Welcome to the (virtual) interview platform, Heather Macht! Heather is the author of THE ANT FARM ESCAPE! (Pelican, 2019), REX THE…WE-DON’T-KNOW (Pelican, 2019) and YOU MAY JUST BE A DINOSAUR (Pelican, 2015). She has a degree in Fine Arts, is an active member of the SCBWI, and is the Assistant Administrator, the Newsletter Coordinator, and a volunteer judge for Rate Your Story. She loves spending her Saturday’s in bookstores or in libraries with friends. Heather is happily married and currently resides in Florida next door to a quiet beach. When she’s not writing, she enjoys painting, reading poetry, and watching scary movies with her husband and children.
1. Heather, it’s so great to have you by for an interview! You have a really neat, original picture book, The Ant Farm Escape, hitting store shelves February 2019. That is literally, right around the corner! What’s going on in your mind right now? How are you preparing for the release?
Thanks so much for having me, Rhys! There is a LOT going on in my mind. Right now, I’m booking school visits, planning a book launch party, planning booking readings and signings, and participating in blog tours. It’s a very busy time and I’m honestly just trying to keep everything in line, and still focus on WIP’s (works in progress). Also, I keep reminding myself to breathe and step away from the computer every now and then. Trust me though, I’m NOT complaining one bit. I love my job and wouldn’t have it any other way. I still pinch myself some days to make sure this is really happening.
2. I loved ants growing up. Absolutely loved them. Tell us about The Ant Farm Escape. What’s it all about and how did you get the idea for it?
Well, my son (who was almost four at the time) was going through a HUGE ant phase. He wanted to know all about them; what they eat, what they do, where they live, and if they bite. One Saturday morning, I was in the bookstore reading through new releases in picture books, and I picked up some construction-themed books.
As I was reading through these books, I started imagining little ants in this scenario with hardhats and tool belts on, constructing their nest. Rhymes instantly started to flow, so I went home and spent the next week researching ants and writing my manuscript. In my researching I found out that worker ants, the ants that do all the building and hard work in constructing their nest, are ALL FEMALE! I instantly changed my illustration notes to have ponytails hanging out of the ants’ hardhats. I’m so excited to have a fun construction-themed STEM book all about Girl Power!
3. In The Ant Farm Escape, you’ve brought out at least one fact, which is that all worker ants are female. I never knew that! Are there other surprising facts in the book?
Yes! There are so many cool facts about ants in the book that I found when researching them. Here are a few:
- Ants have six legs, two stomachs, two antennae, and keen eyesight. They are POWERFUL insects.
- Ants thrive off teamwork: one worker ant works as the leader and the others follow direction, making it a very successful relationship.
- Queen ants sleep up to nine hours a day, while worker ants survive on hundreds of short power naps a day… Can I be a queen ant, please?!
Make sure to check out the book to find out more!
4. You also have another book scheduled for release in 2019, Rex the We-Don’t-Know. What a year it will be! What’s Rex’ story and do we have a set release date for that?
Rex has a long and happy story. When I first started writing, I tried so hard to get picture books about my favorite pets published. Cats, dogs, gerbils- you name it! For years their stories were all declined.
One day when trying to think of a new way to tell their stories, I got this idea to roll all my favorite pets, and favorite fictional animals (i.e. dragons and unicorns) into one pet, which gave birth to Rex a…We-Don’t-Know. I really love this sweet adoption story of acceptance and I will forever smile when reading this book because when I see Rex, I see all my favorite pets!
This book is definitely unique and fun. Make sure to check it out in September, 2019!
5. I think we’re seeing a trend with your 2015 book You May Just Be a Dinosaur and these two new animal-based books. Do you have an affinity for animals or has that just been these specific manuscripts selling well?
You know, it’s funny you pick up on that. Yes, I LOVE animals. I loved studying dinosaurs as a young girl, while spending hours catching mini-dinosaurs (lizards) in my back yard. I was a worm saver, where I’d make sure to save every single worm I found on the sidewalk on hot days in Florida.
Watching ants was always fascinating to me, too, and most importantly I adored my pets. I was always considered more of a tomboy which I laugh at now. It was a negative term growing up, but now it’s something I’m truly proud of. My writing showcases what happens when tough tomboys, who have a passion for animals, grow up!
6. It’s impossible to get through an interview without highlighting the wonderful agents working doggedly behind the scenes (or in many cases, in front of the scenes!). You’re represented by Adria Goetz with Martin Literary Management who represents many other incredibly talented authors and illustrators. How did you and Adria meet? How would you describe your author-agent relationship?
So, I’m just going to state this for everyone wondering (because I get asked this a lot) …Adria is AMAZING and I highly recommend her!
When I first started out my writing journey, I didn’t feel I really needed an agent. I was a successful businesswoman working in the information technology field. I felt that I could market and represent myself better than any agent could, especially since I had to market myself in so many business meetings. And here I’ll admit I was totally wrong!
To properly showcase your work, and get it in the right hands, you need an agent! They have connections and know who is looking for what in the publishing world.
So, how did we meet? Since I work for Rate Your Story, I was putting together a wish list for our members and showcasing what agents were looking for. Adria’s wish list caught my attention: she was looking for spooky manuscripts, and I had one I thought she’d like to see…and she loved it! The rest is history. Working with her has been wonderful. She really does help get my manuscripts perfectly polished and in the right hands.
7. Wait to go, Adria! Authors and illustrators ALWAYS have books they loved growing up or at least have fallen in love with later in life. Like you, I am a HUGE Shel Silverstein fan, and his work, Where the Sidewalk Ends, is one of my all-time favorite books of poetry. As you’ve developed your writing career, do you find yourself honing in your skills on a specific type of story telling style, or has your creative expression become more diverse?
I write non-fiction books, blended fiction STEM books, and all fiction books. Where the writing style can be very different for each (also, sometimes I rhyme, sometimes I don’t), the number one thing I focus on is adding humor to my stories. Humor is universal; a simple smile or a laugh always seems to capture the audience.
8. As a traditionally published author, have any of your perspectives changed post-published versus as-yet-unpublished? What’s been the most rewarding experience for you so far? What’s been the most defeating?
Post-published has truly been eye-opening. At first, as an unpublished individual trying to break into the market, I couldn’t believe how long it took to get a picture book into print. Hearing “up to 2 years”, or sometimes more, seemed like such a long time. But, when you understand the process, how much editing, planning, and marketing goes into each book, not to mention the time it takes to fully illustrate a book, it definitely makes sense. It’s really an interesting process and I love the fact that I’ve been lucky enough to gain behind-the-scenes perspective.
The most rewarding part of this process, for me, has been being able to see my children’s names in print. I was lucky enough to dedicate my first two books to them. Letting them hold the finished product in their hands and flipping the pages to see their names is priceless.
The most defeating part of the process, and something you don’t think about at first, is that every amazing manuscript you write will NOT get published. You will write manuscripts that are perfectly worded and written, that will be loved and praised by your agent and critique partners, you may even get some really wonderful feedback from editors. But sadly, rejection is still part of the process. Make sure to keep your head up and keep going!
9. Let’s talk to other authors and illustrators for a moment. Nothing develops your skills like creating a story, editing that story, sharing it, and editing it again. All creatives have experienced that “shiny new idea” feeling and the subsequent “terrible, horrible, no good idea” rebound. How do you persevere from story concept to polished manuscript? What motivates you to trudge past the discouragement, fear, and desire to quit that plagues every creative?
That’s a good question. Every writer faces fear of rejection, and experiences unbelievable amounts of discouragement and fear, mixed with hope and envisioning their final product on a shelf. From concept to completion, the ups and downs are unreal!
When I started querying my first book, You May Just Be a Dinosaur, I started receiving a lot of rejections. I even talked with one editor a few times over the course of a year who was interested, but ultimately declined. But, with each rejection came a fire that made me want it that much more. If someone I admired almost wanted it, it means the manuscript was there! I had to trudge through it. I owed it to myself (after years of researching, writing, editing, formatting and submitting) to keep querying. I’m so glad I did because it ultimately paid off!
10. Now, let’s speak to kids. You’re in the #kidlit business. But you’re really in the people business. What do you hope your efforts communicate to all the kids who read, or are read, your books? Are there any messages that aren’t being communicated enough to kids these days?
The majority of my manuscripts are science-themed manuscripts. I really hope each kid takes away the fact that science is fun and interesting. Most importantly, to me, I want children to understand that science belongs to girls, too! I can’t tell you how heartbreaking it’s been to be at book events where I’m interacting with customers, selling my books, and a young girl starts to flip through my dinosaur book only to be told by their parents that it’s a boy’s book.
There is no such thing as a girl’s book or a boy’s book – books are for all! But most importantly, I wrote it (and I’m a “girl”), for all kids including dino-crazed girls like I used to be.
11. There’s so much more we could chat about and writing tips you could give us. But, let’s end on a note of the future. What can we expect from you over the next 1-2 years? How about 3-5 years from now…where do you hope your career will have lead to? How can we stay up to date on all your amazing books?
Over the next several years, expect a lot more books! Non-fiction books, blended fiction/STEM books, and all fiction books – expect it all! Definitely expect girl protagonists and science books geared for everyone… yes, including girls.
Thank you for stopping by, Heather! We hope the very best for your upcoming book release!
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