Kid author Elias Mask's new book is a celebration of creativity and faith

Publication is always a reason for an author to celebrate. The process to get a book accepted for publication can be long and arduous, filled with both joys and challenges.

Imagine, if you will though, that the newly released book comes from the mind of a ninth grader who wrote his first book at age 7, has already written eight books, and wants to finish 20 of them before he graduates from high school.

That's the inspiring story of Elias Mask, a kid author from Nettleton, Mississippi, whose debut book Alien Invasion has just been published by Charlie's Port, a publisher specializing in books and other creative endeavors by extraordinary children. Elias and her publisher, Mary Claire Branton, met at the 2019 Southern Christian Writers Conference in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Branton explains the book this way: "Alien Invasion is the literary transformation of an only child's ordinary environment into something truly extraordinary."

Elias and his father, Terry Mask, recently talked with me about Elias' journey as a writer and their experience in getting Alien Invasion published.

Have you always wanted to be a writer, and when do you first remember wanting to be a writer?

Elias: I haven’t always wanted to be a writer. I would say more of a

storyteller. I first started writing immediately after I learned how to actually write. I made a small comic strip that I would add to weekly about my pretend adventures with my pet rabbit. I even drew my own cartoons to go with them. Not very good but very entertaining for me.

Where did the idea for Alien Invasion come from?

Elias: I actually wanted to see if I could do it. So I began researching how to write a book. I found out the best books were books written about something you are very familiar with. I was an only child and had to be creative to entertain myself sometimes. So I knew this was something I was definitely familiar with. I would often take something ordinary and make it EXTRA Ordinary, which is how my series was born. I decided to write about the EXTRA Ordinary Life of Elias. I started by making an outline and briefly described each of the 13 chapters. I found when I broke it down like that it was very easy to create the entire book. I tried to incorporate everything that I loved to read in the book. I like lots of adventure and humor mixed with a lot of mischief. So the story actually comes very easy for me.

Briefly describe the process of finding Mary Claire and then having the book published.

Terry: Once Elias finished writing his first book we got feedback from a couple of his teachers at school. They both thought his writing was great and that we should try and get it published. The problem was nobody had any advice on how to go about it. We began researching the process and with assistance created a query letter and proposal. Elias sent it to over 30 publishers and agents with no response. He reached out to a few writers on Instagram for advice. Matt De La Pena a best selling author suggested he go to a writers conference so he could at least get an audience with an agent and or publisher. We began looking around and every writing conference we contacted had an age limit of at least 18. Almost 2 years later Elias was searching on the internet for writing conferences and came across the SCWC. We contacted you guys and was delighted for our son to be able to attend. We quickly signed up and even scheduled meetings with 3 agents there. Once we arrived we were seated at one of the tables and Mary Claire Branton happened to be sitting at our table. After hearing that our son was the author we gave her a query letter that we had extra and she wanted to review the manuscripts we had brought.

By this time Elias had completed three books and almost the fourth . We left the conference very excited because of all the wonderful professionals we had met. A couple of months later Charlie’s Port offered our son a contract for his books.

Shortly after, the editing phase began on the books and Elias was very happy to start working on it. Then the pandemic hit and everything went into a standstill. The publisher and Elias thought it would be a great idea if we got kids from all over to actually do the illustrations for book. That actually was very nice because with the quarantine going on it really didn’t affect zoom meetings. Elias made 19 new friends from literally around the world.

It was a great project for the kids especially with the way the world was affected with the pandemic. This was a project they could all get excited about and something positive to look forward to as well as projects they could easily do from home. Elias was involved in every aspect of the publishing process from editing notes to illustrations for the book to the actual book design itself. Charlie’s Port is a fantastic publishing company and truly a champion for all kids. Once the book was completed it was very exciting to see the book become an actual book with our son’s name on it.

How does it feel now to be a published author?

Elias: I feel very grateful to God for giving me the ability to tell stories and have people around the world enjoy them. It actually feels surreal at times. Just holding my book gives me a sense of accomplishment and is a culmination of all my hours of writing and work which will be in the world forever.

What role does your faith play in your family's life?

Terry: I came from a very religious family growing up. We went to church every time the doors were open. My parents and grandparents were Christians and they always had me very involved with church and church activities. When I met my wife she too was also raised in church and we had the same views that being close to God was very important to us. We wanted our son to be raised similarly. We try to not only instill Christian values in him but w also try to be good role models for him as well. I believe this is a chronic problem in our society today with family members being so disconnected and going in different

directions. We try to be mindful of this and incorporate routines that give us quality family time every single day.

Elias: I feel very fortunate to have the type of parents I have. I see many of my classmates lacking in many things often their parents’ time and attention. I am very lucky in that my parents give me their time and attention every single day. Every night we tell each other 1 thing we are grateful for and why. We work on our Bible studies weekly and I would say our Christian walk is why we are who we are. I believe God gives us all gifts to share with the world but it’s up to each of us to let them out. I often imagine the world God made for us to live in. I also imagine our world with everyone sharing their gifts. So I try to live my life as an example to others to show them when we follow God’s plan everything always works out for

us in the end.

What are your plans for the future? Do you want to continue writing?

Elias: My plans for the future will definitely include writing. I believe once you start writing you never really want to stop. I have written two other spin-off series so far with eight books completed. My goal is to write 20 books before finishing high school. After high school I plan on attending Harvard Medical School. I’m not really sure about the specialty yet but I’m sure it will involve robotics. I imagine I will also keep writing on the side but I may switch genres as I get older.

According to Branton, the process of working with Elias and other young artists is especially gratifying.

"It's a wonderful reward to publish the stories of children, because they see the world so differently," she says.

To learn more about Alien Invasion by Elias Mask, check out the Charlie's Port website (LINK HERE) and the book on Amazon (LINK HERE).

And, congratulations to Elias and his family on his accomplishment!

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