What role model taught me that my own identity was unique or important?
The first person that comes to mind that taught me to be unique was my mother. She always taught me to be myself and to be unique when I was younger, and she really drove home the point that other people's ways of life are never wrong. "They're just different" Is what she would always tell me. She definitely got more than she bargained for when I grew up to be genderfluid, queer, polyamorous artist-musician, who's probably even more of a feminist than she is! But I think she loves me all the same, even if she doesn't "get" all that.
What was the inspiration behind My favorite color?
The inspiration behind my favorite color came while I was meditating. I'd been pondering the idea of a children's book for a little over a year and I've always been intensely attracted to colors, color theory, and I'm in love with rainbows. So there I was, attempting to do some zen meditation and clear my mind, when I went completely off track and had this great idea for a book about colors! Sometimes that happens. Prisma's indecision leading up to the finale of the book when she realizes she doesn't have to decide is based on my life experiences. We're often pressured to specialize in one trade, career or education and I've never thrived under that sort of expectation.
What is one thing I'd like people to take away from your work?
The one thing I'd like people to take away from my work is that you can be different and you don't have to be single minded. Some people really like the color purple, or magenta, or teal. Some people like glitter and black. Some people just love color in general. This applies to life as well. You don't have to choose just one thing to be great in or to love. Life is about balance.
What advice do I have for new writers?
Oh my. Here's a thought. I wrote ONE book, and now people are asking me for advice. So I think my advice would be to just do it! Just write one book! Make it short! Make it sloppy! Be embarrassed! I'm still incredibly embarrassed about My Favorite Color. Even though lots of people have told me they like it. You are your own worst critic. Just do it, and soon someone will be asking you for advice.
What barriers still exist for LGBT writers who want to write about LGBT lives and issues?
The biggest barrier to writing about LGBT characters and lives is that people will tell you NOT TO DO IT. This happened to me. I'm ashamed that I let it get to me too. You'll notice in My Favorite Color I only mention Prisma's mom. She has a non-traditional family structure but early on in development I let a mentor convince me to take that element out. "Kids will get sidetracked and focus on only that and it will take away from the story." Is what I was told. We're encouraged not to write LGBT characters as just normal, everyday people. We're only encouraged to include them if that's what the story is about. It paints LGBT people as something exotic. Something to be the focus of the story, not just a normal detail about a complex, unique individual.
Should Allies write about LGBT characters and issues?
Yes, allies should absolutely write about LGBT characters and issues but here's the kicker: Everyone should write about every kind of person. A good writer does their research and it's important to consult with LGBT individuals before writing them into your story, but like I said above, we're not some kind of exotic creature. We're part of every day life. We're everyday people. So we should definitely be included in everyday stories and our LGBT status should not be the only important part of our characterization. Don't write about "Joey the lesbian" write about "Joey the hairdresser and dog lover who goes on an adventure with her girlfriend."
I'm not certain what's next for me. I took a long break from illustration after finishing My Favorite Color. I've considered publishing again, and I'm on the look out for indie and small-time publishers, I have an idea for a book, and all I can say is it starts with a butterfly.
My personal motto is:
Never give up. Never give up. Never, ever, ever give up. I've been through a lot of challenges, and I've really hit rock bottom in the past. It's a motto that I try to remind myself of every day. I don't care if I have to claw, scrape, scramble, dig, or climb my way out. I just keep telling myself "You can do this." My advice to others at their all time lows are to reach out to everyone and anyone that can help. Just keep going one step at a time.
If people are interested in reading the book or getting it for their children it's available at Kent District Library:
Or if they would like to support my work and a local business they can purchase the book at Schuler Books either in the store on 28th street or by ordering online here.
AJ McKeever has always had an intense love of color ever since they were a little kid. They never really outgrew picture books either, and have been known to regularly check out picture books from the library and buy them from bookstores. Their first favorite book was "The Rainbow Fish" by Marcus Pfister. My Favorite Color is their first foray into writing and illustrating children's books as well as self publishing. AJ lives in Michigan with their Husband, beagle, and cat. Some day AJ hopes to live on the West Coast. When AJ isn't working, they are usually reading, coloring, or playing bassoon.