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February 10, 2023

Children are taken from their lives on Earth to the planet of Urth to carry out special missions in Ballard’s Tales by Moons-light series, the latest of which received an Editor’s Pick from BookLife. We spoke with Ballard about how her childhood inspired the series and what her hopes are for her readers.

Elvia and the Gift of Passion is the third book in your Tales by Moons-light series. What inspired the series?

The series was inspired by my own childhood, where I felt out of place. My parents, both classical musicians, were well-intentioned and took good care of me, but I was a natural-born scientist and pretty lonely. It wasn’t until I was 17 that I met an amazing mentor who understood and encouraged me. From there, my passion took flame, and I’ve spent my career as a scientist ever since. But I wish I’d had the mentoring much sooner. My books are about middle grade children who are in similar circumstances and discover a magical portal that whisks them away to a planet where their gifts are appreciated and where they can explore, free from parental judgment or influence, their beautiful, authentic selves. When they return, they’re firmly on a new trajectory—one that’s destined to bring them great joy and satisfaction.

Why did you decide to have chapters featuring the parents’ perspective?

The children are miserable at home before their adventures begin. They feel stifled and repressed. But the parents are unhappy too and deeply flawed in the way they parent. Both the child and the parents need to transform to heal the rift between them. By following the story of what happens to the child on distant planet Urth, and the horrific events that unfold at home when they go missing, I provide strong and believable motivation for the profound development and transformation of all the characters so they can come together in the end.

How do you imagine readers at this moment will connect to Elvia and the Gift of Passion?

 Children will connect with Elvia’s adven­turous, impulsive spirit, and some will share her deep unhappiness and frustra­tion with her birth parents. Her romp on the other side of the galaxy sends readers into an escape fantasy where Elvia not only has a grand time but is tested and manages to prevail. The fact that her parents miss her back home and think she’s been snatched by a lion while on safari in Africa provides additional excitement, replete with witch doctors, lion experts, and a kind couple who run a nonprofit called Parents of Swallowed Children.

What do you think an author needs to keep in mind when writing for children?

Children are impressionable, and I feel a strong responsibility to write books with an uplifting message. By crafting strong, likeable protagonists who face daunting challenges, I’m setting the stage for my readers to think more deeply about their own lives and what excites and moves them. By showing how my protagonists discover their natural gifts and learn to master them, I’m inviting them to do the same. Nothing is more important than living an authentic life. Too many people live shadow lives trying to please others. I want to encourage my young readers to grow beyond that.

Can you tease your next book?

My next book follows a similar theme. It features 10-year-old Bubba Wong, who drives his parents crazy with his nonstop big-picture questions: “How big is the universe? Why don’t cockroaches wear clothes?” They are practical people who run a funeral home and furniture business in a small Oklahoma town and think his questions are a waste of time. Bubba feels alone, but all that changes when he’s whisked across the galaxy to planet Urth and embarks on a mind-bending adventure. Meanwhile, back on Earth, his parents enter a living hell as they search desperately for him, believing he’s been accidentally buried alive!