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Saturday, May 08, 2010

Author Chat: An Interview with Ashley Hansen Bigler

Hi Ashley! Welcome to Bloggin' 'bout Books.

Me: If it's not too personal, can you tell me a little about your path to adoption? What made you decide to adopt?

AHB: After years of infertility and the heartache that goes along with that, I came to a cross-roads of either spending lots of money to do IVF procedures without a promise of it working, or giving up on the idea of having a child naturally and moving my focus toward adoption. After much prayer, I decided that it didn’t matter how my children get here, only THAT they get here. So we stopped trying to get pregnant and set our minds on adoption. Once I made that decision, I finally had hope. I could actually see light at the end of the tunnel for the first time and I was happy.

Me: You said you wrote ONCE UPON A TIME because you couldn't find "the perfect book" about adoption to read to your daughter. What does your book say that other books didn't? When you were writing the book, what ideas/themes were you most passionate about getting across to your readers?

AHB: I was looking for a book that helped my daughter (and all adopted children) to see that their adoption journey was orchestrated by a caring Heavenly Father who loved them. I was most passionate about giving adopted children a feeling of being wanted and loved by everyone involved. Birthmothers are not usually mentioned in adoption stories. How could there even be an adoption story without a birthmother? It was important to me to have my daughter know how hard it was for her birthmother to make an adoption plan.

Me: This is a similar question, but what do you think adopted children need to know about themselves? What do you think the general public needs to know about adoption?

AHB: Adopted children need to know that their journey is a spiritual one and that even though they didn’t grow in their mommy’s tummy, they are as much their real child as if they had been. I’m glad that adoption is no longer taboo around the community. My children actually feel sad for their friends that aren’t adopted because they feel pretty special.

Me: How have readers - especially those within the adoption community - responded to your book?

AHB: It has actually been received better than I expected. My favorite quote was from a grandchild of a reader. She said, “Grandma, will you read me this book because every time Mom reads it to me, she cries.” I actually hear stuff like that a lot. Not that I want my readers to cry, but it does mean that it must have brought back all the wonderful memories of their adoption story and that’s what I was hoping for. The original title for my book was Happy Tears: An Adoption Story, but I later found out that there was another book by that name already in print.

Me: Tell me a little about the art in ONCE UPON A TIME. You said illustrator Amy Hintze allowed you to "photograph my vision for each page" - how did that work exactly?

AHB: As I wrote this book, I had a vision of what each page would look like. I cannot draw at all so the idea of doing the art myself was out of the question. I spent days going through books looking at illustrations to see the style that I wanted. As soon as I came across I Chose You, which was illustrated by Amy Hintze, I knew I had found the illustrator for my book. Her artwork was so real and so beautiful. It took a few days to track her down, but when I did and she said she would love to work with me on my book, I was ecstatic. Wait, that wasn’t your question. =) Amy likes to use photos as models for her paintings and since she lives close enough to me, we decided to work together to create the pictures. Because this is my daughter’s story, I wanted her to be the main character. So we spent several days setting the scene for each page. Her paintings are amazing. Although she has never adopted, she captured the emotion of each person as if she had been there to feel it. I couldn’t be happier with the outcome.

Me: One of the most unique aspects of your book is its question-and-answer format. Why did you decide to write the story this way?

AHB: I didn’t actually set out to have it written that way. I knew what I wanted it to say and the message that I wanted to share. I just didn’t know the best way to do that (I’m not a writer by trade). After about three tries, I finally came up with this format. I was really happy with the dialog and the way it flowed. Plus, it is a conversation I have had with my daughter several times so it made it feel more real.

Me: Tell me about writing ONCE UPON A TIME. Did you outline the story or did the words just come to you? Did the story require a lot of revision? How did you decide which information to include and which to leave out?

AHB: I knew the basics of the story. That part was easy. The hard part was making it fun for children to read while still getting the message across. It was also hard staying in the word number/ page number guidelines of children’s picture books. I did have to revise it several times because it just didn’t “feel” right. 32 pages took me 4 years to write! That tells you how much a struggled with it. I wanted ALL of the information to be included and that was hard to do in only 32 pages. But once I started with the last draft, I knew it was right. It really just flowed at that point.

Me: You've said that you love children's literature. What are your favorite books to read to your children?

AHB: Wow, so many, but if I had to name my all-time favorites they would be: Goodnight Moon; Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day; There’s a Nightmare in my Closet; Ira Sleeps Over; Who’s Making That Smell?; Hop on Pop; If you see a Kitten; Where the Wild Things Are

Me: What are you working on right now?

AHB: Well, right now, my husband and I are about to adopt a 6-year-old boy from Taiwan. I hope to be traveling in the next few months to bring him home. I told myself while publishing Once Upon a Time: An Adoption Story that if it went well, I would write another book about an international adoption. I’ve been gathering information and taking notes about this journey that we’re on in the hopes of using it for my next book. We’ll just have to see what happens with the reception of this book first.

Me: If you could send one message about adoption out to the world, what would it be and why?

AHB: I’m sad when I hear people say that adopted children were “given away” or “given up” by their birthmothers. I have sat with a wonderful young girl on her last night with her new baby boy before placing that child into the arms of his adoptive mother. I have seen the pain that they feel in doing what they know is best for their child whom they love deeply. Their decision to place is a total sacrifice on their part. My message is that adoption is a loving choice and that the Lord helps build eternal families through loving birthmothers who are following the Spirit to do what is best for their unborn child.

Me: Thanks so much, Ashley!

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