1) Why Penguins? In part, I have to blame Berkeley Breathed. I was an impressionable teenager in the early 80s and would get up each morning to read Bloom County before school. Opus the Penguin was my favorite, which is not to dismiss Bill the Cat, Steve Dallas, or the other cast. It seems penguins were part of my life without me realizing just how much back then. I still have a pointillism picture I did for high school art class of a Gentoo penguin taped up with a transceiver. During that time I wrote an essay for my English Comp class explaining why there are no penguins in the Arctic. That essay was sort of the foundation of Rise of the Penguins. The art can be seen on my Instagram.
2) Is it 6 or 7 books in the series? The Rise of the Penguins Saga currently has 6 books in the series. The seventh book, The Great Auk War, is a prequel that I’m currently writing. It takes place over a thousand years before the first book and covers a conflict that is part of the mythology in the series. Yeah, my penguins have a mythology, some are religious, and they have a long history. You can find out more and read exclusive ‘news’ stories here: http://www.stevenhammondbooks.com/
3) Why am I more popular in Europe than the US? My first success was in Germany in early 2013 just after the release of Rise of the Penguins. I think it had to do with German readers being hungry for fiction written in English. It was a great feeling seeing my name right alongside of H.G. Wells in the number one and two spots of bestsellers. I’ve had some success in England as well. In fact I received my first fan letter from someone in England. Overall, I’d say European readers seem to be more open to new ideas and aren’t so caught up in the dogma of what’s popular in fiction at the moment. That being said, I am seeing a reversal of the trend with the US market picking up a little.
4) The Best of ‘Steve’ when writing? Getting in the flow. When I write and the ideas are coming so fast that I have to keep a notepad close at hand to scribble thoughts down; when I can’t sleep, even though I’m exhausted and my vision is blurred, because the story won’t stop telling itself; or having 3 A.M. epiphanies—that’s the best of ‘Steve’ when writing.
5) The Worst of ‘Steve’ when writing? When I let life get in the way. For example: seeing sales tank and question why I’m even doing this; or experiencing all the doubts and fear that come with being an artist. Those kind of things lead to distracting myself from my work, like playing a mindless internet game for an hour when I should be writing. I’ve gotten better at not giving in to that though. Before, if somebody made some snarky comment about the subject matter at a tradeshow, I’d let that get me down. Now I just smile and give them a mental middle-finger.
6) One sentence descriptions : Don Bluth, director, (The Secret of NIMH, All dogs go to Heaven)—Talented, visionary, and perhaps unappreciated.
Richard Adams, writer, (Watership Down, Plague Dogs)—The animal story writer equivalent to J.R.R Tolkien.
George Orwell, writer, (Animal Farm)—Influencer of subtle undertones in rise of the Penguins.
Robert C. O’Brien, writer, (The Secret of NIMH, aka. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH)—Having never read the book, I have to base this on the movie. Fantastic storyteller who was gone too soon.
David N. Weiss, writer, (All Dogs Go To Heaven)—This story influenced me without me realizing it.
7) When are we going to see a Movie, TV Show proposal? I guess I’m going to have to figure how to do that. When I wrote Rise of the Penguins I envisioned it as a movie. There was never any doubt that it should be a movie, or perhaps a TV show. One reviewer even said it was a cinematic experience. I even have the trailer playing in my head. I suppose I should climb the confidence ladder and get over my fear of rejection. But, I also need the knowhow.
8) Sell all rights to a toy company? I don’t know about selling all rights. I’d like to see the characters produced as army-men type toys; like the old Louis Marx playsets from the50s, 60s, and 70s. I don’t see any toys being produced for books alone. They only come out when there’s a movie to coincide. But why not influence kids to read by selling toys based on books. Maybe I’ll look into that. Kickstarter or something?
9) What is next for you? I recently completed a new book titled The Talents of Bet. It’s the first book in a YA series, set for release in early October, 2017. Here’s the blurb:
Sold into servitude at the age of fourteen, the orphaned Bet endures from the mistress of a backwater farm. Despite her heinous treatment, she keeps her spirits high, for she has a secret—she can talk with the animals. With the aid of her friend Pooch-kin, they make adventures of the constant chores.
While gathering wood, Bet finds a glimmering crystal in the sludge of a muddy creek. This chance discovery sets her on a course to real adventure; where she finds speaking with animals is only one of her many Talents.
I’m excited for this new release. I’ve received a lot of positive feedback on it already. But don’t worry, I’m still writing the next chapter in The Rise of the Penguins Saga.
10) Final thoughts– How about how Penguins were treated in BATMAN RETURNS (’92 film)? My penguins don’t wear missile back packs! One of the things I try to do in my writing is give the reader something new and different from what has been done before. The Rise of the Penguins Saga is currently the only series involving penguins in a vengeful plot against humanity. How does a penguin fight a man? Gotta read it to find out. All the books are a fun and fast read where you grow with the players and feel all of their fear, heartbreak, and triumph.
Albert Einstein said—Logic will take you from A to B, but imagination will take everywhere. I believe that to be true. Hell, it’s Einstein, he was a pretty smart dude, so I’m sure he knew. My books are all about taking the reader on a ride where the imagination roams free and you can take a sharp turn away from the mundane reality of everyday life.