When did you decide to become an author and what impact has this had on your life?
I was brought up in a home where reading and writing were prevalent, and I had an interest in all things literary from a very young age. When I was in fourth grade, my teacher entered my class in a poetry contest. I won an honourable mention and that was the start of my writing career.
My father was a freelance writer for hunting and fishing magazines and both he and my mother were great verbal story tellers. I spent my childhood writing little poems and reading huge stacks of books from the local library. I even remember telling a friend’s mother that I wanted to be a writer one day.
I spent many years writing poems and short stories which I used in Christmas cards I made and which I read to my nieces. But it was not until my daughter was about three that I gave serious thought to writing books for children. We were watching cartoons and I began to notice that most of them were based on books. The more I noticed this the more I thought to myself, I could write children’s books good enough to be made into cartoons.
I mentioned this to my husband one day and he looked at me with all seriousness and simply said, “Why don’t you then.” So I sat down to try. I ended up choosing farm animals for characters because some of my fondest childhood memories took place at the home of a friend who happened to live on a farm. When I became published, I gained an even deeper respect for authors and the amount of work that goes into writing a book, getting published, and marketing.
In the two years that my book has been available, I have met many other fabulous writers, I have travelled to interesting places, and I have had children tell me that my book was wonderful to read. The most moving of these items are the comments from the children. I consider myself just your average mom, so it totally amazes me that children enjoy what I have written and look up to me as some sort of semi-celebrity
Tell us about your latest work and what motivated you to write it:
My latest published work is Fern Valley – A Collection of Short Stories which as I mentioned above has farm animal characters inspired by time spent on my friend’s farm. The characters live in the fictional community of Fern Valley and have adventures like normal children. They go fishing, camping, have parties, and get into scrapes. Many of the characters are loosely modelled after people I knew growing up and many of the adventures are modelled after adventures my brother and I had as children.
My latest unpublished work in progress is a mystery series for children eight to twelve. It is about an eleven year old girl, Fannie Rothbottom, and her best friend, Todd McGuire. They are very smart children who solve local mysteries which are baffling the authorities and adults around them. I decided to try my hand at mysteries for children because that was one of my favourite genres growing up. I remember reading Phyllis A Whitney who wrote mysteries for both children and adults. To this very day I still love a good mystery.
What are your future aspirations as an author?
My hope as an author is to continue to write material that touches children and encourages them to read. I can’t stress enough the importance of children being able to read well. My motto, “Kids Who Read Can Do Anything”, pretty much sums up my passion about the subject
It is a proven fact that children whose parents read to them and who learn to read well themselves are more successful in school and life. Studies also suggest that children who have been subjected to reading in their own homes are more likely to go on to higher education.
Another aspiration of mine is to break into the children’s picture book market. I have several projects I am working on right now. I am also working at increasing my speaking engagements and the children’s writing workshops which I offer.
Where do your ideas come from? What experiences or aspects of your life influence your writing?
My ideas come from almost anywhere and usually at the strangest times and places. Sometimes I think of ideas on the drive to my daughter’s school or when I’m lying in bed. Things I see or read often inspire me, and even listening to music has led to story ideas. I have learned to keep small notebooks in my purse for when ideas strike, so I don’t have to write on gum wrappers and napkins.
My husband and my daughter are the two biggest influences on my writing. They encourage me to keep at it and are my greatest fans. And of course, they are required to listen to all of my ideas and stories repeatedly as I edit. My husband has turned out to be a great proof reader as well.
What do you do to improve yourself and as a writer?
The key to improving as a writer, or anything in life as far as that goes, is to practise. I write once a week on my personal blog Aileen’s Thoughts where I write about reading, writing, and life in general. I also post a Kid’s Korner every Monday on a collective Christian blog. I continue to write books and work at building my platform as a writer.
I do something everyday, no matter how large or small, to promote reading, to promote fellow authors, and to get the word out about my book Fern Valley. Although authors would rather spend all their time writing, marketing themselves and their books is just as vital to their success. After all, if no one has heard of you they certainly aren’t going to be reading what you have written.
That’s great Aileen, it’s so important for authors to realise there is more to our books than the writing. We look forward to seeing the Stitch Says review of Fern Valley tomorrow and wish you all the best!
Until then keep writing, keep reading!!!