Talking Books with Alinka Rutkowska, author of 'Maya & Filippo Make Friends in Auckland'

Alinka Rutkowska is a "Reader's Favorite" Five Star Picture Book Author. She writes the "Maya & Filippo" Book Series for Children - travel books for kids with a positive attitude. She takes inspiration from her own travels while cruising with her husband and daughter around the world. She is positive, appreciative and happy 95% of the time and during the miserable 5% she thinks to herself quickly: "things always work out for me" and they do.

Alinka's doesn't really have a "to do" list but she does have a "fun things to do" list. It usually consists of writing, reading, reading her writing, writing in her diary, blogging, reading other blogs, commenting, breathing deeply, meditating, feeling the warmth of the sun on her skin, closing her eyes, breathing some more and thinking what a wonderful world she lives in.

Sometimes she takes a few minutes to pause and instead of doing something from her "fun things to do" list she just daydreams a little. She thinks of all the great things that she wants for her to happen and imagines how wonderful it will feel to be interviewed about them in the future. She's already preparing the answers to those interview questions in her mind. She especially loves the part, in which she says that she achieved all these things because she spent a considerable amount of time visualizing them first.

Alinka loves to ski while listening to music at the same time, she enjoys an occasional glass (or bottle) of Barolo with dark chocolate, she loves cuddling with her husband and daughter. Alinka really likes tea, especially that last sip which is usually the tastiest.
You can visit Alinka’s website at, where she blogs daily for parents, travelers and authors.

Q: Welcome to The Writer's Life!  Now that your book has been published, we’d love to find out more about the process.  Can we begin by having you take us at the beginning?  Where did you come up with the idea to write your book?

Back in 2010 I stepped out of my comfort zone and quit my well-paid corporate job. I left it all behind to go to the other side of the world - New Zealand. I was all by myself, so I had plenty of time to observe and reflect. I noticed that the more positive my attitude was, the better experiences I had. With this in mind I took a cruise from Auckland to Sydney and I had the best experience I could have imagined - I met an amazing man, who is now my husband and the father of my child. Becoming a mom, my travels and my philosophy to keep a positive outlook inspired me to write a children’s book series, which would contain all the elements I believe you need for a fulfilling and exciting life. Maya & Filippo Make Friends in Auckland is the first of the Maya & Filippo series. In this adventure the two main characters wake up on board the Fun Princess, which is their home and have a rough morning. Then they go out to explore the port of Auckland and notice a funny thing - the more they complain, the worse their day turns out. They try to turn things around by thinking positive thoughts and before the sun sets they come back on board with a fascinating discovery to share with their mother.

Q: How hard was it to write a book like this and do you have any tips that you could pass on which would make the journey easier for other writers?

My children’s books are only about 1000 words long (shorter than this interview) and they don’t take much time to write. I usually carry the idea I have for the book in my mind for a couple of days (or weeks!) and let it mature. You know, I’m a mother and a writer. In that order. So I have to wait for the perfect moment before I can start to write, which is usually when my daughter is asleep. I always make sure that I am undisturbed, centered and relaxed and I then get the first draft finished in one go.

I think that the key to success is to think beyond your first book. Since Maya & Filippo Make Friends in Auckland is not my first work, I already had some experience in the writing and, more importantly - in the marketing department. I immediately thought in terms of a book series as opposed to a single book that you can’t link to any of your other titles. I believe that being an eclectic author requires much more work in terms of both writing and promotion. When you have a series you can relate to your other titles in the books you write and you can promote your other books on the cover. Your audience also knows what to expect from you and readers are already waiting for you to complete your upcoming titles.

This is my advice - even if it’s your first book, don’t slam the doors shut - always leave yourself some space for a sequel - or even better - a series.

Q: Who is your publisher and how did you find them or did you self-publish?

I decided I would self-publish after an initial conversation with a traditional publisher. When I heard that I would have to wait one year for my book to come out I ran as fast as lighting! I am way too active and excited about what I do to wait that long. I published my book with CreateSpace, which is an excellent self-publishing solution. I chose them after researching all the available self-publishers online. They had the best ranking and I am now one of their raving fans. The book quality is excellent, they have a fantastic team and offer great services and they distribute your book to brick and mortar stores on top of Amazon and the like.

Of course you need to take responsibility for your own marketing campaign but that’s what traditionally published authors have to do as well. I have just landed a deal, in which my book series (whose plot takes place on a cruise ship) will be available in boutiques on board one of the major cruise lines. The deal was very easy to execute because of my publisher’s presence in third party distributor’s catalogues (Ingram, to be precise).

Q: Is there anything that surprised you about getting your first book published?

The revenues! I published my first book when I was still working in my corporate job and in the first few months after launch I managed to double my corporate salary. I was shocked and delighted and until today I still haven’t figured out how exactly that happened. It must have been “beginner’s luck!”.

Another thing that I found surprising was the number of people who contacted me for various reasons after my book was launched. Some of them wanted to interview me and that was wonderful, with some I developed long-term friendships. I was delighted to get offers from foreign publishers who translated my book to other languages - it was quite a kick to see my book in Turkish!

Finally, a less pleasant thing is that you have to beware of people who seemingly offer you stuff but in reality they just want your money: always double check when someone contacts you because they want to make you an infomercial, or get you plenty of raving fans, etc. It’s almost always a trap.

Q: Can you describe the feeling when you saw your published book for the first time?

Bliss. To see your book available for readers to acquire after you’ve put your heart and so much effort into it, is difficult to describe. You feel deep satisfaction, a sense of feeling accomplished, delight, joy. It’s a milestone. Did you know that publishing a book makes you immortal (you know, as long as paper and reading devices exist)? Yes! Even after you are long gone, readers can still access a part of you via your published words. I find that quite exhilarating.

Q: What other books (if any) are you working on and when will they be published?

I am working on a whole series of Maya & Filippo books. The first batch will be books from my travels in New Zealand:
Maya & Filippo Play Chef at Sea
Maya & Filippo Look for Happiness in Tauranga
Maya & Filippo See Impossible Things in the Garden City
Maya & Filippo Learn about Careers in Dunedin
and Alaska:
Maya & Filippo Talk Business in Seattle
Maya & Filippo Look for Whales in Ketchikan
Maya & Filippo Visit a Glacier
Maya & Filippo See Things Differently in Skagway

I’ve already written these and the artwork for the covers is also finalized, so they will all have been published by mid 2015.

I am now going to Hawaii and I will definitely not come back empty-handed. I think I will also include a few European ports in my future books. We are talking about 2015-2016 here.

Q: Fun question: How does your book contribute to making this world a better place?

Fun answer: Oh, in so many ways! First of all it teaches children geography. My readers will not have any problems to point New Zealand on the world map during their next geography test! They will be familiar with the various customs and traditions in distant places. They will become open minded and open hearted as they familiarize themselves with more and more Maya & Filippo episodes. Most importantly, they will know how to take responsibility for their own life, how to observe, investigate, draw conclusions and enjoy themselves at the same time.

Q: Finally, what message (if any) are you trying to get across with your book?

Ha! I thought I answered that in the previous question :) To be more precise - Maya & Filippo Make Friends in Auckland invites you to investigate the law that “birds of a feather flock together” - the more you complain - the worse your day. The more positive your attitude - the better things work out for you.
Q: Thank you again for this interview!  Do you have any final words?

I wouldn’t be myself if I didn’t :) I just wanted to highlight that this book and Maya & Filippo Play Chef at Sea received a Five Star Readers’ Favorite distinction - it’s a seal of excellence that I can print on the cover and that I am very proud of. If this interview isn’t convincing enough for you to get it, a third party’s appraisal might be just the persuasion you need!

About the Book:

Embark on a one-of-a-kind, unprecedented, breathtaking adventure with Maya and Filippo as they travel around the globe on board the “Fun Princess” — a cruise ship full of surprises. Discover their fascinating ports of call, find out what the local customs and traditions are, join the kids in activities at sea, and explore the remarkable world they create through the power of their positive outlook.

This time Maya and Filippo discover Auckland and meet different kinds of people depending the book to find out! Spoiler alert: the kids ride a big hop-on, hop-off explorer bus, where strange things happen. They stop at the famous Sky Tower, where they do something very exciting.


Watch the Trailer!


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