Today, we are happy to have our first ever author interview on Kid's Picture Book Review. Today's interview is with Kathy Wilson of the Chance and Ginger books. You can check out her awesome work at Kids Books by Kathy & Kathy Wilson.
When did you become an author?
I got the writing bug on a flight to Hawaii in 1984 where I was joining my husband who was stationed there. While on this long flight, I had a sudden inspiration to write a middle-school age horse story based very loosely on my own experiences. Once settled in my new home, I took a correspondence writing course and wrote some short stories and then began my novel, Sarah’s Stormy Summer. I had an excellent instructor and read several books on the art and craft of writing for youth and children. I worked full time and did this in my spare time.
In 1988, we moved to Ft. Knox, Kentucky where I got another idea for a horse novel based on the wonderful people I worked with in Hawaii in a vocational/recreational program for developmentally and intellectually challenged adults. Thus, Skylar’s Special Summer was born with the theme of Therapeutic Horseback Riding.
I got the idea for my third and last horse story, Starshine’s Shadow, also while in Kentucky since it is horse country. Over the years, I sent out my manuscripts to various publishers with no offers and then stashed them away in 1998 when I entered the teaching profession (although my students loved reading them). When I retired from teaching Reading and Writing to at-risk middle school students in 2017, I took the manuscripts out of the drawer and updated them because by then we had the Internet and Amazon self-publishing which is how I was able to get them in print.
Do you have a writing background?
Only that I won a writing short story award in high school. I always enjoyed reading and writing.
How did you come up with the story?
In 2019, I wanted to write a Christmas picture book and decided to use a little stuffed bear I purchased in Germany in 1982 as the main character. I thought of the title A Chance for Christmas, and thought what a cute name for my bear. From there, A Chance for Easter followed with several more now in the series.
How did you come up with the characters?
I had another stuffed bear I named Ginger from my mother-in-law that I used so Chance would have a friend on his adventures.
How do you select names for your characters?
Some bears like Ginger, Cinnamon and Goldie are based on the color of their fur. My father suggested Sugar to go with Cinnamon. Big Bear is based on his size and Second Chance came easily since he is Chance’s twin brother in A Second Chance.
Did you hire an illustrator or do the illustrations yourself?
I am not an artist but I have always enjoyed photography so I take as many pictures as I can posing the bears and use public domain images for the rest.
Are you self-published or published through a publishing company?
I am self-published through Amazon.
From the day you came up with the idea for the story until you were holding your published book in your hand, how long did it take you to complete this book?
I had to learn how to navigate publishing on Amazon and spent several weeks researching how to do both novels and picture books. It usually takes me 4-6 months to complete each picture book.
What made you want to publish a children's book?
I was determined to publish my horse novels and from there I missed being creative as I had been in my classroom, so the idea just seemed to flow into my mind naturally. I had several stories from my writing class in Hawaii, and I started out turning those into picture books first.
What is one thing you wish you knew before beginning your book publishing journey?
It’s very difficult to get a book published in the traditional route.
Any tips for future children’s book authors?
The traditional book market is very competitive, and I came to understand you must have an agent to represent you which can be expensive. That is why I was thrilled to use Amazon. There are no costs involved – only for the books you purchase at half your selling price.
Where do you get ideas for your stories?
Currently, my ideas for the Chance series come from what I can realistically photograph with stuffed bears!
What's your writing process like?
I do a lot of thinking and mulling beforehand and take many photographs before forming the actual story. I edit and rewrite several times and ask friends and relatives for their thoughts and suggestions. I use Canva to create the picture books. I love it and it’s free!
Do you have any other books in the works?
I am thinking of doing another book with the bears called A Chance to Garden.
What does literary success look like to you?
I’m not sure as I am weak in the marketing end. I’m on Instagram and appreciate the Kids Picture Book reviews so much! I love giving my books away. It has been a wonderful hobby for me.
Do you read all of the book reviews you receive?
Yes, but I currently don’t have very many.
What was the hardest thing about getting your book published?
Waiting for the right time.
What's your favorite(s) children's book of all time?
I grew up loving horses, so I read every horse book in the school library! I also enjoyed Pippi Longstocking and The Bobbsey Twins. As a Reading teacher, I loved reading many of the Newberry winners. Some of my favorites are; A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck,(and all his other books in this series) Number the Stars by Lois Lowry, Missing May by Cynthia Rylant, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle, Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan, Maniac McGee by Jerry Spinalli, Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt, All Creatures Great and Small by James Harriot and one of my all-time favorites A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith.
Why did I choose these books?
I love rich figurative language, clever wit and humor in a story along with poignant and meaningful plots. I read out loud to my book-deprived, at-risk, over-age middle school students everyday and it was the highlight of every class. I will always remember how focused they were on the stories I read them and the great discussions that followed. Very rewarding!