Joanne Stepaniak
Author of many books
Interviewed by Erin Pavlina When did you become a vegan?
I have been a vegan for nearly twenty years. Joanne Stepaniak

Why did you make the switch to a vegan diet?
I didn't make the switch to a vegan diet, I made the move to a vegan lifestyle. I have been a vegetarian for thirty-six years. Nevertheless, for a very long time I felt that there was more I could be doing in terms of making my meals and my life more compassionate. My husband became a vegetarian about twenty-two years ago, shortly before we were married. At that time I felt it was enough of a challenge for him to be vegetarian (I was the only vegetarian he had ever known back then), so I didn't want to make it harder for him. But, not too long after that, we decided to take the vegan journey together.

How did your friends and family react to your change?
It wasn't that drastic a move, really, since I had been a vegetarian for so long. Those who accepted and respected my vegetarianism were willing to accept and respect my veganism. Those who never could understand my vegetarianism thought this was just another leap off the deep end.

What is your educational background?
My life experiences have been a more valuable teacher than any formal schooling, but, since you asked, I have a master of science degree in education, with additional graduate work in related areas. My undergraduate studies were in sociology and anthropology. I also have training and experience in counseling, conflict resolution, and mediation.

What inspired you to begin writing books?
I have been a writer virtually my entire life. By the third grade I had written a complete book of poems in which I stated quite profoundly my desire to be a writer when I grew up. My first published effort was a cookbook that was used as a fundraiser for a local animal rights organization. When we completed it, I realized that it was marketable, and I continued on from there. As much as I enjoy developing recipes, it was never my intention to be a cookbook author; it was something that just evolved. When I began, there was a dearth of vegan cookbooks and nowhere to find information on vegan cooking. My goal was to fill a gap and design recipes that would make the transition to veganism easy and delicious. At the same time, I have tried to infuse a bit of vegan philosophy into all my books. The Vegan Sourcebook is a more concentrated reflection of who I am and marks a new direction for me and my writing.

What challenges have you faced getting your books out to the public?
I do not do my own marketing or distribution, so I have not had any personal challenges getting my books out to the public. However, one area of frustration is that the market for vegan books in general is limited. It is a niche segment of the population, so until public awareness broadens, the number of people seeking vegan books will remain stunted.

Can you share some feedback you've received from your readers?
I have been told that The Vegan Sourcebook has been influential in leading people to a vegan lifestyle and supporting them once they are there. It is a book that people have given as a gift to friends, relatives, vegetarians, and acquaintances to explain their beliefs or invite others to join them. People have also reported that my cookbooks, especially The Uncheese Cookbook and Vegan Vittles, have been "lifesavers" for them and their family by providing tasty alternatives to traditional fare. Despite the challenges that vegans face in our human-centered, egocentric world, everyone I have heard from, without exception, is happy and excited to be a practicing vegan. It gives me great joy to be a small voice in this big movement, knowing that not all that long ago there were very few of us, with no support system and no resources for information.

What's in store for you next?
I have one more cookbook in the works that will be out early next year. I also am working on a book on vegan ethics and philosophy that will be out this fall and another on humane living that will be out Spring 2001. After that, it's anyone's guess.

What's your best advice to parents raising their children vegan in today's society?
My best advice would be to live your convictions. Be an example to your children of the compassion you preach and be kind and respectful to all.