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Jane Bled's Author Spotlight
Guest: Mark Wisher, Children's Book Author

Mark Wisher, recently-published children's book author, reveals his tactics for writing a flaw-free story that even the most skeptical of kids will surely enjoy.

Mark Wisher: The Art of Bulletproofing


Greetings, Mark! Congratulations on being the first-ever children’s book author to stop by my livejournal for a chat. I have tons of questions for you! My stepfather is actually looking to get into writing and illustrating children’s stories, so I’ll be sure to direct him this way to read your interview. Maybe he’ll even gain a little inspiration to publish his own projects after reading about your experiences. ;)

Shall we begin?

I always wonder how much an author’s upbringing influences his choice to become a writer. When you were growing up, did your parents read to you? If so, what kind of impact did it have on your decision to pursue a career as a children’s author?


My mother and grandparents read to me a lot. I think what influenced me the most was my nan reading to me from across the room. I could not see the pictures, but I could hear the story being read, so I would lay back and imagine the scenario. That is how I wanted to write: with very little description, but enough to let the imagination of the reader flow. This way, everyone can imagine the story however they would like; it becomes personal to them.

It was Rosemary Bobb, a family friend and writer, who finally urged me to take writing more seriously.


That’s interesting. I remember being young and enjoying books with no pictures because I preferred to imagine my own! 

On your MySpace page, you mention that you'd like to progress into writing books for older children. How many books have you written, and what age do you write for now?


I have written two books so far. Say Mummy…Say Daddy is a book for early readers to read along with there parents. It has nice simple words and sounds. Recently I have released Don't Kiss the Prince, which aims at children between 5-10 years of age.


What were the deciding factors in your choice to write for children instead of adults?


I feel comfortable writing children's stories, since I have been writing short stories since the age of twelve. Also, I’m a child at heart, so the stories I write are as much for my own enjoyment as everyone else’s.

When you write for children, it usually means that you are writing for two people: the reader and the listener. If you can please both, then that's a fabulous reward. It’s no easy task—it’s a great challenge.


What are some of the other challenges that arise when you write for a young audience?


The biggest challenge so far has been to make a book that stands out. Children, even very young ones, are captured by video games and television, so you need to make a book just as appealing.

Another challenge is to make your story bulletproof. Children like to ask questions. If there is a question you can’t answer convincingly, then there is probably a flaw in the story, and the whole thing comes undone. This is common—happens to me a lot—very embarrassing!


LOL! In my experience working with kindergarteners, kids sometimes ask some pretty wacky, yet strangely logical questions. I’ve definitely had my share of embarrassments in that department, so I feel your pain. ;)

Which story "flaws" have kids pointed out to you in the past? What changes (if any) did you apply to your thinking process in order to fix these discrepancies?


A few years ago I wrote a small story called Sammy the Spider Travels the World. The story was about a spider that got stuck in chewing gum attached to a traveler's boot. He got carried around the globe, and viewed lots of different sights. At the time, I thought the story made sense…until I read it to a young girl and her friends, and they started to ask questions and pick fault with it.

One girl asked, "Why did the traveler go to bed in his boots? Why did he travel all that time without seeing the spider or gum on his boots?”

At the end of the story Sammy meets a spider in Australia and they both find chewing gum to stick to so they can travel around, which brought up the question, "Why didn’t Sammy and his friend spin a web and hang onto the traveler?”

These were all good questions which were in need of answering, and I thought that if children were asking me these questions, then their parents or another reader may experience similar questions.

Unless I write a story in which the impossible is possible, I always read my stories to children. It's interesting to see how they think.


Sounds like a fool-proof plan to me!

How long does it normally take you to finish writing a book? Do you have any rituals associated with the act of creating a new story?


I have to admit I can be lazy; I give myself no time limit. They say that good things come to those who wait; so do I. I do like to set a target around two books a year, but completing that is a bonus.

It may seem odd, but if I want to create an idea, I go to work. My life outside of work is hectic and blurs my train of thought; tranquility exists there, a place of deep thought and imaginative ideas. Yes, my job is dull, but has its advantages. I think of things I have seen, done or heard and can paste together some pretty good ideas.


What kind of work do you do?


I work in a factory that makes plastic packaging, for gifts and toiletries. Before I started working there, I was an engineer for ten years, making road diggers and welding metal furniture and gas fires and boilers.


So you have lots of time to think! It seems advantageous to work in an environment where you can tap into your reserve of thoughts without becoming too distracted by outside forces.

Have you ever based your characters on people from your previous/present job(s), such as your boss or your coworkers? From where does the majority of your character creation and inspiration originate?


Mmmm…in past short stories I have written, I have taken some ideas for characters from people close to me, but not from work colleagues/bosses.

It’s usually things people do, and the way they act, that inspire me more than physical appearances. I find the many little quirks people have intriguing. When it comes to building characters, I like to build them around the story; their emotions and looks depend on the type of character they portray. I will add a few quirks that I may have seen on TV, or on occasion taken from someone I know, but rarely do I use everyday people with whom I come in contact.

However…Trevor Clarke, the illustrator of my books, uses people he knows to inspire his character drawings. Ha! He will throttle me for saying that.


Not if wants to keep his job. ;)

How did you meet Trevor Clarke?


I met Trevor through his wife Lindsey; we have been great friends for twelve years or more. I had no idea Trevor was an artist until I asked Lindsey if she knew anyone who could illustrate. I feel lucky I have found a good artist and a great friend.


Have you experienced any difficult aspects in working with a great friend on your writing projects, or has it all been smooth sailing since Day One?


So far so good, we seem to bounce off each other we'll, I try to give him as much creative space as possible. Being able to draw as well as him would be a bonus for me, but Trevor’s a good listener, and he brings to life a lot of the ideas I give him.


Besides getting the opportunity to stretch you creative muscles, what aspect of being an author is the most enjoyable for you?


I think the most enjoyable part for me is putting the book out there and reading the comments and responses from readers and reviewers. I do not mind criticism. Though I have only been a published author for a short time, I think I am mature enough to know that criticism is part of the process. I try to take what I can from it; when I receive praise, it’s a sure sign that I am getting something right.



Now that I know a little more about you, I’m ready to hear about your stories!

What kinds of morals/themes can we find in Don’t Kiss the Prince? BTW, the title is extremely catchy. 


The theme for Don't Kiss the Prince is basically happiness for all. Most children’s stories have a happy ending for heroes and heroines, but the villain always suffers in some way.


True, true.

How long is Don't Kiss the Prince? In which formats is it available?


The book is 33 pages long and is available in e-book format and a standard book format, and will soon be available in digest.

Say Mummy…Say Daddy is also available in these formats.


Wow! I had no idea that children’s stories were available in e-book format. I have to get with the times!

Will you please share the story synopsis and a brief excerpt from Don't Kiss the Prince?



A spell has been placed on the Kissing Lake by the mean witch, Grizelda. Each time a prince is kissed by a princess he is turned into a frog. Can Prince Eric end the curse or will the princes be frogs forever?


The princes began to croak loudly and the noise was unbearable. It surprised the witch, who angrily threw open the windows and bellowed, “Hop it you horrible lot or I will turn you into mice and feed you to my cat!”

The frogs, undeterred by the witch’s threat, hopped in through the open window.


Sounds like the kind of story my kindergartners would eat up!

Besides the two books you’ve already written, are you planning any upcoming releases? If so, could you give me a little info about them?


I am so exited about my next two releases! The first one is called How to Impress a Dragon. It is a story of a young girl dragon who likes a boy dragon. He is cool; she is not, and she tries so hard to impress him.

The other one, my favorite, is called Horrid. It's about a young boy who is tempted to steal for the first time. Shortly afterwards, he is visited by a odd-looking man called Horrid, who offers him all he could ever want—if he does something for him in return (something bad).

How to Impress a Dragon should be available sometime after May 2010, and Horrid is planned for a November 2010 release. Both will be available at An e-book version should also be available.


Congratulations on your upcoming releases!

I’m not quite clear on the theme of How to Impress a Dragon—can you clarify that for me, please?


The theme for How to Impress a Dragon is to be yourself. It takes a few mistakes and some good advice from her parents before Chloe, the girl dragon, realizes her potential. I won’t say if she impresses the boy dragon or not though—maybe she realizes he's just not that important.


I’m relieved to hear that Chloe doesn’t go all Bella Swan on this guy dragon!

So, besides writing, what other hobbies do you enjoy?


When I am not writing, I enjoy traveling; I love to get out there and explore.
Recently I have tried my hand at balloon-modeling, and clay model-making (the type of clay they use in animation). They are both challenging, and fun to create.


I am also a traveling fiend. Any favorite places to visit?


Barcelona was impressive—probably my favorite, with its friendly atmosphere and colorful streets and buildings. The Olympic village is awesome and la Sagrada Familia (cathedral) just takes your breath away.

In the UK, Edinburgh would have to be my favorite place. There is so much to take in, so much history. The cafe in which J.K. Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter book and The Royal Mile among my favorites.


I’ve never been to the UK (or Spain, for that matter), so I’m totally envious of your experiences!

We’re almost out of time, but I have one final question before we wrap things up. If you weren't a writer, which creative endeavor would you pursue instead?


If I had not chosen writing as a career then I would have to say…acting. I was in every play at school and loved drama. I even helped write a play, which won us a trip to the theatre, but my shyness over came me. If I had been pushed a little harder then acting would have been first choice, but I do not feel like writing became a substitute.


Ah, well. There’s always time to gain your confidence through your writing! Who knows? Maybe we’ll see you onstage sometime in the future. ;)

Mark, it’s been a pleasure. Good luck with your writing! When I have kids, I’ll be sure to pick up a couple of your stories to read to them. ;)


This has been my first ever interview, so I want to thank you for the opportunity.


Mark Wisher was born in Nottingham in the UK, and is part of a family of writers. His writing inspiration was Roald Dahl.  At an early age he wrote his first unpublished children’s book, titled My Worm’s Day, a story of a worm from outer space. While in school, he continued writing, and was given the chance to regularly read his stories to his classmates.

After spending many years studying the basics of writing and trying different styles, he finally released his debut children’s book, Say Mummy…Say Daddy, with in 2009. Since then he has released a second children’s book titled Don’t Kiss the Prince, also with

This is me with one of my first self made books,called "Sammy the spider travels the wourld". This was written by myself and edited by Julie Hickman, the pictures where computer generated.


Mark Wisher

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What inspired you to start creating children’s books? 

I was, and still am a bit of a daydreamer, and at school i used to write short stories. I always wanted to be an actor or an entertainer, but i suffered with shyness so this was an outlet a way of expression without having to stand in front of or face anyone.



When did you write your first book?

My first real book was when i was 12. I wrote a book called “ My Worms day” about a worm from space and a young boy sharing Earth's many wonders. I had to read it out to my class mates, thankfully they loved it and that helped boost my writing confidence.



How do you come up with your stories?

First of all you need to write about something that interests you, Then you just need good old fashioned imagination. I think it helps if you don't live in the real world and spend most of your time in your head.



What inspired you to come up with your mascot/character?

My characters are a mix of real people and made up, the inspiration for them comes from anything and everything around you. You have to look and listen at the people around you. My own creation (Worm) my favourite character just came to me as an idea. I mean how many space worms do you see that go around eating everything? I just thought it was a unique idea at the time when creating him.



How long is the creative process?

It depends on the book. The idea’s can come thick and fast, in fact some stories i have thought up in an afternoon. Then there's a draft copy to build the story and iron out any possible flaws, then there's editing, and then putting the book together with pictures and such.

Altogether it can take six moths to a year for best results, it depends on how much free time you have and what stage of the profession you are at ( beginner, professional etc.)



How do you stay inspired creatively?

It is great to see how people react to your work, to see what they have to say, you always want to do better or do more , i guess i like to push the boundary and to do that you have to be willing to grow and try new idea’s and styles of writing.




Which authors inspire?

To be honest i did not read much as a child, i was more of a comic book fan but if i had to pick one it would be Rhoald Dahl, we share the same birthday too, spooky.



What are your career aspirations for MW13?


I have my own little shop on line now, and a website and i only sell on line as i made a decision not to go to a publisher because of the expense and the time limits they can impose on your creative time. I have a small following in the united states and i plan to try and push for a market there, i also have  my own character  (Worm) which i plan to develop for Tv  or a comic strip and there's a series of three books for an older market in the pipeline.

Interview By Christopher Rhodes