Wednesday , May 22 2024
"Before you decide writing is your passion, make sure you want to take on both the creative side of writing and the business side including publicity, promotion, and marketing."

Interview: Penelope Anne Cole, author of ‘Magical Matthew’

SONY DSCWelcome my special guest, children’s author Penelope Anne Cole. Penelope is a substitute teacher and has taught at all grade levels and English as a Second Language. She also tutors elementary, middle, and high school students in reading, vocabulary, writing, and history. She reviews children’s books on her blog. As a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, she regularly attends conferences and workshops. She is also a member of the Fremont Area Writers Group of the California Writers Club and is a Certified Phonographix Reading Therapist with Read America. Ms. Cole has a Professional Clear California Multiple Subject Teaching Credential, a Liberal Arts B.A. (English Major), and an M.A. in Human Development Education. She resides in Santa Clara, California with her daughter and their rescued dogs and cats.

Her book, Magical Matthew (2012), is the first in her Magical series. Magical Mea is second (2013). Mágico Mateo (2013) is the Spanish Version of Magical Matthew. Magica Mea, the Spanish version of Magical Mea, is coming soon. Next is Magical Mea Goes to School, followed by Magical M and M. Magical Matthew won a Readers’ Favorite Bronze Medal, a Creative Child Magazine Book of the Year Award, and a NABE Pinnacle Book Achievement Award. Magical Mea won a Creative Child Magazine Preferred Choice Award, a NABE Pinnacle Book Achievement Award, and was a Readers’ Favorite Finalist.

Visit the author’s website.

Watch Magical Matthew’s video trailer.

Congratulations on the release of Magical Matthew, Penelope! Tell us, when did you start writing and what got you into children’s books?

I’ve been writing all my life, much of it in memoir form and journals. In elementary school, I wrote several short stories featuring kids who struggled with problems. I wish I still had those first stories. I remember the emotion from those early stories actually made me cry. I got back into writing children’s stories when my neighbor’s autistic son turned 10 and celebrated the magic of “double digits!” That gave me an MagMat Coveridea for a children’s story about a boy who had secret magical powers to fix things. He kept his magic a secret from his family until a friend began to suspect. I named him Matthew after my neighbor’s son. His friend Lily is named after their sweet cat who died. There’s Grandma Nonie in the story who is based on my Aunt Georgia – someone you can confide in, who listens well but lets you make your own decisions.

Do you plot in advance or do you write by the seat of your pants?

I’m more of a seat of my pants writer. I usually have an idea of where I want the story to go, the general plot outline in mind, and then I start writing, and the story unfolds from there. If I get stuck, then I have to look at what will get me where I want to go. Do I need more action, a new character, a plot twist or problem to get me moving along? I like to give my characters several problems to solve and I enjoy a surprise ending. 

What do you hope readers will get from your book?

I hope readers will want to be like Magical Matthew and use their gifts and talents to do good things, to help people, and make the world a better place – starting with their own family, friends, and neighborhood. I want them to see that challenges and obstacles can be overcome with the help of trusted friends and family. Also, even though things don’t always turn out as we’d like them to, we can make the best of each situation as we learn and grow. 

What do you love most about the writer’s life?

I love putting stories together. I like thinking up the story idea and fleshing it out. I like developing the characters and watching what they do and say – putting words in their mouths and ideas in their heads. It’s like my own little world that I set up and sort of control. It’s also fun to see what happens, because sometimes what you thought or planned doesn’t always work out. For example, a character I thought was going to be a sort of “glue” character – one that holds the story together from the background – ended up being the main character who began and ended the story. For picture and story books, I love envisioning the “scenes” and then seeing what the artist comes up with. And I especially love to put in some twists and turns, and a surprise ending.

Where is your book available?

My books, Magical Matthew and Mágico Mateo (Spanish Version), plus the second in the series, Magical Mea, are available online from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and my publisher, Guardian Angel Publishing, who offers bulk sales in both softcover and hardcover editions. The ebook edition is only available from Guardian Angel Publishing.

Using the contact form on my blog, readers can order signed copies of my books directly from me.

What is your advice for aspiring children’s authors?

Before you decide writing is your passion, make sure you want to take on both the creative side of writing and the business side including publicity, promotion, and marketing. The hardest part for me is finding time to write after you’re published because that’s when you have to be constantly marketing, promoting – getting the word out – all the time. So, first, be sure you’re an outgoing, sales type business person, not a shy, introverted, book worm type. Second, read as much good literature as you write. The more good books you read, the better your writing will become.  You’ll also see what other books are out there. Then you can put out something that’s different, with a fresh take, a new twist, or angle that will help sell your book.

Anything else you’d like to tell my readers?

Another thing I’d like to impress upon up and coming, or aspiring children’s authors – be prepared for disappointment. You won’t always agree with your agent, editors, publishers, artists, book reviewers, critique group members, or publicists. Or rather, they won’t always agree with your point of view and ideas. Most new and upcoming authors won’t get to choose their cover art, their artist (nor approve his or her illustrations), or have the final say on editing. You wrote the story, but your publisher makes most final decisions (according to the contract). The only way to control every aspect of your book is to self-publish. And if you go that route, then you will be totally responsible every step of the way. You’ll have to hire help at each stage of the process, if you want your book to be professionally copy edited, laid out, illustrated, proofread, and published. Not to mention having to hire publicity and handling marketing. As they say, “you pays your money and you takes your chances.” So it’s best to keep your wits and a sense of humor about you – you’ll need them!

About Mayra Calvani

Mayra Calvani writes fiction and nonfiction for children and adults and has authored over a dozen books, some of which have won awards. Her stories, reviews, interviews and articles have appeared on numerous publications such as The Writer, Writer’s Journal, Multicultural Review, and Bloomsbury Review, among many others. Represented by Serendipity Literary.

Check Also

Book Review: ‘Magical Mea’ by Penelope Anne Cole

A great resource for parents to teach children the value of being kind.


  1. Thanks Penny and Mayra. Great advice. I agree that the hardest part is marketing. I seem to spend a couple of hours per day trying to do it and I don’t think I am doing it right. I loved Magical Matthew.

    • Penelope Anne Cole

      Hi Sue, thanks for your comments. Glad you liked MagMatt! Thanks, Mayra. I appreciate you to bits! by Penelope Anne Cole

  2. Penny, your Magical series is a delightful read for children, and the illustrations are a perfect fit. I thoroughly recommend them for any child’s book collection. Loved your interview as well.

    • Penelope Anne Cole

      Thanks, Margot, for your kind words and support. These books also help build empathy, character, and self esteem.

  3. Mayra and Penny,
    Thanks for the great interview. I have read and reviewed both books. They are a great read and teach kids many valuable lessons. I look forward to reading more of your books in the near future. Good luck with your book promotion.