Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Author Interview: Stephanie M Ward: Wally the Warm Weather Penguin

Stephanie M. Ward has been writing in various forms over the last 20 years. Most notably she spent over 15 years in Marketing and PR at Amazon and Fujitsu. Stephanie's wanderlust finally got the best of her and she spent a year traveling across all seven continents. It was then that she decided to focus on writing stories for children about amazing places around the world.

Your real name and pen name?

Stephanie Mantello Ward (I use an M. for my maiden name as my pen name.)

Please share some of the best memories of your childhood.

I was born and raised in Spokane, WA on the West Coast of the US. Summers are long and hot. My grandparents had an orchard, so during the summer we picked and ate massive amounts of cherries, peaches, plums/prunes and pears. My favorite memories are of playing with my sister and neighborhood friends for hours on end. We biked, explored, ran, built, experimented and performed every day until we were exhausted. Ah, the good old days!

About your education?

I studied at Santa Clara University in California and majored in business. Then I went to the University of San Francisco to get my MBA in marketing while working at a high tech company in Silicon Valley. I still continue to take classes as an adult in foreign languages, cooking and, of course, writing.

What career did you plan during your education days?

I always thought I'd be a "business person", quite vague, I know, but it ended up true. I worked in the corporate world for over 15 years before becoming a writer.
Steph in Japan

What languages you can speak and write?

English is my native language, but after three years in France (and a lot of hours of study) I can read and carry on a basic conversation in French.

What is your biggest source of inspiration in life?

My husband is always thinking about new ways to approach life. He is the main reason we haven't "settled down". Since I've know him, we've lived in San Francisco, New York, Paris, Seattle and Sydney. He inspires me to think differently (or at least think) about all the things we may take for granted or simply accept as a "normal" way of life.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced? How did you overcome it?

Working in France was a tres grand challenge. Being an American with an obvious American accent was always an obstacle. But I knew that I could offer relevant experience and help the company grow, so I focused on learning as much about the local business, culture and language as I could.
Steph in Antarctica with Wally

What is your favorite genre and why?

I love children's books because they can be incredibly creative, touching, educational, funny and engaging all at once. Seeing a child light up or laugh out loud when something clicks with them is just magical.

When did you start writing? What is the purpose of your writing?

I always say that it took 10 years to write my first children's book, but the reality is that I've been writing my whole life. I wrote a story in second grade about a dog that gets abducted by aliens and I was so absorbed by writing that it ended being over four pages long (that's a lot for an 8 year old)!

The purpose of my writing is to try to teach children something new about the world around them. In addition, I try to give back to the local community that inspired the story. In the case of Wally the Warm-Weather Penguin, I worked with an illustrator from Ecuador (where the story is based) and donate a portion of the proceeds to the Galapagos Conservancy ( that works on various projects supporting the conservation of the Galapagos Islands.

Which of your work has been published so far? Would you like to share a synopsis of your work?

My first book, Wally the Warm-Weather Penguin (that I reviewed here), was independently published by Forwards Press. The story is about an Emperor Penguin from Antarctica who doesn't like being cold. When he learns about the Galapagos Islands, he sets sail immediately in search of warm weather and discovers a world of tap-dancing crabs, hundred year old racing tortoises and diving birds with bright, blue feed.

What are your forthcoming writings?

Currently, I'm working on a picture book version of Wally the Warm-Weather Penguin for older children. I hope to have this edition out by the end of 2014.

What are your future plans?

Writing lots of books! There are so many interesting (and warm) places that Wally wants to visit! In addition, my technically-savvy husband is already working on a Wally app. 
Steph in Chile

How much real life goes into a fiction writing?

The children's stories I write are based on my travels, so much of my writing is a re-creation of adult experiences for kids. I was fortunate to be able to travel for a year after my husband and I were married. In that time, we visited both Antarctica and the Galapagos Islands amassing hundreds of photos of the amazing scenery and unique animals in these two remote and isolated places. It was the process of looking back at these wonderful moments in time that inspired Wally's story.

Your dream destination on Earth?

There are so many amazing places to visit on Earth, but always find myself dreaming about the AmalfiCoast in Italy. 

Your favorite time of the day?


Your zodiac/ sunsign?


Your favorite color and why?

Orange - it's vibrant, bright and happy.

Your favorite book and why?

Anna Karenina - even after 700+ pages, I was hoping it wouldn't end!

Your favorite food?

Italian food - I know that's an entire genre of food, but when asked "What if you could only have one type of food for the rest of your life?", I'd have to pick Italian. One dish, ugh, probably my dad's cheesecake. 

Some quickies: 
Sun or Moon - Moon
Laughter or Smile - Laughter 
Morning or Evening - Evening 
Coffee or Tea - COFFEE (specifically, a double latte!)
Mountain or Sea - Sea 
Long Drive or Short Drive - Short Drive (after years of commuting in the Bay Area, I've put in enough time on the road)
Silence or Conversation - Silence
Water or Fire - Water
Air or Earth - Earth 
Mars or Jupiter - Jupiter 
Tulip or Rose - Rose
Red or Blue - Red
Left or Right - Left 
Glance or Stare - Glance

What three words come to your mind for each: 

Technology - Fast, Complex, Advanced
Life - Appreciate each moment!
Humanity - Hope, Goodness, Uncertainty 
Racism…has no place. unbounded.
Parenting - the best job!

State your signature line/ tagline/ best quote

“You must go on adventures to find out where you belong.” ― Sue Fitzmaurice

The last line of your autobiography would be…

I'm living life to the fullest!

Twitter handle: @StephMWard
Facebook page:

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