Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Interview with Sonja Anderson: author of Sophie's Quest and Sophie Topfeather, Superstar

In our last post, we mentioned how special it is that Sunpenny has such an international group of authors. As promised, in our forthcoming posts we will be publishing the interviews we've held with them to find out something about where they live and how their environs inspire them. First up is Sonja Anderson, the author or our gorgeous children's books, Sophie's Quest and Sophie Topfeather, superstar.

Sonja Anderson with her lovely daughters

SP:  Sonja, could you tell us something of your background and how you came to be living in Seattle, Washington, USA?

SA: A good friend from college invited me to come stay with her in Seattle for a few months before I went to work at an international school in Tokyo. During those five months, I fell in love with the mountains and water and people and moved back there when it was time to leave Japan.

SP: I've often heard about how beautiful it is there. What do you find most inspiring as a writer about living in Seattle?

SA: I live near Puget Sound and watch boats, large and small, going by every day. It makes me wonder where they are going and why. I used some of that wondering in my children’s novel, Sophie’s Quest! Probably more significant, however, is that Seattle is a place where many people have come from all over the world to live, and I’m inspired to use my writing to help people understand one another a little better.

Sonja with Puget Sound in the background

SP: That's a lovely idea to pursue. What prompted you to start writing in the first place, and how long have you been writing?

SA: I’ve been writing most of my life in one way or another—I kept a lot of diaries as a kid, and even entered two stories into a Christmas writing contest at school. When one of my stories was selected to be read in front of the whole school, I was hooked!

I began writing fiction in earnest when my oldest daughter was in kindergarten. She had a “discussion” on the playground with kids of different religious backgrounds over “whose God is biggest.” I wanted to write a story that would help kids respect each other despite their differences, and also to introduce them to Jesus as Emmanuel, God with us.

SP: Again, a wonderful motivation to write. What do you prefer writing? Fiction or fact and why?

SA: I recently finished a non-fiction project with my husband about the history of Mount Rainier National Park and the historic inns and lodges there. It was really fun to learn lots of new things! I have to say, though, that writing fiction that seems to touch children’s hearts is one of the most satisfying things I have ever done in my life. I know what fictional characters meant to me growing up, and it brings me so much joy to hear kids tell me how much they love Sophie Topfeather and her friends!

SP: That is no surprise at all! We love Sophie too! Do you write anything other than fiction/fact?

SA: When I have time, I enjoy writing personal experience blog posts on my website, It’s one way that I’ve found to share encouragement for other school employees, and to tell some of the really interesting stories that kids tell me about their various cultures, like White Sunday (Samoan) and Ethiopian Christmas and Easter celebrations.

SP: That's terrific! Okay, then, if you had to give the readers here a tip about how to get started on a book, what would it be?

SA: Just start writing, and don’t worry about whether or not each sentence is very good. Don’t worry about whether or not you’re starting the story in the right place. Just go, and keep going! When you finally have a draft, think of it as a nice, big, pile of raw material to play in until you can get it right. I spent a year on the first chapter of Sophie’s Quest, trying to get everything right, only to realize much, much later, that it was completely the wrong beginning. I pitched the whole chapter and wished I had that year back!

SP: What a great lesson to learn. What would you say is your greatest strength in life? And then (of course) what do you see as your weakest point?

SA: It’s hard to see your own strengths and weaknesses, isn’t it? I guess what I try to do is to encourage everyone around me and to live my life in a way that is consistent with what I believe to be true. My weakest point is that I concentrate so hard on some things that I completely forget other things that are also important, like being thoughtful for birthdays and other special events, in a timely manner.

Sonja is one of twins: this is her with her sister
Suzanne Cordatos, also a Sunpenny author

SP: Ah, those special days are always difficult to remember, aren't they? Sonja, if you had to live for a year with only one book, what would it be?

SA: That’s an easy one! I’d bring my study Bible, because this one book contains enough to keep someone interested and curious for a lifetime, let alone a year, especially with all the notes and commentary.

SP: And do you have any favourite authors? If so, why do you admire their work?

SA: I admire many children’s book authors, but I really love Steve Sheinkin’s narrative non-fiction (especially Bomb), and Kirby Larson’s work (Her book, The Friendship Doll, made me sob out loud!)

SP: Are you writing anything at the moment? Can you tell us what it is?

SA: I’m very excited to be finishing Mount Rainier’s Historic Inns and Lodges, a project I’ve been doing with my husband for Arcadia Publishing. It’s due to be released May 22, 2017. I’m also about fifty pages in to the third Sophie Topfeather book! It’s called, Sophie’s Gold Rush, and I hope to have a good rough draft done by the end of the summer.

SP: That's wonderful! Okay, now, the final question. If you had a bucket list, what would be in the top three positions?

1. Visit Beatrix Potter’s home in the Lake District

2. Follow the footsteps in England of Katherine from the historical novel, Katherine, by Anya Seton (with my twin sister, who also wants to do this!).

3. Go back as a guest author to the international school in Tokyo where I taught 2nd grade. That’s where I first had a vision of my owl main character, Sophie!

Sonja, this has been absolutely fascinating. Thank you so much for sharing your inspiring home and thoughts with us. We know Sophie Topfeather is a very popular character with young readers, and hope more of them will discover her soon. Thanks for joining us!

Sonja's delightful books Sophie's Quest and Sophie Topfeather, Superstar are both published by Sunberry Books, an imprint of Sunpenny Publishing. Links to the site where readers can by them are below. Both books are available on all Amazon sites, however, and also as paperbacks through the Book Depository:

Sophie's Quest
Sophie Topfeather, Superstar

Sunday, 19 February 2017

The Blog is Back!

Firstly, we'd like to apologise for our absence from blogging over the last few months. There's been a lot happening in the Sunpenny world, all things that have meant the blog has had to be put on the back burner for a time.

Nevertheless, in the intervening months, our staff and authors have been busy with projects both old and new. There have been festivals, book signings, readings, workshops and other author events too, all of which have demonstrated the hard work, dedication and passion that go into publishing a book.

Now the blog is being resumed, we hope to bring you more of our news as well as articles about different aspects of writing and publishing. There'll be information about interesting events coming up in the publishing world too.

But before we do any of that, we have something special to kick start our blogging year. One of Sunpenny's special appeals is that our authors are truly international and our books are set in some amazing locations worldwide. In the next few weeks, we'll be beginning this new blogging season with some interviews with our authors. We've asked them all to tell us a bit about the environment in which they live and how it inspires their writing, so we're looking forward to sharing these with you.

Our first interview will be with Seattle-based Sonja Anderson, author of the delightful children's books Sophie's Quest and Sophie Topfeather, Superstar. We'll be posting this in the coming week. Following this, we have interviews lined up with several of our other authors who live in fabulous locations like Italy, New Zealand, Wales, Scotland and even the Netherlands, so be sure to keep an eye on our updates.

For now, though, it's great to be back and just as a reminder of an event where many of the Sunpenny authors and staff got together last year, here are some photos of us all at the London Book Fair last April!

 From top left to bottom right: 1. Jo Holloway conducting a meeting, 2. Tonia Parronchi and Val Poore
3. Michelle Jayne Heatley and Julie McGowan 4. Christine Moore

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Happy World Book Day from Sunpenny!

Today we'd like to wish you a very happy World Book Day from everyone at Sunpenny!

Woo Hoo It's World Book Day
World Book Day is a "celebration of authors, illustrators, books and (most importantly) it’s a celebration of reading." It is the biggest worldwide book event that has been designated by UNESCO as a celebration of books and reading and is now celebrated in 100 countries.

This is the 16th Word Book Day and across the UK children will be coming together in schools and libraries, where they will be encouraged to discover the joy of reading by being offered the chance to get a new book through special book vouchers provided by National Book Tokens.

One particularly exciting event is this year's online festival, The Biggest Book Show on Earth, which is being broadcast online today from 11:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. It will feature interviews with children's authors who reveal the secrets of story writing and illustration. The show can also be viewed later online here, so why not celebrate World Book Day by watching it with your children when they get home from school?

Sunberry Books

We're passionate about developing a love of books in children and young adults too, which is why our imprint Sunberry Books was created. Buying a book from the Sunberry book selection would be a fantastic way to encourage children to continue to read after World Book Day, and if you're in the UK they could even use their £1 National Book Token to put towards it if you order directly from your local book store.

Our recommendations

How are the children you know celebrating World Book Day? Do you have any fond memories of World Book Day from when you were younger? Let us know on our Twitter and Facebook pages!

To find out more about World Book Day visit their website here.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

New release in time for Mother's Day: 'Blackbirds Baked in a Pie' by Eugene Barter

We are very excited to announce to you the release of the latest Sunpenny book, out this Friday, the 1st of March:

'Blackbirds Baked in a Pie'
(Memories of Rozinante)

Do you know any cookery lovers or Francophiles? This new release has come out just in time for Mother's Day and Easter, so if you're looking for a gift that can be enjoyed for a long time to come, it would be a wonderful choice. Or you could just treat yourself to it and the delicious recipes inside it! Find out more to whet your appetite...

About the book
Sir Edward Heath's Private Secretary didn't take retirement sitting down...
Fate has plenty of surprises in store for Eugene when, at the age of 60, she decides to leave her Welsh home and find a house in France to run as an auberge. Finding the perfect place in a small market town in the foothills of the Pyrenees, she names the house after Don Quixote's mule, 'Rozinante', and settles down to fulfill her dream.
A forest fire heading towards the house before the removal van has even arrived, is only the start of many surprises! The house's eccentric water pump, a curmudgeonly neighbour, and the outlook of the laid back local workforce being that manana is the order of the day, make a lively beginning to Eugene's new life in St Eulalie. Many happy guests from all over the world find their way to Rozinante, with Eugene and her family entertaining them, plotting their walks and creating delicious meals for them. All the while trying to stop Buster the Golden Retriever from stealing their underwear and burying it in the garden!
Humorous and often self-mocking, always gentle and quirky, Eugene takes us on a journey through the countryside and its people, Catalans and French alike, with a good dose of her German and English guests thrown in. Her love of the region shines from the pages – surely a timeless joy for all ages.
The second part of the book  focuses on the recipes which Eugene devised for her guests.  Although many of them are French or Catalan in flavour she also manages to introduce the French to English pies and, in the true spirit of entente cordiale, succeeds in gaining French respect for English cooking. 

About the author
Born in Penarth, South Wales, Eugene Barter left school at 16 to work as a trainee journalist on two local newspapers, in the days when discrimination against women in the workplace made the job twice the challenge it was for male colleagues. Moving on to an assignment in Holland at a Unesco conference, she stayed on for two years, learning the language and working with companies in Amsterdam struggling to get back on their feet after the horrors of the Second World War. Studying with the Open University in her late forties, she became a Tutor/Counsellor after graduating, before moving briefly back into journalism, then working in the House of Commons – eventually becoming Senior Secretary to Sir Edward Heath. In her sixties she took on the running of an auberge in France, and this book, Blackbirds Baked in a Pie, is a lively and affectionate account of her time there.
Now 85, Eugene's love affair with France continues undiminished. 

Blackbirds Baked in a Pie is also accompanied by the beautiful illustrations of Mary Jose, which really bring the settings to life vividly.

About the illustrator
Mary Jose is English, but she and her husband have travelled the world extensively. She was one of the first and most regular guests at Rozinante. She is a self-taught artist, now happily settled near Prades, where her paintings are widely praised. It was, in fact, the evening meal with Champagne to celebrate the purchase of their house there, that the 'blackbirds baked in a pie' incident took place.
There are frequent exhibitions of Mary Jose's work in both France and the UK. Visit Mary Joses website at:

The recipes 
Eugene's delicious tailored recipes featured in the last section of the book became very popular amongst visitors to her auberge in France and are accompanied by short and often humorous passages explaining the inspiration and stories behind them that make this book stand out from the average recipe collection. With everything covered – from cheese and marinades to fruit puddings and buffet parties – there's sure to be something to take your fancy!

 Here are a few examples from the collection:

  • Apple Dessert cake (our Marketing Coordinator, Louise, made this cake for her family and it went down a treat!)
  • Chicken with Cider and Apple
  • Catalan Meatballs
  • Creme au Touron
  • Roquefort Turnovers

Special Offer!

As a special deal for our loyal friends we are offering you the chance to own a copy of Blackbirds Baked in a Pie for just £8.99 with FREE P&P in the first 2 weeks of publication only, if you order directly from Sunpenny. All you have to do to take advantage of this special offer is to send a cheque made payable to Sunpenny Limited, to the value of £8.99 to the following address:

10 Aspen Close,

Please include a note stating the book title, your name and the address you want it sent to.

Look out for more information on where to buy Blackbirds Baked in a Pie on Friday, here and on our Facebook and Twitter profiles!