War Vet Helps Kids Triumph over Loss – Q&A with Kristian James

What inspired you to become an author for children?

Back in December of 2019, I had the pleasure of meeting one of my favorite authors. Chris Van Allsburg wrote one of my favorite stories and Christmas films, The Polar Express. When I met him, I turned to my wife (girlfriend at the time) and said, I want to write a kid’s book. I had been writing since I was thirteen, but nothing that I believe mattered. The next week I wrote my first story Finding Prancer (still being produced) and a week after that in January, Building Our Main Street.

Your wife is an assistant principal.  Does this have anything to do with you becoming a children’s book author?  

My wife when I met her was a teacher for high school students. The true inspiration for writing children’s books were my nephews. They are all younger, and I wanted something they could read that their Uncle Kris had written and was age appropriate.

What led you to write Building Our Main Street?

My father passed away unexpectedly back in 2017. When he passed away, I remember one of my nephews saying what he felt when his father said he needed to talk to him about grandpa. He didn’t understand, and there really wasn’t any plausible way to explain that he wouldn’t see Grandpa anymore.

Leaving Disneyland with my wife in December of 2019, she looked at me and mentioned how she wished elderly homes were like Main Street. Filled with different stores where you could get ice cream or go see a movie etc. A week or two later, I thought of Main Street and crafted it and sent it to my wife. Two hours later, she wrote me informing me that it made her cry, that it was beautiful and she had to share it with her co-workers. She said, “This is the one.” Meaning, this is the book that will truly help people because I kept telling her I wanted to write a book that helps people and makes them smile.

Why did you decide to develop, in particular, a children’s book?

Growing older and having deployed across the world, I realized that the world isn’t always this happy place. People have issues, as do kids. I wanted to write something that would brighten the days of kids and families alike. 

What do you want children to get out of this book?

I want kids to be able to sit down with their parents and family members and learn about those that may no longer be with us. I also hope this will open up communication between the parents and the kids about what their favorite memories are and for kids and parents alike to learn about each other. Please, write down inside of the book the age of your child and what is on their Main Street. And in five years, go back and revisit it and see what has changed. Like how parents measure the height of their children, go back and revisit their Main Street every few years, updating it and seeing what has changed.

What do you want parents to get out of your work?

I want parents to be able to learn about their kids. Parents are so busy these days with work and other things that are constantly coming up. It is a time to sit down and learn something new about their child that they didn’t know. 

Did your upcoming fatherhood have anything to do with writing this book?

When I wrote this book, my daughter Abigail wasn’t even a twinkle in my eye. However, I had told my wife that I wanted to write something for my future kids to be proud of their dad for, and I believe I accomplished that with this book.

As a military veteran do you think that you have a unique perspective on death that led you to craft this story?

Over my twenty years in the armed service, I have seen many things that I do not wish upon others. When my father passed away, I was the one who called everyone because I was able to go into ‘work’ mode and stay calm and together. I believe I understand death better than most, and how to work with people who are grieving, and that is another reason I believe I was meant to write this story.

How did your work with the coroner’s office help inspire you to write Building Our Main Street?

I had written this book before going to the coroner’s office for the Covid mission.  However, I found and hired my illustrator while on the mission. By seeing death on a daily basis, this book was my escape. I was able to let my mind go and focus solely on my story, how to craft the images with Matea, and to make it magical for families and kids.

How has the pandemic influenced your work?

During the pandemic, I have focused more on my children’s books because we all went through a difficult time. I took my frustrations with the world, and turned them into fun and loving stories for kids. Routinely, I would write the stories and then email them to my friends who had kids and ask them to read them and let me know what they thought. It was a way to make myself happy by making others happy.

You had a challenging childhood.  Was there anything you experienced growing up that motivated you to write this book?

Growing up I loved scary movies but also Disney films. I started to write at the age of thirteen as a way to escape because I was an overweight child, picked on in school constantly and my parents were always fighting. My family life was broken, so I would hide inside of my professional wrestling and writing short stories. I won’t complain about how I was raised or what happened during that time, because it all shaped me and my writings to this day.

For any children going through the trauma of losing a loved one, is there one tip you’d like to share?

My one tip is, talk to someone. Find a friend or family member who will just sit and listen to you. If you need to, go to therapy which is a great tool. I went to therapy when I was thirteen due to my parents’ issues, and again when I got home from Iraq to make sure I didn’t have any residual issues from my time there. Never be afraid to talk about what you are thinking or feeling. It is important, and you need to remember you are important.