Aileen Stewart may be a fairly new author, but at the age of 42, this Ohio resident has plenty of time to leave her mark on the children’s literary field. Her first book, Fern Valley – A Collection of Short Stories, is now available from Tate Publishing and Enterprise.
On to the interview:
Q: When did you first decide that you wanted to be an author? What made you want to choose this career path?
A: When I was nine my fourth grade teacher entered my whole class in a poetry contest, and I won honorable mention. I could say it was at this time I was bitten by the writing bug, but it is probably more accurate to say that my desire to be an author came on gradually and was shaped by many things. For one thing, my parents were always great story tellers and often regaled my brother and I with their childhood antics. Secondly, my father spent much of his spare time writing articles for hunting and fishing magazines. This coupled with my great love of books gave me the somewhat hazy idea that it would be wonderful to be a writer. However, many years passed without my actually pursuing this particular career path. It was not until my daughter was about three years old and we were watching cartoons together that I actually became serious about writing a book. I began to notice that the cartoons we were watching all said they were based on books. The more I noticed this, the more the idea that I could actually write a book good enough to inspire a cartoon seemed to dance around the wide expanses of my mind. Finally I decided to sit down and see what I could hammer out. I started out intending to write a chapter book, but each chapter seemed to become a story in and of its self. Thus my collection of short stories, all taking place in the fictional community of Fern Valley, was born.
Q: Who are some of the authors that greatly influenced your writing style? What were some of your favorite books as a kid?
A: I can’t say that any particular author’s style influenced mine, but I have been told by more then one person that my writing reminds them of the works of Beatrix Potter. My tastes as a child were very eclectic and I had a great many favorite books. I was particularly fond of anything by Mark Twain; I read the classics like Black Beauty, Heidi, Little House on the Prairie, and Swiss Family Robinson; I really enjoyed Phyllis A. Whitney’s children’s mysteries, The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, and I was even fond of a good biography evry now and then. Basically, I read almost everything I could get my hands on.
Q: Did you have a hard time getting your first book published?
A: I sort of have to laugh at this question because I don’t know of any writer who hasn’t had a hard time getting their first book published. Breaking into the field of published writers can be compared to giving birth. There is a lot of time before the birth preparing, then comes the excruciating pain of labor, and finally the reward of many months of hard work when you finally have a book to hold. My experience took somewhat longer then nine months; actually it took more like three years. For the first two years I had an agent out of New York; and besides thirty odd rejections, I had very little to show for the effort. So, I decided I could do as well on my own, and one year and several more rejections later, my manuscript was finally accepted by Tate Publishing out of Oklahoma.
Q: Assuming that you write for children or young adults, what made you decide to write for those age groups? Do you still feel connected to your “inner child”?
A: I have always loved children’s and YA books. Even as an adult I would often buy boxes of children’s books at auctions. I became acquainted with The Bobbsey Twins and many other books from the thirties, forties, and fifties this way. To me there is something innocent and magical about being a child, and I can think of no better group for which to write.
Q: What are some of your hobbies, other than writing?
A: I do many other things besides writing and have often said I have more hobbies then time. I am particularly fond of baking (I make an awesome chocolate cheesecake), I love to bowl, bird-watch, picnic, travel, craft, flower garden, quilt, cross stitch (although I haven’t done much of that in a while), volunteer, read, can peaches and pears in season, shop for bargains, and watch old movies. I am also an amateur photographer and have refinished several pieces of antique furniture.
Q: Do you have any sage advice for new authors who are just entering the field?
A: I have a few things I like to tell all new authors. One, be thick skinned. You will probably be rejected many times in your lifetime, but do not let that get you down. “No” just means that you have not yet asked the right person. Two, understand before you start writing, that if you do become published you will definitely and without a doubt need to market yourself and your book. Your publisher is not a book store or a book seller; they are a book publisher which means they take your manuscript and see that it turns into a finished product. A product, that they expect you to market. And three, socialize. Find other authors, join writing groups, ask questions of those who have gone before you. I have never been one to flounder around in the dark. I would rather ask questions about what I don’t know then remain ignorant, thus arming myself with knowledge that will see me through the battle.
Q: Do you hold any other jobs outside of your writing? If so, do you find that this helps your writing or gets in the way?
A: Currently I am a SAHM and wife. However, I do have a degree in business management and sales/marketing which has proven invaluable when it comes to building a platform and getting the word out about my book. I am constantly trying to think outside of the box as they say.
Q: If you could meet one author, living or dead, who would it be? Why?
A: I would probably choose to meet with Samuel Clemmons better know as Mark Twain. He had such a great body of work full of ideals, humor, wit, and wisdom. He seemed to be a man of great vision and would probably be quite the lunch companion.
Q: Do you have any other information you would like to share, such as a website, author page, awards won, etc.?
A: My website “Fun For Kids” can be found at http://aileenw4bobbyg.tripod.com.