I love getting the chance to talk to all sorts of different authors and creative types. As I’ve said before, I may write in some darker genres, but I also have a huge, huge love of children’s literature. I definitely count the books that I grew up with and the storytellers I was brought up around as some of my biggest influence. I’m really pleased to be able to talk to someone with talent and experience in the world of children’s books! Please welcome for today’s interview, Penelope A. Riley, author/illustrator of the Duckie Dan Adventure Books!
SJ: Every writer has some sort of process. Give us a glimpse into yours. Do you meticulously outline? Do you write depending on what calls are out there?
PAR: I decide on my subject from what children face in their everyday life. My little duck character is the main critter and through the book the children, 3 -9 years, learn how they can solve a problem and that they are not the only one with this problem. I then outline the main points I want to tell.
SJ: Bonus question – Do you put on a cape and do a chant before hunkering down to work? Sacrifice anything? Along with your process, what’s your quirkiest writing habit?
PAR: I have my little Duckie Dan sitting on my desk and we talk the details of the book out together! I would say my quirkiest writing habit is talking to the stuffed toy duck!
SJ: Are you a meticulous planner or do you believe in the muse? Where do your ideas come from? Do they filter in through your dreams? Do they show up at inopportune times and whap you upside the head? Do they result in a shady deal with a dark power?
PAR: I guess I believe in the muse. My ideas come from my childhood. The parents or children that read my books or talk to Duckie Dan on his facebook page offer future subjects.
SJ: bonus question – If your muse had a physical manifestation, what would he or she look like and how would she or he act? Is it a sexy superhero version of Callisto? A sharp-tongued rogue? A reptilian alien? Do they have a catch phrase?
PAR: My muse, the sensitive grandma figure who is Grandma Hattie in the books. It is really me and when I read to the kids or appear at signings I always dress in my hat with a flower on it and my boa of many colors. The catch phrase for all The Duckie Dan Adventure Books is “My, oh my”.
SJ: What’s the book/story that’s closest to your heart? Is there a piece that you clearly feel is a piece of you? Do you play favorites?
PAR: Marr-Lee the Homesick Moose is the story I identify with most because as a child I started traveling to my cousin’s house for the whole summer. I remember the pains of homesickness and what I did to overcome it. Duckie Dan is always my favorite, but don’t tell anyone! He is always tucked in my suitcase and travels the world with me.
SJ: If you could only write one genre ever again upon pain of being sacrificed to Cthulhu, what would it be and why?
PAR: I found my love; it is not only with words but the illustrations involved in writing children books. Not only fun to write the story and enhance it with my drawings but I love to see the expression on the children’s faces as I read and tell them of our travels.
SJ: What’s your biggest frustration as a writer? What do you consider the downside, or is there one? Is there any cliché that makes you want to wring people’s necks?
PAR: My biggest frustration is … I am too wordy. The age group I write for is supposed to have about 2,000 to 2,300 words. It is very hard to take out words and still maintain the story you want to tell. Sometimes it is also difficult to decide what type of drawing would be the best to depict your story.
SJ: If you had to be stuck in one of your own books/stories for the rest of your life, what would it be and why? If you had to stick a loved one in one of your own books, what would it be and why? An enemy?
PAR:I am in every one of my books as Duckie Dan’s Granny and when I show the children my illustrations, they all recognize me. My grandchildren are in the first book of the series, “Duckie Dan the Traveling Man”, because we are traveling to England and then touring Europe together.
SJ: Do you think it’s possible to develop a sure-fire recipe/formula for success as a writer? Would you want to, or does that compromise the art or the fun of it?
PAR: I do not think there is a sure-fire recipe other than making sure it is something that is interesting to kids, in my case. I only write about things and places I know and I have traveled to. To be successful, money-wise would be nice, but I think I am successful every time a child hugs me after reading to them or sends me a note after getting my book or writes to me or Duckie Dan. I love the thought they put into questions at such a young age.
SJ: Everyone has words of wisdom for young writers, so I’m not going to ask you about that. With a few unknown writers becoming success stories, a lot of people seem to think it’s an easy career choice. What would your words of wisdom be to these people?
PAR: A lot of thought and re-writes go into each book. You have to know your subject matter, try to make your characters real through descriptions, even to how they walk and talk. A writer has to be able to take a lot of criticism. They need to pay attention to the basics construction of their language. Don’t measure your success by money alone.
SJ: It seems like everyone likes to gang up on certain genres as being inferior, less meaningful, or cheap entertainment (especially if it’s speculative in nature). Make a case for the genre you write.
PAR: I think reading to children is important and creating a desire for them to want to read is just as important. I think by bringing my love of travel into the books it will teach them a little about other lands. The books teach friendship, facing fears, believing and safety. My illustrations help them understand the words and open a dialog for parents or others who read to the children to discuss a subject. The time one spends reading to a child or helping them learn to read forms a wonderful bond and certainly aids in their development.
SJ: What do you want people to instantly think of when they hear your name or your work mentioned?
PAR: Duckie Dan, my cute, fluffy duck that loves to stow-away in a suitcase in search of an adventure. I want them to wonder what he is up to next!
SJ: Please tell us about your latest/favorite work or a little bit about what you’re working on right now. It’s plug time, so go for it!
PAR: “Christmas Away” is the last book published and it deals with the fear that Santa will not find them if the critters are not at home for Christmas. It takes place on a cruise ship and they all learn the secret is to BELIEVE!
My latest, which will be out this spring, Duckie Dan Adventure Book is about fire-safety. Duckie teaches everyone to stay safe. My son is a volunteer fireman and a Deputy Sheriff so he has helped me express some concerns and safety issues. The drawings of fire engines have been challenging as well as limiting the number of drawings.
My books are a continuously expanding series. I am working on another one that is Duckie Dan’s Mythical travels in England and Scotland.
As the illustrator, the children usually want to know what medium I use to draw my pictures. I use colored pencils. Why? I travel a lot and they are not messy. If I am in an airplane I can work on my illustrations, in the hotel room or even in a car….as long as I am not driving!
The most unusual place I have read to children was on a cruise ship while sailing the Baltic Sea. Duckie and I had just been in Russia the day before.
My Duckie Dan Adventure Books started off as a series of 6 to 8 and now I have topics for at least a dozen awaiting me.
Duckie Dan the Traveling Man has his own facebook page and a website too! www.duckiedan.com has things for children to do and learn about him and other lands. You can ask Duckie Dan a question on facebook and he will answer you!
Penelope A Riley is my facebook page, so look me up. I also have a webpage at www.penelopeariley.com and both will keep you informed of my latest writings, when they are available and other products associated with Duckie Dan Adventure Books.
Duckie Dan Adventure Books also have their own facebook page.
My books are available in print and soon all will be available in e-books. You can get them on Amazon.com and most all on line book stores. They can be purchase in the Authorhouse book store also in both print and e-books. All books can be purchased through me and I will gladly sign them and ship them to your child. If you have purchased my book elsewhere and would like them to be signed, I have a self-adhesive book plaque that I can sign and send you to place inside the book.