Advance Author Series: Jamie Little and ESSENTIAL CAR CARE FOR WOMEN

We recently interviewed Danielle McCormick, co-author of Essential Car Care for Women. Now, we sit down with her partner-in-crime Jamie Little, to get her take on cars, DIY and their successful book.


Advance Auto PartsWhen describing her younger self to Advance Auto Parts, NASCAR, IndyCar and X Games reporter Jamie Little says she was “a girl who loved cars and the smell of gas.”

Jamie is an only child who was raised by a single mom. “Growing up,” she remembers, “I rode horses, and I loved motorcycles since I could walk. When I was 16 or so years old, I became friends with guys who rode motocross and I loved this entire athletic experience. By the time I was 18 or 19, I wanted to be where women were in the motorized motocross/supercross environment.”

Jamie earned a journalism degree at San Diego State University. She began work as a reporter in 2000 and caught the attention of ESPN just one year later, with professional accomplishments now including:

  • Pit reporter for the NASCAR Sprint Cup
  • Pit reporter for the NASCAR Nationwide Series
  • Pit reporter for the IZOD IndyCar Series
  • Reporter for Nascar Now, the news program on ESPN2
  • Reporter for the Winter X Games
  • Reporter for the Summer X Games
  • Reporter for ESPN’s New Year’s Eve specials
  • Reporter for the Great Outdoor Games

“I’ve had to pinch myself,” Jamie tells Advance Auto Parts. “I have a dream job, in the pits, covering the action as it unfolds. I cover NASCAR events 33 or 34 weekends a year and I don’t take it for granted.”

As pit crew reporter, she says she still learns something new every weekend, whether it’s new slang or new technology. “When I don’t understand something, I’ll talk to a crew chief and say something like ‘what does that do and where is it connected?’ The technology changes quickly as people continue to find ways to make cars safer, faster, lighter and longer lasting.”

In 2008, Jamie put her money where her mouth is, competing in the Toyota Long Beach Pro Celebrity Race, beating pro racer Mike Skinner to become only the second women in 32 years to capture the title in this race. (And, yes. She has attended racing school!)

“It was fantastic to win that race, a real validation,” Jamie says. “But I think I’ll stick to my day job.”

Approached by Danielle McCormick to write a book

About three years ago, Jamie was approached by Danielle McCormick to update her auto manual for women that had found great success in Ireland, and then in the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. (Read our author interview.)Advance Auto Parts

“Danielle wanted someone with a presence in motorsports to put another spin on her book,” Jamie explains. “So I added content and Americanized it. Basically, I put in my two cents. I also did photo shoots for the cover and, as the face and voice of the book, I set out to find a publisher.”

Jamie connected with Seal Press, a company that focuses on publishing groundbreaking books for women, and they were excited about publishing Essential Car Care for Women as it filled a gap in their line of books. The original release date was August 2012, but Jamie’s pregnancy caused them to reschedule the release for March 2013.

“We’ve gotten great response to this book,” Jamie says. “Men will tell me it’s great and ask me to autograph it for their wives–and then admit it’s really for them. What’s great about this book is that, even though it’s written for women, it’s ideal for men, homeschoolers, kids just starting to drive. It fits in your glovebox so it’s a quick guide when something goes wrong. It’s not technical. It’s straightforward, helpful and useful, and it empowers women to save money, to do it themselves so their cars can run longer.”

When asked if she plans to write another book, Jamie says she’d love to write another. “Essential Car Care for Women was a great project, and the book was endorsed by Danica Patrick. Who knows what opportunities will open up next?”

We hope you’ve enjoyed learning more about our friend and all-around Renaissance woman Jamie Little. Be sure to watch for more author interviews at Advance Auto Parts coming soon.

Jim Kazliner
Editor • DIY’er

Advance Author Series: Michael E. Gray and AUTO UPKEEP

We interview the author of the popular car manual Auto Upkeep.


Auto UpkeepMike Gray and his wife Linda co-authored Auto Upkeep, a text that, according to Mike, is “used by over 500 secondary and post-secondary schools to teach introductory automotive technology and basic car care.”

They didn’t just sit down one day and decide to write an auto manual, though. The journey of Auto Upkeep actually mirrors the journey of Mike’s life. Raised in International Falls, Minnesota, the “icebox of the nation,” he began working at a service station at the age of twelve, starting at the cash register and working his way to the service station, where he began learning how to repair cars.

At St. Cloud State University in Minnesota, he studied industrial technology while working at an auto parts store. After earning his bachelor degree, he student taught a consumer auto class before getting a teaching job in southern Illinois where he needed to start an automotive program focusing on upkeep. “I needed good textbooks,” he says, “but, guess what? I couldn’t find any, so I created my own material for the program.”

Mike then attended graduate school at Illinois State University in 1999 and 2000 where, for his thesis, he wrote a manual that eventually served as the first draft of his automotive textbook. Then, when he moved to Maryland, he was moved to an administrative job and, during that time, he and his wife decided to publish a book on basic car upkeep.

Co-author Linda Gray adds her special touch to the auto manual

Mike didn’t write the book by himself. His wife, Linda, had learned to do many car repairs as a way to save money, experience that helped when the couple turned Mike’s thesis into a practical, usable book. Linda’s degree in engineering helped, as well. So did her experience at the University of Redlands, where she and classmates designed, built and tested a hybrid vehicle in 1995—and so did her artistic ability.

“After that, we started our own publishing company,” Mike remembers. “We only started out with 250 or 500 copies of the book, I can’t remember which. But, I soon started attending automotive teacher conferences and otherwise marketing the book. In 2007, we came out with a second edition of Auto Upkeep and, in 2008, I quit my fulltime job just to focus on our publishing.”

Third edition of Auto Upkeep

By 2013, this auto manual was being used:

  • in 500 schools around the country
  • by homeschoolers and their families
  • by auto parts stores as refreshers for employees
  • by auto shops as weekend car care seminar material
  • in non-credit courses at colleges
  • as the textbook for automotive introduction courses at community colleges
  • as Boy Scout and Girl Scout badge reference material
Advance Auto Parts

Mike, Linda and Aiden Gray

Mike and his wife are now printing books in batches of 5,000 to 10,000. “We also created a workbook, a homeschool curriculum kit, instructor resource CDs and so forth, and then we package items in different ways for different audiences. This book is also a great guide for an individual car owner.”

We hope you’ve enjoyed the Advance Auto Parts author interview with Michael E. Gray. Be sure to keep an eye out for more author interviews coming soon as part of our new series.

Jim Kazliner
Editor • DIY’er