When and why did you begin writing?
I began writing at University where I studied illustration and animation. On a course which was obviously focused on the artwork and the concept, I found myself spending an inordinate amount of time perfecting the text or the script. In my head, the writing and the text were inextricably linked and loved the challenge of creating writing that complemented the artwork and vice versa.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
That first day when someone, not a family member, a friend, or even a friend of a friend – a stranger decided my book was worth buying.
Are you a full-time or part-time writer and how does that affect your writing?
I see myself as a full-time illustrator and just a part-time writer. I became a self-employed illustrator first, and so there has always been more demand on my time for my artwork. My intention has always been to give them both the same attention someday!
What are some day jobs you have held?
Well, that’s a question! I must have one of the most varied and obscure CV’s out there. After University I worked for the Queen as part of the security team at Windsor Castle – not a bad first full-time job! After that, I worked as a Toy Tester, a Diamond Inscriber, and a Printer. I then moved to New Zealand where I worked as an Avocado Packer, an early years teaching assistant, and then a secondary school art teacher. When I eventually found myself living back in the UK I fell into a job in a medical laboratory making devices that went inside people’s hearts. It was at about this time that the first of my two little girls were born. I wasn’t happy with what I was earning for my new family and so I set about starting myself up as an Illustrator/Author of children’s books (which is what I had always wanted to do anyway.) Now, I am lucky enough to Illustrate and write full time, that long list of jobs has finally come to an end!
Do you have a special time to write, or how is your day structured to accommodate your writing?
I am very conscious that my two girls who are currently 3 and 1 will only be at this wonderful age once. Before I know it they will be starting school and so I usually structure my day so I can see them as much as I can. This compromise means I tend to work only 3-4 hours in ‘normal’ 9-5 working hours and make up the difference once the two little ones have gone to sleep. I have found that I am at my most creative and productive when I’m away from the house, normally in a quiet corner of a coffee shop, around 9 or 10 in the morning. If I have set myself the challenge of starting a new book or coming up with a new idea – that’s where I usually end up.
What is your next project?
My next project is going to be a slight departure from what I have done before. I am currently teaching my three-year-old her letters, and every bath time I write some letters or words on the wall with special washable bath pens and we make up a story together using those words. One bath time, the basic idea for my next book began to take shape, my daughter and I had created ‘The Rainbow Ant.’ I don’t want to give away the storyline, but I am proud that the book conveys the simple but important message that ‘the only thing that should be sorted by colour is our laundry.’ I’m sure I’ve massacred some clever person’s quote, but you get the idea!
Who is your favorite fictional character and why?
Fantastic Mr. Fox was always my favorite growing up. I have always been drawn to those heroes whose primary weapon was their mind, their cunning or cleverness. Shurlock Holmes, Tintin, Andy Dufresne from the Shawshank Redemption and of course the aforementioned Mr. Fox.
How can readers discover more about you and your work?
My website www.StefRzysko.com would be a good place to start. You can sign up to my not-very-regular emails there. People on my email list will always be the first to know about any promotions or giveaways I might be having, as well as having access to free fun stuff for the kids such as colouring-in pages from my books.
Want to learn more about Stef?