Author Interview: Marilla Mulwane

Info about the author:

There isn’t much to say about Marilla Mulwane. She comes from a small town in upstate New York where she writes, reads, plays video games, and makes crafts. She just wants to be a writer and for folks to read her work. Nothing fancy. Of course, if it leads to fame, fortune, and world domination, she won’t complain.


Twitter: @RillaMulwane



Are you a full time author? Or do you have another job between writing? When did you start writing professionally? Sadly I am not a full time author but I plan to be someday! I do write for a living as a freelance content writer. I write about anything the client asks of me which is pretty cool because I learn so much new stuff on a daily basis.

Is Zucchini’s Zany Life the first book you’ve ever written? Nope. I’ve written two novellas (Halos and Brimstone and A Story About Heroes) as well as an entire fantasy series (first book to hit shelves in 2018!) and two prequels (free to read!) for the Ilmarinen series.

My cousin had a pair of ducks when he was growing up. They were the meanest birds I had ever run into; they were farm ducks that chased the dogs and even the donkeys! They ended up giving the ducks away to another farm because they were just too much to handle, though I bet my cousin would have benefitted from reading your guide. What inspired you to write basically a guide to owning a duck for children? My family had ducks when I was younger. They were small bantams and cute as babies. As adults the males were a bit nasty and would attack our shoes. I loved them but didn’t realize how much you could actually bond with ducks until I got Zucchini. I kept seeing videos and pictures online of other people with pet ducks or kids with ducks as service companions and thanks to Zucchini I understand how wonderful ducks are to have as pets like that. I did a Google and Amazon search and found zero…absolutely zero…books on raising ducks indoors. I decided to be the first.

For anyone interested in getting a pet duck, what additional resources would you recommend? Any basic duck care book will at least help you learn about duck behavior, but the care information isn’t very useful. The best thing is to just find all those videos and photos of people with their pet ducks to see how special it can be. There is a great one out there of a duck helping a little boy take a bath! J

What was your favorite part about writing Zucchini’s Zany Life? Any fun memories you want to share, especially with Zucchini? My favorite part of writing the book was remembering the zany things she has done over time. I would ask family and friends about things they remember so there was a lot of “remember that time she ate the green eraser?” or “how about that time she smacked her head on the floor while bathing in the dog dish and we all freaked out that she cracked her skull?”

What was the hardest part about writing your book? Or were there any challenges that you had to overcome either writing the book or getting it published? Honestly, my biggest fear writing this book was getting blasted by animal rights people who might try to say my care for Zucchini was somehow bad for her. Clipping her wings, for example, or that she was in an environment so different from tradition and how it might be bad for her health. I wanted to make sure what I wrote could also protect me which is why I said to go to the vet for the first clipping because then nobody could follow my own steps, hurt their duck, and then blame me. And keeping your duck indoors actually eliminates many of the health issues she would face when outdoors, but also creates some new problems. So, yeah, fear of being told I was a horrible duck parent was the hardest part.

Do you have any advice for new duck owners or those thinking of owning ducks? If you can’t keep your house clean, don’t do it. I stress this so much in the book because it really is the hardest part of duck care. Otherwise, my advice is to just go get a duck. You will be so happy with your feathered companion.

I ask this of a lot of authors, but I like to see what they say and get their own views. If you had any advice to give any upcoming authors, what would it be? Never give up. I have always wanted to have books published by traditional publishers but that is so difficult today. That doesn’t mean you can’t try. Self-pub smaller works to get your name out there and prove that you are worth it. Even if you keep getting rejections, you are still worth it in the eyes of the readers and fans you’ve made. It’s the readers that matter, not the publishing house name on the inside of the book. Honestly, how many times do you pick up a book to read because it came from a certain publisher? I know I don’t. The hardest part will be finding those readers but there are so many resources out there to help you get started.

What made you decide to add illustrations to your guide? Is this a pretty normal procedure, especially if the target audience is kids? As you can tell, neither Jill nor I have much experience with reading nonfiction, especially pet guides! I’ve never written a children’s book or pet guide before. I just wanted to add illustrations to give the book some more life and make readers smile. I thought they would be a great way to separate the lessons and the memories. I also felt it made the book look better than just tossing in my badly taken pictures. I still added those pictures, but at the end away from the main book.

Was it hard finding an illustrator for Zucchini’s Zany Life? Do you have any advice for authors looking for an illustrator? It was very easy to find an illustrator because Elisa is my bestie. J We have known each other since we were kids. I am the writer and she is the artist and together we both tackled social media and publishing our work and getting our names out there. It seemed natural that I would ask her to do the illustrations for this book. She did an awesome job, too! Her work is much more colorful and anime style but she did an amazing job with this simpler style I wanted for Zucchini. As for advice, I did go to Fiverr and found a newbie artist who was just starting out and asked him to draw some art for my Ilmarinen series once. He helped me and I helped him. That might be a good way to find someone when you are on a tight budget.

Now let’s ask the illustrator of Zucchini’s Zani Life, Ms. Elisa Ferguson, some questions! I’ve never had the opportunity to ask an illustrator any questions so please bear with me.

Ms. Ferguson, when did you first start illustrating for authors? Was Zucchini’s Zany Life your first or are there others?  This was actually the very first time I illustrated anything past a cover of a book, believe it or not. I have always thought about making a book of my own, but I never went forward with it. Although this was my first actual book, I will actually be releasing adult coloring books in the near future. I have, however, illustrated a few different covers for the author for her self-published books “Halos and Brimstone,” “Edin: An Ilmarinen Prequel” and “Serenity: An Ilmarinen Prequel.”

How did you meet the author? I befriended the author’s sister, Erin, when I was a young child and moved into the same school district. It was almost 5 years after I met her sister that I got involved with Rilla. She is now my best friend, and we have been that way for almost 20 years now.

I’ve always been curious about how being an illustrator for a book works. Does the author give you a list of ideas that the want drawn? Do you read the manuscript and draw pictures for the sections that inspire you? The best thing about working with an author that you already know so well is that you have the opportunity to discuss the different points of the book and be able to produce ideas with one another. I was able to read the points of the book, and having seen the precious star of the book in all her feathered glory I knew how she would settle, react and her personality. I was very lucky to have the opportunity to illustrate such a glorious creature. Rilla was clear on the points of the book she wanted pictures for, we came up with the chapter ideas and I worked from that point.

I used to draw when I was bored in school, took a couple of art classes too to give me a break between science classes. When did you start drawing? Did you always want to be an illustrator? As corny as it sounds, as with many artists I was drawing from the beginning point that I could pick up a pencil. I used to doodle to take the stress of the world around me and mute it. I took many art classes in school, because I just plain enjoyed it. I got more serious however when I had heart surgery at 16, and was stuck out of doing all the fun things everyone else was doing around me. I actually at the very beginning wanted to be an animator.

What’s your favorite part about being an illustrator? It’s definitely being able to put ideas down on paper to share it with the world around me. I always have so many ideas floating around in my head, so being able to put them down on paper for others to enjoy with me is a huge favorite pass time.

What’s your favorite medium to work with? What do you like to use for fun? Without a doubt I love to use markers and inking pens. My main medium is Spectrum markers, sharpies and Fabre-Castell pens to ink. I always use a mixed medium paper to make it clean. I occasionally will go about and try watercolor paints and acrylic paints, but markers are my go to.

Do you have any advice for aspiring artists/illustrators? PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE. I go out to different markets, and when I find that aspiring 10 year old I always tell them the same thing. Draw something every day, whether it’s a full piece or just a small, sloppy sketch. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just putting the pen/pencil to paper is a huge step in the right direction. Don’t get discouraged, we are our own worst critics and even if you compare yourself to someone better you KEEP DRAWING. You will not get better if you don’t try, that idea will never see the light of day if you don’t put it out into the world. Find someone who believes in you. I have befriended a great many artists, and like minded people always help bounce ideas and teach you new things. Experiment, you may not do well with colored pencils, but maybe watercolors or markers will be more to your choosing. I believe that Bob Ross said it best, “It’s so important to do something every day that will make you happy.” If you aspire, you can create.

For any authors lurking this blog, don’t forget to check out Inkett’s writing contest

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