Here at Write Publish Sell, we love to feature the authors we work with through an exclusive interview on our blog. You can check out all of the author spotlights in the sidebar. Today, we’re featuring Kelly Tills, who is the author of The Awesome Animal Series. She has a brand new book coming out in April called Meow is Not a Cat that focuses on embracing our differences. We’re excited to share some behind-the-scenes information with you today!
About Kelly Tills
Kelly Tills writes silly, funny books for kids. She believes even the smallest hat-tip, in the simplest of books, can teach our kids how to approach the world. Her children’s stories are perfect to read aloud to little humans, or for the older kids to read themselves (hey, let them flex those new reading skills!). Either way, everyone will enjoy the giggles.
Kelly is the head of her own neuro-unique family. Her books are dyslexia-friendly. Feminism, celebrating neurodiversity, and potty humor are her jam.
She I believes kids are fabulously weird, and their stories should be too. Which is good news, because she’s a storyteller with the biggest, weirdest laugh in the room.
When my first child was born, they were given an entire collection of classic books. It thrilled her to share these stories from her own childhood with her daughter, but that excitement quickly dampened as she opened them up: racism, misogyny, body-shaming, you name it. These books were feeding kids heart-breakingly toxic ideas. She started telling new stories because she was tired of constantly changing words or addressing out-dated ideas in the old ones. It’s fascinating to see what happens when we normalize modern values. There is no sound on earth like a kid’s laughter. But you know what kills the fun immediately? Preaching! Her approach is never to focus on “teaching values” but to tell stories where those values simply exist.
Please tell us a little about Meow is Not a Cat.
Meow Is Not Cat is a flight of folly starring a cynical cat, wild monkeys, butt jokes, a banana cannon, and a unique kid named Meow. Follow along as this wild child’s unique way of following instructions ends up going completely bananas.
This is a completely goofy story, guaranteed to make kids laugh. With a fast pace and endless cast of characters, even pre-readers will love shouting out their favorite parts as you read aloud. Nestled among the laughs is a lesson about how embracing a person’s different way of interpreting the world can lead to surprisingly good results – and bananas, lots of bananas.
Hey parents and caregivers: Meow is never once gendered in the book. Gender isn’t the topic, but neither is it an issue. Kids can see in Meow whoever they wish to see. Enjoy!
Why did you write Meow is Not a Cat?
In raising a neurodiverse child, I’m learning to communicate differently. Our mix-ups can be funny, frustrating, and sometimes, alas, it takes me a while to see I’ve misunderstood. Once I do, I’m floored by her creativity, smarts, and unique world view.
In this story, I aim to capture both sides of our experience. Meow is right: folks should say what they mean. And the teacher’s ah-ha moment lets her join in Meow’s merriment.
Who is this book for?
Kids ages 4-8. But it’s especially for kids who think differently and the people who love them.
What is YOUR favorite part of the book?
The cynical cat! My eldest daughter, although she’s only 7, shares that cat’s dry wit. She frequently has a sidebar comment to whatever crazy is happening in our house, but she’s equally as willing to be surprised, and in the end, she’s just as whacky as the rest of us Watching her read the book, and acting out the cat, brings me so much joy.
When did you start writing books?
After a gazillion hours of bedtime story experience, in July 2021, I was first in line for the Great Resignation. I left my cushy tech job and started writing. In less than a year, I’ve published an entire silly science series ostensibly about animals, but with a quiet hat-tip to body positivity tucked in among the smiles. Meow is Not a Cat is my first storybook, goofy as all get-out, but which still manages to avoid gender stereotypes, and normalize neurodivergent thinking.
How is this book different from other books in your genre or niche?
Every child interprets the world in their own way. Even more so for kids who think differently. They often get labeled naughty, distracted, loud, difficult, or rude.
Too many stories about these kids end with an adult coming to the rescue to “correct” them. Not in this story.
Instead, in this completely whacky kids’ book about being unique, it’s Meow who helps an adult change their perspective. This book paints the picture of what life is like from the perspective of one neurodivergent child.
What challenges did you face writing your book during a pandemic?
I actually wrote Meow twice. The first time was well over a year ago, perhaps two. I was so excited, it was the first picture book I had ever created. In July 2021 I sent it out to advanced reviewers, and the reviews were pretty mixed. The entire point of the story was not coming across.
So there I was, in the middle of a pandemic, after having just left my day job, with a busted manuscript, and nowhere to go except back to the drawing board. Talk about scary.
Do you have any other books? Where can they be found?
The Awesome Animals Series. You can find all of my books on Amazon.
Connect with Kelly Tills
I’m on all the usual social channels as @kellytillsbooks, but I have a special place in my heart for folks who’ve subscribed to the email list. It’s like our own personal, little chat where I send out a “newsletter” and folks just reply and we strike up a convo: https://kellytills.com/subscribe