When I decided I wanted to write a book for my niece, I immediately thought, why not make her the main character? Not only did I want to make her the main character, I wanted the character to look just like her and have her name. I started with the character’s full name. My niece’s name is McKenzie, but I didn’t want to use her real last name. So out of nowhere it hit me, McKenzie Mason. Yeah, that had a nice ring to it.

Once I decided to actually publish the book, I set out to find a graphic artist or illustrator who could make the character look just like my niece. I reached out to my good friend, Antoinette, for some help. She’s the same friend who illustrated the books I wrote in the sixth grade. She suggested that I try local and online resources to compare. The road to finding the perfect illustration of McKenzie Mason would prove harder than I thought.

I went through several illustrations that just weren’t what I envisioned:

After a bunch of mockups, I put the illustration of McKenzie on the backburner while I relocated to a new city and started a new job. I had honestly stopped thinking about it. Then, early one morning, about four months after my illustration journey began, Antoinette texted me and said, “I got it!” I didn’t even know she had still been looking for somebody to create the perfect image (shout out to her). I pulled up the picture and it was exactly what I had been looking for. I loved it! McKenzie Mason was officially born.

Now that I had a character, I needed a title. I had already written two books, so I needed a good series title first. One that would headline every book. I wanted something that was easy to remember, but that also featured the character’s name. I knew I wanted the character and the stories to reflect the life of a well-rounded ten-year-old black girl. She would face different challenges and adventures in every book. I wanted to introduce the world to this amazing little black girl.

After a few weeks of tossing around a bunch of names, it hit me. Meet McKenzie Mason. It was simple, included the character’s name, and rolled off the tongue (because: alliteration). I had a character name, an illustration, and a title. It was time to make the book…