This week I am excited to introduce everyone to Stephanie Ward! Please say Hi and enter the giveaway Stephanie is so kind to offer a Genuine Jenn reader.
Tell us a little bit about your book(s) and yourself.
I'm a new children's author who recently released my first book, Wally the Warm-Weather Penguin. It's the story of Wally, an Emperor Penguin from Antarctica who doesn't like being cold. When he learns about the Galapagos Islands, he sets sail immediately in search of warm weather and discovers a world of tap-dancing crabs, hundred year old racing tortoises and diving birds with bright, blue feet. The brilliant illustrations by Ecuadorian artist Vanessa Landin bring the unique animals of the Galapagos Islands to vivid life.
I've been writing in various forms over the last 20 years, including over 15 years in Marketing and Public Relations at Amazon and Fujitsu, writing everything from press releases to white papers, executive bios to product blurbs. I finally decided to focus on writing children's books and have been doing so for the last two years since moving to Sydney, Australia with my husband and young son.
When was your first book published?
I published Wally the Warm-Weather Penguin in April 2014, but I figure it took about 10 years to accomplish that. I started writing stories while traveling and decided that some day I wanted to be an author. It took a couple of years (while back in a full-time job) to decide which story to finish and then actually finish it. I originally decided to pitch publishers so another year went by finding appropriate contacts, polishing query letters and learning the process. I realized quickly that the traditional publishing process would take a very long time so I decided to go the independent route. I hired an illustrator, had the manuscript copyedited, built a social media platform, created a website, learned to format an ebook, etc. Throw in a new job in Paris, a relocation back to Seattle, a baby and a move to Sydney and there goes 10 years! But “some day” finally came and I left the corporate world to focus on publishing Wally the Warm-Weather Penguin. The rest is history, or actually, the future!
Are you currently working on anything?
Two new editions of Wally the Warm-Weather Penguin -- a paperback edition and a brand new version for older children -- are scheduled for release at the end of the year. In addition, I'm starting work on an app for Wally which is a whole new learning curve but a very fun process. And in the midst of all that, I'm writing the next adventure for Wally. There are many fascinating (and warm) places in the world that Wally wants to visit, so stay tuned!
Why did you decide to become an Author?
I think deep down I always wanted to be an educator so writing is a way for me to teach children something about the world around them. I hope my travel experiences and the unique places I write about inspire a curiosity (and maybe a bit of wanderlust) in kids.
I also want my books to be a way I can give back to the places that have inspired me. In the case of Wally the Warm-Weather Penguin, a portion of the proceeds are donated to the Galapagos Conservancy (galapagos.org), an organization that works on various projects supporting the conservation of the Galapagos Islands and its indigenous species.
Who and what inspired you to write?
Visiting Antarctica and being amidst Emperor Penguins in the icy conditions made me wonder why they didn’t just pack up and go somewhere warmer. A couple of months later, I was in the Galapagos Islands and saw a colony of Galapagos Penguins hanging out on the beach, swimming in relatively warm water and there was the story: What if an Emperor Penguin learned that he could live on a warm, tropical island?
When you are writing to you like to listen to music? What is on your playlist?
I don't usually listen to music when I write, but I recently worked with a talented Australian singer and songwriter named Alicia Wolfe to create a song for the upcoming Wally the Warm-Weather Penguin app. I am truly inspired by the instrumental version that evokes sun, sand and warm breezes...and it always makes me smile.
Who is your favorite character in your books?
Wally has a friend named Gomez, a Galapagos Islands Penguin, who actually doesn't appear in the current edition of the book but has a great role in the upcoming version for older children. Gomez is the guy that everyone loves -- he wears the latest fashion (in this case a classic Galapagos tourist t-shirt), knows everyone and is always in the right place at the right time. Everyone needs a friend like Gomez.
Do you ever take characteristics or nuances from close friends or family when working on character development and if so has that friend or family member noticed and what was their response to it?
I'm pretty sure Wally is my husband. My husband loves to travel. He has an insatiable wanderlust that has taken us around the world and back, literally. Our honeymoon was a yearlong trip around the world (actually twice around to make sure we always stayed in warm weather). We visited 33 countries on all seven continents, including Antarctica and the Galapagos Islands which inspired Wally the Warm-Weather Penguin. I'm also now wondering if chasing the sun for a year also had something to do with this book...Wally is a warm-weather penguin after all. I'm not sure my husband realizes this (I sure didn't until you asked the question!), but I'd bet he both agrees with and would be flattered by the comparison to Wally.
What is your favorite book of all time?
Long before Oprah picked it as a favorite, I had Anna Karenina at the top of my list. It's over 700 pages but I was disappointed that it ended.
Tell us in one sentence why we should read your books.
“You must go on adventures to find out where you belong.” ― Sue Fitzmaurice
List your books that are available
Wally the Warm-Weather Penguin is available on Amazon websites worldwide. Amazon.com, Amazon.ca,
Where can people connect with you? (facebook, website twitter etc)
Website| Facebook| Twitter| Goodreads| YouTube
Thanks for taking your time to answer some questions for my readers at Genuine Jenn.
~*Disclaimer: This post was written by Genuine Jenn. All opinions are honest and my own.*~