Author Interview – There’s Something Wild In There

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I met Maryam Keeley, Samantha Stewart, and Cleta Ullom, the teen authors of THERE’S SOMETHING WILD IN THERE, at the Berkeley Springs, West Virginia Book Festival in early June 2014. I promised these enterprising and fun young ladies an author interview on this blog, and I’m pleased to introduce them to you!

On a train ride, the widow of Don Saint Denis told the story of her husband’s beautiful illustrations. She offered the illustrations to the girls, and a book was born. Awesome story!

Maryam Keeley lives in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia with her family and dog. She loves to dance, sing, and act and does so often. She is fourteen years old and plans to write many novels as well as act on Broadway or in Hollywood.

Samantha Stewart is an aspiring Broadway actress who lives in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia with her parents, a dog, and a cat. She loves dancing, acting, singing, and writing—and cats. She is fifteen years old and will be a sophomore in high school in the fall.

Cleta Ullom is a gymnast currently taking lessons at Gymratz gym. She resides in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia with her mother and father in their country home. She is sixteen years old and will soon be graduating from high school.


What is your book’s genre/category?

Samantha: Children’s “seek and find.”

Cleta: It is an advanced “I-Spy” book with a nature theme.

Please describe what the story/book is about.

S: It’s a book of forest illustrations full of animals to find, accompanied by poems full of clues.

How did you come up with the title?

S: The illustrator had already come up with the title before we got the illustrations. It’s a good title, so we decided not to change it.

What is the reason you wrote this book?

Maryam: We received the illustrations without the words and were inspired to write them.

C: It came up as just a fate-written opportunity; that was amazing.

S: We were just basically handed these beautiful illustrations. It was such a perfect setup. This book was basically telling us to write it.

What is your favorite part of writing?

M: Figuring out the right words to explain what’s happening.

S: I really enjoyed coming up with text to accentuate the illustrations.

C: My favorite part was just getting to come up with poetry for the book.

What is the most challenging aspect of writing?

M: Definitely the first step, deciding how the story will flow.

S: I’d say working with two other authors. We all got along beautifully, but it was really hard to compromise on the wording.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

C: John Green

M: Brandon Sanderson, J.K. Rowling, and Robert Jourden.

S: I’m a huge fan of Rick Riordan, Marissa Meyer, and Catherine Valente.

What authors or person(s) have influenced you?

S: My parents are both writers, so they’ve influenced me a lot. Aside from that, my poetry has been influenced a bit by Robert Frost, another favorite writer.

C: A professional writer who has influenced me is John Green. Another was my teacher, Leslie Milbourne of Wind Dance Farm.

M: I think all the books I have read have influenced me in one way or another, and nature is, of course, inspiring. Leslie was also a wonderful influence.

Favorite place to write?

M: This book was written at Wind Dance Farm, and I love to write at night.

S: I love writing outside in the forest; it really contributes a sense of wonder. I also write in my room quite a bit.

C: No preference really.

Something personal about you people may be surprised to know?

S: I like writing, but I don’t want it to be my main profession. My goal is to continue acting and one day to be on Broadway!

C: I never thought I would have a book published, nor did I really plan to ever have one published.

M: I compose songs sometimes, but I never write them down.

Any surprises or learning experiences with the publishing process?

C: I was surprised at how well we all got along together.

M: After all the writing and publishing, there is a lot that goes into promoting the book.

S: Publicity is a much bigger factor than I’d imagined. Much of the work is spreading the word.

Looking back, what did you do right that helped you with this book?

M: The way we worked together was really wonderful and helped the book a lot!

S: I took everything one step at a time; I didn’t worry about the future.

Any advice for writers looking to get published?

M: Not really, but I’m really thankful to Gary Stewart, our publisher!

S: Be confident, and don’t pander to anyone. This is your book; you call the shots!

C: My only advice to writers is have faith in your work.

Website? Give us a look!

Where can we find your book?

You can order it from bookstores or

What’s next for you?

C: I will probably not be working on another book for a while. I will be graduating in November of 2014, so I will be pretty busy with post-graduation plans and events.

M: I am moving to Virginia Beach to attend a performing arts high school for theater and dance.

S: As a sophomore in high school, I don’t have much figured out yet, but I’m definitely planning to write more books.

Thanks for a fun interview! Best of luck with your book!

Published by

Eleanor Parker Sapia

Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the multi-award-winning, best-selling historical novel, A DECENT WOMAN, published by Winter Goose Publishing. Eleanor is featured in the award-winning anthology, Latino Authors and Their Muses. Eleanor is writing her second book, The Laments, set in 1926 Old San Juan and Isla de Cabras, Puerto Rico. Eleanor is a writer, artist, photographer, and blogger, who is never without a pen, a notebook, and her camera. Her wonderful adult children are doing wonderful things in the world, which allows Eleanor the blessing of writing full time. Please visit Eleanor at her website:

10 thoughts on “Author Interview – There’s Something Wild In There”

  1. It’s good to get an early start as a writer. I wish I’d kept the stories I wrote when young. (they probably weren’t any good, but…) Lovely interview! Thanks.

  2. I watched these three authors work for several months as they organized the illustrations of Don Saint Denis, and as they searched their own minds and shared captivating words to draw readers into the mystery of the nature. I guided the 3 girls on many projects throughout the school year and referred to them as, “my three lovelies”, as they are beautiful in all senses and worked so lovely together.

    1. Thanks for giving me the illustrator’s name, Leslie! I didn’t have it handy when I put the interview together, and then forgot. I will add it now! It truly is a wonderful story of how they book came to be, and yes, the girls are lovely young ladies who obviously adore you 🙂 Well done, everyone. Thanks for your visit and comments.

  3. This is SO EXCITING! (Disclaimer: I’m Samantha’s mom.) Eleanor, this means SO much to me and to us and to the success of the book. Your questions are brilliant–simple and deep. Thank you!!

  4. By the way, Samantha’s comment about promoting the book being a lot of the job–she’s her mother’s child is all I can say! I just posted to the book’s Facebook page about your interview with the authors, and also gave the URL for your recent post, Eleanor, on “Choosing the Right Book Cover and Title.” Thank you so much for your generosity of spirit. The Facebook permalink to my post about your interview is here:

    PS: Cleta’s the one who created the Facebook page! She’s savvy.

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