Wednesday, December 9, 2009

"The Story Behind the Story"--an Author Interviewed: Mary Jo Nickum

Introducing author Mary Jo Nickum...

"The Story Behind the Story, an Author Interviewed" Q & A session is my new measure to help the world of independent authors and publishers. If you have released your own book and are looking for ways to promote your efforts, your book and your soul as the creator of your work, contact me HERE to book your online interview on this blog. Author Mary Jo Nickum


Q. Let's start by introducing yourself.
My name is Mary Nickum. I was born in Indiana and grew up on a small farm in northern Wisconsin. “Mom’s Story, A Child Learns About MS” is my first book for children. I’ve had multiple sclerosis (MS) for 30 years.

Q. What genre is Mom’s Story? Who is your ideal audience?
Mom’s Story is a nonfiction chapter book. It is designed for 8 to 11 year olds. But, the ideal audience also includes the entire family of the MS patient, relatives and friends.

Q. In 150 words or less, what’s your book about?
Mom’s Story; A Child Learns About MS tells the story of a young girl who sees her mother with some frightening health problems and learns she has MS but she will not die from it. This book is a compassionate, accessible and easy to understand account of symptoms, search for help, diagnosis and adaptation to this heart-wrenching disease. Amy fears the worst, which is common when one is confronted by the unknown. Her best friend, Kayla, doesn’t quite understand why Amy is so worried. Amy’s older sister, Kelly is concerned and does her best to help, while older brother, Tony, tries to deny the whole situation. Information is the key to allaying much of her fear along with understanding from parents, adult friends and her older sister.

Q: Apart from being an author, who are you in relation to your gifts?
I am first and foremost a reader. I decorate my house with books rather than having just one room, a library, for my books. They’re all over, all around. It follows then, I suppose, that I am a professional librarian and I was an undergraduate English education major in college.

Q: Of all the stories you could have written…why did you choose to write this particular book?
This was my first foray into writing for children. I took the advice of several pieces that I’d read about writing for children, Kathleen Kudlinski, especially. They all say, “Write what you know.” Well, I’ll tell you, having had MS for 30 years, I know about MS. So, I thought, aha! a book for children whose parent and the whole family, is starting down that strange, unknown path. As I began to write, I realized the story had been in my head and waiting to be put into words for years.

Q: How much of your personal psyche, your struggle and your insecurities are hidden within the characters of this particular story? (Please elaborate)
A lot and I’m not sure it’s very well hidden. I think there’s a little bit of me in all of the characters. Mom realizes there’s something wrong but doesn’t want to worry everyone. Dad is trying to be brave and be the pillar of the family. Kelly is caring and nursing. Tony is in denial, a common situation. And, Amy is just scared and is having a hard time getting anyone to comfort her and console her, tell her everything is going to be ok. The first three chapters are right out of my own life as is the trip to the ER. That’s biographical. The rest isn’t. I didn’t get an answer so soon. It was 10 years between my trip to the ER with an “eye problem” and my MS diagnosis.

Q. Apart from writing stories, in which direction do you see your career heading and what will you bring to the literary world outside producing new stories.
I will continue writing and editing. I currently write magazine articles and edit a magazine in the world of aquaculture, fish culture. My main mission, and this includes my children’s writing, is Science for the Public. I will continue to try to make science reader-friendly. I also enjoy working with writers’ critique groups. I currently lead two. One is completely children’s the other is all genres.

Q. What writer influenced you the most?
That’s tough. I’ve been influenced by many. In my children’s writing, I think Kathleen Kudlinski, author of several biographies including Helen Keller and Mother Therese of the Women of our Time Series©, was the most influential. Other authors are Tony Hillerman, Margaret Atwood and Karen Armstrong.

Q. What has been your greatest inner struggle to overcome with relation to your literary career?
Taking criticism, which I think, is true of many writers. I’ve struggled to overcome it and, I think, mostly conquered it, if the criticism is constructive. Each piece of writing is a part of me. Poorly constructed criticism is just as painful as if someone were criticizing my child for the way he’s dressed.

Q. What words would you like to leave the world when you are gone?
“Mary had a unique ability to make complicated scientific subjects understandable to people, especially young children.”

Mom's Story by Mary Jo Nickum
Q. Where can folks learn more about your books and events?
I have a website, and three blogs, two on blogspot, and one on Wordpress, I have two facebook pages and I have a page on Jacketflap,, a social network of children’s writers. Mom’s Story is available on my website, at, Amazon and kindle, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords,

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~Bobby Ozuna

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