Danielle Soucy Mills grew up in Massachusetts in a small city by the sea. Ever since she was little, she loved to write story after story and by 5th grade she began writing her first “novel.” But Danielle soon realized that it was very difficult to finish a book at her age because she simply did not know enough about life—though someday, she knew, her books would be written.
Danielle’s second passion, the sport of gymnastics, also began at a young age. She loved to flip around her house, on her swing set, and anywhere else she could think of until her mother signed her up for gymnastics lessons.
Eventually, her path led her to Rhode Island College in Providence where she worked toward her BA in English/Creative Writing, while also competing on their gymnastics team. Danielle later headed out west to receive her MFA in Creative Writing at Chapman University in sunny Southern California, driven by a yearning for warmer weather and palm trees.
During her journey across coasts, Danielle received insight for her novel through a series of synchronistic events and went on to complete, “Illusion of an Ending” for her thesis. During this time Danielle also began writing her children’s book, Tina Tumbles, inspired by her childhood and many of the young gymnasts she coached throughout the years. She now resides in San Diego with her husband, Jesse, where she continues to coach gymnastics and write anything from poetry, to children’s books, to blog entries, to novels for all ages.
1. How did you go about getting your book published?
In mid-2010, I was elated when a small independent publishing company, which I had discovered through facebook, picked up my children’s book, Tina Tumbles. It was the first publishing company I had sent any of my manuscripts to. What I loved most about the company was that they allowed me to find an illustrator and to work closely with them in order to truly capture my vision.
When children’s illustrator, Kimberly Soderberg, finished the illustrations she absolutely went beyond anything I could have imagined for the book. It was quite amazing for me actually, to see my words and my characters come to life. My original goal was to get the book out around the 2012 Olympics, a time when the popularity of gymnastics rises dramatically. But I had no idea about the long, grueling process of book publication. By 2013, my book was still not yet in print.
That summer, fate led me to a Publishers and Writers of San Diego meeting. I heard best-selling, award winning children’s book author and international speaker, Sheri Fink, talk about her road to very successfully publishing her children’s books independently. All five of the children’s books in her brand, The Whimsical World of Sheri Fink went on to be #1 on Amazon. Several times, I almost broke down in tears listening to her incredibly moving story!
By the end of the presentation, I had a strange inkling that maybe I too was meant to walk this path of independent publication. However, it went against much of the advice we had learned in graduate school. Find an agent, perfect your query, I had been told, but there was just something exhilarating about taking the process of book publication into my own hands.
Then one day I was asked to fill in at the in-home daycare, San Raphael Spanish Academy, where I used to work. I decided to bring my Tina Tumbles “dummy book” printed on computer paper. After the first read the kids chanted, “Again! Again!” and by the end of the second read they were showing me their cartwheels in the park. One boy asked to take the book home with him. After that day, I knew I had to get the book out as soon as I could. I had officially made the very difficult decision to continue the book publication process on my own.
The funny thing was that I did not at all feel alone. All of my life, I have always been on some sort of “team.” As a kid, I competed in gymnastics on a team and then went on to compete in college, which was even more team-oriented. As an adult, I continue to coach kids on a team. It is through my many years of being involved with teamwork that I have realized how very important it is to form a strong bond with those around you, and to work together in order to be successful.
I have learned that author-illustrator teams are no different. Together, my illustrator and I have worked to transform this book into the best it could possibly be, and we couldn’t be more excited to finally share it with the world.
Our Kickstarter campaign launched January 10th and extends through February 10th. During this time we must reach our funding goal, which will help finance the first print run of the book, as well as other aspects of publishing like ISBN and copyright. If our project is successfully funded, the book will be released in the spring of 2014.
2. How has your life changed since you found out that your book would be published?
There’s this quote by C. S. Lewis, “Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes but when you look back everything is different?” Right now, I sort of feel like I’m doing the same thing I always did. I sit at my computer. I write a lot. I connect with people through facebook and email. I became a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and also joined an online critique group. I’m sure that once the book is printed and I’m holding it in my hands, I will look back on the process and realize that things have indeed changed—that it is not just this little dream I’ve had since I was a kid, but that it’s a reality, even though I did not take the traditional route to get there.
3. How will you now promote the book?
My illustrator designed bookmarks, which we have been handing out to local gymnastics facilities as well as libraries, stores, schools, and people we meet out and about. I could not help but share a bookmark with a crying girl waiting in line at a department store with her mom, or the girl who loved my sparkly shoes in the grocery store. We also printed posters that we will hang up at gyms and around our cities to let people know more about the Kickstarter campaign. So far, I have sent bookmarks to former teammates and gyms on the East coast from New Hampshire, to Massachusetts, to Rhode Island, and then to the illustrator in Ohio. After it’s printed, the book will be available to anyone via Amazon. We have also done a lot of promoting through our Tina Tumbles facebook page, which links to Tina’s Twitter page as well.
4. Are you planning to create other “Tina” books?
Before I sent out Tina Tumbles to publishers, I got the idea of writing a sequel with the same character, except the story was about Tina losing her tooth. So far it’s been through my critique group a few times. I’ve also gotten many ideas from the kids that I coach for new Tina books such as Tina goes to School and Tina’s First Competition. I have yet to write those stories, but at some point I plan to see where the inspiration leads!
5. According to the biography on your website, you rely on intuition and “the idea that however trivial each and every moment seemed, all events in one’s life were significant; every occurrence played an important role in the direction one took during their lifetime, and there were no coincidences.” How does your intuition and your belief that there are no coincidences play out in your creative work?
I remember initially working on my very first novel for school and wondering where the heck it was going next. I know many authors map out their books before they write them, but for me, I typically rely on spurts of inspiration, which I jot down in notebooks. I still have the page in my notebook where I first scribbled my ideas for Tina Tumbles.
I strongly believe that the concepts “intuition” and “inspiration” can be used interchangeably for all aspects of life, especially writing. Most of the time I realize that what I’ve written has already set me up for what’s going to happen later on in my stories. One scene at the end of my novel had basically written itself into the beginning of the story.
All in all, I look at my life and my writing the same way—I trust that everything will work out for the best and that I will always be lead to where I need go, and that coincidences are reassurances we’re on the right track. Every single little experience in life, good or bad, big or small, is a valuable part of our story.
6. On your website you employ the Aristotle quote, “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” In what way(s) has your creative writing helped you to know yourself better?
I truly believe our genuine passions are revealed during our childhood, when we are young and carefree and have not yet been molded by the constraints of society. Looking back, I’m pretty sure I knew what I wanted to do with my life by age 5. My two favorite things—books and gymnastics—are as much a part of my life today as they were then, although in very different ways.
In my younger years, I remember being frustrated with gymnastics; I threatened to quit many times, but there was just something deep inside that would not let the sport go. In college, I started out at the University of Rhode Island with an undeclared major. My parents urged me to major in Sports Medicine since I loved gymnastics, but I simply could not ignore my inclination to major in English. When I transferred schools to compete gymnastics, I found that my new school, Rhode Island College, had a really great creative writing program. The rest was history.
Writing has also helped me to work through my sensitivity. I was extremely sensitive as a child, and I realize now that writing allowed me to channel my emotions into words and stories and characters. In high school, I wrote mostly poetry to release a lot of my teenage angst. I took a class called Writing for Publication, as scary as it sounded at the time, but it helped me to work through my confidence issues as well.
Through my writing, I have learned how so very important it is to follow your heart, your gut instincts. I wake up every day now, my heart happy. I know I am exactly where I should be, in this moment. And for moments later on, my goal is to write many books that help the world become a more positive, happy place.
Visit Danielle’s author page at: www.daniellesoucymills.com
To support the Tina Tumbles Kickstarter page, visit: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/tinatumbles/tina-tumbles
To follow Tina Tumbles on facebook, visit: https://www.facebook.com/TinaTumbles