Book lovers, every day

Amazon Publishing authors talk about their writing inspirations, favorite books, and a sneak peek at their next projects.
on August 08, 2018
At our second-annual Bring Your Kids to Work Day, our guests were able to listen to and learn from several Amazon Publishing authors from around the country. In honor of National Book Lover's Day, we're sharing the story behind their books.
  1. Jeff Mack

    Jeff is the author and illustrator of Duck on a Disco Ball

    What inspired you to write?

    I was inspired to write by my 2nd grade teacher, Mrs. Costello. When I was 8 years old, I loved to read comic books, and I spent lots of time making my own. That fall, my teacher encouraged me to make a monster comic book for a Halloween short story contest. She liked it so much, she hung all the pages up around the classroom. My friends got so excited to see them, they asked me to illustrate the stories they had just written. So I did. And then I made more of my own comics. And, basically, I've been doing the same thing ever since: writing and illustrating books for kids!

    Tell us about a favorite childhood book or story:
    My favorite story as a kid was Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by WIlliam Steig. He's my all-time favorite children's book author. I love every book he ever wrote and illustrated!

    What challenges did you face?
    As a kid, my biggest challenge was staying calm when my drawings didn't come out the way I wanted them to. But over time, I learned to put my drawings away in a drawer rather then crumple them up. Once my feelings settled down, I would look at the drawings again, and I usually found that they were better than I had originally thought. It pays to take your time and save your drawings!

    Do you have ideas waiting to get out? Can you tell us a tiny bit about them?
    I always have ideas waiting to get out. Most of them are stories about talking animals, but right now I have an idea for a fictional novel about a real-life historical figure. Whenever I get an idea, I write lots of notes and make lots of sketches. I think getting ideas for books is the easiest part about writing. The hardest part is turning the ideas into finished books that are as fun for others to read as they were for me to think of them. For most of my stories, it takes a lot of re-writing and re-thinking to transform them into something I'm really satisfied with.
  2. Margaret Read MacDonald,

    Margaret is the author of Tough Tug

    What inspired you to write?
    Oh I started writing when I was in the fourth grade! I had a head full of stories and puppet plays, so I asked my mother to get me a notebook and I started writing them down. My neighbor and I made puppets out of papier maché from torn up newspapers and flour and water. Then we acted out my plays!

    What challenges did you face?
    Finding a publisher who would put my stories into books! This is VERY difficult. But I just keep sending off manuscripts and filing away the letters saying “We love your work…but can’t publish THIS one.” To date I have over 500 rejection letters. But 66 books published! THAT is persistence.

    Do you have ideas waiting to get out? Can you tell us a tiny bit about them?
    Oh yes! I have a whole pile of picture book manuscripts waiting for a happy publisher. I just keep sending them out. Sooner or later they will find an editor they fit.

    My next book is almost finished. I am working on it with my daughter and her husband…she is a kindergarten teacher at the International School of Bangkok and he is the school librarian there. Our book is a totally new version of Cinderella from rural France…Feisty Cinderella!
  3. Pam Calvert

    Pam is the author of Brianna Bright, Ballerina Knight

    What inspired you to write?
    I’ve always loved to write ever since I was a child. I loved to read, too, but mainly, I had stories inside me that I wanted to write down. Never thought I could become an author, though, so I didn’t start writing for publication until I had three small children who were my first inspiration for stories.

    What challenges did you face?
    I had lots of rejection at first, but thankfully, I started writing for magazines which was a bit easier to write for. It took me six years and about twenty manuscripts to come up with that first book sale. It was a small, easy reader. I was thrilled when I got that acceptance and never looked back!

    Do you have ideas waiting to get out? Can you tell us a tiny bit about them?
    Oh yes, I always have lots of writing ideas. I’m working on one picture book about two cats—a crotchety older cat (Sensei) who’s world is turned upside-down by a new, freakishly spunky kitten (Pounce). These characters are based off my daughter’s cats (who are hilarious, btw).
  4. Mike Petrik

    Mike is the author of Sammy's Spooktacular Halloween

    What inspired you to write?
    Halloween and spooky stories have always been a favorite of mine. One of my biggest influences, for both telling scary stories and drawing creepy art, are the "Scary Stories to Tell In the Dark" series by Alvin Schwartz. Put together in three different collections, Alvin retells old folk tales for a modern audience, some with a modern twist. Peppered throughout are spooky old songs and urban legends, all accompanied by artist Stephen Gammell's incredible black and white illustrations. I picked these up at the scholastic book fairs at my elementary school back in the late 80's, and I still display them proudly on my shelf today.

    What challenges did you face?
    With "Sammy's Spooktacular Halloween" being my first book as both author and illustrator, I wasn't exactly sure how the process would go. Especially coming from an animation background where it's such a collaborative effort, most of the time not even working on art that you can call your own, I was almost cautious to try anything too wild with the art. But the team at Amazon was so amazing and supportive, they loved anything new I would present and would encourage me to try even more wild and spooky art!

    Do you have ideas waiting to get out? Can you tell us a tiny bit about them?
    I do! Keeping a sketchbook with me at all times helps to brainstorm some new ideas and figure out which ones would actually work. There may be another Halloween book in the making, this time a board book for a younger audience! I can't really say too much about it, but I feel extremely lucky to write stories and make art for Halloween fans of all ages!
  5. Rebekah Crane

    Rebekah is the author of The Infinite Pieces of Us

    What inspired you to write?
    A few books left a strong mark on my adolescence. I remember reading Bridge to Terabithia and crying profusely at the end. When I was in high school, The Catcher in the Rye blew my mind. Holden Caufield spoke so strongly to me. I devoured every Sweet Valley High book and The Bobbsey Twins. I’m always so impressed with authors who are able to capture young voices well. I think that’s why these books enchanted me when I was little. I saw myself in the story. The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I read it in college, a few years after it released in the late 1990’s. The narrator, Charlie, rang so true to a teenager’s voice. I was inspired. His story captivated me. At the time, the market wasn’t populated with Young Adult books. I was dying for more. A few years later, I decided that if I wanted more books representing teenagers honestly, I better start writing them myself.

    What challenges did you face?
    I was a high school English teacher before writing. I’ve always loved that age. I wanted to capture it truthfully, to examine the humanity in all of us through different and diverse characters. To help make the journey through adolescent life a little less lonely. That’s the power of books.

    Do you have ideas waiting to get out? Can you tell us a tiny bit about them?
    I just finished a book entitled Postcard for a Songbird. It’s about a sixteen-year-old girl, Wren, who’s forced to create a new life for herself when her older sister, Lizzie, mysteriously runs away from home. Just as Wren’s new life takes flight, she pieces together the truth about her sister’s disappearance, forcing Wren to expose familial secrets buried years ago. At some point, I’d love to write a cross-country road trip book. I have the beginnings of an idea, but nothing too concrete at this point.
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