A Superhero of Her Own: How Ashley G. Smith Inspires Children with Her Makalya Blues Book Series
Being a children’s book author holds an infinite amount of joy. Creating characters and watching them come to life during illustration is often an indescribable feeling. It’s truly a labor of love. And it’s not just the writing that brings an author joy, but also how they can capture children’s imaginations. These are the things Ashley G. Smith holds near and dear as the author of the Makayla Blues children’s book series. With every new story, she is able to take young readers on a journey that is both exciting and educational. It’s a testament to the power of storytelling, and it’s something that Ashley cherishes.
Born and raised in a small town outside Clarksdale, MS., Ashley G. Smith was always passionate about writing. She attended the University of Southern Mississippi, studying management, and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in 2017. Though currently a Branch Manager for a private finance company, she dreamed of becoming a published author and did so in 2020 when she created the Makayla’s Blues children’s book series.
I got to chat with the esteemed author to discuss the inspiration behind her writing. We also got to talk about the books she has written and how they have helped shape the direction of her writing; the next book she plans to write is a final of one of her most popular books, and how she chooses the cover of her book.
Hi, Ashley. I appreciate you taking the time to chat with me today. First, I would like to ask, what inspired you to become a writer?
Two reasons inspired my children’s books. My first reason was the lack of black children’s books. Growing up, I love to read. As a child, I noticed no characters in books I read that looked like me. I wanted to change that. I’m thankful for the other children’s book authors who created books with black representations. It’s fantastic to see. Last, I want to inspire children to never give up on their dreams.
Can you share something about the book that isn’t in the blurb?
If someone were to observe the art cover for Makayla’s Blue’s Hip-Hop You Never Stop, they’ll notice that the book’s front cover has a small tribute to the Black Lives Matter movement. In 2020, George Floyd was murdered. To show what I was feeling and remember what was going on when I wrote Makayla’s series, I turned to my artistic expression and included the name of some of the victims who were victims of police brutality. It is something that means a lot to me. Emotionally, I can express myself better through writing and art. I’m thankful I can use my platform to mention what I’m passionate about.
What is the significance of the title?
The significance of the titles for my book was my attempt to highlight the hip-hop culture in a positive light. Makayla is a nine-year-old girl who lives in Memphis, TN, and loves hip-hop music and dance. She is a dancer at her performing art school. Therefore, I created the title to represent each child’s love for music. Secondly, my decision to title the book series “Makayla’s Blues” hints at how she feels about the issues she faces. The word blue is symbolic of the story told of Makayla having to face challenges to believe in herself and encourage her friends to do so through their journeys.
Tell us about the process for coming up with the cover.
That process of coming up with the cover was fun. I got a chance to show my creative side and do what I love the most. As a collaboration with my illustrator, I wanted to create a collage of photos to tell a story. I wanted a graffiti effect that highlighted the Black Lives Matter movement and a skyline of Memphis, TN. Lastly, I wanted Makayla and her lucky purple headphones on the cover to hint at what the book will be about. I took the same approach for Makayla’s Blues: Hip-Hop Ninja Crew. First, I wanted a ninja DJ and the main character, Jayden, bursting out of the title. That’s the style I went for with the series.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
My inspiration comes from sermons, motivational videos, and in the moment of writing. I love to be in a good spirit when creating work. Sermons are what I listen to remind me to be faithful and a student within my journey. I face many trials I feel that require me to stay grounded, so listening to the word of God helps me remember my purpose. Motivational videos are a quick way to remind me that I can get through whatever I face. There are a ton of them from hardworking entrepreneurs, pastors, and speakers. I love to listen to people who chase a dream and achieve it. Lastly, being in the moment of my craft somehow create a fantasy in my mind and inspires me naturally. It is just confirmation that creating is what I am meant to do in life.
What is the most surprising thing you discovered while writing your books?
The most surprising thing I discovered while writing my book was my ability to push through and complete it. I have always been a self-driven, ambitious person. But this experience was different. I didn’t know anyone personally who wrote a book. Writing was just a hobby for me. Yes, I’ve said I wanted to be an author, but to do it was unreal for me. The quickness of creating three different stories in 3 weeks was impressive to me. It felt like I had discovered a new part of me that I had already known existed but never quite believed I could do it. I was shocked at myself and what I had accomplished.
What do you like to do when you are not writing?
When I am not writing, I love to see the world. I love to travel and being around good friends. I got my passport last year, and I’ve been out of the country twice. Visiting other countries is a true passion of mind. Currently, I try to make at least five trips to different cities and countries a year. I work a lot outside of traveling and have found a new love for working out. If I’m not at my 9–5, I’m working on my brand or health. I try to stay busy, continue learning new things, and build myself as a person.
What books or authors have most influenced your writing?
To be honest, I try my best to create my content without viewing other authors’ work. I want my work to be authentic, so I try to use my own experiences and creativity to create something extraordinary and relatable to read. If I had to choose someone I liked as a child, it would be the R.L Stine Goosebumps series. I love the spooky storytelling, so the book Hip-Hop Ninja Crew’s spooky element could be inspired by reading his book collection. Other than that, my children’s books are inspired by hip-hop culture and personal views.
How many plot ideas are just waiting to be written? Can you tell us about one?
Many plot ideas are waiting to be written. The one I’ve publicly mentioned is the one about culinary arts. There’s a new report about that one. I thought the idea would be fun for children, and I can’t wait to release it very soon. My third book release will be the last book a part of the Makayla’s Blues series. I’m super excited and looking for to the completion of it. I may have a small intimate party to share with friends and family to celebrate how far I’ve come as an author and how I am literally living out my dreams. I won’t stop writing, and there’s so much more, including movies that Author Ashley G. Smith will write.
Writing can be an emotionally draining and stressful pursuit. Any tips for aspiring writers?
As I mentioned earlier, I believe in writing material when I am only in a good spirit. Writing comes from your mind, and if you’re not in a good space, your work won’t be either. Yes, it can be emotionally draining and stressful at times. However, my advice is to keep going. There have been plenty of times I wanted to say I’m done, but I never do. My mother raised me to finish what I started, so it feels strange and incomplete whenever I don’t. Therefore, it’s always best to see things through. Secondly, dealing with the public can be discouraging. I somehow got lucky, and a post on my page went viral, and I gained over 10k followers within a month. The comments I get about my speaking and books can be nasty. Even before the viral burst, people will write awful things on my social media. However, I’ve learned to ignore the negativity and focus on the positive people who believe in me. Just remain focused on your goal.
How can people connect with you, find your books, etc.?
You can connect with me on Instagram at @itsmsashleyg and @makaylasbookworld. Also, Facebook @makaylasbooksandapparel and @authorashleygsmith. My books are available on amazon.com, Walmart.com, and www.makaylasbookworld.com.