Allia is one of my favorite people! Her books include such varied titles as Whatever Is Lovely; Thank You, God, from Kids Around the World; Hugs & Kisses, God, from Kids Around the World; The Beauty of Believing; Cat Confessions: A Kitty-Come-Clean Tell-All Book; The Ten Commandments for Little Ones; Women Who Still Love Cats Too Much; The Joy of Being Fifty (illustrated by Roz Chast), and The Worrywart’s Prayer Book.
One of Allia’s children’s books is Angels in the Bible Storybook.
Allia lives in Connecticut with her husband, Desmond Finbarr Nolan, and their feline children, Sineady Cat, the Fraidy Cat, and Nolan Nolan.
How long have you been writing for children, Allia, and how did you get started?
God, as He is so often wont to do, made lemonade out of lemons, which is how I got started writing for children. I was a journalist and an author of humorous cat books, when out of the blue, my retina detached.
I almost went blind. That’s the lemon part. Though God had a purpose for my going through this, it was a pretty scary time for me. Anyway, while I was recuperating, I went through a lot of my savings. So when I could see again, I answered an ad for an editor’s position at Reader’s Digest Children’s Books. I had been an editor for several kids’ magazines/newsletters. But I had never written a children’s book. Still, I applied, and got the job. It was only supposed to be until I got back on my feet. However, again, God had other ideas.
And that’s the lemonade part: I was so fascinated by the whole process of putting a children’s book together—and especially a Bible book for kids—that I got hooked. I loved the whole process—coming up with the idea, researching, writing the book, working with Scripture, collaborating with the designers on illustrations, watching the final art come in—it was the most marvelous thing I had ever experienced.
That when I realized this was what I was meant to do. This was what my whole life was leading up to. That was about 15-plus years ago. Though I left Reader’s Digest to be on my own again, I never stopped creating children’s books and loving it … though I do vacillate from the divine to the feline and write cat books as well.
Can you tell us something about your writing process?
I really don’t have a process per se. I have a deadline and I write what I need to. I’m not one to spend a lot of time on outlines, though. I do have one writing tool I use when I’m blocked, which my husband suggested. And it works.
If I’m writing a long book and I get stuck, I don’t push it. Instead of staring at the computer, or going around in circles, I write the chapter title on top of the page, then write whatever comes into my head, nonstop, free flow, in no special order, complete with typos and format mistakes. Then I print out these notes, put them in a folder, and move on to the next chapter. Writing nonstop saves me from wasting time, and the freedom to put down anything and everything unblocks me. Some of what I’ve written eventually makes it into the chapter, and some doesn’t. But at least I have something to show for my day.
Why did you decide to write about your faith?
I think my decision was already made for me. I was led.
What gives you joy about writing?
I love to make people laugh, or failing that, at least make them smile. I love to leave them with a sense of hope and enthusiasm about God and the world. I love to remind them—and especially young children—that they are loved no matter what. And then of course, if I reach someone with my writing, I can’t ask for more.
One Amazon reader posted that his son was in the ICU and that he had a 10 percent chance of making it. His wife got a copy of my book I Love You the World, and the father wrote that he read the book to his boy every day. He ended his review with “I really believe that part of Jackson living came from us reading this book to him on a daily basis. I am grateful for this book, eternally grateful.” Now that gives me joy!
Did you read a lot as a child? What were your favorite books?
I read everything and anything. My mother used to tell me to get my head out of a book and go get a job. I was twenty-three at the time. Actually, I read lots of poetry and fairy tales and novels; my father read us the Bible on Sundays. I loved Eloise at the Plaza and Matilda. My favorite book was The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
You have a special love for cats … and dogs too. Tell us about your animal family members.
Where to begin? Well, I absolutely love cats and I’ve written nine humor books about them. Recently, though, I lost two of my cats within six months of each other. As you might imagine, I was devastated. But the most amazing thing happened. I went to a rescue I don’t normally go to because I saw a cat on its website. The cat in question was not a good fit for my family, as I still have an older, timid cat. On my way out, I spied a tiny black kitten peeking out of his cage. (I wanted a black cat.) I asked the adoption lady about him. “Oh,” she said, “you mean Nolan?” Talk about a gift from God. I didn’t want a kitten (Nolan was five months at the time). But how could I not adopt a cat who already had our name. We call him Nolan Nolan, and he’s a dream!
Angels in the Bible Storybook includes fun facts about angels. What fascinated or amazed you most as you were researching and writing this book?
Two things threw me for a loop: the misinformation out there about angels (for instance, some people turn into angels when they die…NOT!) and the dearth of books focusing on the role God gave the angels in his overall plans. That’s why I was thrilled when we decided to include real facts, as well as introduce some not-as-well-known stories—stories that are compelling and exciting but don’t receive as much attention as favorites like Noah and Moses. I was also intrigued to read some scholars feel that in the stories that mention the Angel of the Lord, this is really the preincarnate Jesus, and not just a “regular” angel!
Do you have new projects underway?
Right now, I am working on excavating my office, which is a “creative” mess. Sometimes, when I’m working on a big book, I let things slide. So I have to take some time to file and get things in order.
I am also working on a book about cats and heaven, a gift book, some children’s novelty book ideas, and a chapter book with a fat cat as its main character.
What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?
I read a lot, and then I read some more, and watch Downton Abbey and anything on PBS TV. I teach chair aerobics on a volunteer basis to seniors at a convalescent home (two are 102 years young), I sing in the church choir, I am studying Spanish, and I keep in touch with friends I’ve had for ages … and I do mean ages. I also make earrings for fun. I am blessed, for sure.
Thanks, Allia! I hope you will keep writing for a very long time!
My 5-star review of Allia’s new Angels in the Bible Storybook is here.
To connect with Allia or learn more, visit