Olga D’Agostino (or MRS. D. as you may know her) is a bestselling author of children’s books and short stories. Her books are enjoyed by children the world over, and she has just released her first short story entitled, “The Little Girl Praying on the Hill.” Her bestselling children’s book, “The Trees Have Hearts,” will be on sale over the next week! You will be able to get a copy of this wonderful E-book for 99 cents. If you, like me, enjoy great books, you will want to get a copy of this one.
Q) Good morning, Olga!
Q) How do you find “inspiration” for your stories and, for those who can’t find it, where does it live?
Inspiration lives everywhere: in everyday life, nature, people, animals, books, art, and the past. I am older now, and I have a storehouse of memories. Sometimes it is hard to go back in time and recall everything, but once I’ve pushed my “refresh button,” there is no way out. My inspiration tortures me until I convert my memories into a story.
Q) What really inspires you as a writer?
Countless little things can inspire a writer to write a great story. Inspiration is a fantastic feeling, and a good writer knows how to bring it to readers. I think life experiences provide the most interesting inspirations. The older I get, the more things inspire me. I was always a nature worshiper. I absolutely adore the beauty and power of the natural world. I love to observe it in action: wild, unleashed, destroying or healing, soothing or comforting. Nature is an amazing muse for any writer!
I also look around me. I watch people, recall events, dig into my past, reread books, think of interesting facts, and the most significant events I have lived through. I try to find inspiration in answers which did not make sense when I was younger, or attempt to discover it in things which are foreign to me. I strive to imagine how these elements will fit my story, how they will connect to the reader, how they will mix with the modern world, and how they will interact with my memories, which are still inspiring me to this very day. My memories feed my imagination the most.
Q) How interesting! So when did you first consider yourself to be a writer?
I do not consider myself a professional writer. I would rather call myself an inspiring storyteller. I write spontaneously. I like to catch moments, small chapters from life. I feel more productive when I write from the heart, when I do not have to think about a deadline or how many people will like or dislike my book, or whether it will be a bestseller or just collect dust on a shelf. I write because writing has been a part of me for so long that I feel as if we have become inseparable friends who cannot live without each other.
Q) What makes a great cover for an “inspired storyteller”?
A cover that grabs a reader from the first glance and sparks an interest in a book. A cover that represents the story, intrigues, and captures one’s interest. A cover that stands out from the crowd, unique and different. A cover that makes the reader stop and buy a book. With this said, the artwork on the cover should never overpower the story. It should be simple but attractive. It should lure the potential reader into holding the book, and make them want to know more about the story. My advice: hire a professional. A writer is not the same as a designer.
Q) But as a writer, you are creative, even if you aren’t a designer. Where do those concepts come from?
As a children’s writer,I love beautifully illustrated books. It is easier for me because I work with the illustrator from the very beginning. First we complete the artwork and then we choose the cover from the illustrations we have created. If we do not find one that fits the story the best, then we create a new illustration, which brings the book to life. The cover should speak to the reader. It should be a sneak peek inside the story. It should guide readers to the story before they flip through the pages.
I know I have achieved my vision for my children’s books through the art of a very talented illustrator, Chanoa, who has illustrated most of my books.Her amazing covers are full of color and fun. In print, her artwork looks fantastic, vivid and gentle, amusing and pleasant to the eye. Chanoa’s talent is apparent in each stroke of her pen. She likes to create adorable, mischievous characters in light pastel colors. She is an extremely ambitious, creative, and talented young artist, who always impresses readers with her beautiful and unusual artwork. She is also excellent when she works in the realistic style. Experienced with both dark and light colors, Chanoa continues to work on my series of books on Carlo the Mouse and a few other books. She also created the sweet cover for my new book, The Little Girl Praying on the Hill, my first short story for adults.
Q) How many times have you started a story without finishing?
I have a few unfinished books that desperately need my attention. I am not worried about their future, because I know where I want to take the reader. Sometimes the story comes to my mind and I put it on paper, then something else distracts me or I lose my focus, or just have no time to work on the new story. Paper does not ask for food. So I let it sit on my desk until I get around to it.
Q) Who is the most inspiring individual you’ve ever met?
My mother, a simple peasant woman, who did not have the chance to become who she deserved to be. A woman who has great compassion for people and a huge hunger for knowledge. A woman who sacrificed herself for others. A woman who pushed herself to the limit so her children could live their dreams. A mother who was always there when we needed her. I only wish I were half as great as my mother.
Q) How did you find your writing style?
I think the style found me. By nature, I am a romantic soul, who is drawn toward romances and nonfiction novels. When I write for children, I mix two styles: realistic fiction with modern fantasies. Usually, I twist true events with unrealistic characters, which teach children to conquer problems, build self-esteem, and overcome challenges.
Q) Can you define success?
I am happy where I am now. I like my privacy, and for that reason, I do not want to be famous. I write books because I want children to develop a taste for reading, learn life’s lessons, and just have fun while learning something. I also want to spark discussions between children and parents. I want children to shower their parents, grandparents, and teachers with questions about important things and everything they find interesting in my books. I want them to grow into readers for life.
Q) So, for you, what is a writer’s heaven?
Library, bookstore, thrift stores, nature, a small old town, an escape into the centuries of ancient streets, a cozy hideaway with tiny coffee shops, sipping a freshly brewed espresso and watching people walking by, sitting with a notebook on the steps of the old church and watching the world passing in front of one’s eyes. Maybe the empty beach,a great place to unwind and work under the music of waves. The majestic mountainswould put any writer into the mood. It is an amazing feeling to be in touch with nature, listening to the whispering wind as it spreads the aroma of wildflowers. It certainly stimulates the senses and helps one to write good stories. There are many tiny havens for any writer.
Q) Can you tell me what your new book “The Little Girl Praying on the Hill” is about in ten words?
“The Little Girl Praying on the Hill” is a story of hope, strength, deep emotions, and determination to find a way to survive in a world that is so beautiful and yet so sad.
Q) How often have you read another writer’s book and said, “I can do better than that” to yourself?
I do not judge other authors for their work. If I do not like a book, I do not waste my time reading it. Each reader has different taste and needs. What is good for one reader may not be a perfect read for another. Sometimes a great book comes to the wrong readers and is slapped with an awful review because it happens to fall into the wrong hands—maybe a pessimist who is frustrated with life or has other issues, or one who does not appreciate or understand a certain writing style. I do not write bad reviews. I always remember how much time, effort, and money it takes to publish one small book. If I like a book, I will definitely let the author know how much I enjoyed his or her work.
Q) Do you have any advice for newbie writers?
Everything in life can be chronicled. You just have to have the guts to do it. A writer’s worst enemy is self-doubt. I strongly believe that the best stories live inside each of us. Look around and write! Let your imagination see the world! Make your story uniquely yours. Write what you know, write what you feel, write what you love, write because you want to.
When you are ready to publish your book, do your homework and make sure your book is professionally edited. Create a professional-looking book, one which will not get lost among the millions of poorly published books. Make your book one that you would want to buy for yourself or for your child. If you are a children’s writer, forget your age and envision your book as children would. Get involved in each illustration. Nobody knows and feels your book better than you do.
Writing is the easy task; publishing and marketing is a business. These days, an author must also be a smart businessperson. To be a self-publishing author, you will have to learn every aspect of publishing. Lastly, when you publish your book, you will wish that a day had 48 hours, because there will be no time left for writing. Writers today must be very business-oriented and be devoted to social media to promote their books. So do not quit your day job yet. Wait until you become famous. Don’t give up! If you really believe you have something to say to the world, SAY IT!
Q) Do you find time to write every day?
I do not write just to write. I do not write to create a few thousand words each day. I write when I feel, when emotions slowly transform themselves into words and then quickly overload my mind, forming sentences and paragraphs, until I let them out. I write when I am in a happy, sad, angry, or melancholy mood, or just have something to share with the reader. For me, writing is rewarding, almost therapeutic. It consumes all my bad energy, making me feel alive and vibrant. It is as if I escape to a beautiful oasis, where I can reconnect with my soul.
Q) Do you go through a lot of drafts?
Because I am perfectionist, I review my drafts many times. Usually, my first instinct is always on target. I may feed it a little bit with extra words or change some sentences or paragraphs, but I try to stick to the original version as much as possible.
Q) To what extent is your fiction autobiographical?
My new story,The Little Girl Praying on the Hill, has many emotional ties to my early childhood. It is based on memories of my life in the Soviet Union in the early 1960s.
Q) How do you know when a chapter is “just” right?
I rewrite my chapter until it flows smoothly and reads effortlessly. When I finish one chapter, I let it sit for a while. Usually, I work on another project to distract myself from the story. When I feel it’s time to go back, I read the chapter again, and if it reads easily, then I have it right. If not, then I rewrite it again. Sometimes, I let my friend (a fellow author) or my husband read it. He is very critical and honest. Writing can be stubborn and cause many sleepless nights.
Q) How do you like to write? By the pool? On the bed? In the car? What’s your heavenly writing situation?
I think about stories in the most unusual places, but I write them in my sunroom where I have set up my writing table and where I feel most comfortable. I only share this room with my cat, who is very protective of my old computer.
Q) Do you feel supported as a writer?
I am blessed with my friends and family, who are very supportive of my writing, especially my husband, Patrick, who loves literature and appreciates good books. He was the one who discovered my writing and pushed me to publish my stories. He is not only my biggest financial donor but he also contributes a lot of his free time to help me improve my English and organize all my book events.
Since I wrote my first story, my two daughters, Viktoriya and Veronika, have also become a huge part of my journey. They are very devoted to my work and attend every event and book signing. Some of the local businesses are supportive, too. They’ve organized a few memorable book signings and author’s days for me. They’ve also invited me for book festivals, book readings, and events in schools and libraries. Sadly, the big local bookstores in my area do not support self-publishing authors.
Q) How do you think your new book will be received by readers?
I think The Little Girl Praying on the Hillwill be received well. Ithas a deepness, which makes readers think. I hope it will plunge them into the life of the young child and make them think about their purpose on this earth. Through the eyes of the child, they will see two different worlds: sad reality and beautiful imagination. I believe stories like this could help growing generations better understand life and the human spirit, and help them value what they have. It may change their views about the disadvantaged and the forgotten.
CLICK ON THE COVERS TO MEET THE BOOKS!