Aya Khalil: Hello and salam! Thank you for letting me interview for Kidlit in Color. I am a huge fan of your books so I'm excited to interview you. Can you briefly tell our readers about yourself and your books?
Ashley Franklin: Wa Salaam, Aya. That’s so sweet of you! The feeling is definitely mutual.
I’m a mom of two and an adjunct college professor. My life is simple. I write. I teach. I mom.
I write books featuring kids with big hearts and even bigger imaginations. In all my picture books (from Not Quite Snow White to The Masjid Kamal Loves), I try to showcase children experiencing joy as a part of their everyday lives.
AK: The Masjid Kamal Loves releases soon! I love the rhythmic list of things that Kamal loves at the masjid. It reminds me of my kids and the joy they feel at the masjid. How did you come up with this idea, was it inspired by anything from your life?
AF: This idea was inspired by my desire to do something completely different from my typical writing style. Honestly, my picture books tend to run long, so I wanted to challenge myself as far as word count and structure.
The first thing I did was decide on the structure. I know how big of a part nostalgia can play in our enjoyment of things. I vividly remember “The House that Jack Built” from my younger years, and its formulaic nature hasn’t gone out of style.
It was also a fun and productive way to settle my nerves. I basically wrote the first draft on a flight to Florida to shoot the Scholastic trailer for Not Quite Snow White. Being on camera is not my comfort zone (believe it or not), so it was a healthy distraction.
AK: Not only did I love your words, but the illustrations by Aaliya are so cute and hilarious! I love the spread of one of the boys rolling another boy in the masjid carpet (so real)! What is your favorite spread?
AF: No way am I going to answer that. That’s like picking your favorite child! Some things you just don’t do. But, I will say that the spreads that are close to my heart are the ones where Aaliya lovingly included my kids.
AK: Ha! That's true. I need to know which spreads she included your kids! What do you hope readers will learn or feel after reading this book?
AF: I hope readers can’t resist smiling at The Masjid Kamal Loves. I hope this book helps them to recognize the joy that a masjid can bring into a child’s life. I hope it makes them think of a place that is special to them and brings them the same type of joy.
AK: Can you tell readers the process of how this picture book sold and the timeline of you writing it? Did it sell fast? Did it take long to write it?
AF: During the plane ride that I mentioned earlier, I pretty much started and finished the draft then. Not much changed from those handwritten notes to the final version. It took me the longest to write the introduction and conclusion. They were added later to give the text additional framework.
The book sold quickly. It went to auction, so that was a very new experience for me.
The longest part wasn’t writing it. It was finding the perfect illustrator. If I remember correctly, that took around a year or so.
AK: Wow, a whole year! Well it was worth the wait! Is there anything else you can tell us about what you're working on or upcoming books?
AF: Right now, I’m drafting a novel in verse. I also have a few picture books coming up:
Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur: Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow, illustrated by Bea Jackson (August 1, 2023)
Xavier’s Voice, illustrated by Tatiana Gardel (Fall 2023)
Our Favorite Day of the Week, illustrated by Rahele Jomepour Bell (Fall 2024)
AK: Is there anything else you want readers to know about you and your books?
AF: I hope readers know that I appreciate their support, whether it’s through buying a book, making library requests, writing reviews, or showing some love on social media.
AK: And just for fun, tell us a fun fact about yourself!
AF: I like to juggle. I’m not very good at it, but I still like trying. It keeps me humble, lol.
AK: 😂😂 Please show me the next time we see each other. And juggle with your books.
Find Ashley here:
Facebook: Ashley Franklin
Order her book here: https://www.simonandschuster.com/books/The-Masjid-Kamal-Loves/Ashley-Franklin/9781534499836