In Aileen Stewart's first book, Fern Valley, children found themselves captivated by the talking animals and their escapades, while adults appreciated the tried and true lessons that were taught in each story! Now, Aileen's farm friends are back for more adventures in Return to Fern Valley being released on September 2, 2014! We welcome Aileen to The Moose Room blog!
Why don’t you begin by telling us a little about yourself?
When my daughter was about three, we were watching cartoons and I noticed they were based on books. I mentioned to my husband that I could write a book good enough to become a cartoon and he said go for it.
Since I grew up in a small community made up of town folk and farmers, I decided to write about what I knew. I lived in town, but one of my best friends lived on a farm that I thought was a magical place. My favorite pastime was gathering the eggs. So when it came time for me to sit down and write my first children’s book, it seemed natural to make the characters farm animals.
When did you decide you wanted to become an author?
I wanted to be a writer since I was nine years old. Two things accounted for this. One, my fourth grade teacher entered our class in a poetry contest in which I won an honorable mention. And two, my father and role model was a free-lance author for hunting and fishing magazines in his spare time.
Do you have another job besides writing?
I have the best job in the world. I am a stay at home mother and wife. Although I have tremendous respect for working mothers, I am thrilled to be able to stay home. It also gives me plenty of time for my many other hobbies such as cooking, baking, quilting, sewing, crafting, bowling, volunteering, flower gardening, and so much more!
Were you an avid reader as a child? What type of books did you enjoy reading?
I was a voracious reader when I was a child. While my brother spent each summer at the pool, I spent all of my time at the air-conditioned library. I read pretty much everything I could get my hands on. I read biographies, children’s fiction, classics like Heidi, Little House On The Prairie, and The Black Stallion, mysteries, and magazines.
Tell us a bit about your latest book, and what inspired you to write such a story.
My latest book, which will release officially September 2nd, is titled Return to Fern Valley and is the sequel to my first book Fern Valley. When I set out, it was my hope to create a series.
Did your book require a lot of research?
Not really. About the only thing I had to do a little research on was the story where the characters build their own kites. I wanted to use real kite making terms and I wanted it to seem realistic.
Why do you write?
I write because that is the talent that God has blessed me with. A love of words and phrases constantly bubbles up in me like a fountain of cool sweet spring water making its way to the surface. Like the water which nourishes all the growing things once it reaches the light of day, I hope my stories nourish the hungry souls of young readers everywhere.
Who are your literary heros and why?
That is such a great question and could take many pages to answer, so I will narrow it down to the three writers that influenced me the most. The first, as I mentioned earlier, was my father. My father instilled in me the love of words and led me to believe that children who could read could do anything. This last sentiment has actually become my motto.
The second literary person who touched my young life was Samuel Clemmons also known as Mark Twain. His work was masterful, entertaining, and full of life. From Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn to The War Prayer, each story caught and grabbed my attention.
And lastly, in highschool, I fell in love with the author of Silas Marner, Mary Ann Evans who wrote under the male pen name George Eliot.
If you could have any vice without repercussions, what would it be?
It would be to eat nothing but dark chocolate. Dark chocolate cake, cookies, cheesecake, raisins, graham crackers, and brownies.
What is the funniest/most embarrassing/scariest story from one of your books signings or events?
When my first book came out, I was asked to do a multi author event at my local Barnes and Noble. Several days afterward, I received a call from the manager saying that someone had come in and had left a mailing tube for me. I don’t know if I had seen one too episodes of Murder She Wrote or not, but I had visions that some stalker had left it and it held something strange like body parts.
I made my way to the store and carefully opened the package. Inside was a large pencil drawing of me holding my daughter on my lap while she read from my book. There was also a note from the artist. He was a retired grocery store clerk whose father had always wanted to be a published author but had never had his dream come true. He said he had seen our picture in the paper and used that for his drawing. He went on to wish me much success and lots of sales. I cherish that drawing still and rejoice that it wasn’t a severed arm or leg.
What would you tell aspiring young writers about the publishing business?
If you want to become part of the world of published writers, you need three things. You need patience. You need persistence. And you need lots and lots of practice.
Tell us five random things about yourself.
• I have been to Hawaii three times
• My favorite actor has always been James Garner
• I love Brussel sprouts cooked with bacon and onions
• I love board games like monopoly, scrabble, boggle, sorry, checkers, and chess.
• The favorite picture in my house is a puzzle of a train in winter that I assembled and had framed.
What other types of artistic talents do you have?
I have refinished antique furniture. I love to bake and some of my specialties are quick breads, tarts, granola, and chocolate cheesecake. I’m pretty crafty and have a knack for upcycling old things into new things. I make baby quilts for all my friends who adopt or are expecting. And I make clothes for American girl dolls.
When do you get your best ideas and why do you think this is?
I get ideas at the weirdest times. I get ideas while driving down the road, in my dreams, and almost anywhere I don’t have a paper and pencil handy. I have no idea why this is. The brain is a mysterious thing!
Do you have another book in the works? Would you like to tell readers about your current or future projects?
Currently I am working on the third Fern Valley book which will be called Cooking in Fern Valley. It will be a combination of short stories like the first two books, but it will also include recipes. This way I get to combine my love of writing and my love of cooking.
I have also been working on several picture book ideas and hope to eventually find representation.
Where do you find ideas for stories?
Ideas for my stories come from many places. My dreams, my friend’s dreams, music I have heard, things that happened to my brother and I when we were growing up. You never ever know when something you have seen or heard will cause an idea to form in your head. Like I said above, the brain is a mysterious thing.
Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your work?