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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Susanna L. Hill Provides Insight into Her Childrens Books

Susanna when did you begin writing.
I wrote my first book in 2nd Grade.  It is called The Girl and The Witch and I will read it to you if I come to your school!  When I was 3, I was quite sure I would have a career driving a steamroller.  When I got older, I wanted to be a fireman, a teacher, and a veterinarian.  But I always wanted to be a mom and a writer, and now I am both!  I love reading, writing, and visiting schools to share my stories and my passion for writing with kids.  I also love horses and my two rescue dogs.  I am always happy to hear from readers, so please visit my website, FaceBook page, and blog!
Tell us about the genre of your work. 
I write novelty books (pop-up, lift-the-flap, board books), picture books, and early readers.  I am working on some longer books, but they are not published yet.
Why did you choose this genre?
I love writing for this age.  There is something special about these books, because they are read-to-me books.  By definition, they will be shared with a child by a parent, grandparent, or other adult.  These are the books that introduce children to the whole experience of reading.
What are some of your books, stories that have been published?
The House That Mack Built (Little Simon 2002), Taxi! (Little Simon 2005), Punxsutawney Phyllis (Holiday House 2005), No Sword Fighting In The House (Holiday House 2007), Not Yet, Rose (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers 2009), Airplane Flight!: A Lift-The-Flap Adventure (Little Simon 2009), Freight Train Trip!: A Lift-The-Flap Adventure (Little Simon 2009), Can’t Sleep Without Sheep (Walker/Bloomsbury 2010), and April Fool, Phyllis! (Holiday House 2011).
What ages do you direct your books?
The novelty books are for ages 2-5, picture books for 3-7 or 4-8, and early reader for ages 6-9.
Where can we find your books?
The House That Mack Built (Preschool Pop-Ups ages 2-5), ISBN# 978-0689848131, available from Amazon, Barnes&Noble, Ebay
Taxi! (A Matchbox License Plate Board Book with car ages 2-5), ISBN# 978-1416902546, available from Amazon, Barnes&Noble, Ebay
Punxsutawney Phyllis (picture book in hardcover or paperback ages 4-8), ISBN# 978-0823420407, available from Amazon, Barnes&Noble, Holiday House.  Phyllis is a Book Sense Children’s Pick for Fall 2005, an Amelia Bloomer Project Feminist Picks for Youth Book 2006, and is available through Scholastic as a paperback with cassette tape or CD audio recording under the title Wake Up Groundhog.  Also available in French as Debout Marmotte.

No Sword Fighting In The House (early reader level 2 ages 6-9), ISBN# 978-0823419166, available from Amazon, Barnes&Noble, Holiday House.  No Sword Fighting is a Junior Library Guild Selection.
Not Yet, Rose (picture book ages 3-8), ISBN# 978-0802853264, available from Amazon, Barnes&Noble, Eerdmans Books For Young Readers.  Rose won a Gold Mom’s Choice Award for Excellence.  Also available in Dutch as Een Broertje of een zusje Roos?
Airplane Flight!: A Lift-The-Flap Adventure (lift-the-flap board book ages 2-5), ISBN# 978-1416978329, available from Amazon, Barnes&Noble, Little Simon.  Also available in Japanese

Freight Train Trip!: A Lift-The-Flap Adventure (lift-the-flap board book ages 2-5), ISBN# 978-1416978336, available from Amazon, Barnes&Noble, Little Simon.  Also available in Japanese.

Can’t Sleep Without Sheep (picture book ages 3-7) ISBN# 978-0802720665, available from Amazon, Barnes&Noble, Walker/Bloomsbury.  Available in paperback in the UK.  Can’t Sleep is a Children’s Book of the Month Club Book and was nominated for the Alabama Camellia Children’s Choice Award.  It will soon be available in Korean.
April Fool, Phyllis! (picture book ages 4-8), ISBN# 978-0823422708, available from Amazon, Barnes&Noble, Holiday House.  This is my newest book.
Do your books have a teaching objective?  If so, what is it?
Most of my books include something you can learn about – constructions vehicles, a day in the life of a taxi cab, airplanes, freight trains, getting a new sibling, Groundhog Day, April Fools Day, etc…  Both Punxsutawney Phyllis and April Fool, Phyllis! actually include back matter with educational content and teaching info.  Most of my books have accompanying coloring pages, activities, and/or classroom guides on my website, available for free download.
How do you come up with the names of places and characters in your books?

I don’t have a specific method.  Usually I just roll names around in my mind until I find something that feels right.  But in the case of Mack from The House That Mack Built, I wanted a name that rhymed with Jack because the story is based on the cumulative rhyme.  In the case of Phyllis from Punxsutawney Phyllis and April Fool, Phyllis! her name was a play on Punxsutawney Phil.

How did you develop the character/s of your in each of your books (If you have more that one)?

Since I write books for youngest readers, I’m not sure my characters are developed in quite the same way as characters in middle grade, young adult, or adult books.

Is there a unique character or a recurring character if you have more than one published or to be published book?

Punxsutawney Phyllis, a spunky girl groundhog, appears in both Punxsutawney Phyllis and April Fool, Phyllis!

What is your favorite thing about your book/s?
Sharing them with people, and hearing from time to time that people read them and enjoy them.
Are your books illustrated?  If so, would you tell us by whom, and if you worked with an illustrator, can you discuss that experience?
All of my books are illustrated.  I have worked with Ken Wilson-Max, SI International, Jeffrey Ebbeler, True Kelley, Nicole Rutten, Ana Martin Larranaga, and Mike Wohnoutka.  Jeff, Nicole, and Mike were particularly fabulous to work with.  Each of them captured the mood of the book(s) they illustrated perfectly and did the best possible job of bringing the stories to life.  As a rule, however, I don’t choose the illustrator.  I don’t see the work until it’s done.  So my interaction with the illustrators tends to be afterwards.
How is writing in the genre you write, different than other genre?
When writing picture books, half the job is meant to be done by the illustrator, so you need to leave room for their creativity.  Also, as I mentioned above, books at this level are meant to be read to a child by an adult.  This gives you a little more latitude in vocabulary and subject than you might otherwise have because there will always be an adult present to explain anything the child doesn’t know.
Are there any problems in getting children’s’ books published? 
I would say mainly that it’s difficult because it’s such a competitive field.  There are so many wonderfully talented authors and illustrators, and not everyone can be published at once.
Why and when did you begin writing?
I started writing when I was four, on the kitchen floor.  I guess I have a lot to say J
What is your writing schedule?
I’m not sure that I have one exactly, beyond that I try to write every day.
What projects are you working on now, or plan for the future?
I am currently working on a digital storybook for A Story Before Bed.
What kind of advice or tips to you have for someone who wants to write and get published?
Read a lot in your genre so you see what’s out there, who’s doing it well, and what you can learn from the masters.  Write every day.  Don’t give up J
Are there any other comments, advice or tips that you would give to beginning writers?
There are a lot of great books on the craft of writing you can read.  If you have the opportunity, attend conferences and/or writing workshops.
What do you do when you are not writing? 
Take care of my husband and 5 kids, my home, and my 2 dogs; go on school and library visits to share my stories and my passion for writing with students; read, walk my dogs, run, ride horses if I get the chance; spend time on marketing and blogging.
What “Made It” moments have you experienced in life?
The phone calls when I found out an editor wanted to publish one of my books J, winning the Mom’s Choice Award for Not Yet Rose, getting invited to visit schools and libraries.
Add your web site, blogs, and links here.
Face Book Page:

From Sylvia:  My book blog link is:
Traveling a Rocky Road with Love, Faith and Guts


P. A. Garbutt said...

Lovely, lively interview. Ms. Hill shares , with humor, I might add, the joy of writing for children and a bit of the angst, too. good luck with your future endeavors.

Susanna Leonard Hill said...

Sylvia, thank you so much for having me today! And Scratch Pad, thank you for your kind words! :)

Cathy Mealey said...

"When I was 3, I was quite sure I would have a career driving a steamroller."

Susanna, surely this early indicator of your determination and perseverance has directly influenced your success as a writer!

Roll on!

Susanna Leonard Hill said...

Cathy - I think it just shows that my son's early obsession with heavy equipment was genetic :) Thanks so much for stopping by the interview!!!

Patricia T. said...

Wow, I learned some things about you I didn't know. A very different interview. Loved hearing your earliest writing experiences. I didn't realize that your were working on a digital night time book -- will be interested to see how that goes. You really have a lot of energy and determination. I think my earliest memories were of wanting to being a Mom -- an actress for a very long time. Hope you get a Crystal Kite Award and sell another book this year.

Susanna Leonard Hill said...

Thanks so much for visiting, Pat! And for all your kind words and good wishes! A Story Before Bed is a really cool company - not just bedtime stories. Mine are fractured fairy tales, among other things. They're expanding to help get digital books into schools and libraries - really great!

Penny Parker Klostermann said...

Interviews like this are a real encouragement to keep at it! I needed that spark! Hope it turns into a writing fire for me since I've been lagging lately. Good luck with your projects, Susanna!

Clarbojahn said...

What a terrific interview! Thanks so much Susanna and Sylvia. I learned so much and one was that Susanna has five kids! Wow! You do keep busy. How do you do it. Do you wake at the crack of dawn to write? And how do you get the kids to school and comment on all the blogs?

I stand in amazement. :)

Renee LaTulippe said...

Five kids?! Now there's a little tidbit that has escaped me before now. No idea how you get it all done and still have energy to write and blog -- but I'm so glad you do! (Now I understand why you get up so early.)

Susanna Leonard Hill said...

Penny, Clar and Renee - thanks so much for coming over to Sylvia's for the interview! So nice of you all :) And yes :) I guess you learn something new every day! It's all busy all the time here on Blueberry Hill!

Penny - this is one of those weeks when I need the spark too.
Clar - yes, the crack of dawn and I are on intimate terms!
And Renee, my secret is I "forget" about housework :)

Stacy S. Jensen said...

I learn something new in every interview — 5 kids! Very nice interview Sylvia.

Susanna Leonard Hill said...

Thanks for coming by, Stacy!

Coleen Patrick said...

Great interview!!

Julie Hedlund said...

Like the others, I didn't know you had five kids!! Wow. You truly are amazing Susanna

Susanna Leonard Hill said...

Thanks for stopping by, Coleen and Julie! And yes... 5 kids... :)