Author Spotlight- Tonya Ellis

 When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer ?

 I’ve loved books and reading since I could sound out letters, and my fondest childhood memories are when my mother took me to the library once a week. I’d come home with a bag filled with books and would read every one. As a fifth grader (age 10) I won a writing competition at school and realized I might want to write for a living as an adult. At age 14, an article I wrote was published in my hometown newspaper. I studied language and literature in college and became a journalist after I graduated.   

  How long does it take you to write a book?

My Sophie Washington series books are each about 100 pages, with 20 black and white illustrations. It took me around six months to write the first book in the series, Sophie Washington: Queen of the Bee, because I was creating the world and characters. The other books took from two to three months to write. I recently finished the first book in a new series I’m starting and it took me roughly four months to write it. That book runs around 150 pages, without illustrations. Since I was home in quarantine, I wrote more words per day than I usually average.  

  What do you love most about writing stories for children?

I love creating characters and worlds that become part of my readers’ childhoods. It feels great to receive letters from readers and parents telling me how they enjoyed my stories or how reading my books helped them sort through their own life issues. 

Where do you get your inspiration from?

I’m a mother of three, and I’m inspired by things that I’ve seen my own children go through. Through the years I’ve also done a lot of volunteering with children, so I see what issues they face.   

How did you get your first story published and what was it about?

I independently published my first book, Sophie Washington: Queen of the Bee. This book is the Sophie Washington series starter and shows her competing against Nathan Jones (a.k.a. Mr. Know-It-All) in the school spelling bee. 

What topics do your stories cover and why are these important to you?

My stories deal with managing school work, standing up to bullies, being true to yourself, honesty, integrity, etc. These are issues that all children face when growing up and developing. I try to teach gentle lessons in my books while entertaining young readers. There are 10 books in the Sophie Washington series. 

Have you always loved stories and reading?

From the time I could sound out letters I have loved to read. I carried books with me everywhere and still do. I love to curl up with a good book to relax and learn about new people, places, and experiences. 

What are your hopes and dreams for the future?

I just finished a new book series with a boy main character and I would like to publish this book traditionally and also grow my Sophie Washington series. I love writing for children and hope to continue on this path. As an independent author I’ve had around 70,000 purchases and downloads to-date, and I hope to expand my readership.

Who is your favorite children’s author and why?

There are so many children’s authors that I admire! The list includes contemporary authors like Kelly Starling Lyons, Linda Sue Park, Renee Watson, Sharon Draper, and Crystal Allen. These authors write beautiful books with diverse characters that have made me laugh, cry, and taught me so much about our world. They are also giving artists who support and encourage other writers. Authors I read growing up who inspired me include Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary.

Why do you think it is important for children to develop a love of reading?

Books are mirrors and windows, teaching us about ourselves and educating us about worlds beyond our doorsteps. Kids who love reading are more self-reflective and more empathetic toward others. My own love of reading inspired me to travel the world and has enriched my life in so many ways.  

Sophie Washington Book Series

Like author on Facebook: @tonyaellisbooks

Follow author on Twitter:@TonyaDEllis 

Follow author on Instagram: @tonyaellisbooks

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Watch Sophie’s Video Book Trailers! 

Books 1-4


Mission Costa Rica

Secret Santa

Code One



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