Where are you from? Tell us a little about yourself!
Raised on a dairy farm in Wisconsin, I grew up with an imagination that sometimes got me in trouble. At eight a teacher gave the class an assignment to write a story. I loved it. I scribbled down tons of very bad stories. As an adult, I found myself in my writing and realized I wanted to share that imagination with little ones. Thus RJ Stone was created.
Tell us about your book? How did it get started?
Dragon of Frendur is a fantasy chapter book for children. It’s meant to have humor, sorrow, adventure, and fun. One of the things which was important to me was writing a book children and adults would enjoy. Literacy is a real problem and I wanted to create a story which would engage the reader. One of my four sisters is a reading specialist. Once I finished the initial story, I asked her to critique it. I worked with her to make sure it was age appropriate and I plan to work with her to develop aids for teachers and others. I want to provide tools for them.
I’ve had a love of dragons for years. This morphed into wanting to write a children’s book. From those two things, Dragon of Frendur was born. The concept was – what happens to and ordinary little village when something extraordinary happens? Having grown up in a farming community, I knew how vital the weather was for farmers. A big shadow overhead could be cause for big concern during a harvest. The crop can go from being bountiful to destroyed with one bad storm. Starting with this idea and the idea of an ordinary village, I discovered Penelope, Mia, and Blu. Then they told me their story – or part of it.
How do you create your characters?
Penelope – her general outlook and attitude – came to me through meditation. She’s grounded, thoughtful and no nonsense.
Mia came to me as I was writing the opening of the book. Here are all these villagers standing around staring at a dragon – an actual dragon and regardless of age, none of them are approaching the dragon. But then Mia comes along… I don’t want to go into too much detail but I wanted a character who was brave and sure of herself. It was important to me she be compassionate and that her compassion drives her to do things others may think are foolish.
Blu is more practical and Mia’s best friend. He’s meant to be her caution – maybe we shouldn’t do this – but he’s also meant to be the one who says – I bet you can’t. Mia of course will and then he’ll have to follow along.
What inspires and what got your started in writing?
I cannot remember a time in my life where books weren’t important. I had more books than dolls growing up. Dolls were boring, books inspired my imagination. I loved nothing better than an afternoon spent in my favorite red maple tree reading a book.
In my late 30s I found I didn’t like me and I started writing (again). I’d stopped when I had my kids. Three girls in five years kept me very busy but as they got older, I wanted to know me better. I started writing.
I dipped my toe into children’s book writing because I wanted to help children fall in love with books but I also wanted to spark their imagination.
Where do you write? Is there something you need in order to write (music, drinks?)
I write where and when the inspiration strikes me. Now I do have a day job but if I get an idea at work, I jot it down so I remember it later. In general, I write while sitting in my recliner. There’s generally one light on and classical music playing. If the story’s going well, I’m not in my living room, I’m wherever the story is and trying to get it all down on paper before it fades.
How do you get your ideas for writing?
I’ve gotten ideas from stumbling in a dark garage to a song on the radio to a nature show on tv. Ideas are all around me, I just have to be open to them.
What do you like to read?
Fantasy is one of my favorites. I like a little romance but fantasy and science fiction are my go to genres. I’ve read straight romance, westerns, thrillers, drama, and a lot more. I stay away from horror – it’s just not my thing. However, I’ll read anything which holds my attention.
What would your advice to be for authors or aspiring in regards to writing?
If you’re going to write – than do it. Get your story down on paper. Don’t worry about grammar or punctuation. Get the story written. Everything can be fixed in editing.
Know your strong abilities and your weak ones. Then hire professionals in the things you’re weak. If you’re good with graphics, create your own graphics. If you’re good at drawing, use that to inspire you.
Grow a thick skin. There will be people who don’t like your writing. You could be the next Shakespeare but you won’t please everyone.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Anyone can learn to put a sentence together but not everyone can tell a story. Tell your story your way and hopefully people will read it.
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