Interview with Ginny Stone
Author of Wizard of Wigwash - The Adventures of Johnny the Penguin
Ginny Stone—an author, columnist and blogger, originally hails from Zimbabwe. She grew up in Malawi, then moved to South Africa, finished school and started adult life in Somerset West. Her first real job was as a secretary at a nuclear research institute, which her family found hilarious, considering she had “Hope Abandoned” written on her high school physics report. Stone eventually ran the outreach department at iThemba LABS—a multi-disciplinary research laboratory, until she and her husband, a materials scientist, moved to Springs in Gauteng, SA in 2007. (Stone is fond of saying that she has a PhD—she married him!)
Although she’d been scribbling for most of her life, this move proved to be the real start of Stone’s writing career. Since 2007 she’s had seventeen books published, three of them have been translated into seven different languages and another recently won an international award. She has self-published eight books, two of which are a direct result of having written a weekly column in a local newspaper for over eight years—A Dog’s Blog.
When she’s not writing, she develops and designs educational games, for both schools and industry, which are being used around the country.
Stone adores reading, fabric painting, gardening, mosaicking and walking in nature. She lives with her husband in a rambling old house with a variety of extended family members—a sprightly mother who is 85-years young, arty daughter, her significant other and teensy baby, not to mention her step-son who is well on his way to being a vet. In addition to this human zoo, they also have two rescue cats and a very neurotic, yet adorable, sausage dog. Stone also has a lovely elder daughter who is a foundation phase teacher, happily married and lives in Cape Town with their delightful seven-year-old daughter.
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How would you describe 'Wizard of Wigwash - The Adventures of Johnny the Penguin' to a new reader?
- I can more easily answer this by sharing part of a review of the book...
"This light-hearted, yet intriguing, adventure story is a treasure trove of ideas that should hold special appeal for tweens, whose imaginations are likely to be stirred to the core. I especially loved the immediacy of the Wizard of Wigwash: The Adventures of Johnny the Penguin, in which it was so easy to be swept away from any daily humdrum tedium into a land permeated with magic.
I can truly imagine this phantasmagorical tale becoming the basis of a children’s TV show – the lead characters are so well-drawn and easy to empathise with, especially as there is yet another volume of the Wizard of Wigwash (– Promises and Lies) in the offing. The implicitly sound family values and moral ethics that the Wizard of Wigwash evinces should make Stone’s and Kendall’s tale resound well with educationists so that the book could easily prove to be an excellent choice as a class reader for those of middle-school age. - Lois Henderson"
What was the inspiration behind 'Wizard of Wigwash - The Adventures of Johnny the Penguin'?
- The co-author of the book, Alastair Kendall's father used to tell him stories about the magical land of Wigwash and they involved a talking penguin. The title was a no-brainer.
Which authors do you admire? How have they influenced your writing style?
- I'm a huge fan of Roald Dahl, amongst many other authors. I love adding humour into all situations in my writing, so yes, he probably influenced me considerably.
Can you tell us a little about the locations in your book?
- Paul lives in London, but the Land of Wigwash is in another dimension - not too far away, 50 years ago.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors? How would you advise a new author about traditional publishing versus self publishing?
- Now is the time for Indie authors! But you have to make sure you book has been edited and is not full of errors. Very important. Too many people put too much store on being traditionally published. It does not make you a lesser author - it makes you brave and intrepid! Having said that, if you are pitching your manuscript to a publisher or agent, make sure that your cover letter is stunning!
What's your writing process?
- I'm a pantser for sure! This book was a tad different because I co-authored with Alastair. When I say co-authored, I wrote the book. Originally he came up with the plot but there were so many iterations of the book that the story-line is now a mishmash of both of our ideas. With most of my other books, I leap in and write, without really knowing where I am going.
Which character in 'Wizard of Wigwash - the Adventures of Johnny the Penguin' has had the greatest impact on readers?
- I'd say, Johnny. Talking, roller-blading penguins are not the norm and he's a very likeable character. Although the Wicked Wizard of the North, Alfred is pretty rad too. Then, of course, if you are a ten-year-old boy, you'll totally relate to the main character, Paul, and probably wish like crazy that you could also visit Wigwash.
If 'Wizard of Wigwash - The Adventures of Johnny the Penguin' were to be adapted for TV or film, who would you see in the lead role? Who did you have in your mind’s eye when you wrote him/her?
- Kyle Tristan would be just perfect.
How have readers responded to 'Wizard of Wigwash - The Adventures of Johnny the Penguin'.
- Very well - and we've also had great reviews from adults (always nice if an adult enjoys a kid's story - seeing as they are mostly the ones buying the books).
Where next? What are you working on now?
- I'm currently working on the novel I wrote for NaNoWriMo - it's called 'Jack, the Hooliganat' and features our rescue cat, Jack (duh!). Jack is actually a warlock from Planet Og who was banished to earth by Triple O (Odious Olga from Og). Jack spends his life trying to get back to Og to save the Oglets that he stashed in a safe place so that Olga can't use them as slave labour for her bag factory. Most of the book is loosely based on truth - from Jack's point of view - he gets up to all sorts of nonsense. It also features Mr Edge, our other rescue cat, and Gemma - our neurotic sausage dog. It should be available in the next month or two.
And... yes! Alastair and I are working on the second title in the Wigwash series as well.
Imagine being afflicted with an atrocious disease and not even realising that you have it?
Ten-year-old Paul Balo has a rare genetic disorder which makes him smell like fish bait. His life is a miserable cycle of being nagged by his family to shower more often and being bullied by his peers. His only friends are a penguin named Johnny that understandably thinks he smells delightful and Polo, a rumbustious mutt, destined for the dog pound.
Paul’s camp money has been stolen by bullies and he’s too afraid to tell his parents that he’s not actually going—they are convinced that school camp will be the making of their smelly son. Johnny saves the day by spiriting Paul and Polo off to the magical land of Wigwash for a week of fun instead. Without his parents’ consent of course.
But things don’t work out quite as Johnny planned.
The innkeeper’s daughter convinces Paul to disobey an order and they inadvertently find themselves in a time when Wizards were evil and life was decidedly tough. Can Johnny save his friend? Will Paul ever see his family again?
This is a whimsical story about Wizards, a magical land, courage and… custard!