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A Q&A with Children's Book Authors, Vernon Gibbs & Steven Gray

Vernon D. Gibbs

Vernon D. Gibbs

Steven T. Gray

Steven T. Gray

Thanks for the time out of your busy schedules to allow our readers to learn more about your contributions to the visual arts and literary worlds.

RW) You have had two highly acclaimed and successful Children’s books out with ‘When Good Fruit Goes Bad’ and more recently with ‘I’m Dreaming of a Brown Christmas’. How would you describe your working partnership, is it co-writer and illustrators, or you do the illustrations Steve, and you are the writer Vernon?

Steve & Vernon) We are co-writers on all these projects, it is just that sometimes one of us takes the lead more than the other. For the fruit book, I came up with the initial idea, storyboards and did the drawings in traditional pen and paper which Steve then colored, edited and formatted on the computer for publishing. He also helped with extensive re-writes to make the story flow and rhyme better. For the Christmas book, Steve did all the art and most of the writing, while I helped with some of the layouts, writing and gave input on the images.

RW) How did the idea to write and illustrate “When Good Fruit Goes Bad” come about? What is your message with the book for kids and parents?

S&V) It was based on an incident from my son Justin who wanted to throw away a banana that had a little brown spot on it and I told him it could be used in a smoothie. I thought there was a real story there about what might happen when good fruit goes bad combined with lessons about eating healthy, creating less waste and knowing that there is still value in something even with a few bumps, bruises or brown spots on it. Lessons I think all parents can apply to their own lives and pass along to their kids when it comes to valuing ourselves but also about eating healthy.

RW) “I’m Dreaming of a Brown Christmas” was your next book? How did the concept for that come about, and what do hope the book accomplishes for its readers?

S&V) Steve was inspired by the classic song “White Christmas” and his desire to re-imagine the song with brown images as the focus. In the food, in the gifts and in the people. The title of the original song refers to snow, but we wanted to put out a book that showed black and brown people enjoying Christmas and the holidays with people of all shades. It celebrates the beauty of brown, but is still diverse in the characters and people represented in the drawings. We hope readers see a piece of themselves in the images, but also get a glimpse into a world that maybe they are not familiar with as well and like what they see.

RW) Who were some of your influences that made you want to pursue the work that you now do, and if what other children’s books are out there now that you admire and would recommend to read?

S&V) We look at a lot of books, everything from silly series like Big Nate by Lincoln Pierce and the Dogman Books by Dave Pilkey to ones with a more serious and historical one and painted art like the 1619 Project :Born on the Water by Nikole Hannah-Jones and Renee Watson and the classic Brown is a Beautiful Color by Jean Carey Bond. For us, Influence can come from anywhere, songs, books and just our daily lives.

brown-christmas
brown-christmas

RW) Is what you do as creatives just targets stories for children, or do you use other genres for more adult themed stories?

S&V) Right now our focus is on content for young children and families, but we are developing ideas for middle school and young readers as well.

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RW) Is there a plan to turn anything you have written into an animation series or movie, and if not what you have already published, any plan to create something new for film or a series?

S&V) We did a pilot in 2021 based around concepts from “When Good Fruit Goes Bad” that includes animation, puppetry, and original songs where we did all the elements. The writing, animation, and editing. We hope to build on this more in the future and we hope we can turn more of our books and ideas into animation.

RW) What has been one of your biggest rewards with having published these books so far?

S&V) Being able to put out 2 books has been a huge reward for us, not to mention having the printing of Christmas book full-funded by our Kickstarter last July and even being carried in Barnes and Noble in NJ last December. More importantly the positive feedback we get from friends, family and sometimes complete strangers about our work lets us know we are on the right track and makes us want to keep putting out content people enjoy and are proud to share with others.

RW) Where can people purchase your books, and where can they follow you on social media?

S&V) People can go to our site www.cuzzosmedia.com for links to purchase “When Good Fruit Goes Bad” and “I’m Dreaming of a Brown Christmas” and learn more about us.

They can also follow us on social media on Instagram @cuzzosmedia @coolminivandad and @stvnlovemusic

RW) What would you like to have accomplished in the next 5 years with your book creations?

S&V) We just want to keep putting out fun, creative family content that people will enjoy and be able to see in bookstores, online and on tv and maybe even on the big screen.

I want to thank you again for sharing with us more about who you are and what you are accomplishing. We look forward to many more great books to come from you.

brown-christmas

We just want to keep putting out fun, creative family content that people will enjoy and be able to see in bookstores, online and on tv and maybe even on the big screen.

— Steve & Vernon

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