Today’s author interview is about writing a parenting book and finding your voice as a writer.
Sue Donnellan didn’t plan to have four kids. In fact, she wasn’t sure she wanted any. After agreeing to have a baby for her husband, she realized her first child could benefit from having a sibling. She gave in to the idea of two, which turned into babies two, three and four with surprise triplets. She had to learn quickly how to raise four individual children while running her own business and supporting a military husband who deployed to combat five times. In her new book, Secrets to Parenting Without Giving a F^ck, Sue shares the parenting mindset she cultivated to quickly get challenging behavior under control, balance running a home and a business and how you can, too!
In today’s author interview, Simon Golden interviews Sue about finding (and keeping) your voice as a writer, choose which case studies to feature in her book and how she organized the 14 chapters of her book.
Motivation for Writing a Parenting Book
Simon: I thoroughly enjoyed reading your book, Secrets to Parenting Without Giving a F^ck: The Non-Conformist Playbook to Raising Happy Kids Without Public Meltdowns, Power Struggles, & Punishments. What was your motivation for writing this book?
Sue: Thank you, Simon. Writing this book was a passion project. I felt moved on a deeper level to share my parenting insights, experiences and methods to help other parents going through similar daily overwhelm.
Simon: The first part of Secrets to Parenting Without Giving a F^ck is about helping readers work on their relationship with themselves, such as checking their ego, trusting their gut, and understanding that guilt is a wasted emotion. How did you convince readers about the need to work on themselves in order to become a great parent?
Sue: Good relationships are fundamental to our well-being. Having a self-aware relationship with yourself is just as essential to building trust and enjoying happily functioning connections with not just your children, but with everyone in your life.
When mentoring parents, I initially focus on the parent’s actions. This is because we can’t change or control anyone’s behavior, we can only modify our own. As parents, we aren’t fixing our child’s behavior, we’re changing our own. This is a key element to transforming your child’s misbehavior. Children aren’t able to articulate their feelings as well as we can as adults. Therefore, I start with bringing awareness to the parent with regard to how they are handling frustrating events with their kids.
I’m usually able to convince the reader or parent by sharing my own intimate stories and examples of how I came to realize that if I didn’t change my responses, my children would continue reacting to me in the same frustrating ways. I am able to relate to parents as I’ve been in their shoes with four kids, including triplets and a self-owned business. Sharing those moments and extending that outreach is what made me want to write this book. Why waste all that effort if I can’t pass it on to help someone else?
Choosing which case studies to feature in your book
Simon: You incorporate engaging and interesting case studies throughout Secrets to Parenting Without Giving a F^ck. How did you choose which case studies to feature in the book?
Sue: I selected the most relevant stories to use for the Case Studies so they could make the content in each chapter as relatable as possible. Since our home lives with our children are so similar, yet diverse in their nuances, I felt sharing a similar case study to the chapter message would help make the material come alive for the reader. My intention is to help the reader envision their personal situation and be able to apply the method learned in that chapter to their own similar life situation.
Finding your unique tone of voice in your writing
Sue: Thank you, Simon. There were times while writing that I’d do research and then I’d get in my head about making sure I presented a concept so it would be as universally accepted or liked as possible. When I allowed that state of mind to creep in, I lost my tone of voice. I do have a distinct way of talking and I have strong ideas that I communicate emphatically and decisively in person. Many times, I needed to go back and re-edit where I could see I started running an idea through a filter of someone else judging it. It took many edits and an intentional awareness on my part to correct it. By the time I got to part two, writing in my voice flowed more easily.
Simon: What advice might you give to aspiring authors who are hoping to find their unique tone of voice in their writing?
Sue: I suppose I just answered this question above :-). To embellish a bit, I’d say read your chapters out loud, talk the material so you can hear it. Stay true to your ideas and if you find yourself veering, have a writer friend group comprised of people who really know you. They will sniff out the areas that you’ve compromised your voice and call you on it.
Building trust and credibility with your readers
Simon: You do such a good job of developing trust and credibility with your readers. When reading through Secrets to Parenting Without Giving a F^ck, I got the impression that your approach to parenting really works! What advice might you give to aspiring authors who are hoping to build trust and credibility with their readers?
Sue: Be willing to share personal stories of how you came to the conclusions you are writing about. Share your journey with the reader. Many times, we feel our personal stories might not be of interest to others, but society has a huge appetite for the evolution of how the real story came to be. Dig deep and ask yourself to discover “the What, the How and the When.” Then write from that perspective. It takes time, it hurts sometimes, and it requires many, many edits.
Deciding how to organize 14 chapters
Simon: There is so much helpful content, spanning 14 chapters in this book, Secrets to Parenting Without Giving a F^ck. What was your process for making decisions about the order of these 14 chapters?
Sue: So many of those decisions were intentional. I laid out the sequence of the chapters so each concept could be introduced, taught and then built upon. I followed the timing of my own awakening as I raised our kids. I purposefully laid out the chapters to be a continuation of the previous method. All the parenting techniques work synergistically but also require an explanation to go to the next chapter. For example, I saved the chapter Punishment is Pointless for last. It’s important for the reader to go through the process of learning how to parent as a partner, show respect, etc., before being able to incorporate why punishment is pointless.
Simon: Name someone that helped you in the process of publishing this work. How did they help you to make good decisions when publishing your book?
Sue: That person would be Sandra Cavanaugh. She received a paragraph of thanks in my book. Sandra is many things, an intuitive, a director, actor, writer, and so much more. I’m fortunate enough to have been able to work with her prior to writing my book. She taught our son acting lessons which made her uniquely qualified to know me as a parent and to also know the product of my parenting through working with my child. She experienced how I parented and how it created an independent, self-sufficient and confident child, even at thirteen years old. With her intimate knowledge of me and my family, coupled with her vast professional abilities, her involvement as my confidant and content editor made tremendous sense. She did not disappoint!
Getting reviews on Amazon
Simon: Your book has received excellent reviews on Amazon. What advice might you give to authors who are hoping to receive positive reviews for their work?
Sue: I have no secret or method for this. Whenever we put our content out for public consumption, it’s a huge risk. In my case, a few parents who I’ve mentored felt compelled to review the book with nice reviews. But overall, the other reviews are a gamble as with any book.
Challenges of marketing a book with an expletive in the title
Simon: Did you face any challenges in marketing your book, Secrets to Parenting Without Giving a F^ck? Specifically, did the title cause any problems with marketing your book on Amazon?
Sue: Yes, it did. There were no issues with getting it listed on Amazon, but I am not able to spend ad dollars to promote it. I knew this up front. I tried to find another way to convey the counterintuitive message of my existing title but couldn’t find anything quite so on point for me and ultimately decided to keep it. Using the word f^ck happens to be authentically in my vernacular. It was not used for shock value and I tie the word well into validating my message throughout the book. I’ve not gotten any complaints, in fact, everyone has told me they love the title. Due to Amazon’s rules, it’s forced me to be even more creative with my marketing and out-of-the-box thinking to promote my book. Ever the entrepreneur, I will find other ways!
Simon: In the acknowledgments section, you name several people who helped you along your journey to writing Secrets to Parenting Without Giving a F^ck. Can you say a little bit about how these writing professionals helped you?
Sue: Each of them believed in a brand-new writer. They didn’t judge me or make me feel as though writing a self-published book couldn’t be accomplished. In fact, each person enthusiastically welcomed me into their practice and shared their excitement with the writing process. The author community is quite passionate and willing to share their resources with new writers or those just getting started.
Simon: Your book has an enormous potential to impact readers on one of the most important topics: Parenting. What general advice would you give to aspiring book writers who have a passion for making a positive impact in the lives of readers?
Sue: Be fearless. Jump and the net will appear! If an event or experience has impacted you positively, then it will likely impact many others. As I mentioned earlier, the public has a healthy appetite for the unfolding of a good story. The huge growth of reality TV is a testament to that. We all love the art of the story. Believe in yourself. An old story to you will always be new to someone else.
ABOUT SUE DONNELLAN
Sue Donnellan is a mom of four (including triplets), CEO x 3, wife and author. Her platform Ask Mom Parenting connects parents with Sue’s 15+ years of mentoring through many types of child behavior challenges. With humor, wisdom and intuitiveness, Sue helps struggling parents emerge on the other side of their overwhelm with her functional parenting style. Sue quickly helps parents experience harmony in their home and learn the skills for creating a relationship of lifelong trust and respect with their children.