Author Interview: Phyllis Harris

1. How important was professional editing to your book’s development?

Very important! I received professional editing from my literary agent before she submitted my final book dummy to publishers. Because of that, it was so much stronger, which I believe was instrumental in getting acquired by a publisher. I also got some editing suggestions from the publisher, once it was acquired, which made the book even better.

2. How long did it take you to write this book?

I first got the idea/inspiration while babysitting my granddaughter when she was 4 years old and the story was acquired by the publisher when she was 7.  My granddaughter found a teddy bear that belonged to her mother in an old toy box and was so sad to think it had been in that dark box for so long with no one to love it and care for it. That’s when the idea came but the writing of it took about a year or two, including revisions and rewrites before it was ready.

3. What advice would you give to a writer working on their first book? 

Read, read and read some more. Especially read the types of books you would like to write. It will help you with the craft of writing—pay attention to the structure of the sentences and patterns of paragraphs, word choice, punctuation, and rhythm. Try to figure out what it is about certain books that you like. Analyze certain techniques they use and mimic them.

4. Does writing energize or exhaust you? Or both?

Definitely both.When I am in the zone, I feel energized or when I am revising and it is flowing, I love that feeling. However, when I am stuck staring at a blank page, trying to come up with a new idea or trying to come up with that perfect satisfying and unique ending, then it can be quite exhausting.

5. Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?

From many places. Sometimes from life experience, such as with THE GIFT SHOP BEAR.(Se answer 2) Or from watching a movie, reading an article or even just creating a new illustration. When I need specific information, I enjoy researching on the internet or at the library or at a book store.

6. When did you first call yourself a writer?

When my debut book was printed and delivered and I held the actual printed hard bound book in my hand. 

7. What part of the book did you have the hardest time writing?

The ending. It is so important to have a satisfying ending and especially one that is an unexpected.

8. What do you think makes a good story?

One that tugs at your heart and makes you feel true joy or that brings tears of sadness.

9. What is the best money you’ve ever spent with regard to your writing?

When I hired a professional published children’s book author to critique my manuscript. I admired her books and knew we had a similar voice and writing style. I received invaluable suggestions and a critique that I knew I could trust and her suggestions made my manuscript so much stronger.

10. What is a significant way your book has changed since the first draft?

The original setting in THE GIFT SHOP BEAR was in a book store but when I realized the store would be closing, it was too depressing to have a book store go out of business so I changed it to Nana’s Gift Shop closing because of her retiring which made for a much kinder plot and that’s when I realized it had to be a Christmas book! 





Phyllis Harris – author/illustrator
Take a peek at my book, THE GIFT SHOP BEAR 

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