Its Author Interview Thursday and I’m really excited about the special guest we have on the hot seat today. I hooked up with today’s author on a book giveaway for kidlit authors during summer. She was the main organiser and it was a great success. It was a pleasure working with her and seeing how she connected several authors from across the globe. She has travelled to many countries across different continents. Although she’s originally from the U.S.A., she now lives in Sydney, Australia. She’s very generous and creative and I believe her passion for life does flow through in her books. So without further ado, please join me in welcoming Stephanie M. Ward.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and the first time someone complemented you on something you had written.
First I just want to say that I’m really excited to be participating in Author Interview Thursday as I always look forward to reading these posts. I’m a bit overwhelmed at being on the other end of one of your interviews, but I’ll do my best to come up with creative answers to all of your interesting questions. And a big congratulations on your new Christmas book, Billy and Monster’s Golden Christmas! I’m looking forward to reading it.
Now, a bit about me…
I’m a small town girl from Spokane, Washington who caught the travel bug at an early age and has been exploring the world ever since I was old enough to drive across the border to Canada.
In fourth grade, we were given an assignment to write a short story. Remember those pieces of grey-ish paper that had a big square where you’re supposed to draw a picture and then about four lines underneath? Well, I covered four of those, front and back and my teacher was quite impressed with my not-so-short story. It was about a pet dog that was taken by an alien and the adventures of the little boy who went to find him. It sure would be fun to read that story today!
What can a reader expect when they pick up a book written by Stephanie Ward?
They can expect to learn something, probably about a place that not many people write children’s books about, and have a lot of fun in the process.
Thanks! I figure it took 10 years from concept to publication of Wally the Warm-Weather Penguin, so yes, there was quite a bit of research. First it was research for my trip to the Galapagos Islands where Wally travels. I was fascinated by the unique wildlife, much of which is endemic. As I was putting together the book, I wanted to share what I had discovered about different species that are endangered in the area. And after learning about how fragile the environment is in the Galapagos Islands, I decided to donate proceeds from the book to the Galapagos Conservancy (galapagos.org) to help protect the animals there. I’m happy to say the first donation was made earlier this year.
What role would you say social media plays in building an author’s platform and have you found it helpful in marketing your book?
In almost two decades in corporate marketing, I have never seen an industry whose competitors support each other as much as in the realm of publishing. I have met the most amazing authors, writers, bloggers and friends through social media as a writer. I think it plays a big part in linking to new sales channels, marketing opportunities and ideas as well as good old moral support.
What were some of your favourite books as a child?
Not surprisingly, I loved reading about far away places. There was a series of books about foreign lands that I checked out over and over again at my elementary school library. I also remember reading a book about a little girl traveling alone on the bus to see her grandmother. I’m not sure if she went across town or across the country, but I was amazed by her courage and sense of adventure.
I had a wonderful time working with a very talented illustrator from Ecuador – Vanessa Landin – for Wally the Warm-Weather Penguin. It was important to me that the illustrator was from the place where the story is based, as I wanted to give back to the community that inspired the story. Vanessa was a student at the time and I would encourage anyone looking for an artist to consider the young talent at art institutes around the world.
Toy Story or Shrek?
Shrek – I am truly inspired by the way Shrek seamlessly weaves adult and child humor into one story.
What three things should a first time visitor to Sydney, Australia do?
1) Hit the beach – if you visit on a hot day, that’s where everyone is! I love Manly and Balmain.
2) Go to the zoo – Yes, there are some cool Aussie animals there, but the setting of the Taronga Zoo is stunning. You will get some of your best photos from there, likely with a giraffe in them, but gorgeous shots of the harbor and Sydney skyline.
3) Take a ferry – So much of Sydney revolves around water that you should be on it at some point during your visit. Take a ride on one of the iconic yellow and green ferries and be sure to leave from Circular Quay where the Opera House and Botanical Gardens sit on one side and the Harbour Bridge on the other.
Can you tell us a few facts about penguins that fascinate you?
Wally was inspired by my visit to both Antarctica and the Galapagos Islands on a yearlong trip around the world.Visiting Antarctica and being amidst Emperor Penguins in the icy conditions made me wonder why they didn’t just pack up and go somewhere warmer. A couple of months later, I was in the Galapagos Islands and saw a colony of Galapagos Penguins hanging out on the beach, swimming in relatively warm water and there was the story: What if an Emperor Penguin learned that he could live on a warm, tropical island?
You’ve travelled to more than 50 countries. Can you tell us about a memorable incident on one of your travels?
I’m fascinated by the similarities in people’s lives around the world – we all eat, sleep, observe, listen, talk – we just do it in our own way, place and time. What I keep coming back to are moments – having a picnic under the Eiffel Tower with a warm baguette and chilled bottle of champagne, bone-chilling coldness at sunrise on board a Russian ice breaker travelling through pancake ice in Antarctica, or the hot, dry, sage-like smell of the air in Tanzania. Oh sure, there were incidents, like being mugged in Brazil and sitting in the tent of a nomadic family in Mongolia sharing a cup of fermented mare’s milk, but the small, seemingly insignificant moments are the ones that pop into my head most often.
I’m so glad you asked 🙂 I’m thrilled to announce that the paperback version of Wally the Warm-Weather Penguin was just released this week and is now available on Amazon. The paperback edition includes a brand new scene with a wonderful new character, a section of Fascinating Facts about the animals in the book and a map of the Galapagos Islands.
In addition, I’m starting work on an app for Wally which is a whole new learning curve but a very fun process. Plus, I’m writing the next adventure for Wally. There are many fascinating (and warm) places in the world that Wally wants to visit, so stay tuned!
Where can readers and fans connect with you?
Author Website & Blog – http://www.stephaniemward.com
Facebook Fan Page – http://www.facebook.com/wallythewarmweatherpenguin
Twitter – http://twitter.com/stephmward
YouTube – Wally the Warm-Weather Penguin
Any advice for authors out there who are either just starting out or getting frustrated with the industry?
Write your story. If your story can’t be defined in a specific genre or written in the traditional format, don’t worry. There are many options for authors to get a book into readers’ hands. I have met some talented indie authors whose wonderful kid lit books are longer than the 1000 word maximum that agents will accept for review. And I recently read a fantastic novella that is the perfect length, but in traditional publishing may have been expanded or reduced to a short story or looked over completely due to the number of pages. It’s a whole new world in publishing today, so don’t worry that your idea doesn’t “fit”, just write your story!
Thanks for hanging out with us today Stephanie and ending on such a positive note. I love how you’ve allowed your various experiences to influence your writing and how that has in turn allowed children to experience new worlds that are alien to them. Please do connect with Stephanie at one of the links she gave. We’d love to hear your comments and questions, so leave a few lines below. Grab a copy of Stephanie’s book for a loved one at the link below and do share this interview on social media.