Interview with Iveta Ongley; Children's author.

Updated: Feb 21

Author interview with "The NZDream" blog

Tell me a bit about yourself….

I come from the Czech Republic but have lived half of my life overseas now, first in England, then the United States, and finally I settled in New Zealand. I’ve always loved working with children and work as an early childhood teacher now. Books have played a huge role in my life and I bring my children up with the love of books as well.

What genre/s do you write in?

I write for children. I have written two picture books; one is for younger toddlers and one for primary-aged children. And I write chapter books for young emergent readers as well. My magical series is called The Adventures of Rosie Hart. I’ve just published Book 3 in the series called Unicorn Mission.

How long have you been writing?

I have been writing something my whole life. My family and friends have always received funny birthday poems from me. I have started playing with the idea of publishing some of my work a few years ago and I’m so happy I have.

Do you have any published books or articles? Tell me a bit about these and what publishing route you took.

I do have five books published. I went the self-publishing route. I can be a quiet and impatient person and I like to control the final look of my books, so traditional publishing wouldn’t fit with me. However, now I have published a few books, I think that I would like a traditionally published book as well. Just to have the experience of both.

My first picture book is called Little Monster’s Book of Feelings. It introduces toddlers to a wide range of feelings as they follow Little Monster playing and overcoming these during his day.

My second picture book is called The Adventures of a Chocolate Bunny. Chocolate Bunny makes a lucky break from the shop and explores the wide world. This book has a surprise ending which might upset some young readers, so it should be read with precaution.

My chapter book series is called The Adventures of Rosie Hart. There are three books in the series so far–Fairy Quest, Mermaid Rescue, and Unicorn Mission. Rosie is a young girl who loves everything magical. She meets many magical creatures and goes on, sometimes dangerous, adventures with them.

Did you use an editor? If so, who?

I used beta readers for my first four books. Some of these were teachers. For my fifth, I still used beta readers, but also an editor, Nevvie Gane.

Did you use a book formatter and cover designer?

I didn’t use anyone for my first four books. I asked for feedback on a few covers related to Facebook groups. However, for my fifth book, I had help. And the cover is definitely the best. I’m having the first two covers of my chapter book series redone a bit now as well and I’m thinking about redoing the Little Monster cover too. That’s one of the biggest mistakes I made, not involving a professional for the cover.

I format my books myself. I find that quite straightforward.

Did you self-publish or get traditionally published? How did this go for you?

As I mentioned above, I self-published. It was a huge learning curve and still is. There are so many parts to the process that nobody tells you at the beginning. It can get quite overwhelming at times. I feel that I am finally starting to get more comfortable in the process and publishing my latest book was certainly the easiest so far, and the book is gaining a nice momentum as well.

How do you market your work and promote your brand? (Include links)

I have a website from which I sell my books

I have an Amazon page too

I have a range of merchandise as well based on the designs from my books, in New Zealand and overseas

What social media and writing platforms would you recommend?

I use Facebook and Instagram at the moment. Social marketing is not my favorite part of marketing for sure. I am on Goodreads as well.

Do you use an agent?

No, I don’t.

Do you use paid advertising? If so, what?

I do Amazon ads at the moment.

Do you have a blog or website?

I do have a website and a few blog posts on it. I need to start writing more for there.

What inspires you most to write?

My children are my biggest inspiration. They always do something fun, something that makes me think about writing another book. I’ve got so many ideas written down that I could write several books each year.

What do you do to help with writer’s block?

I usually turn to a different project for a while. I find that it helps with freeing the brain and then when I come back to the original project; I am full of new ideas and ready to continue.

How do you plan your writing and start?

I usually write a little blurb of the main idea and then map out the storyline and chapters. However, I do find very often that new characters and new incidents just happen as I go. It is definitely an exciting process.

Is writing your full-time job? If not what else do you do?

No, I am an early childhood teacher by profession. I love working with children and while it would be great to become a full-time author; I think that I would miss children too much.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’ve just published my newest book and will have a little break until Christmas to catch up on family time and house chores. Then I will start working on Book 4 of the chapter book series. Although, I’m already slowly mapping the story out in my mind. It’s hard to stop.

What is your target audience?

My target audience are children up to 12 years.

How long does it take you to write a book?

It depends on the book and how much time I have. Usually, it takes me about a week to write the first draft, but then editing takes some time too. I illustrate my books as well, and that takes longer than writing.

When did you first discover you enjoyed writing?

I’ve always known that. However, I find writing in English much easier than in Czech. I’m not sure if I would have published anything if I stayed in my country.

What does your writing schedule look like?

I don’t have any schedule as such. I make a schedule for the coming week, based on my work and family commitments, and try to squeeze as much as possible into the free spots. Sometimes it can be a bit of a juggle, but it is manageable.

What does your family think about you writing?

My family are very supportive and they wish me all the success. My older daughter loves my books. The chapter books were written for her and she is proud of them. We’ve read them over and over again, which pleases me greatly.

What do you do when you are not writing?

I like going for walks and treks. I love to be outside in general, so spending time with family in the great outdoors is my favorite way to relax. We kayak a bit as well and I do enjoy baking, too.

Where do you get information and ideas for your writing?

Most of the ideas come from my work with children, my children mainly, but also the children I work with. My older daughter also supplies some ideas for the chapter books; it was great to hear what she would like in the books because she’s my target market.

What do you think makes a good story?

A good story is a story that has a strong storyline. Children need to be able to identify with the character to want to read about their adventures and immerse in the story fully. If the story can have some humor in it, even better.

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