About Tonya Duncan Ellis:
Tonya Duncan Ellis is author of the Amazon bestselling Sophie Washington children’s books series, geared toward readers ages 8 to 12, and she’s a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). Tonya loves to travel and has visited 49 American states, 20 countries, and three continents, but some of her best journeys have been between the pages of a novel. As a girl she could always be found with a book in her hand, and reading is still one of her favorite hobbies. When she’s not reading or writing, the author likes to ride her bike, swim, and spend time with her husband and three kids. She lives in Houston, TX.
What inspires you to write?
When it comes to working with young people, you name it, I’ve done it. Besides being a mother of three children I’ve been a school room mom, team mom, Sunday school leader, tween group leader, and chaperoned countless field trips. I love kids, and I’m inspired daily by the antics of my own crew and their friends, kids I work with at my church, and my nieces and nephews. I’ve been a voracious reader since I could hold a book, and as an adult I’ve always enjoyed reading with children and making up stories to tell them. When my kids started requesting to hear my made-up stories at bedtime rather than have me read the famous books we’d checked out at the library I realized I was on to something. They wanted stories about kids who looked like them and who were in situations they could relate to. My natural love of reading and writing led me to pen and publish my own stories, which has been the realization of a lifelong dream.
Tell us about your writing process.
I’m more of a seat of the pants writer than an outliner, meaning I put my seat in a chair and start typing on my computer! Ideas come to me frequently throughout the day and I record them in my phone or on a notepad to recall them later. When I start a book, I write down a summary paragraph detailing highlights of the storyline and then write out several chapter titles as a framework to work from. I’m most productive early in the morning or mid-afternoon, right after lunchtime. I don’t like lots of noise going on around me when I write. If I really want to make progress on a book, I sometimes get up around 5 a.m. and work before the rest of my family wakes up to ensure I get lots of words down on the page. I have known the ending of some of my stories from the time I started working on them, but in a few of my books the characters have led me to the end destination.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
I went to a writer’s workshop this fall and the speaker urged us to spend time talking to and getting to know our characters, even if those around us might think we need to take a trip to the Walgreen’s pharmacy for meds! I don’t talk out loud to my characters, but I do consider them similar to friends and family members. I write in first person viewpoint for the main protagonist in my children’s series, Sophie Washington, and sometimes I feel like she is a younger version of myself, or a daughter. When Sophie is in different situations, I imagine how I might act at her age, or what one of my children would do. Antagonists like Lanie Mitchell, the bully in my book Sophie Washington: The Snitch, have back stories that influence their actions and make me have sympathy for them.
What advice would you give other writers?
Don't just talk about it be about it! Set aside time for writing each day to make progress on your projects. Commit to daily writing and word count goals and guard your time to keep them.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
I first published my books through a smaller publishing company, but started to feel restricted in the ways I could market my books. About six months ago, I branched off to self-publish so that I could be more nimble with my marketing activities, and started my own Page Turner Publishing label. It’s been a lot of work, and required plenty of upskill learning, but I am excited about the growth of my author brand. I hope I’ll be able to reach more readers in the coming months and years.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
New books and authors are emerging each day, and the proliferation of audio and ebooks makes reading anywhere at anytime as easy as the click of a button. I see the industry continuing to grow and flourish with exciting new voices in the coming years.
What do you use?: Professional Editor, Professional Cover Designer, Beta Readers
What genres do you write?: Children's Middle Grade
What formats are your books in?: eBook, Print, Both eBook and Print
All information in this post is presented “as is” supplied by the author. We don’t edit to allow you the reader to hear the author in their own voice.