Interview with Ellen L. Buikema

What are you working on next?
I am working on a series of chapter books for children ages 3 - 9. Each book covers real life situations. The humorous stories and activities within the book both teach and entertain. The series is titled The Adventures of Charlie Chameleon. The first is subtitled New Beginnings and deals with the trials of moving--changing schools, making friends, leaving friends, starting at a new school, and meeting the classroom bully. The main character, Charlie Chameleon, has a rather bossy pet fish, Frankie, who feels that he himself is fish-tastic in every way.

The next in the series is subtitled School Days. It will be available later this summer. School Days focuses on bullying in a unique manner--looking at what can be done to help the bully, Boris Bunny, be more pro-social. The next two books are awaiting art. In June, I started writing book 5 which will be subtitled Community Helpers.

All the books are written with humor for the adults reading to children and for the children reading on their own.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
I tend to exercise soon after waking but I don't always feel like it. On the days I don't want to get out of bed, I think about what might happen during the day that could be fun. Writing is always interesting. When writing fictional stories, as I do now, I never know what the characters are going to tell me. Their antics inspire me to get going with the day.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
When I'm not involved in the writing process, I peruse social media, play with my dogs, cook, read, watch TV, and talk to friends. I used to draw and paint but don't have as much time as I'd like to complete art projects. When I move out of the desert, I'd like to grow flowers and herbs. I miss playing in the dirt.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
The earliest story I can recall writing I wrote when I was a very hormonal 15-year-old. It was about a trip we took as a family to Arkansas and the boy I met at a dance. Before leaving for the dance, I remember my father saying, "If anybody asks you to go for a drive in the mountains, tell them NO." I thought, well, no one will ask that. Turns out dad was correct.

I wrote the story inside an old 6th grade English text I had at home so no one would ever find it. What I wrote at the time is gone, but the memory is still lurking about.
What is your writing process?
There are plotters and there are pantsers. I am a bit of both but mostly I fall into the later category. Many ideas come to me during sleep, meditation, and when I am not concentrating on anything in particular. Characters kind of "show up" in my mind and let me know what they will and will not do.

I read aloud what I've written to find errors before bringing the material to one or two critique groups I attend. After that, more editing.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
The earliest story that impacted me would have to be The Secret Garden, which I read during my elementary school years. I noticed while reading I was able to "see" the story as a movie within my mind. I loved that the book made me feel for the characters. The imagery felt so real to me that I could almost smell the flowers in the garden and feel the temperature of the air as it was described.
How do you approach cover design?
I have a general feel for what artwork should be on the covers of my books. For the Charlie books, I let my illustrator know what I have in mind, and we go forward from there. I show the cover to a number of people for opinions and go with what feels best.
What do you read for pleasure?
For fun, I read what I do not write. I am a fan of time-travel mysteries, science fiction, historical fiction, and mysticism.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
The book trailer I made is helpful, as is using social media for marketing. Work of mouth, of course, is best.
Describe your desk
My desk. Well, my writing area changes. Right now my writing area is on the dining room table. Papers are here and there. I have a candle given to me by my oldest daughter, scented for inspiration. A stuffed dragon, about one foot high, by the name of Nom Nom (as in nom nom that fairie was tasty) sits behind my laptop. A tiny aquarium complete with goldfish and bubbles made of glass from Murano, Italy, and a gift form my youngest daughter, is to my right near the laptop's mouse.

I was writing in the kitchen, but the light coming into the room was too bright, hence the slight change in venue.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in the Chicago area. I lived in an old house with little insulation so when it was cold outside we were shivered inside. When it was hot and steamy we were lethargic and cranky. There was little money for getting away anywhere, so books became my main mode of escape and were very important to me.

My Irish grandfather, who lived in Chicago, passed along a love of poetry. He used to sit me on his lap and tell me about life on the family farm and recite poetry. I loved his brogue and the way his words made pictures in my mind. It is because of him that I attempted to write my own poems. Mom and I were the only readers in my house. That is not to say that no one else read, just not for fun. My mother enjoyed my writing but never told me this until a few years before her death. She never had the opportunity to read any of my books. That is one regret.
Published 2016-07-01.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

The Adventures of Charlie Chameleon: Summertime
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 8,670. Language: English. Published: June 30, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Children’s books » Social Issues / Emotions & Feelings, Fiction » Children’s books » Social Issues / Friendship
The Chameleon' vacation is off to a bumpy start. Frankie, the family fish, causes trouble on the plane. Papa gets lost driving in the mountains looking for Mystery Lake, where Frankie is sure mermaids lurk. When they return home, Charlie's old friend,Tamika Turtle, visits him to attend a soccer game and meets his new friends. Charlie hopes his friends will accept her, never expecting what happens.
The Adventures of Charlie Chameleon: School Days
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 7,770. Language: English. Published: March 9, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Children’s books » Readers / Chapter Books, Fiction » Children’s books » Social Issues / Bullying
Charlie Chameleon and his friends are having trouble with Boris Bunny, the class bully. Charlie thinks Boris is putting on an act, but his friends disagree. Follow Charlie’s adventures as he helps Boris learn how to be a friend. Children and parents enjoy the activities at the end of each chapter.
The Adventures of Charlie Chameleon: New Beginnings
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 7,090. Language: English. Published: March 8, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Children’s books » Readers / Chapter Books, Fiction » Children’s books » Social Issues / New Experience
Moving and making new friends is tough! When Charlie Chameleon and his family start their adventure in New Town, Charlie discovers he is braver than he knows. With his bossy pet fish, Frankie, by his side, he faces many challenges, including standing up to the neighborhood bully. Children and parents love the activities at the end of each chapter.
Parenting . . . A Work in Progress
Price: $8.99 USD. Words: 51,680. Language: English. Published: August 12, 2015. Categories: Nonfiction » Parenting » Childhood development, Nonfiction » Psychology » Developmental / general
Is it possible to raise well-adjusted children without losing your mind? Parenting . . . A Work in Progress offers insightful strategies and humorous stories to guide seasoned, as well as new parents of children, newborn to adolescent. Parenting has always been a trying job. Crypts found from the 11th century contain prayers from parents asking for help with their children. It’s the parents’ job t