You hear him every weekday morning on 104.7 KISS FM’s Johnjay and Rich Show, but radio host Rich Berra is also the author of two wildly popular holiday children’s books. The Tale of Christmas Steve, released in 2017, and its sequel Christmas Steve Meets Christmas Carol, released in 2019, tell the story of a small elf named Steve and his North Pole friends. In the tradition of Dr. Seuss, these beautifully illustrated hardcover books weave in subtle messages about relating to those who are different and not being afraid to let your talents shine.
The books are available for $17.99 online at christmassteve.org as well as at Bashas’, AJ’s and other Phoenix-area stores. Berra donates the profits of the books to charity and has initiated a buy-one, give-one campaign, where every book purchased is matched with a second book, donated to children in need.
We caught up with the author to ask a few questions about his inspiration and plans for the future. Here’s the story behind the stories.
What motivated you to put aside your microphone and pick up a pen?
Well, I’d never willingly ever give up a microphone. Radio is my first love and I hope to be doing shows well into my mid-100’s. Part of being on a radio show involves being creative and writing is a similar expression.
Where did you get the idea for these stories?
I’d make up stories for my kids at bedtime sort of on the fly. They remembered from one Christmas to the next that I made up a story about an elf named Christmas Steve. I thought I should write that down so I could remember for the next year. I started writing it, and it reminded me of writing song lyrics with the way it rhymed and flowed. A new book was born.
What is the hardest part about writing for kids?
I think there’s a subtle art to being silly and fun, and sliding in a message of hope and encouragement. You can’t go too far either way. They will sniff it out and hunt you down. But overall, it’s not that hard, probably because I’m basically a 6-year-old with car keys anyway.
What do you hope is the message a child will take away from your books?
You may not feel like you always fit in, but you always belong. Being different isn’t what holds you back, it’s what makes you special — great even.
Do you plan to add to the series?
I do. Whenever we read for kids in first or second grade, they always want more. Some suggest Christmas Steve visit other holidays. Why not? So who knows where Christmas Steve and his elf friends might show up next.
We understand you donate the proceeds from book sales. Tell us more.
I didn’t want to just write a book and sell it. I wanted to see if a good story could also do some good. We donate this year to Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley and of course to #LoveUp, a charity my radio partner Johnjay and I founded, which focuses on kids living in the foster care system. So far, we’ve donated nearly $80,000 directly from sales of the books.
What prompted you to do a buy one, give one with your books?
There are lots of kids that don’t ever get to buy books. Branded Pros, my publisher, was kind enough to donate their earnings from the book to allow us to help give books to children in need. It’s pretty cool what these books have done all on their own.