Sunday, March 4, 2012

Kenworthy Interviews: Author Raychelle Muhammad

[Guest blogger John Kenworthy is author of the chilling new novel The Missionary and the Brute, a thriller set in Tanzania, East Africa. Kenworthy's previous books have included The Hand Behind the Mouse: an intimate biography of Ub Iwerks and Bungee Jumping & Cocoons. He is the Founder/Executive Director of Brick by Brick for Tanzania!, Inc.]

1) With your background in Sports Management and personal training, how did you decide to transform that passion for health and wellness into books?

In my former life, I worked in management, dabbled in real estate, and owned several businesses. After becoming a personal trainer, I decided to go back to school and obtain a degree in the field. I also resumed homeschooling my daughter. The year-round program took 3 years to complete. There were a lot of ups and downs during that period of my life. During my last year in the program, my father died suddenly from a heart attack. On a brighter note, my daughter skipped two grade levels and blossomed both academically and creatively. My plate was full and there was no time to grieve. I am a recovering workaholic, so I kept my head down and I pressed on. In the spring, I graduated Summa Cum Laude (with highest honors). Needless to say, I was proud of my achievements, but I was also exhausted. Ironically, I had studied fitness and wellness, but when it was all over I was neither fit nor well.

According to Dr. Bill Hettler, wellness is comprised of six dimensions: occupational, physical, social, intellectual, spiritual, and emotional. The challenge is to find balance across all six dimensions. I wanted to use my degree in a way that would allow me to continue to homeschool my daughter and keep balance in my family life. After weighing my options, writing became my occupation. It made my schedule flexible enough that I could fit in some exercise or gardening. I now meet all kinds of people through social networking and promoting my books. Doing research for my blogs and freelance work keeps me mentally sharp. The creative process is a spiritual connection for me and it keeps me sane. So, whether I am writing children's books, articles on interior design, or blog posts on exercise and nutrition, I know that I am helping others live well in a way that fulfills me.

2) Your books support values such as self-esteem, courage, friendship, family, creativity and the importance of education in a beautifully positive manner that is truly unique. When you were a child, who or what was your source of inspiration and support for instilling those values in yourself?

Thank you! My mother, Regena V. Thomas, was a force of nature and I credit her for instilling all of those values in each of her six children. She set very high standards for us academically which quickly spilled over into our extracurricular activities. She showed us love and held us accountable. We spent a lot of time in the library for both school and leisure reading. I recall wondering why there were not more books about people who looked like me. My mother encouraged us to read everything that interested us. It certainly didn't hurt that we were enrolled in gifted and talented programs through high school. We were exposed to challenging academic subjects, the arts, foreign languages, clubs, and athletics. A well-rounded education builds self-esteem, it inspires creativity, and it removes fear, but it takes a village.

3) How did you create your story? Did you storyboard the sequences? Or did you jump right in to the narrative and think of the imagery after? Share with us if you will the process by which you created your work.

Every story is a bit different, but I would have to say that my daughter inspires all of them in some way. My "Like You" series is written with the specific aim of teaching children good character, the importance of family and education, friendship, healthy lifestyles, achievement, and to love themselves. So, I start with an overall theme and feel for the book, do some brainstorming, and then decide on the sequence using an outline. It is much easier for me to create my framework and then be creative within those parameters. I write the story first, but because I am a visual person, I edit according to whether or not my words can easily translate into an illustration. Sometimes the text dictates the imagery and sometimes the imagery dictates the text. If something in the manuscript doesn't work, it is obvious when I attempt to illustrate it.

4) How did you decide the methodology of publishing? Did you shop it to agents/traditional publishers first? Please tell us how you came to decide to self-publish? Has that met your expectations?

Initially, I did send out Little Girls Like You, Little Boys Like You, Fit Girls Like You, and Fit Boys Like You to 5 or 6 publishers. I did get some positive feedback, but I quickly realized that if I wanted to keep my vision intact, self-publishing was the way to go. The "Like You" series will be comprised of at least 10 titles. I want the look and feel of these books to be consistent. I have already created the characters, themes, cover design, and some of the related companion pieces (activity books, calendar, etc.). A traditional publisher would have to be willing to take on the whole project. Realistically, these books are geared for African-American children and I am very clear on what I would like to accomplish. We are a grossly underrepresented group in the literary world. I chose CreateSpace (an Amazon company) and by publishing my series with them I retain creative control, ownership of my work, broad distribution options, and a greater share of the profits. Hopefully, I am producing something of value that will impact all children, especially children of color. The most challenging part will be marketing, but I am up for it.

5) What is next for you? Are you working on more books? What is the inspiration behind them?

I have written the next two installments in the "Like You" series entitled Smart Girls Like You and Smart Boys Like You. Currently, I am illustrating Smart Girls and working on rough sketches for Smart Boys. I am preparing the entire series for broader distribution which requires some tweaking of the existing titles. There is an academic calendar in the works to accompany Smart Girls and Smart Boys as well as an activity book and children's cookbook.

I have written 3 picture books that I am currently submitting to agents and traditional publishers. One is inspired by my fiesty nieces; one is a hopeful story about a little boy who must adjust to a new life after his family is forced to downsize; and the third is an imaginative look at how the loss of something valuable may touch the life of the person who finds it.

To keep working at becoming a better illustrator, I have launched a line of greeting cards.  I am finishing the birthday card category with more to come!

In the health and fitness arena, I am blogging at Journeys Fitness ( and doing some freelance writing. Within the next 4-6 weeks, I should finish an ebook on circuit training that I am under contract to co-write. I will also be teaching a course for aspiring personal trainers starting mid-April.

As you know, one of my most exciting projects is my blog Raychelle Writes ( and the interviews I am doing on The Writer's Block ( (Read John Kenworthy's interview HERE!) I have met so many talented people and learned something fantastic from each and every one of them. They make me a better a writer, illustrator, and entrepreneur.

6) When you write – do you have a specific audience in mind when crafting your tales? Who is your ideal reader?

It depends on the genre. My goal is always to add quality to the reader's life. I love children's picture books for ages 0-12, so I try to write books that will challenge younger children without boring the older children. That is no small feat. I write what I like to read and then I run them by my 12-year old. I suppose that my ideal reader is anyone who wants to learn something new and walk away with something positive whether the book is fiction or non-fiction.

7) What has been the most challenging aspect of publishing the books as you have done?

The most challenging aspect of self-publishing has been remaining patient with the process. The author controls the time table and I am a results-driven kind of girl. It begins and ends with me and there is no one to blame if I miss my own deadlines. In my mind's eye, I am able to see the finished product, so I put a lot of pressure on myself to finish what I start. I also get new ideas for other projects while I am working. What works best for me is to keep a pad and pen nearby so that I can revisit these ideas later.

8) What is the most gratifying part?

The most gratifying part of self-publishing is knowing that I have finished a project from beginning to end that will enhance someone else's life while staying true to my vision.

9) How has your community – friends, family, neighbors – reacted to your work?

The reactions have been very positive. In the beginning, there were some who questioned my commitment to writing. But, I don't make it a habit of worrying with what people think about what I do. I have many interests and I pursue them all. Eventually, each of those interests will translate into a book or two. Education and homeschooling are huge parts of my life as are sports, health, and fitness. I enjoy cooking, interior design, gardening, real estate, and sewing. I believe that I have a duty to share the gifts I have and everything I have learned with as many people as possible. For me, writing is one of the best ways to do that.

10) As a writer – what do you want your eventual great-grandchildren to know about you and your work?

Good question. Should I have great-grandchildren, I want them to know that I trusted my instincts, I worked hard, and that I helped as many people as I could along the way.

Connect with Raychelle:





Twitter: @RaychelleWrites and @journeysfit

Amazon Author Page

Lulu Author Spotlight Page

Greeting Card Universe Store


John Kenworthy's Links:

The Missionary and the Brute on Amazon (paperback):

The Missionary and the Brute on Amazon (Kindle):

The Missionary and the Brute on publisher's site:

The Missionary and the Brute Blog:


  1. You are such an interesting person, Raychelle, and are doing so much for your fellow writers. Thank you. I enjoyed your interview very much.
    Katherine McCaughan

  2. Great interview! Nice to see the cards turned and see you interviewed for a change.Didn't know you were so talented,writing plus illustrating everything.Congrats and good luck.

  3. Fantastic interview! I'm so glad to see your interview this time, after you're doing so much for your fellow authors! Congrats, Camy

  4. Love and enjoyed reading your interview Raychelle! Worth reading your inspiration ,determination,commitment and positive attitude.Congrats keep the good work up!!

  5. Thank you, everyone! This was a lot of fun for me!