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Interview: Thu Vo, Author of ‘Daddy, Am I Beautiful?’

Thu Vo has released the first book in the Apple Tart SeriesDaddy, Am I Beautiful? It is now available on Amazon.com as an eBook for Kindle, Kindle Fire, and Kindle App (this app is free for smart phones and tablets). This special book follows a young girl name Annabelle who is teased at school for expressing herself in a princess costume. Upon returning home in tears, Annabelle’s father empathizes with her, helps her identify her emotions and how to walk through them.

The Apple Tart Series follows a group of children through life’s challenges and how their parents help them navigate the full range of emotions that all children experience growing up. The series has succeeded with quality, heart, and creativity after an initial Kickstarter campaign. Author Thu Vo recently answered our questions about this new book, the Apple Tart book series, her background, and inspirations.

Please describe your daily process when writing your book Daddy, Am I Beautiful?
All of my books start on paper. I write out different words and ideas and thoughts in a very disorganized fashion. From there, it’s a lot of processing the things that I’ve thrown down to make it into something coherent and orderly. Then I write out each page and transfer it to a word document as another way to edit it.

How did the idea for this Apple Tart book series begin? What support did you receive for it?
After finishing graduate school, I wanted to work at a nonprofit with women and children escaping sex trafficking. After years of trying and doors closing, I came to the realization that I didn’t want to pursue counseling the traditional route. I wanted to make my skills and knowledge accessible to more people, and the best way for me to do that is through a kid’s book. I wanted to write a series from a child’s perspective. It is everything that I had hoped for my younger self and is my way of writing for every child out there. As for support, my husband has always been supportive, but a lot of times I felt hesitation or doubts because so many people say they will write a book and nothing comes out of it.

Please describe your research process and related collaboration (e.g. illustrations, etc.).
Once I had the idea, I shared this concept to a good friend, Mathis, who’s an editor. He volunteered to edit my book because he believed in the series. He traveled back East for the holidays where he met up with his illustrator friend from college to pitch the idea to her. She was interested but I had another friend who did illustration as well. They both did a sample and I ended up with my super talented illustrator, Bridget.

What were some of your childhood memories about beauty, self worth, and family that you remember most?
A lot of my memories about beauty and self-worth and family are negative but it has shaped who I am today. I named this series the “Apple Tart Series” because apple tarts are made with granny smith apples and they’re really tart. Life comes with a lot of tarty moments, like Annabelle experienced in the book, but if you take that and add sugar and flour it can become something delicious and beautiful.

How long did it take you to write Daddy, Am I Beautiful?
It took about a month to write out the ideas, writing each page with how the illustration of each page should be, and having it edited. The illustration itself took 9 months because of her busy schedule, and it took some time for us to be on the same page. Once we were, it was easy flowing after that.

How did you form the motives, choices, and feelings of the characters?
I’m a visual person so all my stories start off with a vision of a moment in the book like a little girl wanting to get her dad’s attention. From there, I imagine her emotions and how she would want her dad to respond to her. Each page would start off with a picture of what the scene is and the emotions are added and finally the words.

How did your personal experiences and life outlooks factor into Daddy, Am I Beautiful?
My parents survived the Vietnam War, so their parenting techniques usually leaned towards survival mode, so talking about emotions was not something we ever did. As I’ve gone through therapy and my own personal healing, I realized the importance of being cared for on an emotional level. This series comes from a place of wanting to be a voice for every little kid who wishes to have their emotional needs met.

What other authors/writers have inspired you?
C. S. Lewis and J. K. Rowling have been a huge influence. I love the way their writing appeals to adults and children. My hope and dream is that this series will be helpful to both parents and children.

What are some of your future plans/projects?
This book is the first of the series. I finished the second book and we’re in the final stages of having it edited and then illustrated. The goal is to have it done within the next six months. The ultimate goal is to have an entire series that address as many childhood challenges as possible.

Thanks very much.

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