By: Nicole Pelletiere “A is for Apple, B is for Bear….” For ages, children’s books have shared a common method on how they introduce the alphabet to our kids. Effective? Yes, but self-published author Xavier Finley had something new and exciting in mind. And so, A is for Ketchup was born! A is for Ketchup is a silly picture book that takes advantage of a child’s ability to memorize the letters and sounds of the alphabet. The book begins with a silly, incorrect example of each letter and then continues with the properly matching letter and object combination. Not only is the book fantastically funny, but it is also helpful with letter recognition and pronunciation. New Parent was honored to hear from award-winning Finley himself on how he adores A is for Ketchup just as much as we do… New Parent: What was your original idea behind “A is for Ketchup” and how did you arrive at the concept? Xavier: While perusing through a variety of children’s alphabet books, it was all the same old thing: A is for Apple, B is for Bear, C is for Cat, etc. I started brainstorming ways to make a more exciting and unique alphabet book for kids. Immediately, the idea for A is for Ketchup popped in my head. Why not first give the kids an incorrect example of a letter/object combination and then come back with a matching combination? I took my idea and ran with it and I am amazed at the success it has seen thus far. My mother, who taught Kindergarten for over thirty years, helped me come up with many of the rhymes for each letter of the alphabet. New Parent: Why did you choose to self-publish? Xavier: I figured I had nothing to lose and everything to gain. I wanted to self-publish, but I did not want that term to be synonymous with low quality. With CreateSpace, I simply uploaded A is for Ketchup and within a few days I had my proof delivered to my door. I could not believe the quality! Soon after receiving my proof, I was at a brick and mortar bookstore looking at similar children’s books and my book was every bit as good as those that were printed by large publishing houses. I took my time and interviewed hundreds of illustrators from around the globe. I wanted to hire people who could create dynamic, exciting images to go along with these stories that were so special to me. I currently have three full time illustrators working for me from Argentina, India and England. They create each drawing with the intent for them to be published on both the Amazon Kindle bookstore and through CreateSpace’s paperback platform. New Parent: We heard that you are a Dad, how have your children inspired you in writing children's books? Xavier: Having two young boys that always seem to be in “hyper-drive”, I get to see exactly what holds their attention. Let’s face it, the average two or four year old is not going to stay focused on one thing for very long. This gives me a great opportunity to show my ideas to them and see if they are interested or if they really don’t care. I have gotten both responses quite a few times, which helps me decide which projects to pursue. New Parent: What is your favorite aspect of “A is for Ketchup”? Xavier: The illustrations are my favorite. I spent nearly a month wading through dozens of professional illustrators portfolios when I first started writing children’s books. Too many writers are willing to accept any old artwork for their books; I wanted my illustrations to have the same quality level as any large children’s publisher. I was lucky to find Laura García, a full time professional illustrator who is originally from Puerto Rico and now lives in Argentina. Laura has a knack for creating dynamic images and bringing my ideas to life. She and I work great together and she is currently creating my next children’s book Squash Watch, which should be out by mid-October. Laura’s illustrations are a huge part of my success. New Parent: It's hard to choose favorites, but what would you say is another great book that you've written besides this one that we can share with our Moms and Dads? Xavier: I have a potty training book that has been selling like crazy, it’s called Poop! There it is! and the initial response has been overwhelming. It was illustrated by Nayan Soni, another full time illustrator that I discovered this summer. Nayan is from India and he has a very silly drawing style that the kids absolutely love. Poop! There it is! was just released as a print book on Amazon. It has been getting some great reviews from moms and parents who can empathize with the rigors of potty training. After all, potty training is something every parent goes through and it helps to laugh at the whole process once in a while. New Parent: We have read your book and we adore it, why do you think children and their parents will love it so much? Xavier: Parents will love the laughter they get out of their children as they go through each letter of the alphabet. For babies and really young toddlers, the concept may not be as easy to grasp, but once the kids know their letters – they will love A is for Ketchup! At 26 pages, it’s longer than most children’s picture books and I chose to print it in a large 8x10 format. This larger size makes it easy to hold and large enough to share side by side with your child at bedtime. *To purchase A is for Ketchup, visit Amazon.com.