I recently had the opportunity to conduct an interview with a children’s book author to talk through her creative process. This was a fun way to get an inside look at what it takes to write, design and produce a book. Being in this camp myself I was curious what others were doing.
Ariele Sieling is an author of both science fiction and children’s books: The Sagittan Chronicles and Rutherford the Unicorn Sheep. She likes to incorporate elements of fantasy, mystery, and romance into my science fiction, and educational elements into my children’s books. We are going to focus on the Rutherford books here (since this is a children’s blog).
I personally have received a copy of Rutherford the Unicorn Sheep Visits the Apiary. It is a great, fun read! But without adding too much commentary on my part let’s just jump straight into the interview.
How did you come up with the character Rutherford and what is he made out of?
I actually sketched Rutherford before I ever did the stuffed animal version. I was just doodling, and for some reason I thought it would be funny to give him a unicorn horn. Then, I found a stuffed sheep and stuck a q-tip in his head, and voila! Rutherford was born. In his current form he is a stuffed animal that my mother made with a q-tip in his head.
Do you usually write the story first and then take the photos?
Not exactly. I usually come up with a general concept (like Rutherford visiting the bees) and then take the the photos. I write the story based on the photos that I have, and frequently, come up with ideas for the story while I’m doing the photography.
What camera do you use to shoot the photos?
I have a Nikon Coolpix 530.
What program do you use to lay out the books?
Honestly, I use Microsoft Word. I don’t recommend this to anyone trying to make their own books, as it has a lot of quirks and can be a bit difficult to wrangle, but it works for me. Others I know use programs like InDesign, which I hope to upgrade to as it will give me more flexibility as to what I can do with the interior. I have a friend who makes my covers for me with Photoshop.
Do you self-publish the books? If yes, where do you print them?
Yes, I self-publish. I use CreateSpace to print the books, and most of the time, they look great. If they don’t look great, CreateSpace will replace them for me free of charge.
On average how long does it take to complete a book?
It usually takes me a couple of months to do a book. It takes a day to do the photography, but then the photo editing, layout, and editing takes a few weeks. It then takes two weeks to order and receive a proof copy in the mail, and if (magically) the first version is perfect, then I can hit publish, but it usually takes me a few more tries to get it right.
I see that you wrote a few novels as well, how does writing for children differ from those books?
I find that writing for children is easier in some ways and harder in others. It doesn’t take as long to produce a kid’s book, for example, because I’m working with a much shorter story. It also takes a lot less time to edit, and I can read it though many more times without much effort. On the other hand, I’m working with multiple mediums, so it can be frustrating when I can’t take the photos I need for the story I want, and then I end up having to adjust the story to match the photos, or go take more photos to match the story.
If you could give any advice to someone that is looking to create a children’s book what would that be?
Do it. I’ve had a lot of people come to me and say that it’s always been their dream to create a children’s book, but they’ve never even written a draft or thought about how they could make that a reality. With technology today, anyone can learn to do it or find someone to help them with it. All you have to do is take the first step and go from there.
How many adventures would you like to see Rutherford go on?
Lots! I have a lot of ideas, and have quite a few child-sized fans out there who would like to see more of his adventures, so I’m planning to keep going with it. I have three in the queue for this year.
An apiary seems like an interesting topic for a children’s book, what made you decide to have an adventure there?
There are a couple of reasons–the first is that my dad owns an apiary, so it was an easy but interesting place to do a photo shoot. The second reason is that because of my own experiences with bees, I know that many people are afraid of all different types of bees without being able to distinguish between which ones are good and bad. So I wanted to write a book that taught kids why bees are good, what they do for us, and how to be able to tell if a bee was good or bad, helpful or mean. I think I was successfully able to address all of those questions in the book, and I hope to do more educational style books in the future.
If you want to learn more about Ariele and her work you can find it here: