William Stanek is a bestselling children’s book author known for writing the Bugville Critters series. He’s also a U.S. Air Force veteran. I was lucky enough to land an interview with him and talk about what inspired him write, his personal struggles, his family life, and what advice he has for future authors.
Q) What inspires you when you are coming up with material?
A) I’ve always been inspired by everyday life. The places, people and things around me give me inspiration and ideas for my work. As an example, my children’s picture books in the Bugville Critters, Bugville Jr. and Bugville Learning series were inspired by my own children and the real-life struggles they faced growing up, going to school and making friends.
My daughter Jasmine is the inspiration behind Lass Ladybug. She was born 8-weeks premature and had to be in an incubator for the first few months of her life. Growing up she faced and overcame learning disabilities because of it.
My daughter, Sapphire, is the inspiration behind Cat Caterpillar. Sapphire has Downs Syndrome and I wanted to create a character she could identify with, and that other people with disabilities could identify with. Cat and Lass’ disabilities aren’t front and center in the books, rather they are there for parents of children with disabilities and children with disabilities to pick up on. I hear from parents with disabled children as well as parents with children with learning disabilities all the time about how their children self-identify with Cat and Lass.
My son, Will, is the inspiration behind Buster Bee. Will was always precocious and getting into mischief. No shortage of parents with boys write to me about how much Buster is like their own children.
Q) What made you want to become an author?
A) I grew up in Racine, Wisconsin in a part of town where most others wouldn’t go. Growing up I was robbed and beaten up multiple times for groceries, a bike, a pair of shoes, more—all before the age of ten. It was part of city life, and part of the deep poverty we lived in. School, being one of the only places I got to eat (breakfast and lunch back then), and the library, being one of the only places I felt safe, were refuges for me. In both, I discovered that I enjoyed learning and reading.
I was always scribbling in a notebook from an early age. Third grade being the earliest I recall. I had an uncle who worked for Golden Books in Racine. I never really saw my uncle growing up, but a few times a year we got picture books from him.
In the fourth grade, I was fortunate to have a teacher who saw something in my class assignments and in my writing. She asked me to write for the school newspaper, the Janes School Gazette—something normally reserved for older kids. I wrote two columns for the gazette. One covering school sports. One,an opinion column.
I think all of these things I experienced in my youth contributed to my lifelong passion for learning and writing.
Q) What advice would you give to anyone aspiring to become an author?
A) It’s a difficult time to be a writer. The internet makes it possible for your work to reach the world, but at the same time it also makes it possible for you to lose complete control of your work. Right now over 1 million books a year are being published, which makes it nearly impossible for a single voice to rise above the din.
As an aspiring writer, you must be patient, diligent and true to yourself. Remember, you have no sway over your critics, the crowds, or the angry mobs carrying pitchforks. That said, if critics, crowds and pitchfork carrying mobs are coming after you, it means you are of sufficient success to have risen above the noise of it all. It means you’ve made it.
Thick skin, chin up. Write for yourself. Write for your real or imagined Constant Reader. At the end of the day, at the end of all days, don’t listen to the mobs, crowds or critics. Care only that your words went out into the world and reached the few, for whom it made a difference.