Carol FleuretteIt all began when Carol Fleurette moved from Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., an area she said is nothing but desert and residents are lucky if it rains a week out of the year. While going to school at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., she decided to move to Virginia. In 2012, she packed up her truck and bought a horse trailer, putting her horse on one side and her motorcycle on the other. She made the drive in four days. When she arrived she was shocked to see torrential downpours, something she had never experienced.

“I loved seeing all of the frogs, the turtles, and all kinds of animals traveling the roads to get to dry areas,” she said. “At that time, I was living in a 100-year-old cabin in Reva, Va., with my fiancé. That experience fueled my creativity for my first book, The Rain That Would Never End.” The story, written in 2015, follows a little girl and her pet fish, who get stuck in a flood, jump on a boat and go on an adventure, saving other animals along the way.

Following her debut was Not the Same but Not So Different Either. The story examines two brothers who are very different in their appearance, personalities, and interests. At the end of the day, they find out that they are really not that different.

Her recent book, Access Required, came out in 2016. This story is about service dogs and is told from the dog’s perspective.

Fleurette said she never wanted to advertise her books as being political or involving trendy social issues, but she does highlight topics such as discrimination, disability, race, and the importance of acceptance.

“I love children’s books. I really think children’s books are meant for adults. Like anyone, I enjoy a good story,” she said. “But I appreciate so much more those stories that dig deep into an issue that is broken down into a format that we can understand.”

She explained that she tries to create characters that everyone can identify with.

“In children’s books, there seems to be a lack of female lead characters, and a serious lack of minority characters,” she said. “I try to incorporate a little diversity. That’s the advantage of self-publishing, is that I am able to be flexible with who I want to create.”

In Access Required, the story follows a variety of service dogs and how they help their humans with disabilities.

“I write about many of the struggles, barriers, and issues that they might face in their day-to-day work,” she said. “Everyone thinks service dogs are only Labradors, and that’s just not the case. I try to show that through my illustrations.”

As a mental health counselor, Fleurette has worked with children who have experienced abuse and neglect, and she translates that through her characters. She has used children’s books to help in her counseling and found that reading was effective in that it enabled the children to be distracted from the grimness of reality. This has been her goal.

“If they learn a little bit about embracing diversity, respecting people with disabilities, and basically just being open to someone that might be a little different, then my books have been successful,” she said.
Though she expresses her diversity through her characters, her fun, colorful and friendly illustrations play an integral role. Her depiction of the characters helps children to relate to the outside world in a way they understand.

Fleurette studied photography at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco.

“As a student, they force you to take a variety of art classes like drawing, painting, sculpting, fashion design, and graphic design. At the time, I remember being very closed off and wondering why I had to take a class in drawing with charcoal when I wanted to study photography,” she said. “As I started writing and illustrating books, I recognized that all those skills came together, making it possible to write, illustrate, and self-publish my books. Everything happens for a reason.”

She said the most challenging part of illustrating is making the pictures just right. When she recognizes she may be overworking the drawings and would never finish, she tells herself enough is enough and moves forward with the story.

Fleurette said she is a visual person, and her books have all come to life through the illustrations. She draws everything first and the story just falls into place.

“I love having the flexibility and the artistic creativity to create what I see in my mind,” she said. “I think every artist knows the feeling.”

As for writing, she said she has the idea but doesn’t always know how to put it on paper. She added that she often asks for feedback on her stories to make sure they flow. “It’s my least favorite part about creating books,” she said.

Fleurette is currently working on a collaborative project with a fellow artist, Angelique Robles, from her hometown in California.

“I was honored she asked me to illustrate her book based on a real life experience,” she said. “The story is about a little girl who doesn’t quite fit the traditional, stereotypical cheerleader image.” The story focuses on body positivism and self-esteem, and is something that Fleurette is excited to finish. She is not working on any other books at the moment but said she has lots of ideas for the future.

For more information visit www.CarolFleurette.com.