Wow! Its Author Interview Thursday and I have to say that the authors in the hotseat these last few weeks have really been inspiring. Well, guess what? I think we might be taking it to another level with today’s special guest. I got introduced to our special guest by Stephanie Ward who organised a brilliant giveaway for children’s book authors back in Summer. She has a successful blog which she’s ran for about four years. What really intrigued me about her blog is that most of her posts attract a steady stream of comments from her loyal blog readers. She’s written several books that have received worthy mentions and reviews in high places. She has such a big heart and I know you’ll love meeting this children’s book author from Singapore. So without further ado, please join me in welcoming Claudine Gueh Yanting.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and the first time someone complemented you on something you had written.
Thank you for this opportunity, David! It’s always good getting to know more authors and their books.
I’m a picture book and middle-grade fiction writer and an English tutor in Singapore. When I was 15, I wrote about my encounter with a spirit-medium. My teacher praised it and even read it out in class. That was a defining moment for me!
What can a reader expect when they pick up a book written by Claudine Gueh Yanting?
Quieter protagonists who don’t realize how strong they can be, and (hopefully) lyrical writing.
My picture books: My Clearest Me; Brightness Sailors, Bit by Bit
My middle-grade fiction: Little Orchid’s Sea Monster Trouble
More about them here: http://www.carryusoffbooks.com
What role would you say social media plays in building an author’s platform and have you found it helpful in marketing your books?
It’s all about exposure, reaching potential readers and keeping old ones up-to-date with your next book. Although social media isn’t the sole place an author can build her platform, it is possibly an indispensable one these days.
For me, social media has been useful for gaining exposure while blogging has been effective in gaining loyal readership (for the blog, not my books). Once readers trust my reading taste and writing style, they might be willing to take a chance on my books. Sales can’t be guaranteed, but credibility can be built and what it leads to can be amazing.
What tips would you offer other children’s authors with regard to working with an illustrator?
Pick one whose style fits what you seek instead of approaching any illustrator and then requesting them to paint in the style you want.
Be clear with the fee, the number of revisions you need from her, and the deadline up front. Everything is negotiable, but you must only begin the project when both sides are comfortable with the terms.
Be fair and respectful. Most illustrators are just as dedicated to the project as we are.
What in your opinion makes a great children’s book?
One that tells its story honestly (i.e. doesn’t talk down to children or try too hard to impress) and has great illustrations.
What were some of your favourite books as a child?
My sisters and I devoured Enid Blyton’s books then we’d act out some of the scenes and pretend to be good friends with the characters. That’s why we were pals with an almost-deaf man who wore a saucepan on his head. On other days, we were best friends with a naughty, obstinate girl and her friend who could whistle like a kettle. “The Faraway Tree” and “The Wishing Chair” series were our favorite. I also enjoyed boarding school stories tremendously.
What book or film has the best dialogue that inspires you to be a better writer and why?
Mark Helprin writes excellent dialogue. I was particularly stirred by his “Winter’s Tale” and “A Soldier of the Great War.” I can’t think of a film right now, but a TV series that I watch over and over again for its dialogue is “The West Wing.”
How do you reward yourself once your book is published?
Cake. (Usually Black forest.)
Toy Story or Shrek?
Toy Story. I’m a Studio Ghibli and Pixar fan.
Your blog’s been running for about four years and has a loyal fanbase. Any tips for us on how to build and grow a good blog?
I’m always surprised and extremely thankful that people actually read and follow my blog! Most of them are fellow writers and bloggers and we visit one another every week. As for tips on blogging, I’ve heard many and will just focus on these:
1) Blog on what you’re passionate about. (Wait, wait, don’t roll your eyes yet. I understand it sounds like “duh” but I do know of quite a few authors who blog on topics they think their readers want to learn about instead of what they themselves are excited about, so they end up sounding forced and quit blogging after a while.) Ask yourself: Is it books in particular? Which age category or genre? Is it about bridal hairstyles? Is it about relationships? You don’t have to limit yourself to just one category, but you do need a rough picket fence so readers would know if your posts fit their taste or not.
2) Blog on what your readers want to know. Yep, this upsets whatever I’ve written in 1). But this suggestion might come in handy once you have a blog running for some time and you’ve built yourself to be a credible source on your topics. Ask your readers if they have any questions they’d like you to address. You’ll be their go-to expert.
3) Keep it short.
4) Add pictures or quotes.
5) Be consistent in posting. (This is something I still need to work on.)
What three things should a first time visitor to your home town do?
1) Try our local breakfast: toast with thick butter and kaya (a coconut jam), two soft-boiled eggs and a cup of local coffee.
2) Visit both hawker centers (our marketplaces and food centers) and independent cafes/restaurants.
3) Visit our libraries, especially those in the lush, neighborhood area.
What can we expect from Claudine Gueh Yanting in the next 12 months?
Another middle-grade novel, short stories plus a few paintings. I have a budding interest in painting and hope to explore it more next year.
Where can readers and fans connect with you?
If you enjoy picture books, middle-grade stories and picture-and-quote inspirations, do drop by my blog some time. I’d love to hear from you.
Any advice for authors out there who are either just starting out or getting frustrated with the industry?
If writing makes you happy, keep going. Learn to market yourself and your writing, but don’t let sales, reviews, rankings and what-not affect you too much. Keep working hard. Let go of the rest.
Thanks for taking out time to be with us today Claudine. I like your encouragement for us never to allow sales or rankings affect what to do. Also, while its a word most authors don’t like, the truth is we need to learn to market ourselves and our books better to reach that audience that will find great delight in our writings. You can connect with Claudine at one of the links she offered and do drop by her blog to read one of her insightful posts. We’ll be glad to read your comments or questions and remember to share this interview using the social buttons below. One of Claudine’s books will definitely be a great addition to a loved ones’ library, so grab a copy at the link below.
Very nice interview!
Thanks for stepping by today. I’m glad you looked my interview with Claudine. It was great to have her as my special guest today.
Thank you for having me, David! It has been a real pleasure and your questions have had me thinking about more ways to improve the blog.
Thanks for stopping by, C.L.!
It was a joy to have you today Claudine. I’ll definitely be visiting your blog on a regular basis.
Hello David, thank you so much for this lovely interview. One of the best tips I can give you about building a loyal blog following is to visit your favourite blogs on a regular basis, if you find something interesting or annoying or thought provoking, leave a comment. Comments really do make the blogging world go around!
Claudine you always make me smile! The almost-deaf man with a saucepan on his head was one of my best friends when I was a child! How I wish I had known you then, just think of the adventures we could have shared. I loved this interview. I’m behind with everything this morning, but I still had to read every single word because it is so interesting.
Thanks for that awesome tip and visiting my blog today.
Claudine was so generous with her advice and tips and it was great having her in the hot seat.
All the best Barbara.
Barbara, we would have had tons of fun! My sisters love the faraway tree and the wishing chair, and the naughtiest girl, too. We even made our boy cousins play pretend with us ~ riding our grandmother’s cushions like horses up a mountain to face a dragon (don’t know where we got this story idea from). Your comments always make me smile, too!
How wonderful to see Claudine here and to learn more about one of my favorite people! I always love visiting Claudine’s blog and hearing her thoughts on books. She has a way with words! Her books are a treat and she has been a wonderful blog friend and so helpful to me as an author. Wishing her all the best!
Jess and Stephanie, you guys have been my excellent blog buddies and your book recommendations always get me searching for a copy at the library or on Kindle. My blogging and writing career wouldn’t have been this enjoyable if it wasn’t for you two (and Barbara). 🙂 Thanks so much for visiting!
Thanks, David and Claudine! The interview is very insightful and motivating.
Thank you so much, Vidhya!
Nice interview! I like Claudine’s blog and enjoyed learning more about her.