Author Jeff Rosen: “Don’t be afraid of who you are”

Don’t be afraid of who you are, even if you have a planet-swallowing monster living inside you. Everyone has issues. Relax. Also, treat animals and nature as you would treat yourself, with kindness! As part of my interview series on the five things you need to know to become a great author, I had the […]

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Don’t be afraid of who you are, even if you have a planet-swallowing monster living inside you. Everyone has issues. Relax. Also, treat animals and nature as you would treat yourself, with kindness!

As part of my interview series on the five things you need to know to become a great author, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jeff Rosen.

When he’s not writing Caley Cross, Jeff Rosen helps create award-winning children’s television series like Bo on the Go, Poko, Animal Mechanicals, The Mighty Jungle, Pirates!, Monster Math Squad, and Space Ranger Roger. He was the principal writer of the beloved Theodore Tugboat. His programs have been viewed around the world and translated into numerous languages.

Jeff was the founding creative partner of WildBrain (formerly DHX Media), a global children’s content company, home to Peanuts, Teletubbies, Strawberry Shortcake, Caillou, Inspector Gadget, and Degrassi. An accomplished painter, Jeff’s work can be found in galleries, at, and on Instagram @jeff.rosen.

Jeff lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia, with his wife and vampire poodle, Vlad.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share a story about what brought you to this particular career path?

I started as a musician, but I could never find my own “voice.” I copied others, like Bob Dylan (badly). Then I realized when you write fiction you can have all sorts of voices. It’s actually a bonus to have a non-descript personality!

Can you share the most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?

Writing is not that interesting. I do remember one “interesting” story when I was new to the game. I was living in Montreal and got my first gig, writing the pilot for a teen soap (don’t ask) called “Time of Your Life.” I had an agent (briefly!) at the time who had hooked me up with the producer who may or may not have been connected to the Montreal mob. The agent wanted me to meet with the producer’s “money guys.” She informed me they might be armed. I was a skinny Jewish kid and allergic to firearms so I demurred. The producer tried to pay me with a tennis racket. (I did not play tennis). I had a dilemma: insist on being paid in actual cash money, or risk a visit from the “money guys” that might go something like, “We understand you don’t play tennis. Too bad. You look like you need to get in shape. Be a shame if that typewriter were to fall on you and you couldn’t run fast enough to get out of the way…” (It has just occurred to me that even my writing fantasies are not interesting — or even believable.) Anyway, a lesson for you aspiring writers: get a contract (or take up tennis.)

What was the biggest challenge you faced in your journey to becoming an author? How did you overcome it? Can you share a story about that that other aspiring writers can learn from?

It’s usually hard to get that first paying job. I wrote and wrote for years and didn’t get my plays and scripts and movies produced — or even read. I kept at it because I’m a creature of habit and I finally got a gig (*see above.) Once you get paid, you can then say you’re a professional writer and a certain number of people will believe you and offer you a job. Your relatives will not believe you, but whatever. (It’s best if you actually get paid with non-sports equipment, so your claim has some legitimacy.)

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I wrote an entire play in Shakespearean iambic pentameter when I was about 21 (big Shakespeare fan). It took months, and I really could have been doing more interesting things at that age. No one ever read it. I learned nothing because next, I wrote a fake Neil Simon play nobody read. Now that I think about it, my mistakes have neither been funny or informative. I’m sorry I answered this question. I now feel sad.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I never talk about what I’m working on because I’m superstitious. I have made peace with cutting the grass if that’s any help. And walking Vlad (vampire poodle). Thanks, COVID!

Can you share the most interesting story that you shared in your book?

(*Spoiler alert!) The heroine, Caley Cross, has an ancient monster living inside her that can swallow planets. She’s a good kid, but… planet-swallowing monster.

What is the main empowering lesson you want your readers to take away after finishing your book?

Don’t be afraid of who you are, even if you have a planet-swallowing monster living inside you. Everyone has issues. Relax. Also, treat animals and nature as you would treat yourself, with kindness!

Based on your experience, what are the “5 Things You Need to Know to Become a Great Author”? Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Write. Every day. (Everyone knows this one.)
  2. Read. Every day. (Ditto.)
  3. Observe people! Be endlessly curious. (Don’t observe people too closely or you will creep them out.)
  4. Grow extra layers of skin. (Everyone will have an opinion about your writing.)
  5. Don’t give up. If you do give up, the mindless passion you need to write for a living probably wasn’t really there, so don’t freak out. Be kind to yourself.

What is the one habit you believe contributed the most to you becoming a great writer? (i.e. perseverance, discipline, play, craft study) Can you share a story or example?

I am an introvert and I like staying at home by myself. Also handy for riding out global pandemics.

Which literature do you draw inspiration from? Why?

I like to read about history these days. I’m reading “The Sixth Extinction” (Elizabeth Kolbert) and re-reading “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” (Yuval Noah Harari). I’m curious about how an ape evolved to “run” things and, if we’re so smart, how we came to be so distanced from the natural world. These books informed, “Caley Cross” a bit in terms of thinking about what would happen if animals — and even plants — were as “sentient” as us and fought back against our oppression. I also wonder if we’d have been happier in small hunting and gathering groups — particularly when I visit Costco.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

In Erinath, the world in which Caley Cross largely takes place, they have a form of, I guess you could call it spirituality. It’s known as “the One,” as in “One with everything.” The Watchers — an ancient Order — protect the One. Watchers merely acknowledge a set of empirical principals. They’re like scientists, but with cool fire-swords. To follow the One, you begin by exploring the magical interconnection of all life. We’re all in the big soup pot together. And we all share something inherent: goodness. All living things care for their young, and it is only because of this innate kindness that we are here. So that’s a positive! This understanding could be the starting point for a much-needed dialogue between races, religions, countries, and all the other “stories” we tell ourselves that make us feel unconnected with each other. Also, please wear a mask, wash your hands, and social distance!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Thank you so much for this. This was very inspiring!

You are most welcome.

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