I came in contact with Melissa-Sue John after she wrote an amazing review for my book ‘Margot Gets An Unexpected Visit’ and I was curious to learn about her books. Wow, they look powerful, colorful, fun, educational and with a focus on diversity in all forms.
Because there is so little diversity in children’s books, or that, when there were Black characters in primary roles, they were either about slavery or racism or historical icons, Melissa decided she wanted to be a part of the solution and together with her two daughters, she started writing books herself. She then wanted to provide a platform for other young authors and illustrators and that’s how Lauren Simone Publishing House was born.
Welcome to meet your next favorite author: Melissa-Sue John!
- Can you introduce yourself, what’s your name, where are you from… ?
My name is Melissa-Sue John. I am a psychology professor, wife, and the mother of Alyssa Simone and Olivia Lauren, my little prodigies. I was born on the beautiful island of Jamaica, surrounded by the Caribbean Sea, which boasts beautiful coastlines, beaches, waterfalls, reggae music and rich history and icons such as Bob Marley, Marcus Garvey, and Usain Bolt.
- Tell us something unexpected about yourself!
My children encouraged me to become an author and a publisher of children’s books. They also co-author with me. The name of my publishing company is Lauren Simone Publishing House named after Olivia Lauren and Alyssa Simone.
- Give 2 things about yourself that you think matter the most?
- God. If it were not for God’s goodness, mercy, and favor, I don’t know where I would be today.
- Family. My family gives me so much purpose. I probably wouldn’t work as hard and achieve as much as I have without my husband’s support and encouragement and my children’s experiences and determination.
- IDENTITY CARD
- Do you remember the first book you read?
ABC, hahaha!!! Then Dick and Jane. My parents bought me The Little Golden Books Book collection and I read all of them. They were mostly fairy tales (Three Bears, Three Little Pigs Bambi, Hansel or Gretel, Little Red Riding Good, The Big Brown Bear) or religious (Prayers for Children, The Christmas Story). As a teen, my dad got a book subscription of Francine Pascal’s Sweet Valley High and Sweet Dreams Novels that featured beautiful models to depict the heroine in the book. In 8th grade, my favorite book was The Secret Garden.
- What makes you laugh?
My friends, family, and comedies make me laugh. Inequality, discrimination, betrayal, and death make me cry.
- In which genre do you write?
- What makes your book special, how is it different from other books in your genre?
Emphasis on learning STEM in practical everyday ways while using characters that promote diversity and inclusion. All our books include different races, religions, and abilities.
- How do you feel when you write, do you have a special ritual?
I try to write daily and with my daughters. I write like an academic, so my children help to bring it to the K-12 reading level.
- What inspired you to write your first book?
The lack of diversity in children’s books. I am a mother of two black girls and all the books they purchased or borrowed from the library had white girls or boys as main characters. The books that had people of color emphasized poverty, discrimination (slavery, civil rights), and firsts or exceptions (first African American pilot, baseball player, etc). I enjoyed reading Amelia Bedelia and Fancy Nancy.
- How did you come up with the title?
We came up with several topics to write about and every subtitle started with “A Guide”. This came about as Olivia and Alyssa started acting and everyone asked me how I got them on television. So I write a book called A Guide to becoming an actor.
- If you could be any famous book character, who would you be and why?
I haven’t related to any book character. But as for famous persons, I would like to have Oprah Winfrey’s wealth, talent like Shonda Rhimes, a heart like Mother Teresa, and a body like Halle Berry, hahaha!
- Is there a message in your book that you hope the readers will grasp?
Learning is fun and every person reading my book matters!
- What are your top 3 books of all time?
I don’t know if I have top 3 books. But the books I enjoyed reading this year were Luvvie Ajayi’s I am judging you, Terry McMillian’s Who asked you? and …
- How important is marketing and social media for you?
It helps me to stay in touch with our readers, supporters, and distributors.
- Is it important for you to get book reviews? Do you read them?
Yes, I welcome book reviews. I read them all. Constructive criticism helps you become a better writer and both positive and negative feedback can be motivators to try harder! Our books were recently given 5 stars by Readers Favorite!
- What advice do you have for other writers?
Just keep writing. Practice makes perfect. Your second book will probably be better than the first because you get improve as a writer the more you write. But if you never finish the first, you won’t get better.
- Can you give your book information: blurb, link, genre (for children’s book, please tell for what age)
Olivia Lauren’s Occupations A to Z: A Guide to Jobs and Careers
Recommended Age: 6 to 12.
Summary: Occupations A to Z is a youth illustrated children’s reference book about jobs and careers. Olivia Lauren and her multicultural friends go through the alphabet to learn about traditional and nontraditional careers in the arts, business, science, technology, engineering, and math. This book should be used as a child friendly guidebook for parents to discuss career choices with their children.
Olivia Lauren’s Olivia Travels: A Guide to Modes of Transportation
Recommended Age: 3 to 9
Summary: Olivia Travels is a fun story about Olivia and her family that teaches young children about different ways that people travel. Olivia takes her readers on a journey through her own experiences with transportation. Children will increase their vocabulary, be exposed to rhyme and rhythm, and learn about homonyms.
Olivia Lauren’s Olivia Connects: A Guide to Modes of Communication Recommended Age: 6 to 12
Summary: Olivia Connects teaches children about different ways people communicate. Olivia Lauren and her friends discuss communication styles and explore ancient and contemporary modes of communication. Children will increase their vocabulary, grow in curiosity about communication devices, and enhance their understanding about communication abilities (blindness, speech impaired, hearing impaired, wheelchair bound, cerebral palsy).
Olivia Lauren’s A Guide to Things We Wear
Recommended Age: 6 to 12
Summary: Things We Wear is an introduction to the different things we wear. Olivia Lauren and her friends explore when, where, and why we wear the things we do. Children will increase their vocabulary and curiosity about fashion, tradition, culture, safety, and the significance of clothing.
- QUICK POP-QUIZ. (You can choose one or both, and please feel free to add a very brief comment)
Snow or sun: Sun every day!
Soccer or (ice) hockey: Soccer, I am Jamaican
Dogs or cats: Dogs
Ice-cream or fruit: Both
Fact or fiction: Both
Music or silence: Both, depends on my mood
Sport or reading: Reading. I have never played any sport but I encouraged my children to try.
Sea or mountains: Sea
Groundhogs or squirrels: Neither
Books or movies: Both, especially movies about books!
E-book or print: Both. I love to hold a book in my hand. But if I am traveling I like to have multiple books with me. But my paperback never dies or needs charging. And I can pass on to a friend once I finish reading. Sharing is caring!
- Is there anything more you want to tell your readers?
Follow our journey by following us on Facebook and Instagram! Leave a comment. Take a photo with our books and hashtag #laurensimonepubs
Thank you so much Melissa-Sue John!