Friday, January 31, 2014

Interview With Author Ryann Adams Hall

Meet The Author That Gave Us A Sweet Tooth

Ryann Adams Hall

What inspired you to write your first book?

My first book is a poem book I wrote in high school and decided to get it published. My daughter is the person that inspired me to start writing children's books. I write short children's books for children preschool age that have a short attention span. All the books people kept giving her were too long and she would never let me finish reading them too her. She would get bored and start trying to flip the pages or try to take the book from me. I really enjoy having shorter books to read to her. I can actually finish the story!

When did you start considering yourself a writer?

I still haven't to be honest with you. It still doesn't feel like I am actually an Author. I guess I always thought fame came with being an Author. But I realize only few make it there. People like Stephanie Meyer! Maybe I'll have my time in the spotlight one day.

Out of the books you've written, which is your favorite?

My favorite book right now isn't published yet. It's called Butterfly's Big Adventure. It is with an illustrator now and will be published soon! Kayleigh Butterfly goes on a Big Adventure exploring all the neat places (in the United States) her momma always told her about in her bedtime stories. Next to that one, I really love the Shelby Loves Candy Book. The illustrations are so bright and pretty!

How do you feel about being interviewed by a children's book character?

She is awesome! Taking the time out of her day to interview someone like me! I thank her very much!

What are you working on next?

Butterfly's Big Adventure is with an illustrator. Bella Wants to be a Writer will be with an illustrator soon. Also, Valentine's Crushed, a short, first chapter book for young children, is waiting on an answer from a publisher.

Can you share a little of your current work with us?

Caden Loves his Momma was the first book I wrote and illustrated myself. It came from my nephew and how much he loves his momma. She cannot go a foot away from him without him crying! Next, I wrote and Illustrated Rylie's New Bike. Caden's sister, my niece. I wrote this based on the bike she got for her birthday. Then there is Abbie Goes to the Zoo and Shelby Loves Candy. My other sisters two girls. I wrote and Illustrated Three Little Sisters based on some childhood memories of my sisters and I. Seasons Come, Seasons Go, is a picture book I wrote for my daughter.

Out of your own characters, do you have a favorite?

My daughter of course! I love my nieces and nephew too of course!

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Don't let anyone tell you, you can't! Don't worry about bad reviews. Try to learn from them or correct the mistake, if there is one.

What do you do when you are not writing?

Promoting, Advertising! Working on books. Or playing with my daughter and taking care of my house.

If you had to live in one of your books which book would it be?

Butterfly's Big Adventure!

What was your favourite book when you were a kid?

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish was the first book I ever read by myself. It felt so great to read a book all by myself!

What is your favorite kind of candy?

Reeses Cups! Butterfinger or Jr. Mints will do fine too.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Interview With Author Elias Zapple

Introducing The Author With The Amazing Mustache

Elias Zapple

What inspired you to write your first book?

My favourite pet slug, Steve. My faithful companion, attentive listener to my woes, avid reader of my prose and unfortunate victim of a fatal lawnmower accident. He inspires me everyday and in every way. His last words to me were, "Elias, write that children's book, 'Duke & Michel', it'll be a huge success and children everywhere will love it. Also, please eat the lettuce in the fridge before it goes bad."

When did you start considering yourself a writer?

April 2nd, 1870, the day after I emerged out of a tulip in an old granny’s garden here in Camberwell.

Out of the books you've written, which is your favourite?

The latest is always my favourite. The latest would be Duke & Michel: The King Tingaling Painting. Being my favourite, I often take it out to fancy restaurants and buy it tulips.

How do you feel about being interviewed by a children's book character?

How do you feel about being interviewed by a slug with an IQ of 190? It’s terrifying, believe me. 

What are you working on next?

A new style for my moustache, Mr Snazzy. He refuses to change but I’ll do it when he’s asleep.

Can you share a little of your current work with us?

An extract from my first book, Duke & Michel: The Mysterious Corridor:

Duke wandered over to a used chocolate wrapper that was by the side of the
road and sniffed at it.
Empty. Just my luck.”
What’s empty?”
Besides your head?”
Michel went over to Duke and picked up the chocolate wrapper Duke was sniffing at.
I didn’t know you could read,” Duke said, as he had a lie down.
This is Romain’s favourite chocolate bar. He always has one on him.”
Only one? Selfish boy. He should always carry two. Never know when you might meet a very hungry Basset Hound.”’

Out of your own characters, do you have a favourite?

I’m fairly impartial however most people seem to love Duke, a sarcastic, pompous, food-obsessed Basset Hound. He’s quick-witted, scathing, rude and narcissistic - my kind of dog.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Throwing cabbages is a great way to relieve stress.

What do you do when you are not writing?

I throw cabbages at my neighbour, Dieter and plan military attacks with my army of slugs. I also drink an obscene amount of herbal tea.

If you had to live in one of your books which book would it be?

My books aren’t big enough to fit me and I wouldn’t be able to breathe. Mr Snazzy would just wilt away! It would have to be a book the size of a house but then why live in a book and not in a house? An absurd idea!

What was your favourite book when you were a kid?

How to Brainwash Slugs’.

What's the deal with slugs and cabbages?

The deal is for a lifetime and includes a 5-minute break each year. They’re also allowed to hold conventions in my hallway as part of the deal. One slug tried to revolt and demand better conditions he’s now resting comfortably at the bottom of a deep-fat fryer. The same for the cabbages except they don’t require breaks or have the need to hold conventions.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Shelby Loves Candy by Ryann Adams Hall - Destiny's review

This book is too sweet to eat!

Olive loves candy. Faith loves candy. I love candy. Who doesn't love candy? But there's one little girl that loves candy more than the rest of us. Her name is Shelby. Shelby Loves Candy is not only sweet and colourful, it's educational as well!

Shelby would eat candy all day and all night if she could but there are some very important things she has to do if she wants to keep eating candy. One of those things is to look after her teeth.

And what if all the candy in the world runs out? What will Shelby do then? You'll just have to read it and find out.

Ryann Adams Hall did an excellent job capturing not just one child's (but most children's) love of candy. Her writing is fun and upbeat. The text is short and simple. This would be an easy one for a little kid to read alone. But it's a lot of fun together!

Ryann's story could be used for many educational topics. It could be used as a teaching tool regarding how not to let your obsessions get out of control (in Shelby's case, candy) and brushing your teeth, and healthy snacking.

Inga Shalvashvili has captured the story's colourfulness in the illustrations. Shelby is a very cute and endearing character.

This book is top shelf!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Interview With Author Natalie Finnigan

What inspired you to write your first book?

I was inspired to write my first book by my son, Alex. He loves the Julia Donaldson books and I always enjoyed reading them, which got me used to rhyming again. First I made up some print at home books called Alex's Adventures - where I took pictures of him and his friends and adapted them with images I found on the net to make Alex into a fireman/zoo keeper/construction worker etc. By doing that I found that I was rubbish at illustration, and wrote better in rhyme than short text - but it did make the whole idea of writing a book seem a bit closer. 

When did you start considering yourself a writer?

I still don't consider myself a writer! I'm just someone who's self published a couple of books that, I feel randomly, other people don't seem to mind spending their hard earned money on. I'm primarily doing the books for Alex, but felt that as they were out there, I might as well let people know. Maybe if/when I sell hundreds of books I might consider myself a writer, but I love reading and look at some of the wonderful books out there, so maybe not. I'll never be writing a Harry Potter book, but I'm happy with what I do.

Out of the books you've written, which is your favourite?

My favourite is probably Willow's Song (hopefully being released in a couple of months). Inspired by a little girl who has a hidden illness, it's about a fairy with a broken wing - but I won't tell anyone any more for now. Out of the Alex, Dragon & Spider books, it changes from week to week. I've written 4, the 2 published and the 2 being illustrated, each have bits I love in them. I tend to write by the images in my head - with Louder Alex it was Spider's four drumsticks spinning, Fire Alex (the 4th book) it was the flaming blue balls of snot from Dragon (you'll have to read it to understand!)

How do you feel about being interviewed by a children's book character?

I'm happy to be interviewed by anyone. I think characters often come up with the more unusual questions!

That's great!

What are you working on next?

Next is "Willow's Song" and "Run Alex, Run" on the rhyming story book front. I'm also working on a longer book for 8-9 year olds, not written in rhyme, to be converted into a text that can be used to teach English as a Foreign Language. My Dad teaches and has really struggle to find books for that age range that doesn't talk down to the children - so he's asked me to give it a go. I'm only about 10% through it, though, so that will be a while before it's ready.

Can you share a little of your current work with us?

This is the start of Willow's Song (I reserve the right to tweak it before it's published!) you'll have to buy the book to see what happens to Willow!:

At the bottom of the garden, where the fairy’s often flew,

A fairy princess baby was born from beads of dew,

What many people do not know, but I believe is true

Is that fairy princesses do not fly until they’re almost two.

The birth of a fairy princess was a very rare event

With lots of celebration, and lots of presents sent.

To the naming of this baby, everyone would go

To hear the King and Queen call their new child Willow.

This Willow was a beauty, both inside and out

She played and smiled and cuddled and didn’t fight or shout

She loved her brother and sister and her Mum and Dad too,

But things started changing for her, when she was almost two.

As she stretched out her wings and tried for her first flight

She felt a massive pain inside and knew things weren’t quite right.

She called out for her parents, as she was filled with fright

And they came running to her and held her through the night.

Out of your own characters, do you have a favourite?

My favourite character has to be Alex - he is, after all, my son!

Do you have any advice for other writers?

My advise to others writing is to write what you feel and what you can see inside your head. If you can't see it or feel it, you can't expect the reader to. Oh, and don't try to be too clever, it's likely that at least one of your readers is smarter than you! Finally, don't think your reader is stupid, if you've done your job well they will get the meaning behind your story, if there is one, with out over stressing the point.

What do you do when you are not writing?

When not writing my own stories I have a full time job in construction and spend time with my son. I also (occasionally) dance and (frequently) ride horses. I also do some commission work - writing other people's stories in rhyme, which is a real honour to do.

If you had to live in one of your books which book would it be?

If I had to live in one of my books, it would be the Alex, Dragon and Spider ones - to be with Alex.

What was your favourite book when you were a kid?

My favourite book as a kid was probably fairy tales or ones like the Wishing Chair - books that took you places full of colour, life and adventure. I also loved (and still do) the Narnia books.

In Hide, Alex, Hide and Louder, Alex, Louder, what inspired you to choose a dragon and a spider for Alex's friends?

Alex chose them, sort of. When he was small I made up some imaginary friends for him to play with - as he was an only child I didn't want him to be lonely and I wanted to encourage his imagination. Little Dragon came first, with elephants and sharks and dinosaurs and spider and cats and...well you get the idea...following along after. Little Dragon and the Spider were always the one's who'd come and play the most often. I've even had to hold the car door open and help little Dragon onto the sofa so he could be with us. My favourite was the time when Alex spent the whole day with Little Dragon at his childminders and played so realistically that he had his childminder in a panic that she'd lost his favourite toy when she couldn't find a dragon anywhere come home time! I did put her out of her misery...eventually.

Text for "Willow's Song" © Natalie Finnigan

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Hide, Alex, Hide by Natalie Finnigan - Destiny's review

Hide, Alex, Hide captures all the fun of Hide And Seek with the sweet, rhyming style of Natalie Finnigan. Her style is very much complimented by Gina Rahman's illustrations. 

It is easy enough to read that a young child could probably read it with little or no help, but it is not boring! And grown-ups will enjoy it too. Natalie expertly combines the fun concepts of story time and playing! Who doesn't want to talk about or read about their favourite game.

In this adventures, Alex hides from his friends Dragon and Spider. Things take a wrong a turn when Alex decides to surprise his friends, but will the friends all make nice in the end? I will not spoil it for you, but the answer is "Most likely!"

The illustrations are sweet and cute. They add to the story and are tons of fun to look at. Natalie and Gina definitely make a winning team!

A team that makes this book Top Shelf!

Don't forget to visit Alex, Dragon, and Spider on Facebook!

Please join us tomorrow for our interview with Natalie!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Interview With Odd Sock From The Top Of The Wardrobe Gang!

What exactly are you made out of?
Oh *blushes*, that's a little bit personal Destiny...

Destiny's note: Sorry!

I'm a bit bigger than you might expect for a sock toy, as I'm made from the long part of a big fleece sock. (One of a pair that Melinda was given by a friend to keep her feet warm when sleeping in the mountains, I like to think that my lost twin is still having happy adventures in the big mountains of the Himalayas!) 
Apart from my very important purple sock part, I have pink and red fleece paws and ears, nice soft squishy stuffing, and a couple of red buttons for eyes.
How old are you? 
Billy (who owns me) has just started school in England, and he is five years old, so so am I. Billy's Nan made me when Billy was born, so we are the same age.

Are you really the star of the book (but sh! Don't tell the others!) 

I don't think any of us really star in our books. So far we have concentrated on writing our poems about other people, or monster characters. I think my friend PD Monkey perhaps starred in our first book, because he interviewed us all, so he let himself have more pages! (The rest of us thought that was a bit naughty!)

What made you wanna write poetry?

We find things that rhyme are often more fun to read, and we have a lot of fun writing them too! 

I heard you've been to Twitter jail. What is it and how exactly did you end up there?
Oh, you heard... I'm very lucky because I'm the only one of the gang who has been allowed their own Twitter account.
If I send messages too often in a short space of time then the Twitter police lock me out and put me in "jail", I don't understand why, and it makes me sad. It means I can't send anymore messages out to my friends for hours. Melinda has to come and rescue me, and then she sends out a message to my friends so they won't worry about me suddenly disappearing (and they send me messages back, to cheer me up).

It's happened twice already. Once after my first twitter flight with #theaviators, and again after my first choir practice with #tweetchoir. I love having new friends, and I love visiting other toys and animals at #teddyembassy. Please come and follow me at @OddSockTOWG. (You could also follow Melinda at @TopOWG, but she's much more boring!)

Your next book is about monsters. Have you ever been chased by a monster?

Oh yes, in my nightmares definitely! We've made most of our monsters in the book very friendly, but a few are scarier, and those are based on ones from our nightmares... 

I did once think I was being chased by a REAL monster, but it was Terry Tiger playing a trick on me in his Frankenstein Halloween costume... He really scared me, and I was very cross with him at the time. Burton Bear made TT apologise though, so we are friends again now.

Do you think you and the gang will ever make a print book or are you just sticking to eBooks?

We'd love to print books, but we don't have enough money in our piggy banks. Melinda says that if she can put our books somewhere called Amazon then we might be able to have our books printed just one at a time for people, by a Createspace company? We'd like that, but we know it's hard for Melinda to spend any time at a normal computer, so it may be difficult for her to do that for us. (I'm hoping a Publishing company will spot us and do print books for us, but Melinda says that I shouldn't hold my breath...)

I would like to see a book where you and the gang go on an adventure. Do you think you all will ever write a book like that or will you just stick with poetry?

Oooo, we'd love to write about ourselves, and we already have lots of ideas... Oscar Rabbit says that we aren't famous enough though. For now we will concentrate on our poems. If people find out about us because of our poems then who knows...

(I'd really like to do a spin-off "Odd Sock Series" too. I'm thinking of poems aimed more at younger kids, and maybe a poem just about me too... I've got a silly rhyme that I'd love to make into a  rhyming "Picture Book" for little ones... Perhaps with other poems added after...)   

Destiny's note: I think that's a great idea, Odd Sock!

How hard is it to come up with rhyming words for the poems?

If we get stuck then we take turns bouncing up and down on the trampoline in our back garden. Then one of us soon gets an idea! 

What will you do once you're famous?

Hmmm... I really want to campaign for sock rights, and better treatment for lonely odd socks throughout the world. I think it's terrible that so many odd socks get tossed out into dark scary bins when humans can't find their twins anymore. I want to set up a charity to help them all find new second lives, as loved toys, or in other roles. I've already made my own small start to this in my local community, and Billy's Nan helps me. 

Thank you for interviewing me Destiny, this has all been very exciting (and the rest of the Top of the Wardrobe Gang are all a teeny bit jealous).

Destiny's note: Thank you for letting me interview you! (and sorry to have made anyone jealous!) It has truly been fun! Good luck with your campaign for sock rights!

All covers and illustrations © Melinda Kinsman. All images used with permission.

Interview With Author Melinda Kinsman!

What inspired you to write your first book?
I first self-published a "one-off" printed book of poems for my niece when she was about six. Reading the wonderful rhyming Dr.Seuss book "Oh , the Places You'll Go" just seemed to trigger my daft brain into crazy poetry-writing mode! 

When did you start considering yourself a writer? 
I don't really consider myself a writer at all. I studied science, and expected to spend my working life in a laboratory. My love of rock climbing and hillwalking used up all other spare time, so writing anything other than scientific reports was not something I'd even thought about. 

Neck and pain issues put a stop to my laboratory career, and make it impossible for me to do a lot of "normal" things (like sitting at a desk). Writing ebooks using my iPad is something I've found I can do. I do so whilst lying on my side (a position I have to stick to for a lot of every day).

Out of the books you've written, which is your favourite?
Definitely the one that I will be releasing shortly, called "Monster Poems for Monstrous Kids". I had great fun both writing and illustrating this one, and I hope kids will enjoy it.

How do you feel about being interviewed by a children's book character?
I work with the Top of the Wardrobe Gang, so being surrounded by book characters seems quite normal to me!

The Top Of The Wardrobe Gang

What are you working on next?
I want to get the Monster Poems ebook out on both iBooks and Amazon. The latter is a new market for me, and I expect getting things in the right format will take me a while. I also plan to add Audio to the iBooks version, so readers will be able to click on a button by each verse to hear me reading it to them. 

I'm always working on new poems, and frequently get up in the middle of the night with a rhyme starting in my head! I like to grab my iPad immediately and type away until I've got the first draft of a poem done! 

Can you share a little of your current work with us?  
I've attached screenshots for a short poem from my next book called "The Monster Bunch". It stars the four monsters who are on the cover of the new book. I don't promise this will be quite the last version, as each time I re-read my poems I tend to want to make changes!

The Monster Bunch

Out of your own characters, do you have a favourite? 
That's like asking a parent if they have a favourite child! No, I love each of them for their own unique personality, and I refuse to admit to having a favourite. Most of the gang are based on cuddly toys I own, who keep me company every day. Odd Sock's personality definitely has quite a bit of me in it, though, so I can probably identify with her more than with the others.

As far as characters in my poems go, I definitely have a soft spot for the monster who sits in the sink knitting everyone socks. 
 The Monster Who Sits In The Sink Knitting Everyone's Socks

Do you have any advice for other writers?   
Just give it a go, and see what happens. If you don't try then you will never know, and I think that is good advice for everything in life.

What do you do when you are not writing?
I never really know what each day will bring, as my neck problems are both very temperamental, and unpredictable. I might be able to walk normally at one point in the day, only to be struggling to move at tortoise speed at some other point, or I might even be stuck in bed for the whole day, barely able to move at all due to pain. My husband and I are quite used to this as our version of "normal", but it does mean that a lot of my time is taken up just gradually getting on with simple household tasks like food shopping or cleaning. 
I still stay as active as possible, though, and I enjoy swimming face down with a snorkel on, and going to the gym to walk steeply uphill on something called a "Stairmaster" machine. For the last few years, with the careful use of extra medication, I have also been able to sometimes rock climb and hill walk again. The mountains are my greatest passion in life. Being unable to be among them for many years, due to being barely able to walk at all for that period, hit me very hard. It makes me now really appreciate how lucky I am to return there!

If you had to live in one of your books which book would it be? 
I tend to immerse myself into a different world each time I am writing and illustrating an individual Poem. I think I had most fun living in the "Monster Carwash" world from my new "Monster Poems" book. I loved thinking up all the different monster characters who helped with different stages of cleaning the cars, and I think they would all make great, fun friends to live with.

What was your favourite book when you were a kid? 
I honestly don't remember having one favourite. I was quite a little "tom boy", and enjoyed reading adventure series like Enid Blyton's "The Famous Five". 
I'm only 44 now, but when I was really little books were not so cheaply available. We would go to the local library to get new books each week, then return them. My Mum and Dad tell me that I enjoyed Dr.Seuss, but that I was always inventing my own daft versions of things like traditional nursery rhymes, so they never knew what I'd say next! (They felt the zany Dr.Seuss books were seriously to blame!) 

I remember the excitement of going to the library more than which books I chose each week! (And I remember how far away it felt when peddling my little tricycle, even with my Mum pulling on a belt tied around the handlebars!)

Illustrator Questions

How did you get into art? 
Oh dear, that's a tricky question! I was always atrocious at "formal" art at school. To be honest, I felt it boring, and never really tried! Apart from creating and drawing a cuddly pineapple as a hillwalking club mascot at University, I'd never really drawn anything until I started the first Top of the Wardrobe Gang book!
The original poem book that I created just for my niece was illustrated entirely with other people's "clip art". When I realised that I could make commercial ebooks on my iPad, I didn't want to spend lots of money asking someone else to draw pictures for them, so I set about trying myself. The illustrating takes me far longer than making up the rhymes, but I am enjoying doing it!

What art program do you use? (Or is it top secret?) 
No, it's not a secret. I use a wonderful app on my iPad called "Tayasui Sketches", and I use a rubber-tipped tablet pen with it. It's been a bit tricky to get the hang of drawing while lying on my side though. I can often be seen with one knee and leg up in the air to hold my iPad steady while I move the stylus! Thankfully there is an "undo" button, so when I slip I just try again!

Do you feel like it's important to illustrate your own books?
I'm sure there are lots of great illustrators out there who could bring my rhymes to life. It was simply finances that made me illustrate my own work. (As I said above, though, now I've started, I'm really enjoying the illustrating side!)

How did you come up with the concept for Odd Sock?
She sort of evolved from me seeing a joke on Facebook, with lots of pairs of socks marching up to the washing machine crying out "Remember the buddy system!" 

I've always been a daft cuddly toy lover, and a supporter of all sad and lost causes. It suddenly struck me how sad it was that people tended to just throw out poor odd socks, and that they could have a happy second life as cuddly toys! 

Thank you for interviewing me Destiny, I've enjoyed trying to answer your questions. Is it OK if I share the cover of our next book with you here? 

Destiny's note: The pleasure was mine! Of course! Here it is!

We'd love it if people looked out for the book on iBooks (and, we hope, on Amazon later too). They can find out about the gang, and links to all our books (the first three of which are free) at our website 

Destiny's note: So there you go! Look out for Melinda and all her books on iBooks and her website, because her books are top shelf! 

All covers and illustrations © Melinda Kinsman. All images used with permission.