Jonathan Ashley, Illustrator
Suitable for: Preschool to 8 yrs
Themes: Imagination, Night Frights, Courage, Conquering Fear
Opening: “Things that go bump in the night, Giving my poor soul a fright. Like Zombies and Warlocks, or cold witches brew, Ghoulies and Goblins who’d have me for stew. Leprechaun, Minotaur, Cyclops — oh my! Werewoves and Gremlins and Dragons who fly. Things that go bump in the night, giving a poor soul a fright…”
Bella lays in bed, covers pulled tightly to her chin and tries to fall asleep. But, her overactive imagination carries her into a world of goblins and dragons. It is there where Bella faces her demons and ends up befriending each one. Bella is the spunky hero in this charming and witty book. It is written in verse by the Derek and Gina Roché, and is the first book published in the “Bella the Great” series. Jonathan Ashley’s illustrations are gorgeous, whimsical, detailed and beautifully capture Bella’s adventures.
Derek and Gina Roché are the authors of Bella Goes Bump in the Night, under the logo of “Bella the Great.” They began writing children’s books to chronicle the daily lives of their two daughters, Isabella (Bella) and Angelia (Gia). They are classically trained actors, who have studied at Circle in the Square’s Theatre School. Derek and Gina have been writing for their own enjoyment for some time. They have used the start in children’s literature to get them motivated to take their writing in other mediums and genres more seriously. My interview today is with Derek, as Gina is working on a film in the middle of a jungle in Sri Lanka for three months.
Before I start the interview, I’ve asked Derek to share his efforts to help a boy who has mitochondrial disease. Zach needs to travel from Pasadena, CA, to Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, OH, to see a doctor who specializes in this specific genetic disorder.
Gina and I are trying to help raise the necessary travel funds to get Zach to Columbus for a potentially life-saving consultation with Dr. Carlo Di Lorenzo. We are donating 100 percent of the net profits of our book sales for Bella Goes Bump in the Night, to help raise funds for Zach. If you go to our website Bella the Great, we have given people multiple options. You can make a direct donation that will go directly to Zach without making a purchase. You also can use the button that allows you to donate $15 or more and receive the book as a gift. Visit 17-year-old Zach on his Facebook page, Big Zach’s Village, to learn more about this remarkable teenager.
What is the inspiration behind “Bella Goes Bump in the Night?”
Our oldest daughter Bella (5 1/2 yrs.) is and continues to be our inspiration for the series. We’ve now added Gia (2 1/2 yrs.) to our inspiration as well. Bella Goes Bump in the Night came to us quickly after a talk about monsters with her. She’s always had an incredibly active imagination (in the best way) and it’s something that we’ve marveled at and continually try to nurture in both our girls. And, Bella has contributed to some of the later stories. She wants to be a knight for Christmas. She doesn’t want to dress up as a knight. No, Bella wants to actually receive knighthood. We’re working on it! Her current wish to be a knight definitely puts the idea of “Bella the Great” being knighted in the forefront of our minds for an upcoming story.
Bella has had positive experiences from the book. She definitely “gets it.” The other day I overheard her asking the parent of another small child at the park, if she had “her” book? I believe it has helped her self-confidence. There have been times when she’s used it as a tool to ease me into the idea that she’s more capable of doing something than I might have given her credit for. She has uttered on more than one occasion, “Don’t worry Papa, I’m Bella the Great!” I am in awe of both girls every day. Gia is the perfect complement to Bella and our family. Gia is the one who is going to challenge me and give me gray hair. Gina and I are truly blessed and excited to see the women they will grow up to be. They show us true greatness every day.
Why did you decide to self-publish? Did you find it challenging?
We self-published the first book. That was the plan from the start. We didn’t think we had enough time to go the traditional route. We had some very specific goals and needs. We felt that doing it ourselves would streamline the process. As with everything, it had both its pros and cons. Promotion was a foot to pavement scenario (finger to keyboard more so). Then through friends we became connected to a variety of outlets. It was very challenging and disheartening at times. After the fact, we found a great agent, Mollie Glick with Foundry Literary Media.
How did you get your big break with Apple and publishing on iTunes, iPhones and iPad?
It was something we looked into in the early stages, but assumed it would take a good deal of time and capital As it turned out, Gina had reconnected with a high school classmate who was developing apps with a new focus on children’s content. He loved our book and approached us about developing it as an app, which he then submitted to Apple. It’s definitely been our best market. Apple and iTunes have been amazing and have loved Bella the Great. We were picked as “New and Noteworthy“ right out of the gate. We were featured in the banner on the front page of iTunes when we were simultaneously selected as “What’s Hot.” We were the number two book, second only to Green Eggs and Ham. They also honored us with a “Staff Favorite” pick. It’s been a great run and we’re hoping to get another book out on the platform soon. We love Apple. We have sold more digital copies than books. People have given us such positive feedback, but they don’t follow-up and buy the book.
Your sales and reviews took off like wildfire. How did you feel about receiving the coveted Kirkus Review?
We owe a great thanks to Apple for recognizing a great children’s book. We’ve never been in touch with anyone at Apple. Our developer doesn’t talk to anybody. He made it clear that they are very protective against the possibility of anyone accusing them of favoritism. The app is doing well when you consider that we were “nobodies.” We have a German translation included now with Italian, Hebrew and Chinese ready to be integrated.
We didn’t realize what a great honor it was to be noticed and reviewed by Kirkus. That was exciting! It definitely helped us to stay on track with this idea that we were on to something.
What are your thoughts about the future of traditional children’s books and apps?
I am very old-fashioned and don’t believe digital media will do away with real books. I see the impact first hand. When the girls and I go to the library or book store, it’s like hunting for buried treasures when we search for books. We take them home, find our favorites, and read them again and again. It’s personal and intimate. I don’t get that with book/apps. Not even our own. They’d rather read the real book. I do see apps as an opportunity for writers who are self-publishing or are with smaller imprints. It can give them that extra little push to get them on board.
What’s next for Derek and Gina?
We have 10 Bella books written with several more story lines in the works, and a stable of non-Bella books too, both written and in their infancy. We definitely plan on putting more Bella books on iTunes. We’re working on the second of two new Bella books that our agent will submit to publishers based on earlier feedback.
Thank you Derek for sharing your unique journey with us, from self-publishing to being the second popular app on iTunes. I hope you sell a lot of books so that you can raise the funds needed to send Zach to the Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus. You have a big heart! Blessings to all, Patricia