Our First Middle Grade Novel! | Meet Inês F. Oliveira

Since the Collective Book Studio launch in 2019, our focus has been on lifestyle and children’s picture books. Last year, though, we got a delightful submission for a middle grade novel that we simply couldn’t resist!

We’ve been working with Inês F. Oliveira this winter to edit and develop Calvin and the Sugar Apples, and we can’t wait to share this sweet book with you and your favorite young readers! We’d love for you to get to know Inês, so we asked her a few questions about her writing process, where she got her start, and her plans for more writing.

Will you share a bit about your personal backstory and journey to becoming an author?

I come from technology. I graduated in Software Engineering with a Master of Science in Information Networking from Carnegie Mellon University.

While growing up, I loved to write. But I also loved mathematics and physics and decided to pursue a career in Engineering.

I started as a software developer. And I grew to be the Innovation and Creativity Team manager and the head of User Experience (UX). While leading the UX team to design the best products, I needed to find UX writers. We needed to build product personas. And designing them wasn’t enough. They also needed a voice. But the writing component was scarce in the market, and I didn’t have the budget to hire. So, I decided to learn it myself.

The more I dug in, the more I learned and fell in love with content creation. I’m a UX Writing certificate from UX Writers Collective. And I'm a level 4 Copywriter from the College of Media and Publishing.

Throughout this journey, my children grew. From the moment they showed interest, I invested my time reading to them. Even now that they’re autonomous readers (and read in Portuguese), I read to them. And we read together in English and Spanish. It’s the best fuel for their soul, creativity, and knowledge. We read fiction, nonfiction, comics, and everything they show interest in. I’m always fascinated with the quality of the books and stories that authors bring to life.

As I invested more and more in my writing career, I decided to risk out Creative Writing. When I did, I knew I wanted to write for children in the middle-grade stage.

I’m aware of how books impact my children’s skills. I want to make part of that process.

What was your favorite book as a child? 

As a child, I loved A FADA ORIANA (THE FAIRY ORIANA) by Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen, a Portuguese poet and writer. It tells the story of a fairy in charge of a forest and its inhabitants. When she fails, deceived by a fish, she loses her powers. And she begins a self-consciousness journey to recover the forest back.

What inspired you to write about Calvin?  

CALVIN AND THE SUGAR APPLES is a story based on the death of our chinchilla. We had Calvin for 21 years. We were used to his presence and all the small noises. And we still miss it today. As an animal lover, I’m still amazed how such a small animal can leave a space in a family. And how my children reacted to the loss, particularly a few weeks after Calvin died. That’s when the sadness sunk in.

Also, I had noticed, especially after the lockdowns, that my kids had more difficulty expressing their feelings. They didn’t want to talk about it.

The combination of the two events triggered the book’s story.

What’s your writing process like? 

I always start with an idea. I like to work with something that’s somehow close to my heart. But I also search for the market and books about the same topic. And I try to read as much as possible and learn about their plot. From there, I define my main storyline and theme, work on a short synopsis, and sketch my main characters. At this point, I know so much can change as the story comes to life, but writing from a solid background is much easier for me. It allows me to keep pace and not to discourage.

I put my hands to work on the first three chapters and sense the POV. At this stage, I also like to summarize each chapter and fully understand what the story will look like. When I begin working on the complete book, I know my way despite all the uncertainties I’m aware I’ll face.

What are your writing goals for the future?  Are you working on any other books yet?  

In the future, I want to keep writing middle-grade books. I want to learn as much as I can about this genre. I’d love to see Amelia in a second story, and I’m already plotting out that possibility.

If you’d like to request a review copy of Calvin and the Sugar Apples, tap here!


Meet the Author

Inês F. Oliveira is a debut author from Portugal, where she lives by the sea with her husband and two children. She holds a master’s degree from Carnegie Mellon University and committed many years to the technological field. That was before turning to words and writing. She believes words have the power to scatter light into children’s eyes and insists on reading aloud with her children every night.