Note: This article is the second in a series of interviews with top indie children’s book authors who have found success through Amazon’s self-publishing platforms.
Children’s books are amongst the most popular genres in the market and two best-selling series, “The Gryphon Chronicles” and “The 50 States of Fear,” certainly add to sales. What many people do not know is that the author–E.G. Foley–is actually two people, a husband and wife team of Eric (the “E” in E.G.) and Gael (the “G”) Foley.
Husband-and-wife writing team E.G. Foley have been finishing each other’s sentences since they were teens. Today, they combine their words to pen to create a two book series. Eric and Gael melded their impressive expertise, he as a middle school teacher, and she as a best-selling romance author, in a winning collaboration that continues to produce titles resonating with their young audience, while keeping them on the bestseller lists. Eric and Gael are well versed in the benefits and challenges of working together as a couple – while managing to keep things creative and fun, both for themselves and their readers.
Eric and Gael live in Pennsylvania. Like his kid readers, Eric can’t sit still for too long! A bit of a renaissance man, he’s picked up hobbies from kenpo to carpentry to classical guitar over the years, and holds multiple degrees in math, science, and education. He treated patients as a chiropractor for nearly a decade, then switched careers to venture into the wild-and-woolly world of teaching middle school, where he was often voted favorite teacher. His students helped inspire him to start dreaming up great stories for kids, until he recently switched gears again and left teaching to become a full-time writer and author entrepreneur. By contrast, Gael has had one dream all her life and has pursued it with maniacal intensity since the age of seventeen: writing fiction! After earning her Lit degree at SUNY Fredonia, she waited tables at night for nearly six years as a “starving artist” to keep her days free for honing her craft, until she finally got The Call in 1997. Today, with millions of her twenty-plus romances from Ballantine and HarperCollins sold in many languages worldwide, she’s been hitting bestseller lists regularly since 2001. Although she loves all her readers, young and old, she admits there’s just something magical about writing for children.
At the first-ever KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) Kids roundtable, some of Amazon’s leading indie kids’ book authors shared their unique and inspiring success stories, discussed their latest works and chatted about the indie children’s book landscape. Recently, the Examiner about with Eric and Gael about their experiences writing books together. They also shared their best tips and tricks for a successful creative collaboration with a partner:
Meagan Meehan (M.M.): What influenced you to become authors?
Gael Foley (G.F.): Even as a child, I wanted to be an author when I grew up! I loved reading and had so much fun telling stories of my own.
Eric Foley (E.F.): My wife talked me into it! She was a romance writer for years before she decided to tackle her first children’s novel. Though I had been her first reader, critique, and brainstorm partner for years on her romances, when it came to the kid-lit, I got more deeply involved in the creative process because after ten years of teaching middle school, my expertise was in how to keep kids engaged and engrossed, so it was the perfect pairing of our talents and skill sets.
M.M.: Growing up, what authors and illustrators inspired you?
G.F.: Lloyd Alexander (The Prydain Chronicles) & Walter Farley (The Black Stallion books)
E.F.: I wasn’t really a big reader growing up–until I discovered Stephen King in middle school! I liked the spooky stuff, and from there I was soon diving into series by the fantasy greats like, of course, Tolkien.
M.M.: How did you go about getting your first book published?
E.G.F.: We decided to self-publish our first children’s novel, “The Lost Heir” (The Gryphon Chronicles, Book 1) because at the time, Gael did not want to have the pressure of two different sets of contract deadlines from two different publishing houses. The whole point was to have fun with the project and take it at our own pace. It’s been an absolutely fascinating process, learning how to self-publish effectively on digital platforms like KDP, Nook, and Kobo, and in paperback through Createspace.
M.M.: How did you think up the idea for your series “The Gryphon Chronicles” and “The 50 States of Fear”?
E.G.F.: It’s really hard to say where inspiration and ideas come from. When you’re a writer, your brain is just wired that way—to see stories everywhere. From there, it’s all what you do with it. How you develop the initial ideas into full, rich books. The initial inspiration for The Gryphon Chronicles was Jake, the main character. We envisioned a plucky pickpocket surviving on the streets of Victorian London, and we knew there’d be magical characters involved, and the Victorian Age in England was a great era for fairy stories and all sorts of quirky, slightly steampunk ingredients. The inspiration for our funny/spooky paranormal thriller series called “50 States of Fear” came about when we noticed that our then-seven year old nephew was OBSESSED with learning trivia about America’s 50 States. Many adults reading this may have noticed that kids tend to get on this kick eventually! We gave ourselves the challenge of writing a funny but spooky “campfire tale” type of story for each State based on whatever entertaining story element is unique to that particular State. For example, witches in Massachusetts, New Orleans vampires down in Louisiana, aliens in Nevada (Area 51), Civil War ghosts in Alabama, a family of werewolves in the Rockies for Colorado. However, we’ve only got four States done so far. Only 46 more to go!
M.M.: What are your series about? What genre are they and what ages are they intended for?
E.G.F.: “The Gryphon Chronicles” is a middle grade fantasy adventure series that has proven to have wonderful adult crossover appeal, so we generally say it’s for ages 10 to 110! Technically speaking, it was pegged at a 5th grade reading level when it was accepted into the AR Program in schools, but younger kids can usually handle it if they’re strong readers. So while the writing is complex enough to entertain even adults, the content is very PG-rated and wholesome. All of our books are suitable for the whole family. “Fifty States of Fear” is an exciting paranormal adventure series set in modern America. Again, these are suitable for a wide age range as mentioned above. These ones are shorter, though, and even faster-paced, so they’re especially good for 10-14 year olds who might not be hugely into reading. I guarantee these tales will keep them entertained!
M.M.: How did you find your illustrators?
E.G.F.: Legwork! We searched through dozens of artist portfolios online until we found someone (the amazing Josh Addessi) whose work really seemed to reflect our storytelling.
M.M.: So far, how many books have you published? Which has been your favorite and why?
E.G.F.: Nine. We love them all, but if we absolutely had to pick a favorite, we’d both say RISE OF ALLIES, the most recent Gryphon book (Book 4). It’s an endless array of intrigue and unexpected mythical characters causing trouble at the magical headquarters known as Merlin Hall.
M.M.: How has collaboration been for you? Do you have any tips for how to collaborate well with a partner?
E.G.F.: Writing with a partner—especially one you love!—makes the creative process all the more fun and rewarding. We plan every story together, hash out plot points, inner conflicts, character growth arcs, and aspects of world-building, and then we pass our drafts back and forth. Gael does the first draft of the Gryphon Chronicles, then passes them to Eric. And Eric does the first draft of the 50 States books and then passes them to Gael. It’s so nice to have someone who knows your story as well as you do and really cares about making it the best it can be every step of the way. We’re finding that sometimes two heads really are better than one!
M.M.: To date, what has been the most rewarding part of being professional authors?
E.G.F.: Well, it’s a toss-up between the satisfaction of holding your published book in your hands after you’ve labored over it for months and revised it again and again, and the joy of connecting with fans who are as excited about our stories as we are. Hmm, I think the fans win that toss-up, actually. Our kid readers rock!
M.M.: What advice would you give someone who is aspiring to be an author and/or illustrator?
E.G.F.: Go for it! Your voice matters, even if there are aspects of craft or even grammar that you still need to learn. Practicing any art form is a lifelong learning process. Root yourself in the joy of creating rather than the outcome, and that will keep you from getting discouraged. Enthusiasm gives you the power to persist, and if you persist, you’ll get there eventually.
M.M.: Are there any upcoming projects or events that you would like to mention?
E.G.F.: We don’t have a release date yet or a definite title, but Book 5 in the Gryphon Chronicles is slowly-but-surely nearing completion. Jake and his friends are exploring the underwater realm of the merfolk in this one and trying to keep some lost treasures of Atlantis from falling into the wrong hands! The cover reveal is coming soon!
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You can find the Foleys on Facebook/EGFoleyAuthor or visit their website.