Shortly after graduating from Lander University five years ago, Allistar Banks started seeing red - all due to two curious friends named Nosy Nicole and wide-eyed Ashton.
Far from making her angry, however, Nicole and Ashton have led Banks into some snooping adventures involving submarines, boots, balloons, and magical airplanes.
Though Nicole and Ashton are make-believe, Banks considers them two of her best friends - and no matter where she follows them in the near future, Banks hopes they will eventually lead her to becoming a fulltime writer of children's books.
"I've wanted to do this my whole life," said Banks, who graduated Lander in 2013 with a degree in Mass Communications. "I have been writing children's stories since fourth grade and had my first book published on Amazon in 2014."
That first book was "Nosy Nicole and the Red Airplane." When Nicole spots a red airplane, she grabs Ashton to help her find out what kind of plane it is and see what all the red is about.
Banks intended the first book only to get her name out as a new children's writer and to start building a following. But before she was finished writing, Banks wondered what would happen if she made the color red part of every Nicole adventure.
She tested her brainstorm with a second effort, "Nosy Nicole and the Magical Red Airplane", and from that moment, she knew she had her mold.
"Right now, I'm working on "Nosy Nicole and the Red Cowgirl Boots", and "Nosy Nicole and the Red Submarine"," Banks said. "And I hope that Nicole and Ashton will lead me to money, wider recognition, and the New York Times Bestseller list."
It's an ambitious goal, but Banks is motivated partly from her love for writing, and partly from a dream by mom.
"My mother had a dream once about me owning my own bookstore someday," Banks said. "In the dream, I wore a hat for each story that I read to the kids and I had bookworms hanging from the ceiling to decorate my store."
Further encouragement to become a fulltime children's writer came from both her grandmother, and from Abbeville High School journalism teacher Chris Land.
"I think that Allistar's determination to follow this dream is admirable," Land said. "The fact that she already has published books is a testament to her dedication and her strong work ethic."
Banks added, however, that her work ethic was all she had for her first book, as a million questions swirled in her head: How do I get it published? How do I get an agent? How do I get an initial audience?
A relative solved part of her wonder, pointing to Internet retailer Amazon as a way to sell her work.
But what's a children's book without pictures? So Banks advertised on Indeed.com for an illustrator and found a woman named Kaelen Felix.
Then came the big question: How do I get someone in the publishing industry to notice me?
As it happened, Felix was a longtime friend of national children's writer Kirby Larson. So after an inquiry and a request, Felix told Banks that the two of them were scheduled to be guests on Larson's Friend Friday feature blog.
"Every Friday I shine the spotlight on a children's book creator," said Larson, a Newbery Honor Writer from the state of Washington. "And since I would do anything to support Kaelen's efforts, Dec. 7, 2018, is the day that Kaelen and Allistar will be my guests."
It's a lot to look forward to, but Banks hopes that it proves to be a new beginning toward a much bigger direction.
"I eventually want to get an agent and a big publisher behind me," Banks said. "But what I want most is to share with kids a part of me that is fun and creative, and see their smiling faces when reading my stories and interacting with each turn of the page."