I Want To Encourage Children

Kathleen J. Shields Author Interview

The First UniBear follows a cub that through acts of kindness and compassion grows a unicorn horn and spreads acts of kindness all around the forest. When you wrote your story at the age of ten what was your inspiration?

I absolutely adore Unicorns and I loved watching the Care Bears. I never understood why there weren’t unicorns in the “Land without Feelings” or why there wasn’t a bear with a unicorn horn and special magical gift. That’s how the idea came to me to combine them.

I began by wondering why no one could SEE unicorns. I determined that they DO exist, that they are rare, and we haven’t “Earned” the ability to see them. Then I began wondering what we could do to EARN the ability. Being a good person, doing good things, that was a given, but there were plenty of good people in the world that couldn’t see unicorns. So there had to be more to it. That’s when I came up with the “Pay it Forward” idea (long before that movie came out). You have to help one person, then that person has to help another person, and down the line. So by having met all of those challenges, you could have the gift… but would you know it?

As a child, I hadn’t helped save someone yet, so that made sense as to why I hadn’t grown a horn. As an adult though, editing my rhyming story – yes, I wrote it in rhyme at ten years of age, and no, I will not share that hilarious version, I realized that it may be because I hadn’t met a unicorn yet, muchless, SAVED a unicorn. I had met horses, but none of them needed saving. There were a lot of dominoes that need to be lined up just right to get to that miraculous gift.

So in my mind, I still instilled the idea that you should all do good deeds, help each other and be kind, because in that rare chance a unicorn is involved one day – I want to earn that horn!

I really loved the artwork and character renditions. You drew some of the illustrations when you were ten what was it like working with illustrator Aashay Utkarsh to turn your vision into the final artwork?

I wrote a blog post late last year entitled “My memories behind the upcoming book” https://www.kathleenjshields.com/authors/the-first-unibear-my-memories-behind-the-upcoming-childrens-book/ and in that post, I shared the original illustration I drew at 10 years of age. It really was adorable (in my own opinion) but Aashay added a level of depth, emotion, and detail that I could never fathom! Finding him was a blessing from God and it was all due to covid! During the lockdown, so many authors that I had met over the years had extra time on their hands and they all wanted to do children’s books. Since I had done so many illustrated books, they came to me.

Over the course of the year, I worked with nearly a dozen different illustrators across the globe to help illustrate their children’s books, but it wasn’t until I saw Aashay’s first page (of another author’s book) that Unibear came rushing back to my mind. I hadn’t thought of Unibear for half a decade, easy! I had lost my father nearly three years earlier. The will to even attempt it had been shelved, and yet, seeing Aashay’s first sketch ignited that spark within me! I immediately asked him if he could draw a teddy bear and a unicorn and what he sketched for me made me feel like that 10-year-old girl – all giddy and excited! I told him he HAD to do my book (as soon as he finished with the other author) and I have been utilizing his illustrations since, in many other authors’ works.

Working with him has been an absolute joy! He understands what I want, and adds a flair and thrill to his work that I haven’t seen from any of the other illustrators. I’ve started projects with a half dozen more this year alone, only to be grossly disappointed. Good illustrators that just disappear or don’t return messages. Illustrators that charge a ton and submit subpar work… maybe Aashay has spoiled me. All I know is he was a blessing and he’s definitely a keeper!

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

Originally, I just wanted to tell a story. I wanted it to be nice and magical and, as a ten-year-old girl who moved a lot, I wanted to make friends (out of a unicorn and bear of course). As an adult and author, my primary focus with all of my books is to educate and inspire. I want to encourage children to use their imagination, to do good, help others, and to believe that anything is possible. I want my stories to be fun and entertaining, and I don’t want to present major protagonists. I feel childhood is difficult enough without throwing so much ‘bad’ at them. And I wanted the story to be thought-provoking and a conversation started, which I believe it is.

I feel that 3rd, 4th and maybe even 5th graders can gain a lot from this story, especially Christian schools! Teachers could have the students point out Christian symbolism throughout the book; like the butterfly, the light leading the way, the ability to see with belief, and so much more. I even put together a document that detailed scripture along with questions of the theme which is available on my website.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I currently do not have an official book in the works. I have started a memoir but that has a long way to go! I also started writing a funny book about dogs, but it will be a chapter book. My illustrator for the Hamilton Troll series has come out of hiding and might want to work on the next part of the series… we’ll see. None of those are really inspiring me at the moment, and as any good author will tell you – when you force it, the readers can tell. A good story flows through you like warm chocolate cocoa on a bitter cold day. It comes to you like a frosty breeze and dares you not to shiver! When a story comes to an author, you have a very short amount of time to get as much of it written as you can because when that muse takes off, you’re left out in the cold without your cocoa. And for me… I want it to require illustrations because I want to work with Aashay again.

I am very grateful for the reception Unibear has received, all of the wonderful reviews, the awards it has already won, along with its stellar first day almost breaking the Amazon Top 100 Best Selling books in its respective categories! I honestly feel there are more awards coming up, and I have a dream of a screenplay making this inspirational and important story into a movie! Whether or not it makes it all the way is entirely up to God! Thank you for your support and don’t forget, “The First Unibear” is not only a full-color hardback book, but you can also get the full story in the black and white coloring book, for those young eyes that need a bit more activity to keep their attention.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website1 | Website2

This happy-go-lucky little Bear cub loves to explore! One day he follows a butterfly into the dark woods where he sees a curious sight and a shimmering light. A beautiful white horse needs help and this tiny young bear hurries to save him. What follows is a magically inspirational tale of what can happen if you follow your heart, have good in your soul, and do good deeds.

Posted on June 15, 2022, in Interviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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