Meet The Author!

Billy began using his artistic talents as a child, creating pictorial diaries of his daily experiences. He furthered his endeavors in college, majoring in Geography with an emphasis in Cartography at the University of Utah. At that time he also was a regular cartoonist for the student newspaper.

Art, however, was not Billy's first calling as a career. Upon college graduation, he commissioned as a United States Air Force officer serving as a pilot to include participation in the invasion of Panama and the first Gulf War as well as dozens of humanitarian and air support missions around the world. After leaving active duty service, he began apprenticing with a well-known children’s book author and illustrator to learn the process of writing and illustrating children’s books. During this time he contributed to over forty titles in a variety of formats as a contract artist.

In April 1999, Billy introduced the first children’s book that he wrote and illustrated, Tractor Mac Arrives at the Farm. Originally published by Golden Books, Tractor Mac Arrives at the Farm tells the story of Sibley the work horse who feels slighted when a “shiny new tractor comes and takes over his chores.” Sibley and Mac overcome their differences and become “the best of friends.” The Tractor Mac stories are inspired by Billy's love of antique machinery, farm life and by his experiences growing up on a small hobby farm in Connecticut.
Billy has continued on with several more enthralling and likeable Tractor Mac children’s books for boys and girls in the series. Children love the bright, detailed illustrations and absorbing stories, which have become “bedtime favorites.” Subsequent stories include Tractor Mac Learns to Fly followed by Tractor Mac You’re a Winner, Tractor Mac Builds a Barn, Tractor Mac Harvest Time, Tractor Mac Saves Christmas, Tractor Mac Parade’s Best, Tractor Mac Farmer’s Market, Tractor Mac Tune Up, Tractor Mac Family Reunion, Tractor Mac New Friend, Tractor Mac Teamwork and Tractor Mac Worth the Wait.

When he is not drawing, Billy is a commercial pilot with American Airlines. He lives in Connecticut with his wife and three sons.

Q and A with Billy Steers

Q: What inspired you to create the first Tractor Mac book?

A: Tractor Mac started as bedtime stories I would tell my sons when they were very young. As the boys got older, the tales evolved as I tried to impart some of life's little lessons. It's been a fun journey.

Q: When you began, did you think Tractor Mac would grow into a series?

A: I had no idea the books would become so popular. I took baby steps in creating them, coming out with about one per year. Each year, people who enjoyed the books would always ask, "When's the next book coming out?" That, of course, inspired me to create a new story.

Q: What is your favorite part of the Tractor Mac process—thinking of new stories, writing them, illustrating the books, or sharing them with children and parents?

A: I enjoy sharing the books with children and parents, and I’m delighted when one of my books becomes a kid's favorite bedtime story, which is my ultimate goal. The drawing and the story evolve together when I create a book, and the illustration process is integral to the book development.

Q: In addition to your work as an author and artist, you are also a commercial pilot. How do these two parts of your life complement each other?

A: My two professions dovetail nicely. Much of the work on the books is created in hotel rooms overseas while I’m on layovers. I can get a lot of work done because there are no interruptions or distractions, and this frees up time spent when I'm home with family.

Q: Did you come to these books with a lot of knowledge about farm vehicles and animals, or did you do research as you went along?

A: My parents had a small farm in Connecticut, raising mostly sheep. We had some wonderful horses as well, and I always had a lot of 4H projects going on. We raised rabbits, pigs, chickens and the occasional calf. All the animals had their own character, and I felt the farm vehicles did, too. However, when I create the books, I do research on the machines and implements to ensure they are accurately depicted. I also try to have the artwork reflect the time period of the '40s and '50s.

Q: Have you ever received a particularly meaningful piece of feedback from a bookseller or a customer about Tractor Mac?

A: I have had such great feedback from our wholesalers and customers. My favorite customer responses are "We read Tractor Mac every night, please write more because we know them all by heart" or "My son is excited about reading because of your stories--nothing else holds his attention." One mom told me that her son had a speech delay and that my books were a game changer to improve his speech and reading. Or "Every time my grandson sees a tractor, he calls out: ‘Hey, there's Tractor Mac!’" On the bookseller side, positive feedback is "Please send more, we can't keep these in stock" or "Everybody loves these books, we are so excited to be able to sell them."

Q: Is there a real Tractor Mac that you take with you to events? If so, how do children react to him?

A: My brother and my wife conspired to purchase an old tractor for me, a 1948 Farmall Cub, for Father's Day shortly after the first Tractor Mac book was published. He mows my fields and hauls my firewood, and I trailer him to local fairs and schools. The tractor is a smaller version of Tractor Mac in my books, complete with headlamp eyes and a big smile. Children love to pose for photos on him.