Author of the Ronaldo series Maxine Sylvester shares her writing journey
I rarely read and review children’s books, I usually leave that to guest poster Mr B! However, I appreciated author Maxine Sylvesters personalised, thoughtful email to me and once I saw the adorable illustrations of cheeky Ronaldo, I was in! Ronaldo: The Phantom Carrot Snatcher has a well-paced storyline, excitement, adrenaline and laughter to keep junior bookworms engaged and invested in Ronaldo and his friends right to the last page. Parents will also enjoy the cheeky irreverence of the characters and the underlying values of honesty and empathy.
I asked Maxine a few questions about her character choices, her illustrations and the perils and pitfalls of being an independent writer.
Ronaldo is a very cute, rambunctious character. What made you choose a reindeer? Ronaldo is my favourite plush! I stole the idea from A.A. Milne whose inspiration was the toys in Christopher Robin’s bedroom. Michael Bond did the same. He used to take his bear plush (Paddington) on holiday with him.
Were you afraid this would limit your book sales to seasonal? I never thought of reindeer as seasonal. Looking back it was an oversight as even though my stories are suitable for reading all year round, they sell more at Christmas time.
I set the third book, Ronaldo: Rudi’s Birthday Extravaganza, during a blistering heatwave so readers can experience what Ronaldo and his best friend, Rudi, get up to during the summer months. One thing is for sure, they are better at sledging than roller skating! Writing the story was so much fun; it’s the end of the school term and the cadets, led by Ronaldo, fly over the village to celebrate. The humidity plays havoc with reindeer hair though and most of them resemble poodles! Children (and parents) find the story hilarious and love the illustrations.
The cheeky comments from the characters were funny and adorable, how did you find the line between cheeky irreverence and readers having sensitive reactions to certain childhood comments? I am a total Disney/Pixar geek so maybe all those years of watching child-friendly movies paid off! I don’t always get it right though and have had to learn from my mistakes. For example, I never realised the word ‘fart’ was so controversial. I no longer use it in my writing but other authors are braver and don’t hold back; Walter the Farting Dog is a best seller!
What’s the one thing you wish you knew before you started out as an independent publisher? I wish I had known about a programme called ProWritingAid. I used it with my last book, Ronaldo: The Vixen Pederson Workshop. It highlights grammatical errors, overused words, sentence structure, etc. Now when I send my manuscript to an editor, they can get to the ‘meat’ instead of wading through punctuation errors. It would have saved me a fortune over the years as I wouldn’t have needed so many edits!
How do you find the time to write? I have a fantastic partner called Mark! He’s computer savvy and uploaded my books to Kindle—I wouldn’t have had a clue how to do it! He also helps with Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Social networking is time-consuming, but it is essential for a self-published author. Author groups give great advice and offer reviews which help to sell my books. I am grateful for Mark every day, without his help, I would be struggling with my first book!
The illustrations are adorable. How did you find an illustrator to bring your characters to life as you imagined them? I am a cartoonist so illustrated the books myself. I pictured my characters stocky and unlike the graceful reindeer, you see on greetings cards. Neither is right nor wrong, just different interpretations. I have fun dressing up my characters; in the second book, Ronaldo: The Phantom Carrot Snatcher, Wing Commander Blitsen wears a trendy Tam-o’-shanter!
What’s the next adventure for Ronaldo? Ronaldo: Saving Blitsen will be the fifth book in the series. I am looking at publishing in October 2021—I better get a move on!
Follow Maxine Sylvester and the adventures of Ronaldo here!
- TheBookDesign.com – Gold Star Award November 2016
- Authorsdb.com Book Cover Contest – Silver 2018