paper on the history and legacy of my church. Fast forward decades later and my children’s book career actually started with a Tall Tale speech that I wrote titled My Amazing Dad. The speech won a Toastmasters Tall Tale contest and a coworker inspired me to turn the speech into a children’s book after the death of my father. Sharing the book, My Amazing Dad, and seeing the joy and laughter amongst both kids and adults helped me realize that writing these stories and using the power of the pen to inspire others was something I wanted to pursue more.
As a writer I love sharing stories with others. I enjoy hosting story time and encouraging others to write and to share their own stories. For me it is a source of entertainment and a form of human connection.
Now that I am actually publishing and writing as a business, the most frustrating thing is deciding on which project to finish. I have a million ideas in my head and I will start writing a story then the next idea comes up. Now, I start to write a new story but I never finished the last one. So consequently, I have 10-15 unfinished projects in work and I find it hard to focus on one and get it completed.
2) Can you tell us a little about your book(s) and where our readers can find out more about them and you?
The first two books My Amazing Dad and 7 Days With Daddy both honor fathers. My Amazing Dad is a funny Tall Tale style book about a Dad who can do anything and fix everything but gets into a fight with a cockroach. It is a hilarious tale and a favorite for school visits and story time. 7 Days With Daddy is a non-traditional story about the Mom going away on business and all the shenanigans that Daddy and daughter get into. The book introduces early time concepts like before and after and the days of the week throughout the story. It is great to read aloud for pre-K and early readers because there is also lots of repetition.
The third and fourth books are Christian children’s books that teach about positive affirmations. What makes these books unique is that they are rooted in the word of God. They include bible verses, poetry, and beautiful images of children of color. It was important for me to have a tool to introduce our children to the bible while seeing positive images of representation. Both books have won awards including The Book Excellence Award, Christian Indie Award, and Purple Dragonfly Award.
All of my books are written to entertain both children and adults. They can be purchased from belindamays.com or anywhere books are sold online including Amazon, WalMart, Target, and Barnes and Noble. If they don’t have it they can order it for you.
3) Where do you draw your inspiration from for the stories that you manage to weave together and the characters that you create?
My goal as an author is to promote literacy and positive Black Family images. Each book was inspired by members of my family or family experiences.
The first book My Amazing Dad was about my father Berkins Booker Jr., a retired Air Force mechanic. The second book 7 Days With Daddy was based on the things that my oldest daughter and husband would do when I went out of town. Finally, the third and fourth books are based on the affirmations that my husband and I teach our children. I wanted to create a tool to help parents, grandparents, and teachers introduce the bible and positive affirmations to their children. The books were even adopted by our church’s Sunday school pre-k program.
4) Do you have a schedule for when you write? Do you outline your novels? How long does it generally take you to finish a novel? What projects are you currently working on?
I have three kids, a full time job, and help care for my mother. I write whenever an idea comes to mind. I do not have a consistent schedule but I try to squeeze it in whenever I can. They may mean writing at night or outside while the kids are playing.
Currently I am working on a joint project with my husband that will introduce kids to geography concepts and hopefully promote an interest in travel as we begin to open back up after COVID.
5) What’s the first book you ever read that really moved you emotionally? Who is your favorite author to read? What book are you currently reading?
I read an abundance of children’s books. One of my favorite children’s books is Everything on Top by Shel Silverstein. It is a book of witty poems and it is a joy to read with children (and adults) of various ages.
6) What has been your most significant achievement as a writer thus far? Where do you see yourself within your career in the next five years?
I am most proud of receiving the literary awards for books three and four. I Am, God’s Affirmations For Girls won the Book Excellence Award and the Christian Indie Award and I am, God’s Affirmations For Little Boys received the Purple Dragonfly Award.
The awards not only help build credibility, they also affirm that my books are valued beyond my target audience.
7) How have you dealt with rejection within your writing career? What is your advice for other writers to better be able to cope or navigate their way through the publishing process, be it traditional or self-publishing?
My advice to other authors is to remember why you are writing your book. I published my first book to honor my Dad and initially I only shared it with family and friends. When I wrote my second book the goal was to teach time concepts so I partnered with several pre-K programs once it was released. But when I got ready to create the affirmation books I wanted to create a movement. I decided to shop the third book out to traditional publishers and I received great feedback about the concept. However, in the end the publishers rejected the project. I felt strongly about it so I decided to self-publish and I am glad that I did. Those two books are international sellers and I get positive feedback from both parents and kids.
8) Do you find it hard to juggle the creative side of being a writer against the business side of being a writer, in terms of marketing and promotion and things of that nature? How hard has it been (or easy) for you to build up your author platform?
My background is in IT so it was probably easier for me then others to start building by website and social media presence. I know how to code and troubleshoot.
It was and continues to be challenging trying to juggle the business and marketing aspect of being an author with my creative side. This conundrum feeds the issue I have with jumping from one project to another. There are times when I write something then begin to analyze who the target audience is or how I am going to market it and get stuck. Oftentimes I move on to the next project because I don’t have easy answers to those questions.
9) So many writers say that they hate reading their own work. Do you ever enjoy reading your own work back to yourself after it’s out there for the rest of the world?
I love reading my own work!. My initial goal was to be a speaker not a writer. Remember My Amazing Dad started off as a speech then morphed into a book. I still get joy performing it as a speech.
10) Do you believe that there is ever a point in life where it’s too late for an aspiring writer to become successful in this industry? Do you feel a late start would hinder their chances?
Absolutely not. People can do anything they put their minds to. My mother is 78 years old and I am still pushing her to publish. She is the most creative story teller I know.
11) I feel like writing is a remarkable tool to help people not only express themselves, but also to cope emotionally and mentally. I know for me I write to be and feel more authentic. What unique quality is there about you, about your art, that you feel represents your authenticity? How does writing help you to be more empowered in your purpose?
Wow great question. I think writing is therapeutic. I recall several poems and stories that I wrote in college that definitely reflect me coping with family relationship issues. I think that my children’s books are an extension of the desires that I have for my family and other Black Families. I want to reflect the positive images and diverse stories so that our children will feel loved, empowered, and entertained.
I grew up with both my mother and father. My mom owned a daycare and taught hundreds of kids in my hometown, Beaumont, Texas, and my father was a strong proponent of education. I remember him taking me to breakfast before every ACT or SAT test. So I think that promoting literacy and positive Black Family images is an authentic piece of who I am and what I want my life’s purpose to reflect.