Stacy Wilk: Hi Diane. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to speak with you and your readers. Welcome to Kata-Tartaroo (WTK) is about a 13 year-old Lesser boy that lands in the scariest place imaginable and has 24 hours to collect three mystical objects or he and his Moor friends will be lost forever.
The road to publication was a long one. I attempted the traditional route first. I received some positive feedback about the story, but only one official offer. Actually, I was rejected 100 times. Because I was already speaking at middle schools to students about creative writing, have two children in middle school – a direct line to readers and parents of my readers - I felt it was essential to capitalize on my small platform and not wait. Traditional publishing takes longer to get a book out than self-publishing does. I published the book myself, but truthfully no one publishes alone. I hired a professional editor, Tamson Weston Books, and a professional cover artist, E-Book Formatting Fairies to design the cover art and format the book for print and digital.
BWG: What avenues have you tried to sell in, and what marketing works best for this book?
SW: As soon as I know what marketing works best for this book I’ll let you know! Honestly, I’m still trying to figure out the whole sales/marketing side of the business. I’ve attended librarian conferences, I speak at schools where I can sell my books to the students, I have a few public libraries on my list to speak at. I’m trying to connect with independent bookstores to hold events at, like scavenger hunts, that might excite new readers. I also held two giveaways on Good Reads.
BWG: What inspires you to write Middle-grade fantasy, and if giving the option, in what other genre would you like to write?
SW: I decided to write middle-grade because I was speaking to students at that grade level and thought it might be a good idea to have books for them instead of the thriller I had written. I love fantasy books like Harry Potter and Percy Jackson and I love the idea of making up my own world. When I create my own world I get to make up all the rules of how the world works. It’s a lot of fun. I do have an idea for a YA thriller I might write in the future.
BWG: Where do your characters come from: do they draw from real people or imagined, and which character is your favorite?
SW: My characters come from all kinds of places. I make-up a lot of who they are and I also draw from people I know and from experiences I’ve had or someone I know has had. In other words, be careful what you tell me because a piece of it may show up in a book! I like all my characters. They each have a quality I admire. Gabriel, my main character, gets to say things we sometimes only get to think. Owen is the underdog. Don’t count him out. And Corinna is strong and believes in doing what’s right even when it’s hard. That’s a lesson everyone can learn from.
BWG: What is your favorite time to write; do you need total quiet to focus or do you listen to any particular kind of music; and do you have an interesting writing ritual?
SW: I’m a morning person. Most days I begin writing when my kids go to school, but on the weekends I like to sit at my desk before anyone else is up and the day has had a chance to get away from me. I started writing novels seriously when my kids were toddlers. I had to learn to write with some noise around me so now it doesn’t have to be completely quiet. I like to listen to film scores when I write. They are instrumental, but not slow or mellow, which might make we want to nap instead. I don’t have any particular writing ritual. I wish I could tell you I did. I just put my butt in my seat and work. Sometimes words come out on the page and other times I sit there wondering if I should fold laundry instead.
BWG: We always manage to meet at Liberty States Fiction Writers functions. Are you a member of any other writing organizations; do you recommend writers join a local writing group and why?
SW: I am also a member of the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and the International Thriller Writers. I think writers should find a local writing group to join. It doesn’t have to be in their genre, but that helps. It’s important to network with other writers. We spend so much time in front of our computers it’s nice to get out and meet other people who are experiencing the same struggles and joys we are. No one understands a writer better than another writer. Plus, being in an organization gives a writer access to workshops on the craft of writing and networking opportunities. It’s a great way to pitch to an agent or editor if the writer wants to publish in the traditional route.
BWG: What else do you enjoy besides putting words to paper?
SW: The obvious is spending time with my family, but I practice yoga which keeps me nice and then my family wants to spend time with me! I also enjoy baking and that really gets my family to spend time with me. I’m sneaky like that.
BWG: Your website (http://staceywilk.com/) shares some fun stories about growing up in an Italian family with much tradition. Are your middle-grade characters influenced by your upbringing, and how?
SW: Well, I suppose my characters are influenced by my upbringing, but I better not say how because then my mother will pass the evil eye on me.
BWG: Whenever I’m helping writers to reach an “Ah ha” moment, it also inspires me. You teach writing workshops at schools and in the community. How has the experience shaped your creative energy?
SW: Nothing gets me more excited about what I do as when a student tells me after a workshop I inspired them to write or when a seventh grader comes up to me with a sparkle in her eye and says she wants to be an author when she grows up. I was that seventh grader. I am blessed to be living my dream and I want these students, and writers of all ages, to believe in their dreams too. Helping them see they can make it happen inspires me to keep writing.
BWG: What genre do you prefer reading, and who is your favorite author?
SW: My favorite genres are thrillers, I love the pacing and of course I enjoy reading MG/YA fantasy. I have lots of favorite authors, but my top three might have to be Daphne Du Maurier, C.S. Lewis, and Stephen King.
BWG: Book Two in the Gabriel Hunter Series, Welcome to Bibliotheca, publishes later this year. Can you tell us a bit about this next novel?
SW: Gabriel and his friends, Owen and Corinna, journey into a stark, wintry land. They’re forced to fight evil by navigating a magical labyrinth filled with dangerous puzzles. The question becomes will they solve the puzzles in time or be lost in this frozen world forever? I expect publication to be in early April.
BWG: Is there anything else you would like the readers to know that we have not touched on?
SW: Gabriel and his friends will be returning in a third book due out at the end of this year. Right now, the series is planned as a trilogy, but we’ll see if Gabriel has other adventures he might want to go on. It is best to read the books in order, but you don’t have to. I love to hear from readers and writers so they can stop by my website and say hello at www.staceywilk.com Thanks, Diane, for letting me chat with you. It was a real pleasure.