Happy early Holidays, my Friends. It’s been a while, I know, but I am happy to take this time to get back into promoting authors and other entertainment folks on my blog. Since it is very close to the Christmas holiday, and because books make a really wonderful gift, especially for the kiddos, I am starting this venture back off with World-Traveling, Children’s Author & Illustrator Maxine Sylvester!
I was born in London but now live in Bali, Indonesia, with my partner, Mark.
- How long have you been writing?
I wrote my first book in the Ronaldo series, The Reindeer Flying Academy, three years ago. I followed up with The Phantom Carrot Snatcher one year later, and self-published Rudi’s Birthday Extravaganza last month.
- What was your life like before becoming an author?
Ha! It took thirty years to find a job that I love. I enjoyed art when I was a child but in my teens, I became obsessed with traveling. I abandoned any career in art to work as a Holiday Representative in Greece. I then sailed the ocean waves working in the gift shop and casino on board cruise ships, which is where I met Mark. After 10 years on ships, we decided to try our luck in the desert and accepted positions at a casino in Jericho, Palestine. After two years the casino was forced to close due to political unrest.
Mark was offered a job in Moscow. By this time I was itching to get back to art so I took some time out and enrolled in The College of Cartoon Art. I was mentored by top British cartoonist/caricaturist, Steve Chadburn. I then did a course in children’s book illustration.
After 8 years in Russia, Mark decided he wanted out of the casino industry and bought into a scuba diving business in Bali. I was now a qualified cartoonist and wanted a reason to illustrate so decide to write a short children’s book. Once I started writing, I couldn’t stop. I unleashed an imagination I never knew I had. I now love writing as much as illustrating. I feel imagination and illustration are my strengths, not grammar, so I use a professional editor on my books.
- Who or what inspired you to write?
This is the part where I am supposed to list authors I admire, but in fact, it was Walt Disney. I am obsessed with Disney animation, I always have been. So I think my stories are courtesy of a lifetime of watching Disney movies. They always make me laugh and feel good. I try to put the same values into my books. I hope my readers feel the same way about Ronaldo as I do about Disney.
- Do you have a specific writing style or genre?
I write for the 6-10 age group. I try to keep my books fast-paced, funny and adventurous. When I was in my thirties, I got very excited about going to see Tarzan, the latest Disney animation. A work colleague laughed and said I was too old to be watching cartoons. Her comment really touched a nerve (I even stopped shopping at The Disney Store!). I told my niece, a wise pre-school teacher called Gemma, what my colleague had said. She told me I was in touch with my inner child. I now think it is an advantage to be in touch with my inner child as I naturally write for children, and my illustrating enhances my stories. For the first time in my life I can honestly say I love what I do.
It’s a colour version of my first Ronaldo adventure, The Reindeer Flying Academy. My books have black & white illustrations and some reviewers mentioned they would have preferred colour. As the book is set in winter, I thought it would make a perfect Christmas book. I’ve had so much fun illustrating it; I think children are going to love it!
The story introduces Ronaldo. He is the top flying cadet at the prestigious Reindeer Flying Academy. He dreams of getting his flying license and becoming one of Santa’s reindeer, just like his hero, Vixen.
At flying school, Ronaldo, his loyal best friend, Rudi, and the other second-year cadets face their toughest ever flying test – The Endurance Challenge. Freezing conditions make the task nearly impossible, but Ronaldo remembers his grandad’s inspiring words:
“Imagine, see it, feel it, believe it. You can do anything if you truly believe in yourself.”
The book has plenty of laughs for both the young and young at heart and has a clear message for children – to believe in yourself!
- What was your favourite part of the book to write?
The ending – I think it’s hysterical! Reviewers say the book is ‘heartfelt’ and love what happens to Ronaldo at the end of the book.
- What was the hardest part to write?
I can’t think of any issues I had with the first book – it was the second one, The Phantom Carrot Snatcher! I loved the ending but my editor said it didn’t fit with the rest of the book. After a week of digesting her comments, I re-wrote the ending. I am delighted every time a get a good review for Phantom as it took a lot of extra work getting it right.
- What do you find most rewarding in writing a book?
All of it! I love writing and illustrating. I think it helps that I did a few jobs that made me miserable as I really appreciate what I do now. Good reviews are very rewarding. I am always humbled by people’s kind comments and thrilled when they enjoy my books.
- Do you have any other books complete or in progress?
There are four books in the Ronaldo series.
- The Reindeer Flying Academy
- The Phantom Carrot Snatcher
- Rudi’s Birthday Extravaganza
- The Reindeer Flying Academy (colour edition)
I will start work on The Vixen Pederson Workshop in December. I have been illustrating for months so can’t wait to start writing again. Ronaldo and Rudi go to the North Pole in the next installment!
- What are your future plans in regards to writing?
I always planned on writing a series before sending my work to an agent or publisher. I now think the time is right so I will start applying to agents in the new year. I plan to finish The Vixen Pederson Workshop by October 2018, ready for a Christmas release.
- Are you listed on the major social networks like facebook, twitter, Goodreads, etc…
Yes, yes and yes! Fortunately, Mark is more computer savvy than me and helps with social networking. Ronaldo also has a website with children’s activities, which I am immensely proud of.
- What advice do you have for someone who would like to become a published writer?
To believe in yourself and follow your dreams (it’s what I say to Ronaldo!). Also to take advice on board and listen to people who have experience in the industry. My editor once annihilated the first draft of one of my books. I was so upset; I couldn’t look at it for a week. When I calmed down I read her comments again. She was 100 percent correct in what she said. I made changes and the book was stronger because of it.
- Outside of writing, what is your most favourite thing to do and why?
I wouldn’t say Pilates is my favourite thing to do but I couldn’t survive without it. Our bodies are not designed to sit at computers all day and Pilates strengthens the muscles that support the spine. I practice three times a week.
Mark and I have a movie day most weeks. We catch an early showing, then go to the beach and watch the sun go down. When I’m back in England I love going to the theatre in London or catching an Arsenal match.
- Anything you would like to add for future fans and friends?
THANK YOU!!! I am so grateful to every person who either purchases one of my books or kindly writes a review. Reviews are essential to self-published authors and I really appreciate the time it takes to write them.
Thank you too, Maxine! It has been a pleasure to get to know you and your awesome work! Much success to you.