About the Author:
Kristen Brown is an artist with Asperger’s syndrome and PTSD, who always wondered how could she ever hope to have a bright, happy future with one foot stuck in the mire of such a dark, unhappy past. She found the strength and fortitude to over-come, reconcile, forgive, let go of the pain, and help others do the same. Kristen shares her story of over-coming adversity to inspire people and help them understand that no matter what horrible, difficult, or challenging situations we go through in life, there is a way to persevere and break the cycle. Kristen wants people weighted down by life’s burdens to know, life does get better. Currently residing in Jacksonville, Florida, Kristen fosters rescued abused animals, home-schools her children, and promotes children’s books written by her 10 year old son, Kaleb who also has Asperger’s syndrome. To find out more about Kaleb Brown and his books please visit www.TheBigM.net
MF: You have Asperger’s Syndrome and PTSD. You help people with the same conditions and other “focus-stealing mental disorders” write about their experiences as a healing process. Tell us a little about how writing helps.
KB: At first I thought writing about my past was a bad idea, drudging up things I don’t want to think about, but it turned out to be a great idea, for myself and for others who could relate due to their own traumatic experiences. For me, it’s like cleaning out the garage our attic for a yard sale, I dig it all up from the depths of the dark ugliness of it all, put it on paper as if putting it into a container, and then sharing it, like “here, take this, use what you can and never mind the rest”, I don’t want it anymore. Because I shared my pain in such an open manner, it no longer affects me. I’m done with it. It has lifted a weight off me that allows me to feel better about life and about myself. Writing helped me let go.
MF: Tell us a little about What Didn’t Kill Me.
KB: What Didn’t Kill Me started out as a purging poem, written in the moment about how it felt to be abused by someone who professed to love me. I started with my earliest memory when I was still in diapers, and continued until I realized if I account every abuse it would become daunting to read. I was clearly wrong about that. I posted it on social media where I was strongly encouraged to continue it. The poem grew longer and longer, until some one told me it took them an hour to read what I had on my page and perhaps I should consider writing a book. So I did. I hashed out the entire, gritty mess that has been my life, explained as if it were happening to me right now, so the reader doesn’t just know what happened, they feel the emotions of each situation. If you have never been a child who was forcibly fed something in a violent manner, or have never had your face smashed repeatedly onto your homework on the kitchen table while crying and bleeding, you will get a sense of the terror and fear, whereby becoming one step closer to understanding why some people turn out to be so insecure and self-loathing in life. When people understand a thing, they tend to have more compassion and be more accepting. I wanted people to understand me, understand why I am the imperfect way that I am. Giving a descriptive blow by blow is the only way I could think to convey how I became who I am today.
MF: Your ten year-old son also has Asperger’s and he writes children’s books. Do your other children have an affinity for writing as well?
AP: Actually yes, I’m glad you asked that because I often worry that my 9 year old daughter, Jessamine might feel left out as her two books have not yet been published. She tells me stories all the time. One day she told me a story about a star, and I don’t think she realized the underlying positive message the story had, but I noticed it right away, so I suggested she turn it into a book. We haven’t yet been in a position to publish them by I hope to before the year is out.
MF: Tell us about Kaleb’s books The Big M and The Big M: Zombie Aliens Attack.
KB: Kaleb started drawing these serial drawings with the same characters in each drawing. I couldn’t throw them out because they were so amazing with intricate detail beyond his years. I saved them and Kaleb wanted to make a cartoon series out of them. My friend Jesse Kozel suggested I start with publishing his drawings in books. Jesse is an actor who ended up doing the voice of one of the characters in Kaleb’s storyboard video.
The Big M book one starts out with the two main characters meeting each other and the book series follows them on their exciting adventures, silly antics, and events of sheer calamity. Each character has a family, a history, a background….it’s very involved. Kaleb has enough material to publish at least ten more books in the series. While he’s waiting for me to raise money to publish his work, he actually started two other books. The kid’s imagination is limitless and endless!
MF: How did Chris Kirkpatrick of ‘Nsync get involved with Kaleb’s work?
KB: I am really into social media, and I always say, “networking is key”. I just put myself out there fully as to what my kids and I are doing, and what we need to move forward. It travels from one person to another until I have reached the person who wants to be part of what we have going on. Gregory McDonald put together Kaleb’s storyboard video to his first book, and he is close friends with Chris, so he enlisted his help. I didn’t know Greg, but I knew Seth Petruzelli, who knew Sam Butler, who knew Gregory, who knew Chris, and that’s how we get things done. Next thing you know, Chris Kirkpatrick is in our tiny living room purchasing 100 books to donate to underprivileged kids, and opening Christmas gifts with us. The Chris Kirkpatrick Foundation adopted my kids for Christmas the year Kaleb’s first book was published. It was very moving. I am a single parent whose life is one long struggle, so that was a true blessing I will never forget.
MF: It’s apparent that Kaleb is a star. How do your other children deal with his celebrity?
KB: Jessamine is included in all Kaleb’s appearances, she even goes on stage and stands beside him while he speaks into the microphone so if he gets nervous or suddenly shy, he knows she is right there to cover for him. She is not shy so she could easily jump in to save him if the need arises. So far Kaleb has done really well with the public speaking and interviews in various forms of media, so she hasn’t had to jump in, but he says it comforts him to know she has his back like that. Fans and supporters who speak to Kaleb often include Jessamine in the conversation by asking her questions about what she likes to do, at which time she breaks out into gymnastics, haha. I’m also an artist, mostly abstract oil and acrylic paintings, and Jessamine loves to paint with me. She sold a couple of paintings last week which really made her day.
MF: What do you read? What does Kaleb read?
KB: Kaleb reads book sets. He likes the way one book leads to the next. His two favorite series of book are the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid”, and “A series of Unfortunate Events”, which he is just now finishing up, about to start the last book in the series.
Now, I love love love to write, but I seriously hate to read. I think it’s just because I have poor focus, because when I want to know something badly enough, I will read everything I can about it.
I’m over 40 now, so I like to read books on brain health and general wellness, anti-aging,…pretty much anything that will help me be healthier, happier, have better skin, and stop my hair from thinning, haha. Before I turned 40 I read books such as How to Raise an Asperger’s Child, anything to learn all I could about Autism and Asperger’s syndrome.
MF: What is your favorite writing tip or quote?
KB: I have a few, but the one that fits me best is,
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” -Maya Angelou
MF: Do you have any advice for other writers?
KB: The best advice I can give is to not set yourself a time limit as the hundreds of writing advice websites suggest. I think this is more what causes a writer stress. My book sat half-finished for an entire year. That whole year I felt like I failed at finishing something I started, I felt guilty for not writing with each day that passed. In retrospect I realized the demand to finish it and the constraints of time were completely self-imposed. I felt ridiculous. I finished the book, so clearly I worried myself sick for a year for nothing. One day I got out my laptop and finished it in a matter of weeks. What you are trying to say will come to you, and the art of how you want to say it will come to you, so just be patient, live the rest of your life and fit the book in as it comes to you. Writing shouldn’t be stressful. We have something to say, so say it, and if you don’t know what to say, wait until you do.
MF: If you and/or Kaleb could jump into a book, and live in that world … which would it be?
KB: Kaleb would love to live in his second THE BIG M book, Zombie Aliens Attack because of the weird characters in it, and he likes aliens. He would want a portal to his first book though so he could swim in the lemonade sea, and indulge in some parcour at the rundown mall. He might end up in a body cast like The Big M or Keven, but I’m sure The Big M would help him with the hospital bill.
How can you have a bright, happy future with one foot stuck in the mire of such a dark, unhappy past? You find any way to over-come, reconcile, forgive, let go of the pain, and help others do the same.
Feel the raw emotion of what it’s like to survive and deal with child abuse, alcoholism, rape, adoption, Autism, Asperger’s syndrome, poverty, depression, abandonment, loss, suicide, armed robbery, mental illness, over-coming irrational fears, road rage, PTSD, chronic pain, unrequited love, social disorders, sexual assault, kidnapping and more. In this book you will come to understand, that no matter what you have been though in life, you always have something to be grateful for, hard times build character and reveal a strength you might not have known you had. Learn how to stop being a victim, and start being a survivor. If you know anyone this book might benefit, I implore you to please reach out to them and share it.
Purchase What Didn’t Kill Me:
A hard-working, very kind Dotty named Keven meets The Big M, a curious monster with big sharp teeth and a spiked tail. Keven knows nott o judge a book by it’s cover so he gives The Big M a chance and they become great friends. Keven invites The Big M to his home to be his pet to train him to be a super-hero. Their adventures have no end as they discover that anything is possible.
Purchase The Big M: Online Binding
After a wonderful day at super-hero school, getting a new pet panda from Keven, and a chance encounter with raining bacon, The Big M finds out the hard way that scary movies are for grown Dotties, not young little monsters. With his nightmares of zombie alien slugs, giant broccoli, and evil pancakes coming to life destroying the town, Big M must work quickly to get things back to normal.
Purchase The Big M: Zombie Aliens Attack: Online Binding