Sue Walker recently and I'm excited to share her answers with you. Sue has published several picture books and young readers and her first junior novel, Arnie Avery, debuts this month.
Hi Sue! Thank you so much for the interview. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Thanks Casey - it’s great to visit.
I’m an Australian author – I live in Sydney with my husband and three children, and I’ve been writing fiction and non-fiction for children for about ten years. When I’m not writing I love walking, baking cakes, and heading off for camping holidays in the bush.
It looks like you write everything from picture books to young readers. Is your upcoming release, Arnie Avery, your first junior novel? Please tell us more about it. I love the cover.
Thank you, and yes - Arnie Avery is my first junior novel. The story is about a typical 13 year old boy. He has a sense of humour, he likes riding his bike, and he likes being with his friends, but he also has a few serious problems – one is his family, and the other is the school bully, Jacko. I think the story demonstrates that no matter how tough things might seem…you can turn your life around.
What do you have planned for the release of Arnie Avery in June? Anything fun?
There’s a lot planned. I’m having two launches for Arnie Avery – one with a local school, and the other at a Children’s & Young Adult Writers Festival. Every participant will be given something special to help launch the book, and there’ll be lots of fun activities for the kids. I’m also having an in-store book signing, plus there’ll be the odd glass or two of celebratory bubbles.
I love your author website and blog. How has the marketing and promotion side of publication been for you? Given your young audience, do you find you focus your time and efforts more on in-person promotion (such as school visits) or online promotion?
The promotion side of publishing is all very new to me, but I realize it’s important to the success of your book. With Arnie Avery, I’ve split my time equally between in-person and online promotion. I have a new website and I’ve increased my online presence, and I’ve actually just arrived home from a school visit. Meeting with kids and sharing my love of writing is always a thrill, and I think readers enjoy connecting with the person behind the book as well.
From your website, it sounds like you had an interesting childhood including preschool in Malaysia on the edge of a jungle! Have any of those experiences made it into your writing?
I’ve lived in lots of different places and little snippets of my childhood do seem to creep into my work. There’s a scene in Arnie Avery that came straight from an experience I had as a ten year old. I was at the pool with my brother and sister when a boy fell into the water. We didn’t know he couldn’t swim until he sank to the bottom, and my brother had to dive in and rescue him. It’s a vivid memory – I can still see that boy on the concrete beside the pool. I’m glad it was a memory with a happy ending.
What did your journey from aspiring author to published author entail? What were the key milestones along the way?
My first acceptance was for a non-fiction piece for a children’s magazine. I was cooking sausages on the barbeque when the editor rang and asked if I could make some changes to the article. I was so stunned I could barely utter a sensible word. That acceptance was a major milestone because it gave me confidence in my skill as a writer.
Later I decided to specialize in chapter books for children 5-8 years. Initially I had a few rejections, followed by some positive feedback, and then finally…an acceptance. A few books later, Best Friends was selected as a Notable Book by the Children’s Book Council. It was very gratifying to receive formal recognition for my work.
Do you have a literary agent? If so, how did you come to work with him/her? If not, how did you come to work with your publisher(s)?
No, I don’t have a literary agent. I started out submitting to slush piles, and over the years developed relationships with a few editors who liked my work enough to comment personally. I’m eternally grateful for feedback – good or bad – because it helps me to improve my writing. I always send letters of thanks to editors for taking the time to respond to my submissions.
Is there anything you've learned or experienced during the publishing process that's surprised you?
Yes. How incredibly long it can take to publish a picture book. After the initial search for an illustrator, it can be years before the artwork is finished.
What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
Don’t give up. If you receive any personal feedback from an editor – celebrate. I’d also try to focus on one area of children’s books, whether its picture books, early readers, mid-grade or YA.
You must be working on something new. Can you divulge anything about your current work(s)-in-progress?
Right now I’m working on a YA novel about a guardian angel, and also a narrative non-fiction picture book (I know – it’s a mouthful!).
You're managing a writing career alongside a family. What's your writing process like? Do you have any tips on writing while raising children?
I write when I can, in between everything else I have to fit into the day. My number one tip is – relax. Don’t feel bad about it when you can’t write, instead spend time thinking about your story while you’re doing other things. And if you’re too tired to be creative, reading is the next best thing.
Where can readers stay up-to-date on the latest and greatest on you and your books?
Readers can visit my website: www.suewalkerauthor.com
To close, what's one interview question you haven't been asked and wish you would be? And please, answer it!
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
I wanted be a guide dog trainer – I never once dreamed I’d be an author. I think that’s something worth mentioning, because so many authors know from very early that they want to be writers. For me, it came as a surprise. I didn’t start writing seriously until I had children, but now I couldn’t imagine life without it.
Thank you so much for the fabulous interview, Sue. I hope we'll be seeing some of your titles in the US very soon!
Bio: Sue Walker is the author of numerous titles for children. Her book Tilly’s Treasure is part of the award-winning Aussie Nibbles series, and Best Friends is a Children’s Book Council Notable Book. Many of Sue’s poems, articles, and short stories have appeared in children’s magazines, and her books have featured in the Premier’s Reading Challenge. Sue lives in Sydney, Australia, with her husband, three children, and a scruffy white dog. Further information can be found at www.suewalkerauthor.com
Arnie Avery is available in Australian bookstores, and online at http://www.booktopia.com.au