Sarah May Feliciano – Inside the Mind of a Children’s Author

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Today, I am sharing a fantastic interview with a Filipina-Austrian author, SARAH MAY FELICIANO. Sarah is the daughter of CARMEN PACAIGUE, one of the first Filipino nurses in Austria and an active community leader. Sarah May recently wrote and published her first children’s book, “Lea and Jakob,” a charming story about family experiences inspired by biblical stories that are engaging and educational for children keen to strengthen their faith in God. 

Sarah May Feliciano was born in Feldkirch, Austria, and worked in the travel and hospitality industry for over 15 years. After giving up her model label in New York after three years, she moved back to Vienna.

Sarah May discovered her love of writing and storytelling in primary school. Likewise, she attended music school in Vienna 1100, where she discovered her love of acting and musicals. She debuted as a screenwriter and director with the Spanish short film “Laura y Sofia” and deepened her skills at the Master School of Screenwriting during her educational leave.

The birth of her two children inspired her to embark on a new literary journey into the exciting world of children’s literature.
With her books, she wants to promote her spiritual growth and pass on God’s love.

Sarah is currently working on a novel and more screenplays, and she looks forward to surprising you with new works soon. For more information about Sarah, her book and her future projects, you can visit her website: www.sarahmayfeliciano.com/books

I regard this interview as a fascinating one. Sara provides insights into the creative process of a visual artist, a helpful glimpse into the self-publishing world, and loads of encouraging advice.

Austrian Press –  What inspired you to become a children’s book writer, and how did you get started in this field?

Sarah May Feliciano – In the spring of 2023, I faced the challenge of finding a job compatible with my family of four. As a believer, I prayed to God for help. Looking in the rearview mirror of my car, I noticed my two beautiful children laughing and remembered how much I enjoyed telling them stories. God inspired me to write my first story about Lea and Jakob. After completing 15 short stories, I sent them to publishers in the US and UK. I signed a contract with Morgen James Publishing in New York within a week.

Austrian Press – Can you tell us about your writing process? How do you develop ideas for your stories, and what is your approach to crafting engaging narratives for children?

Sarah May Feliciano – I find solace in reading the Bible daily. It provides me with the necessary support to tackle the daily challenges at work or in my family life. When crafting stories for Lea and Jakob, I drew inspiration from captivating biblical verses appropriate for children. I reflected on the relevance of these verses in our everyday lives and integrated them into relatable stories about the adventures of Lea and Jakob.

Austrian Press – Many children’s books convey important life lessons and values. What themes or messages do you aim to impart through your books, and how do you incorporate them into your stories?

Sarah May Feliciano– As a mother of two children, I’ve seen the joys and difficulties of everyday family life. My family’s experiences and ambition to write Christian children’s books inspired the Lea and Jakob stories. I was inspired by biblical stories that are fascinating and educational for children, and I wanted to strengthen their faith in God. Thus, the stories of Lea and Jakob emerged from the Bible and our daily lives. Each narrative helps children and parents relate to the characters and inspires them to face daily challenges.

Austrian Press – Illustrations play a significant role in children’s books. How do you collaborate with illustrators, and what is your vision for the visual aspect of your stories?

Sarah May Feliciano – My friend Lisa Schmidt is a talented artist who has painted since childhood. She was excited when I told her about my idea to write Lea and Jakob’s books. We shared the same vision of what the characters should look like and what scenes were important. The author and illustrator need to have a good connection, as the style of the illustrations is a result of this collaboration. As you gain experience in the industry, you get to know more and more people and eventually find the ideal partner for every project.

Austrian Press – What age group do you primarily write for, and how do you tailor your writing style to resonate with that specific audience?

Sarah May Feliciano – I primarily write for children ages four and ten. I enjoy working with children because it allows me to convey content simply and understandably without using complex formulations or foreign words. Narrative writing for children is a rewarding experience.

Austrian PressDo you face specific challenges or considerations when writing for children, such as language choices or the appropriateness of content?

Sarah May Feliciano – When writing for children, it’s essential to keep things simple and avoid adding too many unnecessary details. Although I sometimes overcomplicate things, I consciously remind myself to keep the text easy to understand. However, proofreading the text is crucial to ensuring it’s error-free and flows well. Luckily, I have a fantastic editor who specializes in children’s books.

Austrian Press – Do you have a favorite character or story from your own works? What makes that character or story unique to you? How do you see the role of children’s literature in fostering imagination, empathy, and a love for reading in young readers?

Sarah May Feliciano – I have a great fondness for all of the characters I have created, but when it comes to Lea and Jakob, they hold a special place in my heart. I was not only impressed by their external appearance but also by their unique personalities. To bring more depth to each story, I derived many of the characters’ traits from my own children and added some of my own. I intentionally exaggerated their traits so readers could occasionally identify with a character.

Austrian Press – Are there any upcoming titles you could share with us?

Sarah May Feliciano – There have been 15 stories featuring the characters Lea and Jakob. The upcoming stories that will be published are “Lea and Jakob and the day Shelly got lost” and “Lea and Jakob and the Big Fish.” Currently, I am working on my first German novel, titled “Der Himmel über der kleinen Kappele: Die verschwundene Braut.” I plan to provide updates on the progress of this novel in the fall.

Austrian Press – What advice do you have for aspiring children’s book writers who want to impact young readers positively?

Sarah May Feliciano – It may sound cliché, but my best advice for other writers is to follow their hearts and write about what truly matters to them. Every story has a profound essence, emotions, and a moral lesson. Even if only one person reads it and their life is impacted, it would still be worth it to have written it.

Austrian Press – How do you manage your time and energy between your role as a parent and your work?

Sarah May Feliciano – I would like to be honest and admit that balancing my responsibilities can be challenging. Spending quality time with my children and partner is especially important to me. As a result, I typically find time to write when my children are in kindergarten or late at night. My husband is incredibly supportive of everything I do, and I also make sure to take time to pray and reflect, which helps me stay strong. It’s important to remember that there are times when we all need help, and it’s okay to ask for it. In this context, I would like to share my favorite Bible verse with everyone: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7)

  • interview conducted by Hector Pascua/pictures: Sarah may Feliciano
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