Interview with Dr. Jana Broecker, scientist and children’s books author

[ 0 ] 15/09/2020 |

As an active member of several author and illustrator groups on Facebook, I get to meet different people from all around the world with similar interests. Some of them are exceptionally charismatic, like Dr. Jana Broecker, who is not just a gifted storyteller, but also a scientist. And of course, a mom of two :).

During the day she works as a senior scientist. At night she’s also the author of several fun and adventurous children’s books written in rhyme. Jana is originally from Germany and has moved with her family to the UK in 2017. In her books, you’ll meet characters with dreams and determination, who will inspire your children to believe in themselves and in their dreams and to always embrace challenges and change. 

Jana loves to laugh and to write stories with plots you won’t see coming. So, watch out, as all of her books have twist endings to surprise and delight both, you and your children. Let’s get to know her better.

Q.: How would you describe yourself in 10 words?

Creative, innovative, extroverted, inspiring, analytical, passionate, caring, resilient, competitive, rebel.

Q.: How did you get started with writing your first book?

I can’t say that I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I’ve always been an avid reader, though, and I’m very creative overall and like being crafty in the evenings, as this helps me to relax. By the time my youngest son was born, I had read so many children’s books that I became more interested in the arts of making one. As a non-native speaker, I obviously wasn’t confident enough to write a book in English, but I was eager to cleverly design a search book. As a result, I played around with cat doodles and started learning about the various design software you need to make illustrations, to set the layout of a book, to design visuals to use in marketing, or to make a book trailer. I never really intended to publish this book, but my family and friends absolutely loved it and encouraged me to go ahead. So, it became my very first book called ‘Find Cranky Cat! – A Search Book For Cat Lovers‘.

When reading even more kids’ books, I became obsessed with rhyming books, and I couldn’t stop analyzing their underlying structures (i.e., the pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables). So, for my next book ‘Not Like The Others’ I wanted to create a search book that is different from what is on the market currently. Therefore, I added several layers of complexity to it and basically made it a fun and easy-to-remember biology lesson about forest animals written in rhymes.

At the same time, this book is also a storybook that eventually directly speaks to the reader and gently introduces the concept of diversity and inclusion. Encouraged by the positive feedback for ‘Not Like The Others’, I soon realized that I’m naturally very talented to write in rhymes, which gave me the confidence to write my first real story in rhyme. I’m a huge fan of classical storytelling, and by bringing both skillsets together, I wrote ‘Pilot Ray‘, a book that for me and my family marks the moment I found my ‘voice as an author’.

Q.: What do you wish that children will take out of your books?

I very much hope that my books will inspire children to always dream big and believe in themselves. If a tiny snail in “Pilot Ray” can achieve its big dream of flying, just imagine what our kids can do. To read more books, to use their imagination, and to make up their own stories is just the beginning. My long-term wish is to touch children so deeply with the stories and worlds I created that they’ll pass on my books to their kids in order to inspire many generations of children.

Q.:  Can you tell me some of your strengths that really helped you in getting your books published?

As a senior scientist I’m trained well at collecting and analysing information. That’s a useful skill when figuring out all those tiny but important details when it comes to self-publishing a book. I’ve also been working as a science editor and reviewer for over a decade, so I’m familiar with the importance of editing a book and polishing it until it can compete with what is published by traditional publishers. Last but not least, I’m also very creative overall, which helps a lot with developing my own brand and with innovatively marketing my books.

Q.: What was your greatest failure and what did you learn from that?

My biggest failure was to publish ‘Not Like The Others’ in UK and US spelling. Sorting territories with Amazon is a pain, and unfortunately always both versions of the book show up, which is confusing for the customer. Add in the fact that this book is actually a book trio (incl. accompanying colouring and activity books), and you’ll soon see how overwhelmed a customer feels when searching for this book.

Q.: Tell me about your proudest achievement.

Over the last 12 months, my book ‘Not Like The Others: A Hidden-Picture Book About Diversity‘ has found a huge fan base with parents and teachers that would like to discuss inclusion and diversity with their children. As a result, the book’s ranking constantly improved organically until it became the Nr. 1 bestseller on Amazon UK in several categories with the highest-ranking being 217 out of over 8 million books on Amazon. That’s a huge success for an independent author.

Q.: Who do you admire most and why?

I admire Julia Donaldson and Rachel Bright. I love the beautiful language that Bright uses in her rhymes, but her books are a tiny bit too message-heavy for me. Donaldson’s language is less poetic, yet she’s a master of varying meter and of creating wonderful and diverse characters and worlds.

Q.: If you could travel back in time and give advice to your teenage self what would that be?

I’d say: “Don’t bother that you’re getting teased about your broken English. One day you’ll be fluent, you’ll write beautiful rhyming stories, and you’ll even help native speakers with their books.”

Q.: If you could know the absolute and total truth to one question, what question would you ask?

Who let the dogs out? But seriously, my question would be related to the string-theory: Beyond the 4-dimensions of space (length, width, depth) and time, what truly are the other 6 dimensions the universe operates with? I’d love to fully understand this (beyond maths).

Q.: What is the funniest think that has happened to you recently?

The ‘Point of no return’ in my book ‘Pilot Ray’ is one of my favourite scenes. It’s where Ray is happily munching on a juicy, red strawberry before he falls asleep on the spot. Here the reader can clearly sense that something will turn our hero’s world upside down soon.

Ray was easy to spy, lying there on the red,

snoring peacefully, ZZZzzz, in his strawberry bed.

Recently, I was picking cherries in the garden and I spotted a snail that, just like Ray, was munching not on a strawberry but a cherry. It reminded me so much of this key scene in the book. I called the boys, and we all had a good laugh.

Q.: How can we introduce the love of reading to our youth?

I believe that kids need enough screen-free time to be eager to go on adventures through books. We are a low-media household (we even don’t have a telly). My kids get screen time only on days where there’s no school the next day (i.e., Fr/Sa during a normal week). That works extremely well, and they spend most of their down time playing with Lego/cars/stuffies and reading books.

Q.: What would you advice young kids and teenagers who love books and would like to publish their own?

There are sparks for good stories everywhere. Once you caught one, let it float around in your head, stay open-minded, and let it blossom into different, unexpected directions. Over a couple of days, you’ll come up with an amazing story. Write it down and edit it relentlessly before you start dealing with the actual self-publishing process. It’s important to be mentally prepared for slow progress at times. At the same time, you can learn from the snail Ray that it doesn’t matter how slow you go as long as you never give up.

Q.: What is your vision? Where do you see yourself in 5 years from now?

I’m currently planning to release 3 rhyming picture books per year. So, in 5 years from now I hope to have published a significant catalogue of books that inspires kids all over the world to dream big. I’d also like to have grown my editing and coaching business by then to help other independent authors to beautifully write in rhymes themselves.

Q.: How can the readers get in touch with you and where can they find your books?

Jana’s books are available through Amazon. To contact her, please send her an email or message her on Facebook or Instagram.

Facebook: @JBroeckerBooks
Instagram: @author.janabroecker
Twitter: @janabroecker

Category: Interviews, Mum's Library

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