Saturday, August 16, 2014

Nelson Suit: A True Renaissance Man

I have decided it would be interesting from time to time to conduct interviews or invite a few guest bloggers that I think you will find enjoyable and who will provide valuable insight into the literary world. With that in mind, I shall be conducting my very first interview with Mr. Nelson Suit. We had the pleasure of becoming acquainted when I interviewed with Nelson is one of two editors for the site that focuses on connecting authors, illustrators, and readers together under "one roof" to enjoy informative and interesting articles on today's belletristic findings. I thought it would be fun to "turn the tables" per se on Nelson and interview him for a change! 

Before I begin the interview, I would like to give you a brief introduction as to why I classify him as a true Renaissance Man. As mentioned above, he is an Editor at, studied history and literature at Yale, is an author, illustrator, Attorney-at-Law, and a family man. Over the past few months it has been my honor to get to know him and I look forward to continuing to connect with him not only as an author colleague, but also as a friend. 

Please join me in welcoming, Nelson Suit.

1.       As I stated above, I consider you to be a true Renaissance man. Your biography is quite impressive.  As a “working” author myself, I know the difficulty of time constraints. How do you manage to juggle so many different aspects of your life on a day-to-day basis and still find time to write? What do you find to be your biggest obstacle other than time itself? 

I don’t think I do any better than most people on juggling the things that matter. In the end, there is only so much time and you need to decide what is important to spend time on.

In terms of trying to be more productive, several things seem to work for me. One is to have a sense as to what a project might look like in the end, to have an image in my head of what I’d like the end product to be. Second, I try to set some deadlines – that seems to be a catalyst for actually getting myself going. These could be long-term or short-term. Sometimes, making a mental or pencil list of things I want to accomplish the next day is very helpful when I actually want to push myself to get some things done.

And the third is sort of counterintuitive. I like to actually take time out to go on a walk, more especially in the winter time and if it can be among trees and birds and such all the better. Such lazy walks seem to do wonders for thinking through problems or coming up with new ideas.

There are obstacles other than time itself, but I suppose my real challenge (in finding balance) is simply forgetting to be grateful for the time that I already have to do what I do. It is so easy to be frustrated when I don’t have enough time during the day to work on a story or an illustration (because my other work becomes busy or there are events to take care of for the kids), but I know when I think about it that I am really lucky to have the time to do the things I am already doing.

Sure, I cannot produce a new book every three months, but it may be I don’t really need to. It might be better to produce a book every year and have time to attend my son’s soccer games for example. But it is easy as I said to just be frustrated at that moment when things seem to “interrupt” the writing. That sense of frustration is an obstacle to achieving work-life balance. I am trying to do better. 

2.       Your biography states that you are a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). As a children’s author, how has this membership benefited you personally and would you recommend this organization to other children’s authors?

I have not really taken full advantage of the membership in SCBWI. I joined in order to begin to network with and learn from other children’s writers and illustrators. I think that is important. In whatever field you want to pursue, it is important to understand the many facets of what to look out for on a day-to-day basis and who better to learn that from than the folks who practice the craft?

I’ve met a number of SCBWI members and I am happy for that. What I haven’t done is to go to one of the SCBWI conferences. In part, the delay has been due to my trying to find the time between work (that is, the work that pays the bills outside of book writing) and family (two small kids in the house) and in part I suppose my wanting to work a little more on my own writing and illustrations so that I wouldn’t look so bad when I finally meet some of these talented people. The conferences are something I am looking forward to.

My own sense is that the SCBWI membership is more aligned with traditional publishing. I could be wrong and things could be changing. I have always been more inclined toward publishing independently, but I still find the resources SCBWI has on traditional publishing to be worthwhile to know.

I think it is something that a writer or illustrator should try out and see if being a member is helpful for her or him based on what that writer or illustrator is doing. If it doesn’t work out, you are not committed for life (although there is an annual membership fee). I have enjoyed being part of SCBWI. It seems to me to be a good place to make a friend who does what you do – if you are a children’s writer or illustrator.

3.       With your third children’s book in the Tilley Pond Mouse series coming out, can you give us a brief history of your first two books Els Oot and the Mapmaker and Els Oot and the Baby Dragon, and what we can expect in the third book Els Oot and the Lost City? What is it about this series that you hope will appeal to the child within us all? 

Thanks for asking about the Tilley Pond Mouse books. These books originated as stories that I told my son when he was younger. Each night, I would tell him a part of the story and I strung it out over many, many nights, trying to end each night with a bit of a cliff-hanger (much like Korean TV dramas).

Sometimes the stories would incorporate something that might have happened during the day or something my son was interested in at the time. It was our nightly conversation together and he always asked for more. Eventually, the stories became three books, all centered around a little mouse named Els who travels through the wilds as an apprentice mapmaker. Somewhere between the first telling of the stories and writing them down for the books, my daughter was born and interestingly her character has also influenced the retelling of the stories.

The first book, Els Oot and the Mapmaker, tells of how Els the mouse leaves Tilley Pond in search of a lost mapmaker named Tonk. He finds new friendships and journeys through rivers and forest and meadows in his first trip away from home – and finds his calling in life. The second book sees Els as an apprentice mapmaker who tries to help a baby dragon travel back to her home in the Golden Mountains. It’s a tale of friendship, perseverance and loyalty.

The new book, the third in the series, is titled, Els Oot and the Lost City. This is likely the final book in the series and tells of the journey Els makes to find not only a legendary lost city built in the trees of a tupelo swamp but a bit of the past of his mentor, Tonk (the mapmaker of Tilley Pond).

The books revolve around a couple of themes: friendship and wonder (especially discovering the wonders of the natural world that the characters travel through). I think young readers especially like the friendships that Els cultivates, the mystery and adventure of long journeys and also the light humor in the dialogue. It is a world devoid of electronics, a mostly analog world where value is placed on invention, imaginative play, music and the arts.

Each book can be read as a standalone book, but Lost City is the third book in sequence in terms of time. You could read Lost City first and if you like it you could read Mapmaker and Baby Dragon as prequels! 

[NOTE: Mr. Suit is offering a free Kindle download of Els Oot and the Lost City on August 19th! Don't miss out on this opportunity to download a copy for a child in your life---or even yourself! Children's books are magical at any age.]

4.       Finally, if you were to give one piece of advice to would-be children’s authors what would it be and why? What would you advise against?  

This is a great question. My advice to a would-be children’s author is to not be afraid to make connections with others – whether this is via an organization like SCWBI or a writing group or social media like Twitter or Facebook. Writing doesn’t have to be something you do alone. There is a lot of benefit (especially if you decide you want to indie publish) in collaborating with others, not the least of which is that it can actually be more fun.

I have enjoyed meeting with you, for example, and all the other children’s literature and indie authors. I learn from our conversations and by following and reading what other authors like myself are doing – in terms of writing as well as the many other aspects of publishing.

I would likely advise against going into children’s writing if it were solely to make money, in particular if you were to independently publish. It is a difficult field that way. First, children’s books are largely still print-oriented. Thus, printing costs still make up a large part of the costs for indie published children’s books. Also, other children’s authors have noted that an average children’s book (even traditionally published and moderately popular ones) sell in much lower quantities than, say, young adult or romance books or even fantasy and sci-fi. Third, the actual reader may not be the person buying the book. Thus, the marketing of the book may rely to marketing to parent groups and to schools, which require not only additional thought in marketing but complicates how you actually write. There are better genres to pursue if the goal is more economic in nature.

Most of the children’s authors I know write (and sometimes illustrate) children’s books more as a calling. I think of my children’s writing in that way too. The writing sort of chooses you.

You can connect with Nelson at the following sites:

This concludes the interview with Nelson. I hope you enjoyed his thoughtful responses to my questions as much as I did. It is my aspiration, if you did, that you will support him in his endeavors by downloading a free copy of his book on August 19th--and if you enjoy it--that you continue to embrace him as an author and illustrator.

Thank you for joining me on another adventure. Until the next time--never stop reaching for your dreams,

K. Lamb

Photo credit:


  1. Thank you K. for your thoughtful questions, kind introduction and the warm invitation to be here! I enjoyed that chat. :-)

  2. It was a pleasure having you on the blog, Nelson! You were an interesting interview and I always enjoy our chats.

    I wish you success with your children's book series and I hope everyone takes advantage of your free download offer while it lasts.