Thursday, December 1, 2022

Author Interview Aleksandra Tryniecka/ Book review 'Bunky and the Walms: The Christmas Story'


I might not be popular for saying this but Christmas is fast approaching and I thought, rather than feeling all that pressure of too much to do, too little time to do it, let's bring it back to what Christmas should be about, getting kids to read (sorry, is that just me?😕).

This month's book review is an award-winning Christmas-themed tale for all the family, and it's aimed at 4-13 year olds. So whether you're reading it to your children, grandchildren or just for yourself (as in my case😁), prepare to get into the festive spirit. But let's start by meeting its author, Aleksandra Tryniecka:

'Hello! 😀 My name is Aleksandra and I am an Assistant Professor at Maria Curie-Skłodowska University in Poland. In my free time I enjoy gardening, baking cakes and pizza, drawing, spending time with my beloved dog Yogi, and writing poetry and stories in order to accommodate my life with the right words. I enjoy the nineteenth-century British literature, especially everything written by Anthony Trollope and Wilkie Collins. One of my favourite literary characters is the Cheshire Cat. Without a doubt, Bunky and the Bunky Princess are also my favourite literary characters!'

To help introduce Aleksandra to your followers, she's created a tweetable introduction for you (tweet here)

Dear Readers, hello! My name is Aleksandra. I am an assistant professor specializing in the British literature, a writer and dreamer who enjoys living my life with my beloved literary characters!

Aleksandra writes in the genres of Children’s fiction, fantasy and fiction for all age groups, as well as creating academic monographs/ articles. 
This is her debut novel, which was traditionally published in 2021, but her first foray into publishing was in 2006 when she was the youngest writer to publish an article in “Archeology Alive”. 
She says about her work,
'I published “Bunky and the Walms” in October '21 (Publisher Wipf and Stock/ Resource Publications) and I am writing the second part of Bunky’s adventures, whilst awaiting the release of my second book entitled “Women’s Literary Portraits in the Victorian and neo-Victorian novel: An Intertextual Study” (Rowman & Littlefield/ Lexington Books).'

A full description of her new book is at the base of this post (*) but in overview, 'it is a dialogical and intertextual journey through the pages of women's literary portraits in the Victorian and Neo-Victorian Novels and their modern, revisionary counterparts' - so completely different from Bunky then!

She obviously has a large knowledge base from which to write, so why did she write Bunky?
“It was inspired by a conference trip to London in May 2019. During the trip, I stepped into a shop where I encountered a plush mascot of the Blue Hippo with quite an ambiguous face – happy and critical at the same time! I thought that this face expression can hide a great story! I began writing on my return home and kept writing through 2020, when I felt that we especially needed happy, magical stories. 
Also, Christmas is the time of the year which is especially dear to me – I believe that it is the most unique part of the year, filled with magic, elegance, and kindness. I also feel that it is the time when everyone's dreams can come true – and that was also one of the reasons behind my novel. I hoped to start Bunky’s literary life and his literary adventures during the Christmas time!'  

Aleksandra kindly sent over photos of her characters as sewn toys, which I've scattered throughout this post, but I wondered if she was intending to produce a merchandise range?
'The photographs on my website and blog (link below) are those I made myself (together with their clothes). I hoped to find a way to bridge my actual world with the literary world and now I am more than happy to live with my literary characters! 😀 Readers can also visit my YouTube channel (Link here) where I present the adventures of my literary characters. 

Recently I also sewed Rodney – Bunky’s little cousin, and Plum – the little wolf saved by Bunky on Christmas Eve! This time, it is my Mum who is the designer and maker of Rodney’s sweater – perfectly matching the description in the book! 

All my characters are dressed like in the novel and mascots of Bunky and the Bunky Princess are ready to be purchased (links below). I'd like to thank Bess from Rongtuo Toys and Chris from the Very Best Logic for making it possible!'

Aleksandra is a talented lady and completed the drawings too. She says,
'The illustrations were initially colourful, but my Publisher suggested they publish them in black-and-white and I discovered this was much better, because the pictures gained depth. I also realized that my childhood books often had black-and-white illustrations which helped me develop my imagination and deeply connect with the characters and their adventures. In the meantime, I have created several colouring pages with Bunky and the Bunky Princess for my Readers, and what a joy it was to admire the youngest Readers’ artistic works!'

I asked Aleksandra for a favourite extract from the novel and she sent the moment when Bunky encounters Rudolph:

'The bushes rustled again and Bunky saw the owner of the soft, silky voice. It was no one else but the Glorious Deer. Bunky dropped his arms and felt dizzy once again, this time from excitement. He knew that it was the Glorious Deer! His soft, brown fur was glistening so beautifully, making the day even brighter than it really was. There was an aura of magic and
good cheer around the Deer as he gazed at Bunky from beneath his long, dark eyelashes. His bright, red nose revealed his name.
“I am Rudolph the Reindeer,” he said.
“I am Bunky the Hero,” introduced Bunky, instantly changing his mind about not becoming the Hero today. He felt as if he entered a fairytale.

“Bunky the Hero, I was looking for you everywhere!” said Rudolph,
approaching Bunky with a soft smile.
Everything was soft about Rudolph the Reindeer: not only his fur and voice, but also his manners and his kind, gentle behaviour had a certain touch of soothing softness. When Rudolph looked into his eyes, Bunky experienced a carefree feeling surrounding him from all around. It felt like being back home after a long journey. It was the feeling of Christmas.
Bunky felt proud that Rudolph addressed him as the “Hero.” He thought that the day was going to be very special.
“The world needs you,” announced Rudolph quite unexpectedly.
On hearing this, Bunky fell to the ground, but soon he put himself
together and got up. The entire world needed him! It was too much for someone even as heroic as Bunky. “Your friends need you,” “the city needs you,” even “Walmland needs you” sounded better than the entire world needing him! Bunky decided to be brave though.
 “That’s rather . . . unexpected,” he mumbled, looking attentively at his blue mittens. In fact, he didn’t want the Reindeer to realise how dizzy he was. Heroes shouldn’t be dizzy at all events, but still, the entire world needing him was slightly too much. The Bunky Princess would be proud of him, he thought. Bunky pinched himself in order to make sure that it was all a dream, but it turned out that he was facing a complex reality.
“The world needs you,” repeated Rudolph the Reindeer, looking at
Bunky with his soft, peaceful eyes. Yet, Bunky experienced some inner hesitation.
“Today?” he groaned, “I wanted to have Christmas! I’m having winter holidays! I don’t attend school this week and I was hoping for peace and quiet!”

You can see Aleksandra's style in the extract and she's won 10 awards for this book so far 🎉 I've included some of them here but I wondered how she felt, having her debut work received like this? 
 'I am honoured and grateful from the bottom of my heart for these amazing literary awards and for the recognition which the book has received! It offered me what I call the “literary wings” to keep on creating and writing more! It means so much to me, and I deeply believe that Bunky, the Bunky Princess, and the rest of the cast should be credited for the awards!

I am also very grateful to the Judges and the Readers for finding value in my work. Creating Bunky’s literary world is such an honour and joy in my life, and I will continue doing so, offering a safe and inviting space for each and every person.'

What does she enjoy the most about writing?
'I love the fact that writing and writers hold this tremendous (and responsible!) power of transforming our world and constructing a literary plane which can deeply influence our reality. Everything we create by means of the written word can become our actuality – it is quite a huge responsibility, but also it carries magnificent beauty! Apart from that, writing is my home and my way of making sense of life and the world.'

What has she found the hardest part of writing and getting published? 
'The hardest part of writing was finding enough quality time to do it! There are so many professional (fascinating, but time-consuming) duties and time planning is very important! 
The hardest part about getting published is finding the Publisher who represents the values presented in my work – one who understands the content of the work too! I was very lucky in this respect!'

So she writes, draws, sews, makes videos, teaches - which does she prefer? 
'I love them all! 
I greatly enjoy teaching and working with my students – it's absolutely priceless and very rewarding, definitely the best part of working at the university! 
Then, writing is something sacred to me – it offers me immense inner joy, enabling me to structure my inner and outer world. 
Promoting turned out to be an interesting and creative experience too! If I had more time, I would record a feature-length YouTube movie with my protagonists’ adventures apart from the videos I try to create for my Readers! In fact, it is one of my dreams.'

I get the feeling if Aleksandra dreams it, it will probably happen! She works in Poland but writes in English, so I wondered if English was her second language?
'No, it is not, but I love studying languages! They are like mirrors into separate worlds. Each time we use a different language, the overall picture differs slightly and our vision of the world expands. Apart from English , I truly love studying Greek. I also greatly enjoy reading in English and this is how I discovered my interest in the Victorian novel!'   
Gosh, I feel such an underachiever against Aleksandra! Does she prefer reading her favourite authors, like Anthony Trollope, in English?
'I always read these texts in English, because reading them in translation would alter their content, as well as the reader’s perception of the presented literary worlds. For instance, on reading Jane Austen’s works – in English and in translation - they become different texts with each translation. A given language has this specific cultural tinge which always slightly alters original texts. Also, at the university, we analyse every work in its original language: our lectures and classes are in English, and we write articles and books in English as well – English is a more “natural” way of forming our thoughts.'

Isn't that interesting! What is her favourite novel? 
'“The Chronicles of Narnia” by C. S. Lewis, is the book which my Mum used to read to me throughout my childhood! It has such a special place in my heart and it introduced to me this beautiful idea of creating multilayered literary realities inhabited by fascinating characters! Without a doubt, one of my favourite and most beloved characters from “The Chronicles of Narnia” is Aslan!' Oh yes, Aslan was my favourite too! 

Does she read reviews of her books and how do they make her feel?
'I am happy to read the reviews of my works and I appreciate the Readers’ thoughts and opinions! I have met with incredible kindness and I feel immensely grateful for their words! There is nothing that makes an author happier than knowing their book and characters became the Readers’ friends!'
Lovely! And is there anything she'd like to say to you? 
'Dear Readers, I would like to invite you to become the inhabitants of my literary fairyland! If you are looking for a safe and welcoming literary place, I invite you to reach for “Bunky and the Walms” – it is written for you from my heart!'
You can't help but fall in love with Aleksandra's lovely upbeat take on life. I ended by asking for a tweetable promoting her book (tweet here):  
'Dear Readers, if you would like to encounter literary characters who could become your lifelong friends and dive into a magical and peaceful literary world, I invite to reach for my novel “Bunky and the Walms” –  the Book of the Year winner!'

You can't say fairer than that and I hope you join me in using her tweetables to spread the word!


I imagine if I ever wrote a Christmas book, I’d have a list of must-haves and the brilliant thing about Bunky and the Walms: The Christmas Story is that it has them all! 

Mr and Mrs Claus, tick; Rudolf, tick; Elves, tick; and of course, there needs to be the quest to save Christmas! This family book is aimed at 4–13-year-olds but I’m much older and I have to say, I enjoyed the ride!

Here's an extract:
‘It was snowing outside still, with elegant snowflakes subtly swirling around in a happy pre-Christmas dance. Mrs. Walm sat in a rocking chair in order to prepare a list of ingredients for her famous Christmas chocolate cake, and Mr. Walm began arranging Christmas lights and wreaths around the living room.'

This adventure stars Bunky the Hippo, a wannabe writer who is a little grumpy initially, along with his cousin Rodney and a wolf named Plum. They set out on a quest to save Santa Claus’s sleigh and deliver all the gifts to save Christmas, but will they do it? You’ll have to read to find out! 

The story is charming and weaves in messages about friendship, truth and Christmas values. The language is accessible, and I liked how Aleksandra broke the fourth wall to address the audience directly in her ‘Dear Reader’ messages. 

It’s a fun read and I can imagine families enjoying the adventure together as they visit Walmland, the North Pole and all around the world on Christmas Eve.  

There are also some Christmas promotional offers on currently (see photos), so it's a great time to buy! Why not take a look at her book or visit Aleksandra's links at:

Toys: website or direct link   
Enjoyed this post? Never miss out by following here
 * Women's Literary Portraits in the Victorian and Neo-Victorian Novel is a dialogical and intertextual journey through the pages of nineteenth-century novels and their modern, revisionary counterparts. It is the book not only dedicated to the readers associated with academia, but also to all literature enthusiasts, students of literature, and those readers who are fascinated by the Victorian novel, as well as by its current neo-Victorian revival. The focus of this work revolves around the literary portrayals of Victorian and neo-Victorian women who, as the authoress believes, are located in the centre of socio-cultural and historical narratives shaping both the past and the present. Nineteenth-century narratives concerning women's placement and status in the Victorian social landscape are currently revived on the pages of neo-Victorian novels, thus attesting to the unceasing interest in the bygone. While neo-Victorian revisionary fiction endows nineteenth-century women with a redemptive potential, it also exposes modern paradoxes and ambiguities connected with universal expectations towards women, what further approximates our contemporaneity to the Victorian past. While examining these socio-cultural ambivalences, the authoress celebrates Victorian and neo-Victorian women characters in their attempts to thrive as individuals. Consequently, the book studies Victorian and neo-Victorian women characters in relation to their identities, unique voices and textual garments.
This book is currently available for pre-sale here