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Interview with Nichola Zacher

Nichola Zacher

She's a multi-published author of inspiring and enchanting children’s books featuring her real-life dog, Marley. Their adventures together have delighted children and parents alike around the globe, and she continues to spread the message of love and acceptance through her charming tales.

She and Marley live in St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada. She was an early childhood teacher, but nothing compared to taking care of her father while he was alive and caring for Marley. It has been her life that inspired the Marley’s Dream book series.

Q.1 Tell us something about yourself not many people know?
As an infant, I was required to have surgery on my skull. Unfortunately, I was born without a soft spot on my skull, and doctors had to put a shunt in. They performed the surgery in London, Ontario, and back then, it was the first time a procedure like that had been performed. They have since done many more surgeries of that kind. That was my first adventure in this life, and I have gone on to experience many more through the years.

Q.2 When should we expect your next book? What will it be about?
The next book in the Marley’s Dream series will be released within the coming weeks. It will be a Thanksgiving book, which naturally focuses on the importance of gratitude. It’s essential for children and all of us to recognize the power of counting our blessings.

It’s easy to go through the day, especially a tough one, thinking only about the things that have gone wrong or the things that are challenging us. But I believe that when people pause and think about all they have and what is going right, it can shift a negative mood instantly. I firmly believe that’s a gift that comes quite naturally to children.

Q.3 What made you write Marley The Dreamer?
Some time ago, my father was diagnosed with dementia. It was a challenging time, but I stayed by his side the entire time and continued having adventures and making new memories with him. Then, an old boyfriend suggested getting a puppy for my father. And while at first, my father was not keen on the idea, he eventually changed his mind. So a few months later, I went to meet a puppy, Marley, on a beautiful nearby farm, and my father enjoyed cuddling with Marley daily.

Sadly, that all changed with the pandemic outbreak, and I received news that my father was ill. I learned of his diagnosis, and the doctor told me to start planning for the end of his life. It was as if things had come full circle, just as when I was a baby, and the doctors told my father that I would be a vegetable, and my father replied, “I don't believe you! My daughter will live a full life….” So I told my father’s doctor, “I am going to make sure he lives life to the fullest and help him face every challenge.” And that is precisely what I did, until the day he passed away from covid. 

All of my experiences have helped shape the woman I am today. And my outlook, much like Marley's, has always been one of positivity and love. That’s why I created the Marley book series, to spread that message. And I look forward to helping children learn and grow by continuing to share Marley's Dream with stories of love, and connection, and adventure.

Q.4 What actually goes on when an author and illustrator meet?
The Marley stories contain a lot of real-life photographs, which is a joy and something I felt was necessary for the books. With Marley being a real dog and one full of such spunk and vitality, hosting photoshoots with her is part of what makes the Marley books so magical. But, again, it’s Marley and my true nature and personalities shining through.

However, I collaborated with an illustrator for my coloring and illustrated book Marley and Shelley’s Playdate. It was an enjoyable experience, one where she shared her vision for the books with the illustrator and trusted that they would carry out that vision.

Q.5 What do you love most about writing stories for children?
For me, a considerable part of the enjoyment is the fact that I get to collaborate with Marley herself. She’s an extraordinary little dog, a fact that everyone who meets her can attest to. Dreaming up new adventures for Marely with the people she is closest to her has become one of her favorite pastimes. Additionally, I'm also a former preschool educator, and so writing stories for children perfectly bridges the gap between two of the things I enjoy the most; spending time with Marley and educating young children.

Q.6 Why do you think children must develop a love of reading?
Stories are at the root of everything we see and learn and know. They inform and entertain; they spark the imagination and foster inquiry. The love of reading, when instilled at a young age, can become a lifelong pleasure that will spread into every facet of life. Regardless of what interests a child eventually pursues, it will only be made that much richer and more fulfilling with the benefit of a vivid imagination. Reading is one of the very best methods to enhance that.

Q.7 What’s your writing schedule while you’re working?
The writing happens after the photography has been shot. My partner and I then go over the images and decide which will be included in the books. From that point, I set my own imagination loose, crafting new adventures and stories for Marely based on her chosen theme. I work at it a little each day until it’s fully formed. And then begins that task of sending it out to be proofread and formatted. Once that is complete, the marketing starts, as do plans for the next book in the series.

Q.8 How many books have you written? Which one is your favorite?
They are all my favorites. It’s just too difficult to select only one, as they are each very special to me in a different way.

Q.9 Which children’s book most inspired you as a child?
There are so many books that inspired me. To choose just one is like asking a parent to choose which child is their favorite. Each and every story shaped and contributed to my childhoods, and I remember them all very fondly. Because of that, I find it far too difficult to choose just one.

Q.10 How do you select the name of your characters?
I'm fortunate because my characters are real-world characters. So I simply use real-world names. Marley and Nichola included!

Q.11 Do you have any advice for aspiring children’s book authors?
Yes, my best advice to budding authors is to start writing and to keep writing. Whatever you practice just continues to get better and stronger. But if you never begin, you can never grow. I apply that advice to every area of my life. I believe everyone has stories inside of them and that the world is waiting for them to be shared.

Q.12 Do you believe in writer’s block? If yes, how do you deal with it?
Sometimes, you need to step away from a project for a few moments to let the ideas start flowing again. For me, this means it's time to head outside and play with Marley; a long walk on the beach is usually just the thing to ignite the creative flow once more.

Q.13 Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with good or bad ones?
I read some of my reviews when time permits, but I do not stress over them like many authors. I'm aware that no one loves everything and that there will always be some people who do not resonate with my stories. I'm far more focused on the people and children who love my stories and who look forward to seeing what adventures Marley will be up to next.

Q.14 Do you have any unique and quirky writing habits?
I enjoy taking a long walk on the beach with Marley before diving into any of my creative writing tasks, so I suppose that could be considered a quirky writing habit.

Q.15 Outside of your family members, name one entity supporting your commitment to becoming a published author?
I have a great support system, and my good friend Shelley Jenkins has been an essential part of my book's success. Having positive encouragement from those around you is a tremendous gift for any author.

Q.16 How will you describe your life before and after getting published?
My life was always full and joyful, and now as a published author, it’s that much more positive. I enjoy all of the events that come with being an author. However, book signings, and readings, meeting fans, and receiving fan letters and drawings from children everywhere are only a few of the most delightful changes in my life.

Q.17 What three things readers should expect from your books?
A. 1. 
A story based on a real-life dog who genuinely loves everyone.
2. Something fun and imaginative.
3. Always written and created with lots of love, affection, and gratitude. Every time.

Q.18 Which famous person, living or dead, would you like to meet and why?
I would love to meet Judy Bloom, as she has always been my very favorite children’s author and favorite adult author, too, for that matter. I genuinely love all of the stories Judy Bloom weaves together for any age.

Q.19 What is your favorite book (apart from children's ones) and why?
My favorite adult book is Wifey by Judy Bloom, the first book she wrote for adults. I was so excited to read her very first publication writing for a different age audience, and I loved it. Moments like that are encouraging to try new things and step outside of one’s comfort zone.

Q.20 Share the experience of your journey so far?
It has been an amazing journey so far. I have enjoyed thoroughly meeting new people through my books and events. And I loved working with brilliant and very talented friends on various projects. Most of all, I loved being able to share my father’s story, and the unconditional love he always provided.

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