Interview with Mom’s Choice Award-Winner Tina Neely

Mom’s Choice Awards is excited to announce another post in our interview series where we chat with the inventors, designers, publishers, and others behind some of our favorite family-friendly products.

Hello, Mom’s Choice readers! Thank you for joining us for another of our interviews featuring an MCA honoree! In today’s interview, we sat down with Tina Neely, the author-illustrator of Bacon Loves Everyone!—a fun book for parents and grandparents to read aloud with their kids. Perfect for ages 2 to 8, this heartwarming tale about a young pig trying to find his forever home addresses topics like adoption, diversity, friendship, and the tremendous power of love. Keep reading to find out more about Tiny Neely and her Mom’s Choice Award-winning book, Bacon Loves Everyone!

MCA: Tina, it’s so good to have you with us today. To start off the interview, won’t you tell us a bit about yourself?

I live in Cincinnati with my husband, Joe, and Bacon, our pot-bellied pig. I am a Christian who loves to share about Jesus and his love. I have had many different kinds of jobs, from hairdresser to sign painter (a family business that my parents had for over 40 years), realtor, makeup artist, lunch lady, sous chef, and kitchen manager. I think that’s all of them.

I love spending time in my backyard by the pond that my mom and I built eight or nine years ago. I watch the fish, and I can see Bacon and the chickens from there as well. I love to go for walks and spend time with the children that my husband and I work with—through a program at our church that helps them disciple their friends and family.

I am a wife, mother, daughter, aunt, grandma, and now a great-grandma! I also like to think that I am a good friend to my friends.

MCA: What was your path to becoming a writer like? And what was your inspiration for writing this book?

I loved writing when I was in college, but I was always embarrassed to pursue it because I am a terrible speller, and my grammar is not that hot, either. But I read an article about Eric Carle, author of The Hungry Caterpillar. He mentioned that this was also his struggle and that he was coached to tell his story anyway. I reached a point where life was too short, so I kicked in and decided to give it a go.

Of course, the decision to go for it came with the onset of COVID-19—when I was sent home and they closed down the kitchen where I was working. I came home and went outside to figure out a game plan for my next career. I started jotting down ideas—like being a blogger, or going into interior design because I have a knack for that.

While I was brainstorming, Bacon was trying to get my attention. Pigs make over 40 different sounds to communicate. And while I don’t know all his sounds, I do know when he says, “Hello, pay attention to me; I need some love.” It was at that point the stories started to come, one after another. All with the same message: that you are loved. I came into the house and told my husband I knew what I would do—I would be writing and illustrating children’s picture books. He asked if I knew how to do that. I told him not yet, but I will.

Three years later, with a lot of new information in my brain, I have authored/illustrated and self-published my first book in a collection of stories about Bacon, titled Bacon Loves Everyone! It is based on the day that we adopted our beloved pot-bellied pig, Bacon! This determined little piggy goes on a journey to find his forever family, while spreading the message to anyone who will listen that they are loved—through a sweet little verse that Bacon sings out, “Oink Diddy, Oink Diddy, Oink, Oink, Oink!” as loud as he can.

MCA: That’s quite a journey! Could you tell us some of the key lessons found in the book?

Bacon Loves Everyone! shares the importance of self-value, determination, and finding one’s forever family and friends.

It also includes a “heart search” of over 400 hearts hidden in the illustrations. At the bottom of the page, it first appears as a page number, and then you realize it’s the number of hearts hidden on that page!

The main lesson or takeaway from the story is that you may not be accepted by everyone, and that’s okay. Know that you will be accepted for who you are by the right people—and that you are loved no matter what.

MCA: You’re also the book’s illustrator. Can you share a bit on how that came about?

My dad was an artist and a sign painter, and my parents had their own sign shop for over 40 years. I had worked at the shop on and off through the years. I think this played a big part in helping me have an idea of how I wanted the illustrations to come across. I knew when I drew the characters that I wanted to create something that kids could turn around and recreate! I have some background in graphic design, but I haven’t tried to draw anything in over 25 years. I just knew in my heart that I had to be the one who created the way that Bacon looked.

MCA: How marvelous that you could wear both of those hats. What kind of response from readers have you received?

The book has been received with much joy and lots of giggles! The illustration’s bold colors are eye-catching, making the reader want to see what is next. The heart search seems to be something that everyone is enjoying—and makes this a book that will allow older siblings to want to read along and see if they, too, can find the hearts.

MCA: Will you be bringing out additional stories about Bacon?

I will be launching a second book for Christmas—Bacon’s important Christmas Job!—along with a little board book box set teaching about colors, numbers, and shapes.

MCA: How fortunate for young readers that you made the move to writing! Thanks for joining us today, Tina. We look forward to hearing about the next books in the series!

You can learn more about Tina Neely and her award-winning book, Bacon Loves Everyone!, by visiting her MCA Shop page.

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