Updated: Sep 8, 2021
Our 12th interview is with a teen author from Romania, Sonia Marta, who has published three books! She published her first book at the age of ten. She is a great inspiration for young writers and authors everywhere, and I'm excited to share about her journey in this interview. I hope you enjoy it!
Hi Sonia! Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
S: Hi! My name is Sonia, and I am one of the youngest authors in Romania, with three books published at just 13 years old. My first book was published back when I was ten, on the first of June in 2018 on Children’s Day. I started writing that book way back when I was three! I am very grateful to my publishing house as last year, we managed to publish The Rapping Astronaut (which is also my first book in English) during the lockdown of the pandemic! It was its one year anniversary a few months ago, too! And my latest release is called Bucharest City Tour, a Trip with Sonia, a story about my native city. This book was self-published and released on the same date as my first one, on the 1st of June, 2020 - sort of keeping that tradition :)
That's amazing you started writing so young! It's always so inspiring to see writers starting and finding their passion early on.
What inspired and motivated you to write your first book and how long did it take from the initial idea to publishing?
S: The source of my inspiration to start writing was the creative writing club that I was taking part in when I was in year 3, which then carried onto year 4 until it wasn’t held anymore (this term we started it again). Since I was in year 3, my teacher Miss Orla was the person that nurtured my talent and that would encourage and help me exercise my writing every week. So I’d write a short story about a page, maybe two, three even, if I was feeling very inspired and in the mood, and after that I suppose I just followed the ‘train tracks’, each day representing adding a rail to continue stirring my wagons to safety. The teachers were all very supportive, and I would like to mention my year 5 teacher, Mrs. Tansley, which encouraged me to start reading more, followed by Mr. Oldham the next year, which helped me develop my ideas and helped me come up with ideas for The Rapping Astronaut. He also played a big part and he too was a tremendous support. I started to edit a story with him last year, a story that we plan to publish (hopefully) in the Spring of 2023.
I'm so happy to know that your teachers have inspired and encouraged you on your writing journey! We definitely need more teachers like them.
What are some of the challenges you have encountered on your author and self-publishing journey? How did you overcome them?
S: One challenge I struggle with most of the time is finding the sponsors for my books, as every project needs a small investment to come one step closer to perfection. I was very lucky that I had the support of a few local companies, and I’d like to thank each one of them, as without them I wouldn’t be here today. To overcome this year’s struggles with funding my next project, after a long line of emails being sent to multinational, local companies but also city halls without feedback, I decided to upload my project on the funding platform Kickstarter. I look forward to seeing how this great community of supporters of creative projects will react to my story.
That is definitely not an easy task! All the best for your Kickstarter! Let us know when it launches :)
What has been the most rewarding experience since publishing your first book?
S: I think the most rewarding experience publishing my 1st book was, or actually since being an author is to have somebody come up to you and say that you are their idol, their inspiration and just for someone to say something like that is… it just means so much. Another personal rewarding experience I had was when I visited the Spectrum school. And that is because when I went there, in my mind I was mentally preparing for only two classes, with a maximum of 30 children. And so that expectation grew in the first place, when they guided me towards the nicest room in a school I ever went to, haha (and by that I mean a theater room with elevated seats), where they handed me a microphone too - it was just amazing. And not to mention that I went with my friend there, Ecaterina. She was not expecting this either, but after we finished this, (because this isn't even the start) the teacher from the next class said that all the rooms were occupied, so we had to keep the session in their lobby, and it was so weird because it was this huge, wide space, almost like a large palace room, as their campus is very big. And I started doing my session as normal, with the 20 kids like it was originally planned, but then slowly after the bell rang, what I assumed was their transition time, more students started coming in, sticking for a while, possibly wondering what was happening. In no time we ended up having 200 children at that session! Because the whole school heard that there was an author visiting them, and so they all come and gather in a semi-circle. I remember my friend was really exhausted because we kept talking and my mother got emotional, and I was just there, as my mother said, like a professional, just carrying on, keeping that wide smile on my face nevertheless how badly my cheeks were hurting, haha. So when we started giving out signed copies of my books, I felt so bad as we only brought 30 copies as we originally planned… but there were all these children who wanted copies, and then they all left, and I thought that they all just such a moving moment and I remember it as if it were yesterday. We were thinking we had reached the end of the session, which we had, but then for the second time in a row, they come in with all these papers and they're like 'at least give us an autograph, please!' And so I agree, and there I am, with my biggest session yet, signing autographs for them. This was one of my best moments that had a huge impact on my journey.
Wow - what a wonderful experience! I'm sure the children all looked up to you and wanted a copy. It's not every day you get to meet an author!
What is the most valuable lesson you have learned from self-publishing?
S: One of the most valuable lessons that I have learned from self-publishing is that it gives you more freedom - I found out about this for my latest release; Bucharest City Tour, a Trip with Sonia. It allows me to donate as many of my books as I want, which helps me to continue my partnership with World Vision Romania. I donate every month 50 books to a school in rural areas and I also have an online session with 14-15 year old students, talking about my books, my journey as a writer and I hope inspiring them to follow their dreams, with passion and determination. Being a self-published author means that I have to put in more work on the marketing side of it all, so I develop my social media strategy and content, which also shows in the results if I look at the analytics.
That's such a wonderful thing you are doing - donating books and sharing your journey with others!
Have you had any negative experiences or disappointing moments throughout your publishing journey? How did you handle them?
S: I believe that as your path grows, so does the amount of people which envy or despise you. I wished I had known this when I was smaller too; when I was just starting … because it didn’t go as I planned to. I did, however, at the start receive a lot of positive support and feedback from all my friends, teachers, and family - they were all simply very happy for me to have published a book, and to have a friend which got to a place some people don’t in the first decade of her life. But as we all grew older and my second book came out, followed by my third, I lost some good friends because of this, yet, I would like to thank Anastasia, a friend who was with me from the start - and never let my achievements break our friendship apart. She supported me and I am very thankful for this. However, I didn’t let this break me, even though at first I couldn’t understand it - I am a very wise person, especially for my age, and as I grow older I can realize what changes around my surroundings and what stays the same. So I knew I just had to move on with my life, following the advice of the quote: “some people were meant to be in your life but only some were meant to stay.”
Such wise words - and I agree 100%! We can't let those people bring us down. Those who stick with you through your successes and even failures are the ones who are meant to stay.
What advice would you give to other aspiring writers or authors?
S: I would say do not freak out when you don’t know what to write next. That first paragraph for your first book is going to be the hardest. But maybe it won’t - just stop deleting it so many times, write two or three versions and move on, then, after you have finished your story, come back to it and edit it later on. I know seeing that blank piece of paper, or that empty document can be a vacuum of imagination and a spill of anxiety, but if you simply ignore it, you could even start with the middle, then you will not even realize how you might’ve struggled on it.
Don’t give up when you are not selling your work, because you might as well simply be targeting the wrong audience, whether it is the age or the location in the world. You don’t need to quit writing if it’s your passion, plus, your first book will always be the hardest to get on the market - specifically if you’re not known to the world.
All excellent advice! I wish I had heard some of this when I started...
What did you like / dislike most about school?
S: I loved how encouraging my teachers were when I was just starting to further develop my love for writing, and I guess as every child, I hate homework. I am lucky to be in one of the best, if not the best British schools in Bucharest, where I got all the support I needed to develop my skills and abilities from the shy four year-old little girl to the person I am today, confident and with great achievements.