Mary Jo Hazard author of “The Peacocks of Palos Verdes” is a member of my critique group (SCBW&I) in Redondo Beach. We, Devi, Jale’, and Lia are so proud of her. She is working hard marketing her first picture book.. Recently her book received a review from Publishers Weekly. We were ecstatic! So I decided to interview her and place it on my blog. Here goes:
What books influenced you most when you were growing up?
When I was young I loved the Bobbsey Twin books. I loved the Bobbsey family with the two sets of twins and I really liked the fact that it was a series—that I could keep reading about them, adventure after adventure.
Were you an avid reader?
I was an avid reader; it wasn’t unusual for me to take 7 to 10 books out of the library every week.
What was the inspiration behind your book?
I live in a community where there are peacocks—amazing exotic birds. I wanted to know how where they came from, how long they’ve been here, what their habits are, all about them and no one had written a book about them. I wanted one for my grandchildren so I researched and wrote one.
Did you write as a child? If not, when did you begin?
I always wrote stories from the time I was seven or eight. I wrote stories about my paper dolls—created families and lives for them.
How long did it take you to write the book?
It took me about two years from start to finish. I wrote revised, matched photographs to the verse, revised, revised and revised.
Do you outline your book or do you just go straight into writing it?
I went straight into writing it then decided I needed to put order into my information, so I outlined it then.
What is your message to aspiring writers?
My advice is to surround yourself with books, take some classes, join critique groups, find a mentor and write.
Do you have any advice for writers who are currently in the process of editing or rewriting their book?
You’ve already done the hard work—the ideas are there, revising is the fun part. You know the characters, the way they act, their problems and the ending—just polish your manuscript, get critiques and suggestions from other writers and start writing your query letter and synopsis.
What advice would you give to anyone who wants to write a book or is currently writing a book?
Give it your all. Try to get your book published, but this is the best time ever to self-publish if you can’t get a publisher. Self-publishing is very doable now—easy to do and increasingly acceptable.
When did you know you were going to be a writer?
I answered an ad and then wrote “THE WELCOME WAGON COLUMN” for the Peninsula News for a couple of years in the 80’s, and received compliments on my writing back then.
How has your life changed since you got published?
My life changed dramatically after "The Peacocks of Palos Verdes" came out. I was featured in the local newspapers and magazines, interviewed and read my book on NPR, continually market myself, read at schools, speak at author’s luncheons, do book signings and am always at work on promotional material.
What’s your typical day as a writer like?
I usually write in the morning—early morning if I have an idea or am under pressure—sometimes get up at 3 a.m. or 4 a.m. Sometimes I write all day and am surprised at how quickly time passes.
Do you have any writing-related rituals or quirks?
No—so far I haven’t experienced any writer’s block or superstitions. I do wake up with ideas in the middle of the night and get up and write them down—otherwise I can’t go back to sleep.
Are you currently working on any other projects?
Yes, on a teacher’s guide for “Peacocks,” a contest at the library, and a couple of other books for children.
What would you like to say to your young readers?
I’m so happy they have enjoyed my book, I hope it educates and entertains them about the marvelous peacocks in Palos Verdes.
Is there any advice that you would like to give them?
Keep reading—never stop. There are so many good books to read, so much to learn, so many places to go through the pages.