Greek-American author Violet Favero spoke with The National Herald about her latest children's book, titled Pete Comes To America, her fifth children's picture book, and third to reach #1 on Amazon's list of New Releases. The book, based on Favero's family immigrant story, is illustrated by Chrissy Schram and follows Panagiotis, age 6, as he immigrates to America with his family in 1910.
TNH: What inspired you to write the book?
Violet Favero: As a Greek-American, I've always been proud of my Greek heritage, and I wanted to share my family immigration story with children in a way that would make them proud to be immigrants and of their own heritage. Writing about my family immigration was for me, a way to honor my family, and specifically, my grandfather. My inspiration to write the book came from the picture of my grandfather standing in front of his first restaurant. I feel it's important for all children to know their family immigration story. Reading Pete Comes To America is a natural way to move into the discussion with children about immigration. Although the book is about Greek immigration, it's appropriate for any nationality or immigration story.
TNH: Did you always want to be a children's book author?
VF: I wrote my first published story in third grade in the Weekly Reader Magazine. As an avid reader, it was only natural that I would write. Writing children's books felt like the right fit as the Yiayia to nine granddaughters. When I retired as a medical administrator, it was then that I had the freedom to pursue my dream of writing and having my online store, Yiayia's Market. There is a learning curve that all new writers go through and I've learned so much with each book.
TNH: What is your writing regimen like?
VF: Pete Comes To America is my fifth published children's book and I have a unique writing system that works well for me. When I have an idea for a book, as thoughts come to me, I make notes in my phone. When I have gathered all my ideas, I sit and write it all at one time. I'm lucky in that the words just flow for me. Children's picture books have a certain criteria that must be met in regards to page count. After I write the story, I then break it down on a storyboard assigning text and illustration to pages. I then send the text to the editor for editing. If I'm not illustrating the book myself, I choose an illustrator who can bring my vision to life and we work together for months revising the illustrations until they are finished.
TNH: How long did the process take from idea to publication?
VF: Pete Comes To America was finished within six months of concept. For this book, I did spend two months researching Greek immigration to America in order to have the fine details correct. For instance, I wanted to be sure that the Illustration of dance costumes in the book were appropriate for the date and place. I was honored when the book was named Amazon's #1 New Release in Children's Immigration Books and in three additional categories since its release in December 2019.
TNH: Where in Greece is the family from?
VF: My family is from Mytiline, Lesvos, Greece and they immigrated through Ellis Island to Thompsonville, Connecticut in June 1910. My great-grandfather was a barber in Lesvos, and opened a barber shop in Connecticut.
TNH: What has been your family's reaction to the book?
VF: My father who is 89 was so thrilled that the book honored my grandfather and our family story. He was so happy with how the illustrator portrayed the family. The reaction to the book varied from cousins who cried, those who beamed with pride, and those who were just in disbelief that the story would immortalize our family. It's certainly my favorite work thus far.
TNH: What are you working on next?
VF: My next children's book is about a family full of girls and the unexpected arrival of a boy cousin. In addition, I'm expanding the Pete Comes To America series that will follow the family as the generations grow in America. I would love to see this story about Pete, a boy from a small village, become an animated video series for children or a movie. I'm currently doing research to find the right person or production company to bring this to fruition, and it is a time-consuming endeavor that I am enjoying.