Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Children's Book Contest and Interview: While the Giant is Sleeping

TITLE: While the Giant Is Sleeping

AUTHOR: Alycia Holston

ILLUSTRATOR: Suzi Stranahan



I am pleased to host today, author Alycia Holston and illustrator Suzi Stranahan through their duel interview. Come along for this wonderful peek into their writing and illustrating processes. At the end of their interview there is contest information for you to enter at a chance to win a FREE copy of While the Giant is Sleeping.


Tell us a little about your background and how you became interested in writing children’s books.

My background is quite varied, actually. I began college with the intention of becoming a teacher. I finished with a degree in geography. Before graduating, my husband and I got married, so upon graduation, the job that was offered to me with the benefit of medical was too good to pass up. I worked my way up through a retail chain to a training manager…I was finally teaching. This is also where my writing career began—training manuals, that is. During this time, we began attending church and I became a Christian. When the Lord blessed us later in our marriage with a pregnancy, I was called to be a stay-at-home Mother. This began my career of reading books. There is such joy in reading a child a book, seeing the light bulb turn on when they understand part of it or see their smile as they enjoy the story. I began to desire to be a part of that and hopefully have something that my children could read someday.
Tell us about getting your mind in a creative mode? How do you begin your writing process?

I think the creative part of my brain is always working. I make notes all over the place. I find little slips of paper tucked in pockets, purses, drawers and notebooks. I am fairly new to the actual process of writing. I sit down, say a little prayer, take some deep breathes and attempt to focus. I usually have to read what was written before and then add to it as much as I can.
What was your inspiration for While the Giant is Sleeping?
I spent 38 years as a mid-westerner, so moving to the mountains was a real switch for me and the family. We had a fairly traumatic move…the house we were renting sold soon after we arrived and we had to stay in a shoebox duplex while we waited for our current home to be built. This meant three moves in less than six months but the one constant was always the Sleeping Giant. I would make up stories each day about what was happening to him and around him. I encourage my children to always look at the world around them, the world that the Lord created for them and appreciate the beauty in all of it. There’s so much to learn from simply looking out our windows.

Many writers utilize a writing group. Where do you get constructive critiques and feedback?
I have been blessed with very smart friends! My husband gets the first look at everything I do and is always constructive and encouraging. I have two people that are proofreaders and that help me develop my ideas. I also attend an online group through CrossRiver Media Group. The most important thing is to be open to criticism and not be married to your original train of thought.
What was the hardest thing about writing the book?

Getting my idea from my head to the paper. Once I found a publisher that understood my vision for the book, there was more editing, collaboration and compromising. I would say the absolute hardest part, though, was the waiting. I was not able to make a list and know when it would be done. There is so much out of your control, even to the point of our release date. It was the most incredible exercise in patience I’ve been faced with—and I have three children!!

Now that While the Giant is Sleeping is out in bookstores, do you have any projects that you're currently working on?
I have several but nothing that’s actually developed well yet. The main thing that I’ve been working on since the end of May is marketing. I really like getting out, reading the book and selling it. It’s so fun to see it in the stores and it is doing very well. My goal is to focus more on writing after the first of the year and pick the marketing back up in the spring.
When you're not writing, what do you enjoy doing?

I really enjoy cooking. I know it sounds like work but it relaxes me to read magazines and cookbooks in search of a new recipe for my family. I also like to shop antique and thrift stores. It’s my own personal form of treasure hunting.

Where can readers find your book?

While the Giant is Sleeping is available online through our website, my publisher’s website or through Amazon. Several stores in the Helena, Mont., area also carry it.
Tell us a little about your background and how you became interested in illustrating children’s books.
As long as I can remember, I have loved art! My art teacher in high school inspired me to pursue my creative passion in college. I finished with a fine art degree in graphic design and textile design. During college I learned about different illustration styles and I have always thought I would enjoy illustrating. Following college I worked for a catalog company for 5 years which strengthened my knowledge of the print industry. That enabled me to pursue my illustrating dreams.

How do you go about finding the inspiration for your drawings?

I spent a lot of time driving around the Sleeping Giant and take pictures of the surrounding landscape. I fell in love with the beautiful colors! Inspiration was easy to come by. I captured as many as 1000 photos during the whole process. I learned what angle the sun had to be in for the mountain to look the most beautiful. I got the best pictures during sunrises and sunsets.
What materials did you use for your drawings, what was the process and how long did it take you to do everything from start to finish?

I used chalk pastels because I wanted to capture rich, vibrant colors. I started each illustration with photography research then sketched out the image on artist paper. Each illustration is roughly 27 in. x 12 in. After I finished the hand drawing with the chalk pastels, I had them professional photographed. Then I did an extensive amount of Photoshop work cleaning up the images and adjusting the colors. I spent approximately 60 to 80 hours per image, with a total of 16 images. I ended up redrawing six of the images. The whole process took about nine months.

Now that While the Giant is Sleeping is out in bookstores, do you have any projects that you're currently working on?

I am taking a break from illustrating, but I am working on some new design projects. My current focus now is learning more about web design.

When you're not drawing, what do you enjoy doing?

I have so many interests and passions. I love spending time with my wonderful family, being outdoors, camping, running, cooking, gardening, to name a few. I am a lover of life and enjoy learning and growing.

Contest information:

Alycia and Suzi would like to invite you to visit and leave them a message about what their favorite winter scene is in the book and what it is about that image that they enjoy. The images are available for view on the website. Each reader who leaves a comment along with their email address will receive one entry into a drawing for a free book. The winner will be drawn randomly from all of the commenter’s on the blog from now until Dec. 16th.

Alycia and Suzi, it's been a pleasure hosting you today.

Wishing you all the best!

Best wishes,
Donna M. McDine
Award-winning Children's Author
The Golden Pathway ~ August 2010 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc.


  1. Alycia & Suzi:

    It's a pleasure interviewing and hosting you today.

    Best wishes for your continued success,

  2. Thanks so much for sharing about our book on your blog!
    ~ Suzi

  3. Thank you for hosting us today!


Thank for you taking the time out to visit with me and to learn about my writing career.

Please be sure to leave your blog address so I can reciprocate.

I look forward to visiting you too.