This post may contain affiliate links. Read more here.
With Jessica’s vivid storytelling and Sue Richards’ enchanting illustrations that bring Mia’s world to life, this adventure follows Mia and her friends as they demonstrate the importance of teamwork and bravery while facing challenges posed by a cunning villain.
For my first interview with Jessica, click here! ✨
Mia Fights Back by JK Keane
Q: Every writer has a unique journey. What inspired you to become a children’s book author, and how did you decide on the genre of children’s literature?
My granddaughters inspired my first stories.
I wrote several short stories as bedtime stories and they loved hearing stories their Oma (German word for grandmother) had written.
I began with stories about mermaids with glowing hair and flying unicorns but the story they loved most was the story of a little black kitten that kept getting into trouble.
Q: Visiting schools and libraries to talk about Mia and her friends sounds like a wonderful experience. Can you share a memorable moment from one of your school visits and how it inspired or influenced your writing?
It is difficult to pick one moment.
I love the enthusiasm and imagination of young children and how they still believe in stories. I remember asking a class of seven-year-olds which animals might pose a danger to a kitten that gets lost in their local forest.
A little boy told me with big eyes that there might be a crocodile lurking between the trees 😊. I was tempted for a while to write a story about a crocodile causing trouble in the forest.
Maybe I still will in the future.
Q: Mia Fights Back introduces new characters like George, Archibald, and Billy. How did you come up with these characters, and what role do they play in Mia’s adventures?
All the new characters are based on real-life animals I have encountered over the years. George really was a soft, and fun-loving black Labrador with a very slobbery tongue.
Archibald was the first pony I rode when I was about eight years old. Occasionally my friend and I would ride together on him without a saddle, which inspired a scene in the book. Billy, the brave goat in the Mia book was called Moritz in real life.
He lived together with two Shetland ponies I rode a few years later and loved playfighting, accompanying me on rides, and eating anything within his reach.
Q: Teamwork is a significant theme in your books. How do Mia and her friends demonstrate the importance of teamwork in your new novel, especially in the face of challenges and villains?
In the second book, a deer gets injured and trapped in barbed wire that had been dumped in the forest by the villain of the book, nasty Walter Pomeroy. Mia and her friends need to persuade two teenagers to help them, not an easy task as the humans in their world don’t understand animal language.
Teamwork is also needed to save the deer when crazy Walter wants to kill it and to get revenge later in the story.
Q: The story is set in autumn, and you mentioned that this is reflected in the warm red tones of the illustrations. How do you believe the seasonal setting enhances the overall atmosphere and story of Mia Fights Back?
Autumn is my favourite season of the year.
I like the woods all year round but love the colours, smells, and sounds of autumn the most. It is summer at the beginning of the second book but as Mia and her friend Joker finish kitten school the seasons change. Freddy, the squirrel, is busy collecting hazelnuts.
Hedgehog Hugo is looking for safe places to hibernate and the bats are starting to struggle to find enough insects to eat. There is a scene with a bonfire and the kittens are scared by some orange pumpkins with fire inside them.
It was fun to weave in the autumn theme into the story and I hope readers will relate to some of the descriptions and settings.
Q: You mentioned that you incorporated topics like hibernation of bats and hedgehogs, as well as the dangers of bonfires and littering in the forest. How do you balance educating young readers about these important issues while keeping the story engaging and entertaining?
I try not to lecture but to influence through the story.
At the beginning of the second book, the kittens attend forest school where they learn about snakes, poisonous plants, and the differences between pets and wild animals. The young reader will learn the same things as the two little kittens.
The pace of the book and the troubles increase gradually until the climax near the end. Without giving too much away, the hedgehog chooses the bottom of the bonfire as his hibernating place which turns out to be a bad idea (worry not, he will be saved 😊).
The villain throws away litter that causes harm to one of the forest animals. Rather than telling kids not to throw away litter, I show the dangers of doing it.
Readers will hate nasty Walter and realize that dumping litter in the forest is a dumb idea. I do a bit of litter picking in my free time, so this topic is quite close to my heart.
Q: Illustrations play a crucial role in children’s books. How did your collaboration with Sue Richards influence the storytelling, and how do her illustrations bring the characters and the forest to life?
I wrote the stories initially just for my two granddaughters.
Sue is a good friend and read them later. She told me that the descriptions were so vivid that she could see certain scenes in her mind’s eye and felt almost compelled to draw them.
In my view, the illustrations are helping young readers who have just moved up from picture book level to chapter books. My youngest granddaughter still looks through the illustrations first before she starts reading a new book.
Sue’s watercolor illustrations help young readers to visualize the different characters but leave enough room to let their imagination fill in the rest.
Q: Balancing writing and other responsibilities can be challenging. How do you manage your time effectively, especially considering your visits to schools and libraries?
I severely underestimated how much time it takes to write, edit, publish, and then promote a book. I am in the lucky position, that I am retired, view writing as my hobby, and have a very understanding husband. I love interacting with the children so do not view the visits as work.
That said, I am happiest when I sit in my writing chair or walk through the woods thinking about my stories.
Q: Are there any particular authors or books that have influenced your writing style or storytelling techniques?
I have always read quite widely and in different genres.
Q: As an indie author, what challenges have you faced, and what advice do you have for aspiring authors navigating the world of self-publishing and reaching out to their audience?
As an indie author, you have to be a jack of all trades.
It took a lot more time, work, money, and energy to publish the books than I had anticipated. Writing the book is the fun part, publishing and marketing is much harder and has been a steep learning curve for me.
I spent a considerable amount of money on professional editing, cover design, and professional formatting for both Mia books as I wanted the end product to be as good as possible.
My husband set up the website and the newsletter and helps me with all IT-related issues but I do all the social media and organising school visits by myself.
My hope is that word about the Mia books slowly spreads and more children will find my stories. As an unknown indie author that will likely take some time and I am looking at the publishing process as a marathon rather than a short sprint.
My advice to aspiring authors would be to lower their expectations, be patient, and try to enjoy the journey of writing and publishing.
For me, giving the books to my granddaughters was a precious moment and one I will never forget.
Q: In your future plans, you mentioned a third Mia book with a winter theme and your first adult novel, which explores the challenges faced by veterinarians. Can you share more about your inspiration behind these stories and what readers can expect from them?
Winter brings different joys and challenges for pet cats like Mia and certainly for wild forest animals.
I have fond memories of riding ponies through winter forests in my native Germany, building snowmen and igloos but also of getting very cold and wet at times. I am curious to see what troubles and adventures lie ahead for Mia and her friends in a wintery setting.
Until two years ago, I used to be a veterinarian, something I had dreamed of since I was four years old.
After graduating in Germany in 1994, I first worked at the vet school in Berlin before moving to England into general practice.
I loved my job and worked full-time for many years but in the end had to walk away because I struggled to cope, probably through a mixture of burnout and disillusion with the way the profession has changed over the years.
Q: Lastly, can you share a sneak peek or a favorite excerpt from Mia Fights Back that would give readers a taste of the adventure awaiting them in the book?
Choosing just one was hard 😊.
Mia was furious. She hated Walter. There was no need to throw rubbish and sharp wire into the forest. Would the animals be able to help Dina? Opa had sounded very worried and he wasn’t one to worry normally. Mia felt icy cold fear creeping into her chest, making it difficult to breathe. She tried to swallow her fear, pushing it deep down into her belly. She had to find a way to save her friend…
For more with Jessica, make sure to check out her socials!
Happy reading! ❤️