Friday, May 17, 2013

An Interview with Sandy Wardman – Author of the illustrated Southwest Folktale Series for Children…

Review Here
Review Here
Review Here

Sandy Wardman is the Author of the Three Southwest Folktale  Children's Books Shown Here. 
These books are so unique that I’ve asked Sandy to give Philosophy of Romance this interview.

1. How did this series come about?  Whose idea was it?  Were you filling a gap in the market or was this just something you wanted to do…like a labor of love.


When I retired from teaching I wanted to write. I had twenty years experience with kindergarten and since they say write what you know, I thought it would be fun to write children’s picture books.
I live in the Southwest and love the animals of the Southwest so I targeted them for my characters. My husband is a biologist, so we have always been interested in wildlife and enjoy observing them while out camping. It seemed natural to focus my stories on them.

Sandy's RV Office

One thing I discovered is that writing children’s picture books is not as easy as it would seem. In fact, I think they are more difficult than a novel. You only have 500-1,000 words to develop plot, character arc and action. So each word has to count.
I noticed this right away. These are full stories with a plot, a beginning, a middle, and an end. Each also offers an essential lesson or moral. You have used a vocabulary, images, and situations children can understand and find interesting.
2. Tell us about the artwork. It’s all full color and of the highest quality. Many of the full page pictures are suitable for framing. Can you tell us something about the artist?
The artist, Jeff West, was hired by the publisher to illustrate the manuscripts.  I’m just going to quote now from Jeff’s website.
 Jeff West is a visual effects artist and a formally trained artist. He started designing T-shirts and drawing caricatures at theme parks and went on to serve as the lead visual effects artist on the POWER RANGERS television series, and contributed to ANGEL, MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE, SABRINA THE TEENAGE WITCH, WEIRD SCIENCE, FRIENDS, THE TWILIGHT ZONE,and CARNIVALE. West worked on the smash hit TV series BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, and recently contributed visual effects work to the series FRINGE, KINGS, VALENTINE, CHARMED, CSI , and OVER THERE.
He was recently nominated for an Emmy for his work on The TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES. Movie credits:VAN HELSING, MAN ON FIRE, THE PUNISHER, SIMON BIRCH, and KNOCKOFF. Storyboard artist on SMALLVILLE, BIRDS OF PREY,VAMPIRE BATS. He also did boards for Rolland Emmerich's "2012" and VACANCY 2. Commercials list:Mazda, Vibe.Music videos DMX, Sheryl Crow, In Sync. Companies: Modern VideoFilm, Encore Hollywood, CBS Digital, Pixomondo,Zoic Studios. He currently freelances as a graphic artist and illustrator, doing storyboards, conceptual designs, and other work for films, bands, and kids books.
I can sure pick out talent, can’t I?  When I first saw the artwork in these books, I had to have them all. I have a good and dear friend who is an accomplished artist and I’ve already sent him “Cody the Coyote” .
3. Are these books designed for classroom use? Home schooling? Who did you have in mind as readers when you wrote these books?

Sandy Wardman

My husband and I travel to all of the National Parks and in their gift shops they have animal books.  I targeted that market, but have yet to break into it.
I do know that teachers and home school moms use my books.  The stories are fiction but in the back there are non-fiction fun facts about each animal.
4. What gave you the idea to improve on “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”? It would not have occurred to me to even try to update that classic tale and yet your version is improved in many different ways. I mentioned these improvements in my review of the book.
We were traveling in Southwestern Utah and there were many educational displays in the National Forest about the prairie dogs. I thought they would be a fun animal to write about. When I did the research on them I discovered they actually have a different bark for each predator. From that came the idea of using The Boy Who Cried Wolf theme and Percival became the naughty prairie dog.
Sandy's RV
I also learned that when you fictionalize an animal, you have to give them the same behavior and characteristics they would have naturally. So when Percival was punished, he had to do what prairie dogs do—like pick fleas off his cousins, bring grass for the baby prairie dog’s nest, etc.
I’ve also learned in my writing association (Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) that you can use the themes from fairy tales.  Many authors have done so. It was fun to do. I had no intention of improving on the fairy tale. I was simply trying to adapt the story to the behavior of a prairie dog.
5. Do you have any plans for additional books to the series?
I do have two other stories written, Annie the Antelop and Alphie the Albino Squirrel.  They haven’t been picked up yet by a publisher.  My publisher for these books is looking at Annie the Antelop so hopefully it will be coming out in the future.
6. Have you thought of doing a version of Native American folktales? Perhaps a Southwestern tribe. I’m thinking here in terms of tales about how animals became the way they are. For example, how the raccoon got the rings on his tail. There are many such tales that try to explain the world to both children and adults.
I thought about it, but to be honest, I would have a difficult time marketing them since I’m not Native American. Another deciding factor is that there are several already out there written by Native Americans.

A Nice Place to Write Stories

7. Tell us about the marketing? These books must be expensive to produce and yet they are not expensive; however, they are also not for sale on Amazon. How are they sold?
The marketing of these books has been a learning experience. My publisher does not work with distributors which makes it difficult for in store placement. Most stores want to buy their books from one source rather than setting up accounts with each publisher. I have had many store owners tell me they would stock the books until they discover they can’t be purchased from a distributor.
My publisher did have them on Amazon, but took them off when he put them on I-Tunes. They are really great on I-Tunes.  I’m not sure why he took them off Amazon.
To buy them online, you can purchase them from my webpage.   
Sandy Playing Pickleball
I also sell them at craft fairs when I’m in the RV resorts where I camp. I sell a lot to pickleball friends who purchase them for their grandchildren.  They are my personal best customers. 
We made the books paperback to keep the price down. I purposely kept the price down because people will buy more books if the prices are low.

8. Who do you see as your primary market? I think they are ideal books for a parent or grandparent to read to a child. I’m in my sixties yet each story held my interest.

Sandy and Fan
on the Road.
Grandparents are my best customers. I have discovered that parents rarely buy books as they need their funds for more pressing matters.  But grandparents know the importance of books in the home and they have the money to buy them. They also get a kick out of having the books autographed for their grandchildren.
9. I love the Southwest which actually has it own literary genre. Is there a reason these books are set in the Southwest? Is it your love of the Southwest?
As mentioned above, I do love the Southwest. I have lived in the desert for the last forty plus years. I have probably hiked through most of it over the years and love to simply sit and observe the wildlife around me.
10. You’ve got a lot of different animals in these books. You even had two creatures that I did not even know existed…at least by their names. Is this why you have pictures of every animal that is mentioned? It seems a child would learn a lot more different things with these books than by hearing the normal moral fables.
The artist decided what animals to illustrate.  They try to illustrate what is in the text. I mentioned several animals because they are indigenous to the area. If anyone learns from these books, that is a bonus. I wrote to entertain, but I am a retired teacher so I’m sure educational elements creep in.
11. I am assuming there is a right way or a preferred way to use these books. As the author, how do you see their highest and best use?
I wrote them to entertain children. I pictured them selling in the National Parks bookstores. Often families buy the books in the stores there to provide entertainment for their children while they camp.  That was my intent when writing them.  I’ve yet to break into that market and that has a lot to do with my publisher. However with the paradigm shift in the publishing world, that will change. I think the fact these books are on I-Tunes at a low price will bring lots of entertainment to the children. Today’s children are electronically oriented so they will enjoy the I-Tunes versions. 
12. Some of the animals are very cute like Percival the prairie dog but some like the coyote are pretty scary–especially the coyote with his teeth bared.  How do young kids react to that picture?
Girls love the cute pictures. Boys love the scary pictures. For that reason it is good that each book has both.
13. Can you tell us about  your actual experiences in reading these books to children. I’d love to hear how the children have reacted. Was it what you expected as an author or have the children surprised you?
My most popular book is "Hector Wants To Play". I think the fact it is in rhyme is the reason. Children love rhyme. They love to look at the pictures and point to the animals. Its almost like they see something different each time the stories are read.
Rhyme is easy to remember and if you read the story often, soon they are reading with you even when they haven’t learned to read yet. I love that.
14. Is there anything you’d like to add that I have not asked you?
Can’t think of anything Vince.  You were pretty thorough.  Smile!  But if you think of something else later, fire away. 
Thank you Sandy. I know I ask a lot of questions. Thankfully, you had the answers for us.
You Can Purchase These Books Direct From The Author's Website here.



  1. This was a wonderful interview! but I'm really feeling there's a distribution problem here. Sandy, can you get your publisher to release the rights to you? When do they revert? They need to be widely available... For you to travel the countryside, putting them in bookstores yourself doesn't make any sense, if the primary benefit of a traditional publisher is DISTRIBUTION. :( :(
    I'm really looking forward to seeing these books EVERYWHERE. Find out why they're not on Amazon (since it's only Smashwords and Kindle that don't play together). You should be able to get them on multiple platforms without any issues!
    Gorgeous work. wonderful stories! And Vince, love this interview!

  2. Hi Virginia:

    Can you get rights back when there is a world class illustrator invovled? I would not think so.

    I think with I Tunes things will open up when the word gets out.


  3. Virginia, I agree with you about Vince's article. Thank you Vince.

    I have been trying to work with this publisher for ages. He insists that the paradigm shift will occur and change things. I agree with Vince, the illustrator makes the books so appealing and adorable. To reprint these I would have to find another illustrator.

    ITunes will open up sales I'm sure. Young people today love their electronic devices and will read those before they pick up a book. Times are changing.

  4. Great interview, Vince and Sandra! So much talent and effort went into your children's books. I'm so impressed. Especially upon reading you only have 500-1000 words for a complete story arc. Wow.

    I'd noticed right away the illustrations were very defined and eye-catching. No wonder. Your illustrator is one of the best in the business : )

    Great post and terrific insight into a wonderful author. Oh yeah, I'm really envious of your mobile office, too, LOL!

  5. Hi Audra:

    Funny you should mention the number of words in these stories. I did not believe that 500 to 1000 words could be right. So I counted the words in two of the stories. (Someone has the third book!)

    Just look at this!!!

    “Hector Wants to Play” has a total of 280 words! And it rhymes!

    “Percival the Prairie Dog” has 438 words! I guess you need more words if the text does not rhyme.

    I was thinking these would be closer to 2,000 words. In advertising this would be an economy of words only the most skillful copywriters could hope to obtain. Amazing.

    Practical benefit: you can read your kids a story and not take all night to do it! ☺

    About the illustrations: I’ve worked with artists for my whole advertising career and we had many disagreements. The illustrations in Sandy’s book are perfect to the copy. Perfect. There is no way I would want to see this team break up.