Friday, January 26, 2018

Interview with children's writer Tonya Ellis

Today’s special guest author is Tonya Ellis. We’re chatting about her new children’s middle grade book, Sophie Washington: The Snitch.

During her virtual book tour, Tonya will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble (winner’s choice) gift card to a lucky randomly chosen winner. To be entered for a chance to win, use the form below. To increase your chances of winning, feel free to visit her other tour stops and enter there, too!

Tonya Ellis remembers hiding in the restroom from a few bullies during her elementary school days. She encourages kids to speak out if they are being mistreated. She knew she wanted to become a writer after an article she wrote was published in her hometown newspaper. Since then, Tonya has worked as a journalist, written for newspapers and magazines and won awards for her books. When she’s not busy writing, she enjoys reading, biking with her husband and two sons and daughter, and travelling to interesting places. Sophie Washington: The Snitch is the second book in a series about Sophie and her friends.

Welcome, Tonya. Please tell us a little bit about your current release.
Ten-year-old Texan Sophie Washington and her friends are being bullied by new kid in school, Lanie Mitchell. Lanie pushes Sophie and her friends around at their lockers and even takes their lunch money. If they tell, they are scared other kids in their class will call them snitches, and won’t be their friends. And when you’re in the fifth grade, nothing seems worse than that. Lanie’s bullying goes too far and a classmate gets seriously hurt. Sophie needs to make a decision. Should she stand up to the bully, or become a snitch?

What inspired you to write this book?
I saw kids in my daughter’s elementary school class being bullied and was baffled as to why they didn’t want to tell teachers or other adults. Fear of being called snitches was worse to them then being shoved around and harassed on a daily basis.

Excerpt from Sophie Washington: The Snitch:
I’ve got a secret. Want to hear it?

Secrets are usually nice. Like when my dad surprised me with a new goldfish last year. Or the time Grandma Washington unexpectedly visited us in Houston from her house in Corpus Christi.

I used to love secrets. But this one’s not so great.

No one knows it, except my best friend Chloe. It’s her secret, too. We don’t talk about it, ‘cause if we do people won’t like us. And in the fifth grade being liked is as important as having a fun birthday party, or staying up as late as possible, or…Christmas.

For now, I’m not telling. Chloe’s not either.

“Hey Sophie, wait up!” Chloe yells as I make my way down the hall to our first period math class. “How was your weekend?”

“The same old, same old,” I reply, hoisting my math book and binder up in my arms. “Cole whined about having nothing to do, so Mom and Dad took us to the zoo and then out for ice cream. On Sunday I caught up on all my homework after church.”

Cole is my seven-year-old brother. My mom thinks he’s an angel, but I think he was sent here to drive me crazy. Just this morning at breakfast, for example, he pulled my ponytail while she wasn’t looking, and then started crying loudly after I whacked him with an empty Cheerios box. Of course, I’m the one who got in trouble. My dad is nicer to Cole than he deserves, but I think he’s figured out his game a little bit better than Mom.

“Nothing much exciting happened at our house, either,” says Chloe, “but I did get this cute new purse.” Chloe is what you’d call a Fashionista. I admire the pretty, powder blue bag and notice the red, glittery, slide-on shoes she wears on her feet. She always manages to make our boring, private school uniforms look stylish.

“That’s nice,” I say.

As we near the classroom I see someone in the shadows and my heart starts to beat fast.

“Just great,” I mutter.

Lanie Mitchell, the class bully, heads our way from the opposite direction.

She sees us, grins, and blocks our path. Most of our classmates are 10, like me, but Lanie is already 12 years old. She’s the second tallest girl in 5B, behind Chloe, and a little bit on the chubby side.

What exciting story are you working on next?
Sophie Washington: The Snitch is the second book in my series. In March I will be releasing the fifth book – Sophie Washington: Hurricane. In this book Sophie, family and friends are forced to evacuate their home when a natural disaster strikes the Houston area. Sophie learns valuable lessons about appreciation and gratefulness and realizes that she is stronger than she ever imagined.

When did you consider yourself a writer?
I considered myself a writer after a story I wrote and illustrated about “Mr. Peanut,” won first prize in my school’s young author contest when I was in fifth grade. My teachers praised and encouraged me and I felt like this was something I might be able to do for a living. Then in 10th grade an editorial I wrote was published in my hometown newspaper and my decision to become a journalist was cemented.

Do you write full-time? If so, what’s your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I work part time as a realtor and property manager but commit myself full time to writing and promoting my books, so basically I have a job and a half!  I find time to write in the wee morning hours before everyone in my house is awake and later in the evenings when things have settled down. I set writing goals of say, a chapter a day, once I start on a new book for my children’s series to make sure that I stay on a production schedule that helps me reach my writing goals. As an indie author I spend a lot of time promoting my book, as well, so I set aside certain days of the week for writing only.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I can’t say I have too many quirks when I’m actually writing. Once I get a flow going I’m pretty immersed in my work. One thing I find weird is when I get an idea I can write it beautifully in my head when I’m sleeping. I come up with all kinds of great essays and thoughts worded perfectly right before I wake up in the morning or as I’m dozing off to sleep. I like to keep a notepad at my bedside so I can jot thoughts down and won’t forget them.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I really can’t remember wanting to be anything other than a writer. I’ve had various jobs as an adult and I even went back to school and earned an MBA degree for higher paying career options, but in the end it’s always been back to writing for me.

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Goddess Fish Promotions said...

Thanks for hosting!

Tonya Duncan Ellis said...

Thanks so much for featuring me on your blog Lisa!

Victoria Alexander said...

Happy Friday, thanks for sharing the great post!

Tonya Duncan Ellis said...

Thanks Victoria. Have a great weekend!

Bernie Wallace said...

What book would you like to see a prequel to? Thanks for the giveaway. I hope that I win. Bernie Wallace BWallace1980(at)hotmail(d0t)com

Tonya Duncan Ellis said...

Good luck Joseph! I hadn’t thought about writing a prequel...Maybe I could write a backstory about Lanie the bully’s life before she transferred to Sophie’s school.

Anonymous said...

I enjoy reading the excerpt! Thank you!

Bernie Wallace said...

Who is your favorite author of all time? Thanks for the giveaway. I hope that I win. Bernie Wallace BWallace1980(at)hotmail(dot)com

Unknown said...

I enjoyed getting to know your book; Congrats on the tour and thanks for the chance to win :)

Tonya Duncan Ellis said...

Thanks guys! My favorite kids’ author is Judy Blume.