Babies in bars … not the best of ideas, but bar owners writing baby books?

Well, that calls for a round of White Russians, hold the Russian. Zack Bush of Miami’s Ball & Chain always had a propensity for the creative, but when he and his wife, Gina, created their own little joyful bundles—Ace and Ava—his creativity cup overflowed not with alcohol, but with inspiration to write what would debut at #1 on Amazon. Made for Me, a children’s book about a daddy’s love for his little one, is a Publishers Weekly Top 10 bestseller, and People Magazine listed it as one of the 12 best new books.

Read a Q&A with the author below.

Made for Me Book Cover

Made for Me

Other than the obvious—that you love your kiddies—what was your impetus for writing Made for Me?

I held my son the day he was born, and my heart exploded. I have always been blessed to be able to connect emotionally, and becoming a father was extraordinary. I started writing down feelings that very first night. Made For Me became a massive work in progress from that day on.

A year or so later, my daughter was born, and again, nothing short of pure magic. I found myself “ooh-ing” and “ahh-ing” daily. My wife and I read to our kids every day, and there were no books that seemed to show a father’s love the way I was trying to show it. A dad’s love is very real—powerful and sweet at the same time.

This is your first book. Will there be more to come?

Yes, definitely. I have several manuscripts as works in progress. I love being able to express myself as a dad. It is still very new to me, and each day (some days are definitely harder than others) is truly a miracle. I look at my kids and marvel. There is nothing more magnificent.

Are your kids aware that Daddy wrote a book for them? 

They most certainly know Daddy wrote a book. From the very first draft until I actually held the final hardbound book in my hand was over a three-year process. My kids (and wife) are the only ones who have heard Made for Me in all its reiterations (probably 500,000 times).

I remember being a child and reading a dedication in a book and thinking to myself, “That’s so cool that this book was written for (insert name). I wish I had a book written for me.” That very specific memory came rushing back to me when I was writing Made for Me, and it helped make sure I got the book to the finish line.

Getting a publisher behind any book—nonetheless a children’s book—is not an easy thing to do. This memory helped keep me focused, and I know my kids will truly treasure this dedication someday.

Zack Bush

Zack Bush

Photo by Maria Lankina Photography

How did you choose the talented illustrator? 

I worked with an amazing publisher who let me have a voice in bringing this book to life. Made for Me is—and was—deeply personal to me. Because of this, I really wanted the book to be delivered as it was intended. The publisher presented several illustration options to me before we both fell in love with Gregorio De Lauretis’ work. He did a fantastic job.

What was it like stepping back from a role as business owner and stepping into a purely creative space? 

As a business owner, I still get to have tons of creative input. For example, my love for music allows me to book all of the live music and DJs at Ball & Chain (this is over 80 hours per week). However, writing the book and using the creative process to bring something to life as “Dad” is and was so very rewarding.

Authoring Made for Me was not a money-motivated venture. When you put your heart and soul into something, the work itself becomes a living, breathing part of you.

Ever plan to write a book about Ball & Chain? 

I have no plans right now to write about Ball & Chain. We have been approached and discussed a film or documentary about the venue, but for right now I’m loving exploring and working with my “Dad voice” when it comes to writing! It’s been refreshing, and I get new inspiration daily through the laughter, tears, and memories made with my wife and kids.

Which do you find more rewarding: bartending and opening a bar or writing and promoting a children’s book?

Very different. I was never a bartender, or a “cantinero,” as we say in Little Havana. Prior to opening Ball & Chain, I had been involved in bars and the nightlife for over 20 years. Watching what Ball & Chain has become and watching us continue to grow into this iconic (hopefully) brand has been nothing short of amazing. I am truly blessed that I get to live my dream. My two business partners are my brother and my best friend since I was 12 years old. Does life get any sweeter than that? Actually, yes it does, and I’ll tell you how.

Other than marrying my wife, nothing has given me greater joy than watching people connect with Made for Me. Getting the book published and then reading the amazing reviews on Amazon, or listening to the stories people share through the Made for Me Facebook and Instagram pages, has been life-changing for me. I literally smile from the inside out when I read about the impact and joy the book has brought and continues to bring to others. Needless to say, I am a very lucky man.

Check out our Book Loving Gift Guide for more gifts perfect for bartenders.