Shelby Wilde, what’s your background, what compelled you to start writing?
I fell in love with creative writing in elementary school with a “Show, don’t tell” writing assignment. I still remember the prompt was to describe how messy your room is. I absolutely loved finding ways to show the room was messy, instead of listing all the reasons why. I went on to earn my Bachelor’s Degree in English from the University of California, Irvine and after years in business communications, I finally get to write for kids!
What book from your childhood do you remember the best? Why?
Not a book, but books full of poems by Shel Silverstein. “A Light in the Attic” and “Where the Sidewalk Ends.” His poetic voice is fantastic. Very unique. He has a way of stringing syllables together in just the right way. Quirky, unique and real. I still use “How Not to Have to Dry the Dishes” to get out of washing the dishes.
What’s your most favourite under-appreciated novel?
A middle grade fiction called “Charlotte Sometimes” by Penelope Farmer. I love time travel books and this one had a layer of history as the icing on the cake. Farmer weaves two tales together and is brilliant at capturing the every day struggles of young kids.
Which other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you be a better writer?
I am part of a small critique group of children’s book authors and their varied perspectives are invaluable. They write PB, MGs and YAs. They are fantastic at helping me see things in the story that I would never have seen on my own. Fresh perspectives are like gold to a writer.
Does writing energize you, or exhaust you?
Writing energizes me. When I feel that jolt of inspiration, I want to drop everything and write. I always have a note pad handy to write thoughts down, whenever they strike. A couple of weeks ago, it was toward the end of the day and I had quieted my mind. Inspiration for a new picture book washed over me and I had the entire manuscript written in a weekend. The editing process will of course take quite a while, but the original draft just flowed so organically. It was magic.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
I would tell my younger self to write a little each day. That’s how you hone your skills and find out who you are as a writer. I went for a long period without writing and it now feels like wasted time.
What does literary success look like to you?
Now that my first book is published, I get to see photos of smiling kids reading and holding the book. That is literary success. I want to inspire kids to read, and even better, to write. Screens are everywhere so if you can pull a kid away from a screen, even for a short time, that’s a success.
What kind of research do you do?
I spend a lot of time watching my kids interact with others. They are my main source if inspiration. I want to know what kids are interested in, what will keep their attention. I also do a lot of subject-specific research for individual books. My current book is about a rock hound so I did a lot of research on rocks. I’m a member of a rock club and talking to rock hounds and hearing their stories and tips was amazing.
How many hours a day do you write?
It depends. Right now I’m promoting my first book and my second book is with the illustrator so I’m not writing as much as I would normally. I write maybe 20-30 minutes a day. I have two other manuscripts that are ready for an editor so I went through several months of writing a lot more than that.
What’s your writing Kryptonite?
My writing Kryptonite is distraction. I can’t watch TV or listen to music while I write. I have to have quiet in order to focus or I will be utterly blocked. I know some writers like some background music or sounds, but not me.
If you didn’t write, what would you do? Or, if writing is not a full-time job, what do you do?
Being a children’s book author is not my full time job. I have a day job as a business communicator. I actually really like my day job and love that it’s so different from writing books for kids. It feels great to shift gears in the evening and have fun.
Have you ever Googled yourself? What did you find out that you didn’t already know?
I haven’t Googled myself in a long time. I just did and found out that my new book is on Goodreads! Very exciting!
What one thing would/did you give up to be a writer?
I gave up watching TV. There are only so many hours in a day and like everyone else, I have commitments. I have to prioritize my time and in order to make time to write, I choose not to watch TV. I have seen maybe 5 movies over the past 5 years.
What inspires you?
I am inspired by my kids. If I didn’t have kids, I would likely not be writing for kids and would instead still be a business communicator. As soon as my daughter was born, I was flooded with inspiration and the words started flowing. Being around kids, you find yourself using words and phrases you wouldn’t usually and that can often lead to silly story lines or ideas.
Did you always want to be a Children’s author/illustrator?
No, but I always wanted to be a writer. For most of my life I wanted to be a college professor of English Lit. I adore the academic world and would love to live in that bubble, but I chose a different path. The path I chose lead me to writing for kids.
Besides hard work and talent, what other traits has led to your success?
Determination is one that has put me in a position where I get to see my book in the hands of kids. That is success to me. Determination to me is never giving up, despite hearing the word “no.” It is also the ability to be creative to make things happen.
What is a little-known fact about you?
When I was in elementary school, I was on a kid’s game show on Nickelodeon. I was in 5th grade and I didn’t win. I’m still a little bitter.
What advice can you give to young readers looking to share their own stories in books or graphic novels?
Find your voice. Everyone has something to share, but what’s your unique perspective and what do you want to say? That can be tough to figure out, but you don’t have to rush out and find it. It will come and you will be energized.
Were you an avid reader while you were growing up?
Absolutely. I would bring home stacks of books from the library and then go back for more. Rinse and repeat. My mom used to take me to book stores for author meet and greets and I have a copy of “The Z Was Zapped” along with some other Chris Van Allsburg books. I still remember when the first Barnes & Noble opened up in my town. I was a pre-teen and hung out there a lot, while many of my friends were at the mall.
Are kids in contact with you, and do their comments and feedback shape your storytelling?
Yes, I am lucky that I can get feedback from my kids’ friends. I love hearing their perspective because it’s a good reminder of who I am writing for. Though I will say that it’s a tough job to write PBs because you have to please two very different audiences. The book has to delight the parents or they won’t buy it or read it more than once and you have to please the kids because if they don’t ask for it, the book will be cast aside. I see it happen with my own kids.
What’s brewing? What projects are you working on?
The sequel to Scavenger Scout is currently being illustrated and will be released in 2019. I also have two other polished manuscripts, one fiction and one creative non-fiction.
How many half-finished and unpublished books do you have right now?
I have two unpublished PBs and four half-finished PBs.
|Scavenger Scout Rock Hound – Written by Shelby Wilde, Illustrated by Yana Popova|
|Scavenger Scout Rock Hound is available in hardcover and Kindle formats on Amazon.
Buy on Amazon here
What sparked the idea for this book?
My daughter is a rock hound and one day she sat me down to tell me how she acquired each of her very best rocks. She started telling me tales of meeting with mermaids and dealing with dragons. I put an outline together and slowly shaped the story from there. The book blends fantasy and reality, which is exactly where you want to be in the 4-8 age group.
What challenges did you encounter to finish it?
It actually took me quite a while to finish the final scene. I knew that I was going to write a sequel so that complicated the plot at the end a bit.
Why did you choose the setting of this book?
The book is told from the perspective of a young rock hound and it includes four short tales of how she found rocks from her collection. The stories are more fantasy than reality, but the rocks are real. So the settings are dreamlike, though they are inspired by real places.
How did you come up with the stars/MCs of this book?
The MC is inspired by my 5 year old daughter. She thinks she knows quite a bit about the world, but she often finds herself in situations she’s not quite sure how to get out of.
Which of your main characters do you relate to the most? Why?
So far Scavenger Scout is the strongest of my main characters and I relate to her the most because there is a little bit of me in her (OK, a lot of me).
Is there a particular message that you hope readers will take from the book?
I want kids to be inspired to get out and explore the world around them. Specifically nature and all of her treasures. I also want them to see that their brain is a tool that they can use to understand the people around them.
What’s your favourite scene?
My favorite scene is one of the first scenes, where Scout creeps into a dragon’s cave. In this scene, Scout starts out confident, but she quickly realizes that she is not in control and she has to think fast. The main spread in this scene is just stunning. Yana Popova, the illustrator, is amazing at conveying mood.
Did you base any of the characters on people you know?
Yes, the main character is based on my daughter, who loves rocks and would go to extreme lengths to add to her collection. I have actually had to pull her away from a precipice where she was reaching for “one last rock.” She is also very creative and loves to problem solve, traits I infuse Scout with.
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