Author Interview & Book Giveaway: Little Joe by Sandra Neil Wallace

Welcome to Sandra Neil Wallace!

Canadian-born children’s author Sandra Neil Wallace led a varied career before focusing on novel writing. She spent fifteen years in network television as a news anchor and ESPN sports announcer, becoming the first woman to cover the NHL for network TV. She now writes full-time and lives in New Hampshire with her husband, children’s author Rich Wallace. Little Joe is her first novel.


What is one book everyone should read?
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexandr Solzhenitsyn. I keep reading it every year. It shifts any thinking I have of ingratitude into joy and invigorates my soul. It’s about one man’s indestructible spirit and how no matter what occurs in his life or what is taken away from him in the prison camp, his spirit and his will to live cannot be touched. They try, but he won’t let them. It’s also very personal to me. I’m the first child in my family who isn’t a prisoner of war and like Ivan, my grandmother, who survived five years in a concentration camp, could not be broken down.

What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?
Tiger Tiger, which is popular in Canada but hard to find here. It’s a mix of licorice and orange sherbet. Here in the U.S., I go for home-made peach ice cream, pralines and cream, or chocolate mint.

 Is there anything you need in order to write? (ie Chocolate, quiet, music)
A cup of green tea and a handful of trinkets to inspire or detract me away from a blank page. I have rocks from my favorite places, a sock monkey, and the paper weight my sister gave me when I turned 8.

Night owl, or early bird?
Is 8 AM an early bird? I think so. At least, that’s when I get up in the winter. In other seasons, it’s much earlier. 7:30. Including the 2 second walk to the office.

What is your favorite sport to watch on TV?
That’s tough, since I worked in sports television for so many years, but I’d have to say the NHL when I get it. I grew up in Canada, where hockey gets pumped into your blood, and I love the Toronto Maple Leafs, which sounds ridiculous, but your home team can make you say silly things. Aside from the NHL and marathons, I watch mostly collegiate and high school sports, like wrestling and track.

How do you react to a bad review?
As an author, once your book is published, it’s open to scrutiny. The way I look at it, is the hardest part of writing is getting published. It’s like a 1 per cent chance. I figure 13 people on the editorial board of a major publishing house liked my work enough to purchase it. I get happy letters from librarians and kids. I put as much as I possibly can into my writing short of gasping for air. After that, whatever comes is a matter of opinion.

What do you do when you are in-between books?
I tend to be ultra focused when I’m writing and surround myself with that world, so once I’m finished a novel, I get back into nature. That really grounds me. I hike, visit the ocean and walk for miles on the beach, trying not to think of anything except what’s going on at that moment, like foraging for beach glass or watching the piper plovers.

Where is your favorite place to read/write?
They’re both different. When I read, I like to feel comfortable, but when I write, I like to suffer a bit. Like, say, have cold fingers to spurn me on, or sit on an old wooden chair so I stay alert, which describes my office perfectly. For reading, it would have to be at our place by the ocean under this measly light bulb while I’m cradled into the pages of the book by the sound of waves and curious seagulls. Or in our spare room at home, which is somehow like an oven, and the only truly warm spot in the house, and where I feel like I’m in a cozy library of a bed and breakfast.

Please tell us in one sentence only, why we should read your book.
Don’t you want to know the meaning of life? But seriously, connecting with animals teaches us so much about ourselves and I hope that’s what the book does.

If you could jump in to a book, and live in that world.. which would it be?
Hands down, Laura Ingalls and her Little House on the Prairie world. I know I’d kick butt as a pioneer. I actually like the smell of manure, and I bet Laura does, too. We could be best friends, sleeping in the hayloft ’cause we like animals so much. She’d have to wake me up most mornings, but I’ll eat anything with oats in it, even if it tastes like gruel. Plus, I already know how to ride a horse and milk a cow (sort of). And after living in northern Arizona for three years, I can actually tolerate the sight of rattle snakes. I’ve also got the warmest old Hudson Bay blanket coat, which my mother says is the ugliest thing she’s ever seen, so naturally it’s my prized possession. I also love wearing any kind of boots no matter how uncomfortable. But most importantly, I survived a winter in Quebec City with leather gloves only! And I don’t mind washing my hair once a week or waiting until Sunday to comb it.

What is your favorite quote?
This one from, Lewis Carroll’s, Alice in Wonderland. In fact, I like it so much it’s clipped onto the lampshade next to my computer: “There is no use trying,” said Alice. “One can’t believe in impossible things.” “I dare say you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

What is your guilty pleasure?
Writing all day in my leopard-print pajamas.

What TV show/movie/book do you watch/read that you’d be embarrassed to admit?
I watch anything to do with the Royal Family.

How did you celebrate the sale of your first book?
Little Joe is my first book. The night before it launched I couldn’t sleep, I was so excited. I felt like both a proud mother and a little girl listening for signs of Santa and his reindeer on the roof at Christmas Eve. In the morning I walked into town and everything looked different– fresh and more vibrant. Of course, it hadn’t changed, I was just feeling so happy. I wanted to shout to complete strangers, “I wrote a book and it’s in bookstores today!” like when you’re in kindergarten and tell everyone it’s your birthday or that you love your dog. I went to our local bookstore as soon as they opened and of course, they hadn’t had the book out yet; it doesn’t work that way. The shopkeeper was really sweet, though, and said to come back in the afternoon, but I was too embarrassed. I bought myself a red velvet cupcake and danced around the living room with my dog, instead.

How would you describe the target audience for your book? Which genre?
Little Joe is geared for readers willing to set foot into the cave-like moistness of a cattle barn in the dead of winter, surrounded by darkness with only their senses to guide them, and witness the birth and growth of an animal which may make them question their very existence. Plus, the ending is unexpected, but make sure not to read the final pages first.
The book is realistic contemporary fiction for Middle Grade readers who are fascinated with animals and the cycle of nature.

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Book Summary:

It’s a cold December night and Fancy, the Stegner family’s cow, is about to give birth. Out pops Little Joe, a large bull calf, and with him comes nine-year-old Eli’s first chance to raise an animal to show at next fall’s county fair. Over the next ten months, Eli learns some hard lessons about growing up, especially when it comes to taking care of another living thing.

In this appealing and heartwarming story that’s reminiscent of James Herriot’s books, Eli comes to terms with some of the realities of life on his family’s farm, and in the outside world, as he raises his first bull calf for competition. Told in straightforward and appealing text, brimming with lush details about the natural world of the farm, and with characters that are sure to appeal to readers, Eli’s story is one that will triumph among animal lovers of all ages.

Giveaway Details:
2 Winners will each receive a copy of Little Joe
Open to US & Canada
Ends 2/7/11

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