Interview with Rio Koviak
Tell us a little bit about your background as a writer.
When I was around 6 yrs old, I started writing, performing, and recording my own stories on my mother’s 8-track stereo. By the time I was seven, I became obsessed with observing people (basically, spying), and every chance I got, I would log my findings in a locked diary which I kept hidden beneath my bookshelf. Soon, I graduated to journaling about my observations of others, as well as chronicling my own experiences (both pleasant and woeful). Recently, I found some of these journals dating back to when I was in junior high; I was surprised at the large volume of journals I have amassed!
What was your inspiration for writing Hoagie and Katie?
Years ago, I had written a children’s book which was erased by my iPad and never recovered. I couldn’t get my head around re-writing it, so instead, I thought about creating a new book that actually featured my original character, Flamingo Joe. At the same time, I was dabbling in recording audio books, and realized I wanted to record character voices for children’s fiction. I figured, why not start with my own characters and my own book? Thus, Hoagie and Katie was born!
My inspiration for choosing the main characters for this particular book was due to my curious love of capybaras (I have even fantasized about moving back to California just so I could live in a climate that is conducive to raising one as my own, but my husband's not a big fan of the idea!).
Describe your desk
I have two: One small one that I use for writing which looks out onto my garden full of Rose of Sharon, wisteria, peony, and assorted roses. The other, larger desk is where I organize all my stuff for writing, voice over, bills, and miscellaneous things.
How did you find time to write as a parent of young children?
I really had to isolate myself in order to focus and create without any distractions beyond my own self. I was able to spend some time alone at a friend’s beach cottage which gave me the solitude that I needed to feed my soul, and in essence, fuel the creativity for the book. Eventually, Hoagie & Katie became a force all on its own, and I was just the vehicle
What influences came into play throughout the writing process?
Well, I am definitely influenced by my experience working in the animal industry, training and observing exotic animals. Not only do I have profound respect for them, I have also witnessed aspects of their personalities and behaviors that endear me to them and fill me with awe.
Where there challenges that made you think twice about writing?
It can be very difficult to keep up the discipline of focusing on the project every day, whether it be the writing, marketing, or doing interviews! It is also challenging for me to have the patience of waiting for a project to come to fruition (I want to see it published now!) I was also rather surprised at how much money it would cost just to see my little hobby transformed into an actual book, much less recording costs, etc.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
Having a book designer husband, I already had a finished product, and while most publishers loved the stories and imagery, they didn't want to touch my book unless we started from scratch. I was going to self-publish the first book in the series, and then shop for a publisher, but once I figured out all the things it entails to publish a book, I figured I can do most of it myself without doling out moolah to someone else. Plus, publishing companies make the competition so fierce and tedious!
Do you plan to keep writing children's books?
Yes, definitely! I have plans to serialize the Hoagie books in the future, introducing supporting characters who will eventually become the main characters in their own stories. I also would love to adapt the Hoagie series into theatrical children’s plays.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
To create something that makes children (and adults) smile and laugh. While doing a reading, I absolutely love to see the joy in their faces! And I love a "legitimate" reason to leave the house and shack up at a coffee house, pub, or hotel for the sake of writing!
In what ways do you hope the book will connect with the readers?
I feel that the book has a lot of potential to speak to a wide range of readers. The universal themes of friendship, loyalty, and empathy will resonate with adults reading to their kids/grandkids; the more text will challenge early readers; and the pictures will endear young children to the characters and fantasize about the land in which the characters live. I also hope that the unique characters will prompt conversations about the animals and their habitat, inciting wonder and a lifelong respect for animals and the world in general.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Ugh, truth be told, I hate getting out of bed! First of all, my aussiedoodle Dipper forces me to get out of bed, and once that is done, I'd feel like a loser getting back into it and making my husband do the morning shift with our two kids. I have to be pretty organized to fit everything in before the dinner bell strikes. Writing takes up about 60% of my week as I have other duties, such as: PTA, volunteering, dog training, landscaping, self-care, reading, and unavoidable domestic stuff.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
When I was about 7 years old, I improvised a story based on Hansel & Gretel with a less gnarly ending. I lived in a little apartment with my single mom, and she had a microphone connected to an 8track deck. I recorded the story, then lined up all my stuffed animals on the couch and played it for them. Such great listeners!
What is your writing process?
I write out a chapter outline first, with a short summary of the chapter. Then I rent either a tiny beach bungalow or artist studio with nice amenities, and go for it, chapter by chapter. At noon, I treat myself to a beer/cider/glass of wine, stretch, eat something, then continue. Around dinnertime, I stop for the day, eat dinner, get a slice of pie, have a dip in the hot tub, then chill. As each chapter is finished, I record it to "hear" any inconsistencies (or other problems), edit, then send to my kids. My husband plays it for them, records their reactions/suggestions.
Once the book is finished, I'll often read it to my daughter's class to get any more feedback, then submit it to a professional editor. Then I'm half-way done until the finish line!
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
The first story that ever impacted me was definitely Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh. I remember getting my own locked diary/spybook, and began to spy on anyone and everyone I could. During gatherings, I spied on my extended family. When my m om took me to her work, I spied on her colleagues, and on her. I started being observant on others: their style of dress, whether they were confident or shy, how they spoke, their humor (or lack of it), and most importantly, their whispered conversations. I thought I was so sneaky!
How do you approach cover design?
I give my husband Ian Koviak (theBookDesigners.com), a few pictures of the real animals in the book and a short description of their physicality, nuances, and environment. He gives me three choices, and I choose.
What do you read for pleasure?
Humor, short fiction, drama/thrillers (fiction)
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
I'm still trying to figure all that out as I'm pretty lame with all the new technology these days. I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place because I can't get into social media, yet I know it's imperative to my success. I obviously have a FB page, and have my books in local stores and libraries, and have donated my book as a free gift with certain companies and websites. I am going to appear in a few holiday fairs this year, so we'll see how that pans out. I am so busy most weeks, that I find it very challenging to market/publicize my work, so I am contemplating hiring a short-term publicist to get the word out.
What's the story behind your latest book?
My second book, Hoagie & Katie in Space, takes place after the end of my last book Hoagie & Katie. After reading the original to my daughter's first grade class, they decided their beloved characters should take an adventure through space, so I obliged, and dedicated the book to their class.
What are you working on next?
The final installment to the Hoagie & Katie series: Hoagie & Katie Lost in Flight
humor/short stories based on real life episodes (flash fiction?)
Do you have any favorite children's book writers?
This is a tricky question as there are so many different genres in children’s literature, and the age range, attention span, and personality of the child will determine which books will be cherished during a child’s life . Personally, I grew up reading many different types of books beginning with typical rhyming books (Seuss), to first readers like Mercer Mayer, to Roger Hargreaves, Gene Zion, E.B. White, and Beatrix Potter. I then developed a love of fables such as Johnny Gruel’s Raggedy Ann & Andy, and of course, A.A. Milne’s Winnie- the-Pooh. I reveled in the great fantasy genre authors: L. Frank Baum, C.S. Lewis, and J.R.R. Tolkien, dabbled in reading comics (Bill Watterson, Gary Larson, and Schultz). I eventually exchanged humor for more thought-provoking moral tales such as Anne of Green Gables, Watership Down, Lord of the Flies, and Animal Farm. In my opinion, all of these authors paved the way for the many creative minds of today, which are too many to list.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I don't want to bore you, but I do "normal", domestic stuff like picking my kids up from school, doing laundry, and gardening. I also force myself to go to the gym (which is actually pretty cool with it's "ultimate recess", and "group fighting" classes), and try to socialize with adults and dogs as much as possible!
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
browsing on Amazon or through word of mouth (my hubby's a big ebook reader).
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Books by This Author
Hoagie & Katie
by Rio Koviak
Hoagie finds himself in a strange world after his hamster ball rolls a bit too far from home. Adventure ensues as Hoagie makes an unlikely friendship with Katie, the capybara, who has also wandered away from her family. The two embark on a journey that leads them through wonder, danger, and surprise as they meet a memorable roster of characters as they search for home.