Today, I have the pleasure of interviewing Maxine Sylvester, author and illustrator children’s books Ronaldo The Reindeer.
She has a great website which shows off her talents beautifully. I’m very jealous!
Kirsten: What made you start writing?
Maxine: I wanted a reason to illustrate. I created a character; a young reindeer called Ronaldo and intended to write a short story, about him going to flying school. But once I started, I couldn’t stop! It turned in to a chapter book. I had no idea I had such an imagination (courtesy of a lifetime of watching Disney movies). I now love writing as much as illustrating and enjoy flitting between the two. I feel my strengths are illustration and imagination, so I use a professional editor to check my work. A good one is worth their weight in carrots!
Kirsten: What do you think of when you think about your readers? Do you have a constant reader like Stephen King or do you write for a friend/loved one?
Maxine: I think of children as a collective. My two main characters, Ronaldo and Rudi, are like my children. When I write I imagine how they would feel in certain situations. I want my readers (aged 6-10 years) to connect to those emotions.
I add humour to my books as I want to entertain, but I also use words of wisdom and encouragement. You never know what is going on in a child’s life and a book can provide comfort, life lessons, and friendship.
Kirsten: Do you have a writing process/formula, or is it more random?
Maxine: I have a rough idea in my head how to start the story, but sometimes it veers off in a different direction, and then I am thrilled because I never saw it happening that way. I always keep a notebook handy because once my brain is in writing mode, ideas keep coming at the strangest times and I might be in the bath or at the cinema.
Kirsten: Who are your favourite authors?
Maxine: Last week I read All the Light you Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. As a norm I wouldn’t choose a book so large but the blurb intrigued me. It’s a WWII drama and I thought about the characters days after I finished it. I think that’s the mark of a truly good book. (It didn’t get a Pulitzer prize for nothing!)
As a child I loved the Paddington books by Michael Bond, The Railway Children by E. Nesbitt and The Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder (I loved the television show, Little House on the Prairie). Nowadays I enjoy a good thriller by Jeffrey Archer or Lee Childs, or an inspirational biography or self help book. The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle was life changing for me. Oh and how could I forget J.K. Rowling? Every Harry Potter book was like picking up an old friend. (I hope children feel the same way about Ronaldo books!)
Kirsten: Have you tried other formats like articles/screenplays/plays etc, or do you stick to novels?
Maxine: For now I am sticking to children’s books, but you never know what the future holds. Never say never!
Kirsten: Do you write as a hobby or a profession?
Maxine: I am a full-time writer and illustrator.
Kirsten: Where do your ideas come from?
Maxine: Real life! There’s a lot of my childhood in my books (although I cannot fly!) I was a shy child and frightened of most of my school teachers. Looking back I wish I had had tools to help me – a book, maybe, that offered words of reassurance.
There are also a lot of funny incidents that have happened over the years. In the third Ronaldo book, Ronaldo: Rudi’s Birthday Extravaganza, there’s a hysterical chapter about Rudi and a giant needle. It’s a true story! Although I might have exaggerated the size of the needle!
Kirsten: When it comes to marketing and promotion, how do you approach this area?
Maxine: I ask my partner, Mark! He’s computer savvy and helps me with Facebook and Twitter. Social networking can be time consuming but it is essential for a self published author. It can be very rewarding; author groups can give great advice and offer reviews which help to sell your book.
Kirsten: What would you most like to sit down and discuss with your readers?
Maxine: As my audience are children, I would like to know what makes them laugh, what they like or dislike about the characters in my books. I’d also ask what troubles them. I could then weave their issues in to the next Ronaldo storyline and come up with a solution.
Ronaldo: Rudi’s Birthday Extravaganza deals with bullying. I asked a lot of parents and teachers for their advice and added their comments to the book.
Kirsten: About what would you most like to chat with your favourite author?
Maxine: My favourite story-teller is Walt Disney. I would thank him for the joy he has brought in to my life, and ask where he got his inspiration, how he handled pressure, and what he thinks of today’s 3d animation. I would also have a good old chat about the awesome Disney theme parks.
Kirsten: What is coming up for you, new book/project wise?
Maxine: It’s a busy time! I have just released the paperback of the second Ronaldo adventure, Ronaldo:The Phantom Carrot Snatcher. I am also working on the fourth Ronaldo instalment, Ronaldo: The Vixen Pederson Workshop. It’s so exciting; Ronaldo and Rudi go to the North Pole to compete in a sleigh race. The manuscript is ready for a second edit and I have illustrated 75% of the book. I plan to publish the e-book on Amazon in October, in time for the holidays.
Kirsten: What are your greatest writing influences?
Maxine: Walt Disney was the biggest influence on my life. I still get as giddy as a five year old child every time a new Disney or Pixar film comes out. Pixar’s Inside Out blew me away; to venture inside a little girl’s head and make a film about her emotions. Wow! Imagination really is limitless.
Kirsten: Is there anything you’d like to add?
Maxine: I would like to thank you for this opportunity!
Kirsten: You’re very welcome. And good luck with future books
You can follow Maxine on: