Author and Illustrator Interview: Maria Knier

The BezertTHE BEZERT BY MARIA KNIER

1) Please provide a short excerpt of what your children’s book is about.
 The Bezert is a unique, imaginative and poetic parable about the value of trust. The main character, Bezert, has never left the safety and comfort of his island home. But when a box magically appears below his window, it proves too tempting not to take a look. By entering the box, the Bezert begins a journey of self-discovery in a dreamlike world of unknowns and mysterious inhabitants. Ultimately expanding the view of himself, his world and learning the value of trusting himself.

2) What inspired you to write this book?
I was working as a freelance editorial illustrator when I created this book many years ago. At the time I also had just begun studying Ayurveda, a timeless   healing philosophy and sister science to Yoga. This book was inspired by a combination of other books I was reading at the time based on universal truths. I first created 8-10 illustrations based on these concepts, spread them on the floor of my studio and sat down to write about each one of them. The end result was the outline and origin of  The Bezert.

3) Why did you pick this genre? How did you come to be a children’s picture book author?
I have always considered myself to be a ‘conceptual communicator’. In other words, I love to take words, stories or verses and bring them to life in a visual way. This book is the result of the interplay between my own writings and my own visual interpretations. I really decided I wanted to be ‘an artist” when I was about 4 or 5 years old so that has been a pretty solid path for me, but although I have always enjoyed writing, I never really considered myself to be ‘a writer’. Now in hindsight, the combination seems perfectly appropriate! I also consider this book to be appropriate for “kids of all ages”. Although it appears to be for children, adults sometimes need colorful illustrations and poetic verse to help tap into their creative side as well.

4) Tell us about the illustrations. What is your style and how did the artwork come to be? What inspired you?
I have always been drawn to a mixed media type style. Collage was my medium of choice in art school and the more I worked, my style morphed into a collage/mixed media combination. I like to use as many tools as I can get my hands on. It keeps things fresh and interesting for me and I doubt that will ever change. Most of my work is still done by hand because it wouldn’t feel right if I couldn’t get my hands dirty and work with paint and pencils, but I also enjoy the polish of digital media and the ease of integrating pictures and images into hand rendered work.

5) As a child, what books and/or authors influenced you the most and why?
I have always loved C.S. Lewis/Alice in Wonderland, Roald Dahl/Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, L. Frank Baum/Wizard of Oz and especially everything by Madeline L’Engle. A Wrinkle In Time is one of my all time favorites! All of these books opened up my world and conjured a certain special magical quality within me. It is what has inspired me and has helped me to create a healthy creative process.

6) Tell us about your audio book campaign for The Bezert.
As of October 21st, 2015 we have officially released the audio book version of The Bezert! It has been a long road to get here as we started work on the audio book shortly after The Bezert was published one full year ago. I had no trouble finding a brilliant narrator almost immediately. He was an artist ‘friend of a friend’ from Santa Barbara with the perfect voice, great character skills and a strong desire to narrate a book. We began work in the studio shortly before I learned that my publisher was going out of business and needed to close their doors. Needless to say, I then ran into some challenges with the many other extra financial expenses necessary to keep The Bezert promotion alive. After just coming off of winning 2 indie book awards in NY, and a fantastic book tour event in CA, I realized I was tapped out and needed to start an Indiegogo campaign in order to raise enough funds to complete the Audio Book project. I humbly asked 30 friends and supporters to play small roles in a video I produced and we pulled together a fabulous campaign earning over 60% of the necessary funds to complete the project and finalize the music & studio contracts. Through this process I wholeheartedly learned the importance of support, collaboration and trust.

7) What is the most fulfilling thing about being an author?
I really love the opportunity to go to schools and read to classrooms. Each experience is unique but always inspiring. I have yet to come home without being artfully challenged in some way by the kids, their fabulous questions and their insightful comments.

I also have really enjoyed each of the different creative events we have put together to bring The Bezert further in to the public eye. We have had dramatic readings by kids wearing masks, circus type events with actors miming along with the audio version, social media campaigns with people taking pictures of Bezert all over the world, and someday I’d love to create an interactive art experience where people can walk through an installation of the book and be fully immersed in the sensory experience through sight, sound, scent and touch.

8) What do you hope children will take away with them after reading your book/s?
I hope this book inspires children (and adults) to dig deep into their own creativity. I hope it challenges them emotionally and gets them to think about concepts bigger than themselves. I also hope it gives them the reassurance that they too can write their own story and share it with the world in their own special way. And in the end maybe they will learn to trust just a little more, in both themselves and the greater world.

9) What advice do you have for aspiring author and illustrators on how to navigate this world of publishing?
Although it is a nine month process in itself, the actual act of publishing a book is just a very small part of the picture. The bigger job comes when you need to tirelessly promote yourself and your book at every given opportunity for as long as you possibly can. The thing I have found to be helpful is to use as much creativity as you can when you do this. To try not to seek out the way that your book fits in, but rather find out how it stands apart from the rest and market yourself from that platform. If it is a book filled with flowers, market to unique gift stores and garden shops, if it is about animals, find creative ways to talk to businesses who work with animals, humane society events, farms etc. In a bookstore you are just one book among thousands, but standing alone you can get much more positive attention and help build awareness in the process. And then never, never give up. Make the book your passion. Embrace it and intuitively follow every possible opportunity that presents itself.

10) What are you working on now?
I always have a few irons in the fire, but my main project after nearly a year of promoting The Bezert, is getting back in the studio and illustrating a second book in this series. Many years ago when I wrote The Bezert, I also penned a sequel. My next project is to illustrate and publish the second part of Bezert’s journey. As I said at the end of the first book…”Not The End” now I need to follow through on that promise.

Maria Knier

THANK YOU FOR LETTING US GETTING TO KNOW YOU!
Should you wish to know more about Maria Knier and would like to purchase her book, here are all her pertinent details.

Website: Maria Knier
Where to purchase her book: Indiebound, Amazon and Barnes & Noble
Maria’s social media connections:

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Author Interview: Jolie Della Valle

Ants in the Pants GEORGIE AND THE ANTS IN THE PANTS BY JOLIE DELLA VALLE

1) Please provide a short excerpt of what your children’s book is about.
Georgie and the Ants in the Pants encourages children to embrace their individuality, silliness, and excitement – otherwise known as the “ANTS” in their pants! My book promotes dancing, laughing, and acting silly! The ultimate message of my book is to inspire children to believe in themselves!

2) What inspired you to write this book?
A few years ago I started Ants in the Pants, which originally was just a children’s clothing line that I created. I stopped making the clothes because it became too challenging. When my niece Sloane was born a few years later, she changed everything. She sparked me with inspiration that I never felt before! I wanted to create something to encourage her (and every child out there!) to believe in themselves. I started making the clothes again, and then the idea for Georgie and the Ants in the Pants came to me. The fact that wanted to be a good role model for Sloane was the force I needed to following through with it. I know the best way to teach kids is to lead by example, so this is what holds me accountable everyday throughout my journey.

3) Why did you pick this genre and how did you come to be a children’s picture  book author?
Georgie and the Ants in the Pants evolved out of my children’s clothing line, Ants in the Pants! Prior to this, I worked for another children’s company, and I always loved writing and poetry. I believe this is what I was meant to do… it just took some exploring of my creativity and whole lot of self discovery!

4) How do the illustrations complement your book? What was important to you  as an author?
I trusted my illustrator completely. I had known and admired Leigh Ann for years as an artist. I gave her the manuscript and told her to work her magic! My only request was that she create a character of a little girl to look like Sloane! That was very important to me! She did an amazing job!

5) Tell us about your school visits and why do you love doing them? Do you ever  go anywhere without your ukulele?
Oh my goodness- I could write a novel here! I absolutely LOVE doing school visits! This is another example of how my business has evolved in a way I never would have expected. I love doing them because I get to see the impact I am capable of making first hand. The children are so cute, and they fill me up with so much fuel to keep going and reaching for the stars. I visit to inspire them, but the truth is that they are inspiring me! The BEST is when I whip out the ukulele and get to watch them dance their hearts out! My ukulele is with me during every author visit or event! I play and practice almost every day. I never sang or played an instrument before I wrote the book. Then, a theme song came to me, and I just had to follow through with that too.

6) What is the most fulfilling thing about being an author?
The most fulfilling thing is the fact that I made something that will apart of a child’s life forever. Many people have told me that Georgie and the Ants in the Pants is a story time favorite ! A person never forgets their favorite books from their childhood. Children’s books eventually become a reflection of so many special and cherished memories! It also makes me so happy to think that one day my great, great grandchildren will be able to read a book that their great, great, Grandmother wrote!

7) What do you hope children will take away with them after reading your book?
I hope it makes their day brighter. I hope they feel encouraged to do the dance moves, and be silly, and have fun! I hope they are reminded of how special they are.

8) Tell us about your blog and what is it about?
My blog is a space for me to share special “Ant” news, poetry, and anything else that I feel is inspiring and uplifting for others!

9) Do you have any advice for aspiring authors about chasing their dreams?
Yes. Stop only thinking about it. Start being proactive. Take however many babysteps you need, but be sure to move forward a little bit everyday! Your future self will thank you so much! The place outside your comfort zone is magical.

10)What are you working on now?
My head spins at times because I have so many exciting things I’m working on. Creativity surely breeds more creativity. I have to focus on one thing at a time though, otherwise I nothing will get accomplished! The main things I’m currently working on right now include more song writing, my second book, manufacturing a “Georgie” stuffed animal (everyone asks for it!!), and expanding my reach by selling my book to Specialty gift and toy stores across the United States!

Jolie Della Valle

THANK YOU FOR LETTING US GETTING TO KNOW YOU!
Should you wish to know more about Jolie Della Valle and would like to purchase her book, here are all her pertinent details.

Website: Jolie Della Valle
Where to purchase her book: I Love Ants in the Pants
Jolie’s social media connections:

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Author & Illustrator Interview: Carin Bramsen

Just A Duck by Carin BramsenJUST A DUCK? BY CARIN BRAMSEN

1) Please provide a short excerpt of what your children’s book is about.
Duck has decided to be a cat, and tries to show his good friend, Cat, that he’s just like her. He strives gamely to climb a tree, but when his best efforts fail him, his confidence begins to ebb. In an attempt to cheer him, Cat accidentally lands in deep water, where they both learn just how lucky they are that Duck is a duck. This book is a sequel to Hey, Duck!, told in rhyming dialogue.

2) What inspired you to write this book?
A mental image of Duck trying to slink like his friend, Cat, was the first spark for Just a Duck. I already had a strong sense of Duck’s character from my previous book, Hey, Duck!. He is wildly enthusiastic, inclined to silliness, but with some instinctive wisdom, too. I could imagine his giving his all to being a cat, and struggling to prove it when challenged. I sympathized, suspecting this new goal might not serve him well – and that’s when I thought there might be a story in it.

3) What do you hope children will take away with them after reading your book?
I’d love to help kids understand there are many, many different ways to shine, all eminently worthwhile.

4) How did you come to write and illustrate and why did you pick this genre?
My first picture book project was illustrating The Yellow Tutu, by my sister, Kirsten Bramsen. From then on, I was hooked on the possibilities and demands of the picture book form: the dance of words and images to tell a story, and the challenge of doing so in such a short space.

5) When you have an idea for a new book, what comes first? The words or the illustrations and what is your process of putting them together?
So far, my books have all started with a nascent sense of a scenario and a feeling for the characters involved. That might come to me with some words or an image attached, but at first it’s more about the general dynamics and where they might lead.

From there, words, images and plot ideas arrive, higgledy-piggledy – during a walk or shower or some household chore. I usually jot or sketch whatever pops up, knowing the selection and sorting will come later. At some point early on, I set up sixteen two-page spread templates in Photoshop. This will become my working dummy: the sketched version of the book. I scan sketches in, alter or move them as the story evolves, or sketch directly into the computer with a digital stylus and tablet. I can type right on the Photoshop dummy page – that’s sometimes where I write and rewrite the story. Words and pictures continually change and inform each other as I develop the book.

6) As a child, what books and/or authors/illustrators influenced you the most and why?
My first book love was Dr. Seuss. Oh, the places he drew! I felt he threw the world wide open with his wild spaces and infinite invention. I still want books to do that for me.

7) What is the most fulfilling thing about being an author?
The most fulfilling by far is hearing that a child enjoys my book, and feeling that maybe I’ve added a little happiness to someones life. I also relish the first stages of writing and sketching a book – that primal buzz when something new begins to take shape.

8) Describe your illustration style and when did you realise you could make a living from your talent?
My published illustrations so far are brightly colored, with tangible-looking textures and volumes. Recently, I’ve been playing around with a more linear style. Regardless of style, I love most to show character through expressions and movement. As to the second half of the question, I’m still trying to figure that out.

9) What are you working on now?
I’m now working on the third Duck and Cat book for Random House, as well as some other seedling projects.

THCarin BramsenANK YOU FOR LETTING US GETTING TO KNOW YOU!
Should you wish to know more about Carin Bramsen and would like to purchase her book, here are all her pertinent details.

Website: Carin Bramsen
Where to purchase her book: Amazon, Indie Bound and Barnes & Noble
Carin’s social media connections:

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Author Interview: Kirstin Lenane

Charlie and the CreatureCHARLIE AND THE CREATURE BY KIRSTIN LENANE

1) Please provide a short excerpt of what your children’s book is about
Charlie is a mouse who lives in a small town and works at the local diner.  One day, a creature comes in for a cup of coffee.  Needless to say, the regular customers aren’t quite sure what to make of him.  But Charlie, being the service professional that he is, tries to make the creature feel at home.  The creature explains that he is on his way to see the world and can’t stay long.  This comment sets Charlie’s imagination spinning and inspires him to seek out an adventure of his own.

2) What inspired you to write this book?
I was inspired by the day-to-day life in a small-town diner and the pleasure that comes from being part of such a community.  To the diner patrons, Charlie is more than just a waiter.  He is someone they count on seeing and speaking to every day.

When the creature enters the diner, he throws off the town’s homeostasis:  “They weren’t used to outsiders in town.  No one ever did much coming or going.”  Rather than shutting the creature out, I decided to have Charlie (and the other diner regulars) make the more interesting choice to invite the creature into their lives, to experience the initial discomfort of the unknown, and then to reap the benefits of being open to new people and new ideas.

3) How did you come up with the title or series of your book?
The title comes from the encounter between the two main characters, Charlie and the creature.  This encounter sets the story in motion.

4) Why did you pick this genre?
I used to write short stories for adult readers, but found that I had a lot more fun when I started adding pictures.  Combining drawings with writing seems to place me in a more natural place as a writer.  The drawings help the writing flow and vice versa.

At this time, I’m a little less clear about how to market an illustrated picture book for “all ages,” so I’ve been trying to write more for children, where there is a clear market.  I have a two-year-old son and I work as a counselor at two elementary schools, so this helps me get out of my adult head and into the world of children, but this is not always easy.  I think I am still learning who my audience is and how to write for them.

5) How do the illustrations complement your book? What was important to you as an author?
When I am creating a story, I begin by drawing pictures.  Because I am not a professionally trained illustrator by any means, the drawings often come out looking a little funny.  For example, a hat on a mouse’s head might end up looking more like a pancake.  Why is there a pancake on his head?  And so it begins….

If I had my way, I would draw with pencils and markers, and create books using paper, cardboard and glue.  However, in today’s “modern age,” I’ve also enjoyed the capacity to reach readers by creating books that can be digital.

6) As a child, what books and/or authors influenced you the most and why?
As a child, I enjoyed books that didn’t treat me like a child, but as a person.  Some of my favorites included, the Frog and Toad books, The Velveteen Rabbit, the Frances books, George and Martha, books by William Steig and Tomi Ungerer.

7) What is the most fulfilling thing about being an author?
By putting my human questions into the world of a mouse who lives in a made-up place in the world of a book, I am able to grapple with some serious, difficult things, in a manner that feels less heavy, but is liberating at the same time.

Being an author helps me to take life less seriously, and more seriously at the same time.  It’s a way of creating meaning.

8) What do you hope children will take away with them after reading your book?
Fear can make us very resistant to trying new things or considering new ideas, especially if we seemed to be doing just fine before these new ideas walked into our lives.  One of the messages of this book is that it is much more fulfilling to keep learning and to keep growing than it is to try to keep everything the same.

9) Who is/are your favourite author/s as an adult and why?
My favourite book is To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf.  There is beauty and joy in her characters, but there is also this sense that everyone is alone, as she moves through a scene and through each character’s private thoughts.  She captures people’s moments of connection to each other, as well as their inability to truly connect and relate.

10) What are you working on now?
I am writing a children’s book about a character who is obsessed with time and keeping lists.  Fortunately, there are three pesky rabbits who live outside and teach him a thing or two about stopping to enjoy the moment.

THKirstin LenaneANK YOU FOR LETTING US GETTING TO KNOW YOU!
Should you wish to know more about Kirstin Lenane and would like to purchase her book, here are all her pertinent details.

Website: Kirstin Lenane
Where to purchase her book: Amazon
Kirstin’s social media connections:

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Author Interview: Toni Brisland

DemiChat and the City of GoldDEMICHAT AND THE CITY OF GOLD BY TONI BRISLAND

1) Please provide a short excerpt of what your children’s book is about.
Famous archaeologists, the Jaspers, DemiChat and Lord Flannery Beagle’s owners, after their amazing discoveries in Egypt (Book 2 in the Series, DemiChat and the Lost Mummy) are invited on an international Academic Tour to lecture about their findings.

While in Peru they meet Carlos who persuades them to visit Machu Picchu and trek into the Amazon Jungle to search for the Incan City of Gold – he leads them into danger!. The city, under the protection of a native tribe and a wily jaguar, evades them until Amazonian Warriors show them a hidden passage through a volcano.

2) What inspired you to write this book?
I was inspired to write the series by my love of Sherlock Holmes, my Himalayan cat, Jade, and my niece’s beagle, Shiloh. I love animals and thought it would be fun to write a spoof about a cat-and-dog team playing the immortal Sherlock and Doctor Watson.

I commenced the series with the intention of a trilogy: the first set in Europe, the second in Egypt and actually had 2 plans for the third book. With the help of Teacher-Librarian friends we surveyed children who had read the first two books and asked them if they preferred a sequel set in the Amazon Jungle or New York. The resounding reply was in favour of the Amazon and Incans and Warriors – hence, DemiChat and the City of Gold was written.

3) How do the illustrations complement your book? What was important to you as an author?
My digital illustrator is Cheryl De Los Reyes Cruz, an American digital artist who understands the importance of colour and dash and action for an ebook for the age group. I think Cheryl has done an amazing job and extends the story through her brilliant work.

4) As a child, what books and/or authors influenced you the most and why?
Fantasy authors, Ursula Kroeber Le Guin, particularly the first four Earthsea books and J.R.R.Tolkien. Why? Their books made my imagination soar and gave me hope that in the constant struggle between good and evil that good will win out.

5) What is the most fulfilling thing about being an author?
Being totally absorbed in my passion for writing and knowing that my readers are transported to places and meet characters that they may not experience otherwise as they see the world of my books from my unique perspective.

6) What’s the greatest compliment you ever received from a reader?
From a father of a reader … “your DemiChat book was the first book my 10-year old son ever finished”.

7) What do you hope children will take away with them after reading your book?
A love of animals, of adventure, a belief that anything is possible and that you can create your own destiny.

8) Who is/are your favourite author/s as an adult and why?
My favourite authors are adult authors: Joseph Conrad, D.H. Lawrence, Hermann Hesse, Kathryn Heyman, Richard Flanagan. Why? Apart from being wonderful storytellers, their imagery is rich and detailed, they are structural experts and they force me to think about the bigger issues in life.

9) How would you define ‘success’ as a writer?
Writing a piece of work that is the best a writer can do (no matter how many edits need to be done and how long it takes to write it), says everything you want to say and is written as if it is the last thing you might write.

10) What are you working on now?
I’m writing a novel for adults.

THToni BrislandANK YOU FOR LETTING US GETTING TO KNOW YOU!
Should you wish to know more about Toni Brisland and would like to purchase her book, here are all her pertinent details.

Website: Toni Brisland
Where to purchase her book: Amazon, Dragon Pencil & Toni Brisland
Toni’s social media connections:

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Author Interview: Michelle R. Eastman

The Legend of Dust Bunnies, a Fairy’s Tale by Michelle R. Eastman

THE LEGEND OF DUST BUNNIES, A FAIRY’S TALE
BY MICHELLE R. EASTMAN

1) Please provide a short excerpt of what your children’s book is about.
The Legend of Dust Bunnies, a Fairy’s Tale is a light-hearted story about a serious topic: Being Yourself.

The Legend of Dust Bunnies will open your eyes to a world of dirt and dust that you never knew could be so magical and fun! Did you know that Dust Fairies come into our homes at night and spread dust, drape spider webs, and even spit crumbs into the carpet? They do!  It’s true!  Well, not all fairies. Artie is different. He doesn’t like messes, and he doesn’t fit in. At first, Artie is lonely and unsure of what to do, but then he takes matters into his own hands. When given lemons you’re supposed to make lemonade, right? This story does one better, it turns DUST into DUST BUNNIES. The Legend of Dust Bunnies is the story about how and why a misfit Dust Fairy turns dust into cuddly dust bunnies and the joyful aftermath that follows. It will have families looking at dust bunnies in a new light, and may actually give kids an excuse NOT to clean their rooms.

2) What inspired you to write this book?
My story’s main character, Artie, was inspired by my eight-year old son’s habit of collecting things.  He notices and appreciates the beauty in items that most of us would cast off as trash.  Artie uses found items to create unique treasures and happily shares them with his fellow Dust Fairies.

3) Why did you pick this genre?
Rhyming picture books are my favorite books to read. My son and I make a trip to the library once a week to fill our bag. He is now 9, and I still read aloud to him each night. I have wanted to write a picture book for most of my adult life. Publishing this book has been an incredible experience.

4) How do the illustrations complement your book? What was important to you as an author?
The book’s illustrator, Kevin Richter, created the cover and the entire layout and design of the book. I connected with Kevin via Elance. He is an incredibly talented guy, and he’s a pleasure to work with. He is in the UK, and I am in Iowa. All of our communication has been via email. Despite the distance, it has been a wonderful collaborative partnership. Kevin “got” the story immediately. Not only did he bring my vision to life; he brought elements to the story I hadn’t even imagined. Kevin is an experienced comic book illustrator, and I think his experience with that genre gave the characters and scenes an action-packed quality that further enhanced the story.

5) As a child, what books and/or authors influenced you the most and why?
I grew up in a low-income household with teen-aged parents. Books were not a priority in our house.  I am pretty sure I was never read to as a baby or as a small child. When I started school, I began to develop a love for books. It was exciting when the book-mobile rolled into our neighborhood and I could climb on board and check out a few books. One of my favorite books was Charlotte’s Web. I won a copy of it as part of a RIF sponsored contest at school. I cherished that book. I also loved Beverly Cleary books and anything relating to history and biographies.

6) What is the most fulfilling thing about being an author?
Visiting schools and libraries and interacting with kids is the very best part of the whole author experience. I am also proud of a literacy initiative I started called Picture Book Pass it On.  I encourage people to collect/donate books to kids in need. This past March, I hosted a special drive called MARCHing Books to Kids. We collected over 300 books for children of incarcerated parents. Children’s authors from around the world donated signed copies of their books to the project.

7) What do you hope children will take away with them after reading your book?
The main character, Artie, has a hard time finding his place among the other Dust Fairies. He wants to be accepted, but he isn’t willing to change who he is to do that. Although there is a take-away message, I try to subtly weave it into the story. Kids are smart cookies-they take away what is meaningful to them and their life experiences.

8) Who is/are your favourite author/s as an adult and why?
I spend a lot of time reading children’s picture books. I enjoy reading them and I find them comforting and inspiring. I like to read short stories (especially sci-fi from the 50’s and 60’s). It is fascinating to see how many of the futuristic elements are now commonplace. I also like reading and re-reading poetry from Langston Hughes.

9) What are you working on now?
Kevin and I just released our newest book, Dust Fairy Tales: Absolutely Aggie. This book takes a light-hearted approach to the compelling desire kids have to fit-in. The story validates the need we feel for acceptance, while imparting a gentle take-away message of the joy that can come from embracing one’s individuality.

Here is the synopsis:
Fairies, music, and dust! Oh my! Aggie is a little Dust Fairy with a big problem. She wants to join the fairy band, but they do not approve of her offbeat style. Aggie is determined to impress them, but that turns out to be harder than she imagined. Just when she thinks she will never find a way to fit in, Aggie discovers it might be more fun to stand out.

Michelle R. Eastman

THANK YOU FOR LETTING US GETTING TO KNOW YOU!
Should you wish to know more about Michelle R. Eastman and would like to purchase her book, here are all her pertinent details.

Website: Michelle R.Eastman
Where to purchase her book: Michelle R.Eastman, Amazon and Barnes & Noble
Michelle’s social media connections:

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Author Interview: Hazel Edwards

SLEUTH ASTRID; LOST VOICE OF THE GRAND FINAL BY HAZEL EDWARDS Sleuth Astrid - Lost Voice of The Grand Final by Hazel Edwards

1) Please provide a short excerpt of what your children’s book is about.
Sleuth Astrid, a hi-tech, mind-reading chook rides a Harley, plays e-games and finds lost things. Illustrated (with visual clues) by Jane Connory, this e-version of the original popular print book includes a new story The Lost Voice of the Grand Final.

In Book 1, The Mind Reading Chook, the Magician has lost his sense of humour. Astrid must find that before the 3pm show.

In Book 2, The Lost Voice of the Grand Final, Astrid has to find the Voice of the Coach in time for the Saturday Grand Final. Was the Voice captured in the TV ‘Footy’ studio? Lost down his throat? Was a Voice Coach any use? What about the Speakeasy? or the Voice-over on the TV Footy panel or on Talk-back? And then there’s the Bird Wedding of the Year. Carrot was supposed to be the MC (Master of Ceremonies) As usual, Sleuth Astrid the Mind-Reading Chook, solves the problem.

2) What inspired you to write this book?
When staying at Varuna, the writers’ retreat in the Blue Mountains, I was introduced to a ‘chook’ who used to belong to a stage magician. They said the chook could mind-read and was part of the magician’s act. I believe in observation, not mind reading,so thought the chook could become a very observant sleuth. So Astrid has unusual things to find, like a lost sense of humour.

3) What do you hope children will take away with them after reading your book?
That it’s ok to see things differently. Use your imagination.

4) With your picture books, how do you ensure the message of your book is conveyed succinctly through to the illustrations and how do you ensure it is a smooth and productive collaboration?
I choose an illustrator like Jane Connory, who has a quirky sense of humour. I don’t always have a ‘message’ but I like to encourage unusual problem-solving. Creativity depends upon putting together things which have not been in that combination before.

5) Tell us about some of your extra challenges you have experienced in pitching controversial subjects for junior books.
f2m;the boy within the YA novel about coming of age and transitioning gender from female to male has been the most controversial for the subject, not the way we wrote the book. Check out the Youtube clip which interviews us as co-authors. Ryan Kennedy, my co-author is an ftm. And a family friend.

Currently I’m writing a junior chapter series Hijabi Girl , with a Muslim children’s librarian Ozge. Our character is s feisty 8 year old girl who wears a hijab and starts an Aussie Rules girls team. Plus there’s Rastus Rastus the Reading rat, soccer-mad Zac and the new girl who cartoons everybody. Just a fun school-based  story.

Feymouse about a large and clumsy cat born into a family of highly talented mice is a different way of showing how to cope with being different. Now a picture book app on Itunes but previously a rock pop musical and a print book.

6) What is the most fulfilling thing about being an author?
That your book may go into the lives of readers and let them be a little more tolerant of others who are coping successfully with being different. PLUS be an enjoyable read.

7) Tell us about your adventure to Casey Station in the Antarctic and how that inspired you into writing your YA books.
As an expeditioner with the Australian Antarctic Division, I became beset in the polar ice when our ship got stuck en route to Casey Station. So lucky to be with some of the greatest experts on Antarctica who all wanted to talk to me and helped me plot the YA novel Antarctica’s Frozen Chosen and the other plays and books. We did get rescued after several weeks. Check out the ‘cool’ Antarctic stories here.

8) What are you working on now? 
My memoir ; Not Just a Piece of Cake: Being an Author

THHazel EdwardsANK YOU FOR LETTING US GETTING TO KNOW YOU!
Should you wish to know more about Hazel Edwards and would like to purchase her book, here are all her pertinent details.

Website: Hazel Edwards
Where to purchase her book: Hazel Edwards and Port Campbell Press
Hazel’s social media connections:

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Author Interview: Beth Ferry

STICK AND STONE BY BETH FERRY Stick and Stone by Beth Ferry

1) Please provide a short excerpt of what your children’s book is about.
Stick and Stone is a short, rhyming story about friendship.

2) What inspired you to write this book? Did it take you long to translate your idea into words and subsequently into a book?
A song by the band Train, called “Drops of Jupiter” was the inspiration behind Stick and Stone. There is a line in the song about friends sticking up for one another and that sparked the idea of a stick sticking up for a friend, namely, a stone. Friendship is a common theme in picture books, but an important one. I began writing the story in prose and wasn’t having much success. When I switched to rhyme, the story developed quickly.

3) Why did you pick this genre and how did you come to be a writer?
I chose to write picture books because of their beauty and importance to the youngest of readers. I also think picture books transcend age ranges and can speak to people of every age. I love the bond they offer parent and child. I’ve always loved to write, but I became a write in 2011 when I challenged myself to write a picture book that was under 200 words. That was the genesis for Stick and Stone.

4) How do the illustrations complement your book? What was important to you as an author?
Well, the illustrations of Stick and Stone are phenomenal!! Tom Lichtenheld created characters are that sweet and cuddly and utterly perfect – quite an achievement for a stick and a stone. His illustration process shows the extreme care and time he put into making the illustrations a perfect match for the text. I couldn’t be happier!

5) As a child, what books and/or authors influenced you the most and why?
The picture books I remember loving the most are Maurice Sendak’s Nutshell Library. As a child I adored miniatures and so this tiny set of books was right up my alley. I had every story memorized. I also loved Miriam Young’s Miss Suzy. I think the dollhouse aspect also appealed to my love of miniatures.  As I grew up, I read all the classics – Nancy Drew, Little House on the Prairie, Anne of Green Gables and A Wrinkle in Time.

6) What is the most fulfilling thing about being an author? Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring children’s authors?
Having a child tell me they love my book are some of the sweetest words I’ve heard. It floors me every time. Interacting with children at schools and bookstores is the most fulfilling aspect of being a children’s book author. The kids themselves are the best reward for being a picture book author. There are so many wonderful blogs that give advice to kidlit writers. My advice is to join SCBWI, and to check out taralazar.com, kathyteam.wordpress.com, and lauriewallmark.blogspot.com. Also, to write, write and then write some more. Don’t give up. This business requires a supreme amount of patience.

7) What do you hope children will take away with them after reading your book? What do your children think of it?
I hope they will see how good friendships require a bit of effort and that friends help each other – it’s not a one-way street. I hope they also see that we all might act like Pinecone now and again, but it’s important to forgive those prickly characters in our lives. My children are all teenagers, but happily, they love the book. There’s nothing better than overhearing them tell their friends that their mom wrote a book.

8) What are you working on now? We wait with great anticipation!
My next book, Land Shark, is being released on August 4, 2015. As I’m waiting for that, I’m working on a few stories involving a scarecrow and an alligator, but not in the same story. Although that might be interesting . . . Thanks for asking!

THBeth FerryANK YOU FOR LETTING US GETTING TO KNOW YOU!
Should you wish to know more about Beth Ferry and would like to purchase her book, here are all her pertinent details.

Website: Beth Ferry
Where to purchase her book: Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Indie Bound
Beth’s social media connections:

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Author Interview: Pat Zietlow Miller

WHEREVER YOU GO BY PAT ZIETLOW MILLER Wherever You Go by Pat Zietlow Miller

1) Please provide a short excerpt of what your children’s book is about.
Wherever You Go is about all the paths you can take in life and finding joy in the journey.

2) What inspired you to write this book and why did you pick this genre?
I wrote this book as a love letter to my oldest daughter. It contains some of the things I want her to take with her as she leaves for college and moves further into the world.

3) How do the illustrations complement your book? What was important to you as an author?
Eliza Wheeler did a magnificent job with the illustrations. I couldn’t be more pleased. I think they make the book something you want to walk across the room to see. In picture books, words are only half the story. And, the illustrations are often what first catches a potential reader’s eye. So they have to be good.

4) All your books have very different themes and subject matters. How do these stories come to you and how do you know they will be well received?
I write about topics that interest me. Things I find curious or noteworthy or funny. I hope that if I write a story I’d like to read, others will find it appealing too. But I never know if what I write will be well received. All I can do is give a story everything I have, send it off into the world and then hope it will find its audience.

5) As a child, what books and/or authors influenced you the most and why?
I loved THE WESTING GAME and other books by Ellen Raskin. It was a great story set in Wisconsin, where I lived, and I just adored it. I read it many, many times.

6) What is the most fulfilling thing about being an author?
To know that kids and teachers and parents and booksellers and librarians are reading your book, and that sometimes they think enough of it that they reach out to you to tell you why it’s their favorite or how they used it in their classroom or to see what else you’re working on.

7) What do you hope children will take away with them after reading your book?
That life isn’t a straight line. It can take you on a lot of unexpected journeys – some fun and others not so much – but that no matter where you are, you have the ability to make choices and head toward where you’d really like to be.

8) What advice can you give to aspiring children’s picture book authors that you have learned over the years?
Success is a combination of writing skill, perseverance and luck. You can control two of these factors. And, if you focus on improving your skill and increasing your perseverance, luck often takes care of itself. You may have to recalibrate your definition of perseverance, though. I’ve heard writers say, “I’ve spent weeks on this manuscript and it keeps getting rejected!” If you wanted to be a professional athlete or musician or surgeon, you’d need to spend more than weeks honing your skills if you expected to be hired. The same is true with writing at a professional level. It may take years of practice and perseverance.

9) What are you working on now?
An early middle grade novel set in Wisconsin. Its plot involves Harry Houdini, Tony Bennett, basketball, cooking and the weather. Will it ever see the light of day? I’m not sure, but I’m working on making it as good as it can be.

THPat Zietlow MillerANK YOU FOR LETTING US GETTING TO KNOW YOU!
Should you wish to know more about Pat Zietlow Miller and would like to purchase her book, here are all her pertinent details.

Website: Pat Zietlow Miller
Where to purchase her book: Amazon, Barnes & Noble & Mystery To Me
Pat’s social media connections:

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Author Interview: Karen Kaufman Orloff

I WANNA GO HOME BY KAREN KAUFMAN ORLOFF I Wanna Go Home by Karen Kaufman Orloff

1) Please provide a short excerpt of what your children’s book is about
Alex is not happy about being sent to his grandparents’ retirement community while his parents go on a fabulous vacation. What could be worse than tagging along to Grandma’s boring bridge game or enduring the sight of Grandpa’s dentures?  But as the week goes on, Alex’s desperate emails to his parents turn into stories about ice cream before dinner and stickball with Grandpa. Before he knows it, Alex has made a surprising discovery: grandparents are way cooler than he thought!

2) What inspired you to write this book? 
I guess I was thinking about my own experiences visiting my grandparents in their retirement village in Florida back in the Seventies.  There were so many activities for the residents to do!  I thought it would be fun to put Alex (and his siblings) there, and to have Alex slowly come around to the idea that his grandparents are pretty fun to hang around with.

3) Why did you pick this genre? 
I love writing for kids. I write for older children as well as toddlers and elementary age kids. Probably because I’m a kid a heart, myself! And kids are the best audience.

4) How do the illustrations complement your book? What was important to you as an author?
The illustrations, done by the wonderful David Catrow, really add another dimension to all the “I Wanna” books. Dave just seems to know how to be funny and he makes my words look good!  The right illustrator can make or break a book, and I feel very lucky.

5) What is the most fulfilling thing about being an author?
I love knowing that people — especially kids, parents and grandparents — are enjoying my books together.

6) What do you hope children will take away with them after reading your book?
I hope they learn that people don’t get boring just because they age. Maybe they will enjoy time with their own grandparents.

7) What advice do you give to aspiring writers at your adult workshops on how to succeed in this highly competitive market? 
I always tell people to just keep writing, learning, and improving.  If you stay at it and learn your craft (and keep submitting) you will eventually find success.

8) School visits are a big part of your writing career. What are the benefits for you personally and professionally?
It’s so great going into the schools and meeting the kids and teachers. It’s really my core audience! I have learned what they like and what they don’t; what they laugh at and what they don’t laugh at.  I’ve learned so much by visiting and I’m always humbled when they applaud me! I would encourage every children’s author to get out and meet the kids in the schools.

9) What are you working on now?
I am working on a series of middle grade novels that I hope to get published.  I also have a new rhyming picture book coming out next spring from Sterling Publishing. It’s called “Miles of Smiles.”

Karen Kaufman OrloffTHANK YOU FOR LETTING US GETTING TO KNOW YOU!
Should you wish to know more about Karen Kaufman Orloff and would like to purchase her book, here are all her pertinent details.

Website: Karen Kaufman Orloff
Where to purchase her book: AmazonBarnes & Noble and Merritt Books
Karen’s social media connections:

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