Today I talk with children’s writer and illustrator, Maxine Sylvester, as she prepares to release her second children’s fiction book in paperback in January 2019.
Thank you for joining me today. Can you tell me about yourself?
I’m based in Bali, Indonesia. I was born in London but spent over twenty years working overseas and on cruise ships. I have been in Bali almost nine years. I was brought up in Hounslow, Middlesex, and am the youngest of four children. Art and English were my strongest subjects at school; I always had difficulty with maths, chemistry and physics. They are still a mystery to me!
I have written and illustrated four books in the ‘Ronaldo the Flying Reindeer’ series and self published them on Amazon. One of the books, Ronaldo: The Phantom Carrot Snatcher, is currently being made in to a paperback through Troubador and will be available in January 2019.
What are your favourite books?
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 Child, 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. J.K. Rowling’s imagination is limitless and I have so much admiration for her.
Can you tell me a bit about the process of creating the books?
I write at home in the living room, it overlooks the garden so I have a nice view. I usually have a rough idea how I am going to start the story, but then it veers off in a totally different direction, and then I am thrilled because I never saw it happening that way. The process then goes through different phases. If I have been writing for months, I can’t wait to illustrate, and vice versa. When my writing is in full flow I can’t wait to get out of bed in the morning. I suppose I like the ‘idea’ phase. I don’t enjoy the final stages of editing etc. I get paranoid and start over thinking commas! I also love when my book is 75% illustrated, as I can really see it coming together.
What inspired you to write and illustrate children’s fiction?
When I was 36 years old, the new Disney animated film, Tarzan, was playing at the cinema, and I couldn’t wait to see it! A work colleague commented that I was too old to be watching cartoons and she must have hit a nerve because I began to think I was weird. When I told my wise young niece, Gemma, what my colleague had said, she told me I was in touch with my inner child. Now I see it as an advantage as I naturally write and illustrate for children. (And I happily watch Disney/Pixar films on my own in a cinema without feeling self conscious!)
What are your aims in life?
I love what I do so to continue with what I am doing. Books are a powerful tool; they can provide comfort, encouragement and laughter to children. If one of my books helps a child then it will be worth the time and effort writing them.
What are you reading right now?
I’m reading Creativity Inc. by Ed Catmull. The author is one of the founding fathers of Pixar animation and the book is full of stories about how the company started and how they eventually merged with Disney. I am obsessed with Disney and Pixar so the book is a fantastic read for me and so inspirational!
Do you have any advice for new writers?
Believe in yourself but don’t be too proud to ask for help. You want your book to be the best it can possibly be, so surround yourself with people that have experience in the industry. I would also suggest investing in an editor. A good one is worth their weight in carrots!
Can you tell me about your latest book, Ronaldo: The Phantom Carrot Snatcher?
Here’s the blurb: Top flying cadet, Ronaldo, and best friend, Rudi, embark on a superhero mission to help a lost wolf cub find her pack.
Rudi comes up with a brilliant plan to locate the wolves during the next speed test at flying school. But Ronaldo doesn’t like the idea. He’s desperate to break the speed record… and become the fastest flying cadet in history!
Will Ronaldo fly for fame and glory, or will he realise the importance of friendship?
I love this review as I think it sums the book up beautifully – “Magical, sweet and funny. A wonderful tale of friendship, trust, and the good guys winning against the bullies.”
What was the biggest challenge you faced in producing the book?
The ending! I wrote what I thought was a great conclusion but my editor didn’t think it fitted with the rest of the story. That same week I watched a documentary about Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. One of the animators spent six months creating a sequence where the dwarves slurped their soup. It was beautiful but Walt Disney cut it from the film. The animator was obviously very upset; he had put his heart and soul in to his work. Later he admitted Walt Disney had made the right decision, so I thought, if he can cut six months work from a film, I can cut my ending. I then rewrote the last three chapters and the book was far stronger because of it.
It just leaves me to thank Maxine for talking with me today. Ronaldo: The Phantom Carrot Snatcher is available in ebook format from Amazon now and the paperback will be available from Troubador on January 29th 2019. You can keep up with Maxine by follow her on either Twitter, Facebook or via her website.
If you enjoyed this interview then why not follow my blog where I’ll be posting more interviews and conversations soon. I regularly provide an insight into my own experiences as I publish and promote my debut novel, In The End, an apocalyptic thriller that will leave you breathless and is available to buy now.
A final note – If you’re ready this in December 2018 and have a moment to spare, please can you take a second to vote for my novel’s cover by clicking here and pressing the vote button! Thank you.