My most recent published book is Pickles The Parrot: A Humorous Look at Life With an African Grey. I talk about what it’s like to have a parrot, the care and commitment, but mostly it’s funny stories about Pickles – the predicaments he gets himself into, the funny and intellegent conversations we have, and the embarrassing situations he gets me into. He’s never caged, except at night, and he’s not just a ‘stay at home’ parrot, he goes out with us and he has an outdoor aviary for harassing strangers who happen to walk by. I have just submitted a second book to my publishers ‘Pickles The Parrot Returns’, which will be available in the next couple of weeks.
Tell us something about yourself.
I am 55 years old, live with my wonderful husband, Neil, and we have a 6 pound, rust colored Min Pin who gets along well with Pickles. We live in Logan Lake, British Columbia, Canada, in a town with a population of about 2,500 people. My husband manages the Provincial Parks in this area and I took early retirement to write. I have owned and managed businesses over the years, most recently a flyshop for fly fishing supplies. We like to spend our time at lake cabins or resorts, fly fish, walk in nature, but mostly we like to hang around our yard and small trout pond. We spend a lot of time working on our yard to provide wild bird habitat and attract an incredible variety of different species of birds. We like our yard to look natural and wild, seldom water, never use pesticides and have planted many, many trees and shrubs that are indigenous to our area, need little care and provide wild birds with food and nesting.
What inspired you to write this book?
I have been writing PickleStories for Good Bird Magazine each issue for several years. The owner and editor, Barbara Heindenreich, had been encouraging me to put my stories into a book. Also, Pickles’ fans and my own friends have been demanding a book for years. People find the stories hilarious and they wanted more.
How did you choose the title?
I wanted it to be simple, self explanatory, easy to remember and easy to find on the internet.
What obstacles did you encounter in getting this book published? How did you overcome them?
I think the only obstacle I encountered was trying to figure out how to do it – whether I should go the tradional route, or self publish. I decided that the quickest and easiest way would be the later. Other than having to do my own formatting for both the paper (Wordclay) and ebook (Smashwords), both pubishers were easy to work with and guided me each step of the way. When you self publish, you are responsible for promoting your own book and Pickles already had a good fan base from the global exposure our stories received from Good Bird Magazine, and on a whim, I started a Face Book page for Pickles The Parrot. It wasn’t long before he aquired over 1500 ‘friends’ and he receives friend requests daily from around the world. I contacted some newspapers and did some interviews that were published, I ran some contests on bird forums, offered a free coupon through places like Ereader News Today and I promoted the book at any opportunity that arose. The only thing I haven’t done yet, is book signing at local book stores, but only because I haven’t had the time.
How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?
Friends and family have been pushing me to write since I was very young. I’ve always wrote short, humorous stories but I resisted writing professionally because I was afraid it would take the fun out of writing, and that I wouldn’t be able to write under pressure to produce. Over the years, I was active on fishing and bird forums and I wrote stories for fun and posted them. Then, when I got involved in protecting the environment, I wrote some environmental and conservational articles. After writing for Good Bird magazine, and seeing the response I was getting, and being pushed by everyone to write, I thought “What the heck, I’ve got nothing to lose.” And it turned out to be a heck of a lot of work, but it was fun – most of the time.
Do you have any writing rituals?
Not really, other than to sit for an hour or two with my coffee in the morning, read and post on Pickles’ Face Book page. Sometimes I don’t really feel like writing so I force myself to write just one sentence or paragraph and tell myself that’s all I have to do today. But once I open my MW manuscript and write a few words, things begin to flow for me and I stick to it.
Did you learn anything from writing and publishing this book? What?
I learned a little bit more about parrots – their bahavior etc., as I was forced to observe Pickles more closely for book material. I learned to get around a lot better on the internet and I certainly learned a lot more about Microsoft Word and formatting.
If you were doing it all over again, what would you do differently?
I don’t think I would do anything different. I mean, you can always look back on a book and think you could have elaborated a little better or changed something in your book, but if you kept doing that, you would never finish the book. At some point, you just have to tell yourself it’s good enough. No, I wouldn’t do anything differently.
What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors?
Well, I’m related to Mark Twain so I love anything he wrote. He was very clever and I love his wit. I’ve read everything by Stephen King. I like the macabre and his books flow so easily. Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of books from Smashwords. It’s amazing how many great ‘unknown’ writers are out there. That’s the problem with traditionally publishers – they decide what the public should read and some brilliant authors get left behind.
Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?
Yes. Well, I just finished it. It’s called Pickles The Parrot Returns and it’s along the same lines as the first book. I delve a little deeper into the care of parrots but it still has the humorous stories peppered throughout. At the beginning of each chapter, I included some of Pickles’ deep and clever, philisophical and zany Face Book posts. He talks from a parrot’s perspective, then I explain from mine. The second book is longer than the first.
What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?
Just do it. Don’t doubt yourself or you’ll always say “I should of.” Sit down and start – even if it’s only a sentence, a paragraph, a page or a chapter. Once you start, it will be hard to stop. If you decide to go the self publishing route, I highly recommend Wordclay for a paper book and Smashwords for an ebook. I did alot of research on self publishing, both these publishers have a great reputation and they have great customer service to help you along the way. You can learn to do your own formating (they provide great FAQ pages), or you can pay to have them do it for you. Publishing at Smashwords won’t cost you a dime and Wordclay doesn’t make you buy a set amount of books once it’s published. All I paid for with Wordclay was $150.00 for the DYI (fitting the cover to the booksize) and for an ISBN, and I paid $35.00 to do some touch-up formatting for Smashwords.
Who is the perfect reader for your book?
My book was originally targeting people with parrots but I’ve found that non-parrot people find the book hilarious. Even people who have no intention of ever owning one, as I explain in the book how much work is involved in caring for a parrot. Many people read the stories to their children – Pickles has a huge children’s fan base. There are a few mild swear words in the book, in a couple of the stories, but they can easily be substituted while reading aloud. My mother, who I always email short stories to, forwards them on to all her friends and they forward them on, and on, and on, so when the book was published, everyone wanted one and she sold about 60 in the first month alone – to non-parrot people. Each of them are impatiently awaiting the second book.
Can you give us a brief description of your parrot?
Pickles is a 9 year old African Grey Congo Parrot and they can live as long as humans. He has a vocabulary of well over 100 words and often talks in context. He’s never caged except to sleep at night and has playstands, ropes and toys in different rooms. He is flighted but seldom flies. He has an outdoor aviary but only goes outside when we are outside. He’s cheeky, bossy, demanding, social (even with strangers), has a great sense of humor and likes to ham it up. He travels with us and I have a birdie backpack so that he can go for walks with us.
Where can readers learn more about you and your book?