Mary Feliciani with her husband on holiday in Portofino

This week it is my pleasure to interview Mary Feliciani.   Would you please introduce yourself to my readers, Mary and share something about your life.

I am a Canadian author and independent publisher of children's books. I attended the University of Toronto at the Mississauga campus and still live in Mississauga, Ontario. After receiving a Bachelor of Science, and then a Bachelor of Education from the University of Toronto, I became an elementary school teacher.

I have two passions: writing about topics that interest me such as bullying, and the other is travelling and photography. I literally have thousands of travel photos. When I complete my next book, I plan on posting my travel photos to Pinterest. I am not on Pinterest yet.

About writing she says:
"Writing is a way to connect, to say things you might not be able to say in person, or ever have the opportunity to discuss. It's both cathartic and introspective. It forces you to search corners of your mind that you might not get to in any other way.”

About travelling she says:
“Travelling isn't just about adventure. It fosters an appreciation of other cultures and facilitates the recognition that every country has been influenced by other countries. You not only see the differences, you see the similarities. Travelling also gives you the opportunity to see the natural beauty of the world, without the imaginary borders.”

When did you write your first book and how did it come about?

I published my first children's book, The Magic Leaf, in 2006. It is a story about the value of friendship. The manuscript had been written about 20 years earlier while I was in university studying psychology. It basically sat on a shelf as I went on with a teaching career. As I grew older I realized that there were so many things that I had been interested in when I was young – a bucket list of sorts – one of them had been publishing that manuscript.
After the positive experience of having publishing my first book, I found that writing and publishing became infectious. The Magic Leaf was followed by the title,  Humanitarians, Visionaries, Heroes, and You, in 2012. This book is a collection of seven inspiring mini-biographies. I use the voices of Mattie Stepanek, Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, the Dalai Lama, Mother Teresa, Terry Fox, Craig Kielburger, and my own reflections to encourage the reader to join a growing movement towards social responsibility and global citizenship. 
The first book of what will be a trilogy about bullying, Big and Small in the Mirror, was published in 2015. My most recent book, The Invisible Boy, the second in the Bullying trilogy, was published in 2017.

Do you always write in the same genre or do you mix it up?

All four of my books are in the children's genre, but I have written for different age groups within the genre. The Magic Leaf is appropriate for children ages 5-7 (grades JK-2). Both books about bullying, Big and Small in the Mirror, and The Invisible boy, are for children ages 8-10 (grades 3-5). And Humanitarians, Visionaries, Heroes, and You was written for children ages 10-12 (grades 6-8), but even adults like the book.

I am not sure if I did this on purpose, but there is at least one book for every grade at the elementary school level.

When you write, do you start with an idea and sit down and let it evolve, or do you make notes and collect ideas on paper beforehand?

My stories always start in my head with a moral or lesson to learn. I begin with the overall meaning of the story and then work backwards to see how I can accomplish my goal.
These stories live inside my head for a long time before I sit down to write. I am rarely looking at a blank page, although, I do leave parts of the story blank – those that I haven't figured out yet – and return to them at a later date.
It is not unusual for me to jot down an idea or even just one sentence that I want to use in the future. I use scrap paper or anything that I can find to make notes. In recent years my iPad has come in handy.

Would you like to give us a short excerpt from one of your books?

This excerpt is from Big and Small in the Mirror. It occurs after Carlo has been bullied at school.
“The afternoon went by slowly. Carlo couldn’t wait to go home, where he felt safe.
He was home before the rest of his family; before his mother, his father, and his older brother. He placed his school bag on the floor in the entrance hallway, catching a glimpse of himself in the hall mirror. It was hard for him to look directly into the mirror, and when he did, the boy who stared back looked about 6 cm shorter than Carlo thought he should be. He looked smaller and felt deflated inside.”

This passage demonstrates how bullying erodes self-esteem.
 Who is your favourite character and why?

Carlo has to be my favourite character for he is depicted in three of my books. Many of the lessons are learned through him. He is a good-natured boy who is honest and down-to-earth. Although he is a different age in the bullying-themed books then he is when we first meet him in The Magic Leaf, there is character development in the books – he stays true to himself.

Which of your books gave you the most pleasure to write?

I was wearing my heart on my sleeve when I wrote Humanitarians, Visionaries, Heroes and You. I finally found a way to put my belief system into words that I could share with another person. I also had the opportunity of speaking to Fred Fox about his brother Terry Fox before the book was published. In addition, I communicated with Jeni Stepanek about her son Mattie Stepanek. Both Fred and Jeni gave me the photos that are in the book.

What is the best marketing tip you have received?

In terms of procuring reviews, Goodreads is the place to be. You can connect with other authors and meet readers who appreciate your work.

How would you describe yourself?

It is difficult to directly answer such a question. I do believe that all my books reveal something about my core. Truth and fairness are very important to me in personal relationships. 

What do you do when you are not writing or reading?

I am into health and fitness. I walk with two of my friends every day. We walk and talk which is good for the body and soul. If I can borrow from the theme of my first book, I would say that walking with a friend makes life's journey easier.  

If you could holiday anywhere in the world, where would you choose and why.

I love to travel. Every country has its own beauty. I try never to go to the same place twice because I want to see as much of the world as possible. It is part of that bucket list. My ultimate trip would be to see the pyramids in Egypt. I have always had an interest in ancient civilizations.  

If you have owned pets, do you have a funny story you would like to share with us?

I don't have a funny anecdote, but I have an observation about dogs. I had a golden retriever for nine years. The dog (Rio) treated people the way that each person treated him. I was gentle with him so he was gentle with me. My two boys used to play with the dog in a boisterous manner and that is the way the dog would initiate engaging with them. He didn't try the rough play with me. Was the dog suggesting to treat others the way you want to be treated? 

What is the biggest factor for you when selecting a book to read?

The genre is definitely the biggest factor. I love cozy murder mysteries and psychological thrillers. Within those genres, when looking for new books, the synopsis and the cover of the book would be next.

Do you have your own website?

Yes, I do. Here it is: www.mfpublishing.com. Please check it out to learn more about me and my books. Leave a comment if you like.

Are you working on a new book at the moment?

The third book of the Bullying trilogy is what I am focusing on now. This book has female characters and will depict how girls typically bully (spreading rumours and manipulation of friends). The working title is I'm Sorry I Didn't Choose You.

Do you have any events or book promotions coming up that you would like to tell us about?

October is National Bullying Prevention Month in the US, and National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month in Canada.

In response to the need to raise awareness of the devastating effects of bullying on self-esteem, I want to encourage all who are interested in the topic to read both Big and Small in the Mirror and The Invisible Boy. Both eBooks will be on sale for $0.99 for the month of October.

Big and Small in the Mirror $0.99: Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0128U1DBO

The Invisible Boy $0.99: Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/2CKFRoW