The Kidlit Interview Series
Her first book, The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher, is a tale of four boys, two dads, an ever-changing number of pets, and a miserable new neighbor who just might ruin everything. It's out from Delacorte Books for Young Readers TODAY!
Hmmm... that’s really hard. On one hand, Jo Rowling could totally charm the zombies with exquisite storytelling, but Gary Paulsen would probably do better at keeping us alive. Heck, I’d probably just choose my critique partner bestie Kate Boorman because she’s very tall and they’d see her first. Plus she usually has Cadbury’s, so she could bribe them to stop with the whole human brain thing, or at least make sure we went down in a chocolatey blaze of glory.
2) Look, I got a time machine on eBay! Where do you want to go? (Said time machine may possibly malfunction and leave you there. Possibly. It was *very* cheap.)
I know that my kid-self would have answered in a heartbeat: “Wherever they wore hoopskirts!” I was obsessed with hoopskirts — I have no idea why, since they seem appallingly uncomfortable and inconvenient. So having said that, adult me would have to choose Paris in the 1920s. I know it wasn’t perfect, but having lived there in my twenties, dreaming authorial dreams, I can only imagine how awesome it was with Ernest and Gertrude and Alice, when the dollar was strong, the booze was stronger, and anything was possible.
3) What’s your favourite thing about writing for kids?
I think what I love most about writing for kids is that story trumps all. The best children’s books can and often do have glorious, lyrical writing, complex and layered symbolism, and careful characters arcs. But they MUST have a good story to tell, whether it is a story of wizards and castles, or a story of making a new friend, or a story of a perfect summer’s day. Also, kids are the best audience in the world. They devour books. They go into raptures over books. They quite literally sometimes count on books to save their lives. What could be better than that?
4) A witch has cast a spell on you (sorry about that) and you’ve woken up as a character in a children’s book – what’s your special talent or power?
Breathing underwater. Easy. I realize there are loads of options here, and some might be more practical as a writer/mom/boring-life-living person, (can you say magically-folding-laundry-spell-caster?) but I’d love nothing more than to swoop and dive and roll around in the waves without ever needing to come up for air.
5) What’s the scariest or strangest thing you’ve ever done?
These are very different questions! But since the internet is the kind of place that doesn’t exactly forget stuff, let’s go with the scariest, and leave my weirdest moments hidden for now. One of the scariest things I’ve ever done was to take my family off to Nepal for a month of trekking near Mount Everest. Now the kids were not babies; they were nine and eleven, and we were just hiking, not scaling massive Himalayan peaks or anything. Still, we had to fly in and out of an airport famous as the most dangerous airstrip in the world, and debate the issues of altitude sickness, rabies vaccines, and wisdom teeth, given that we would be many days’ walk from medical attention. As the date got closer and closer, the secret mantra in my head was “just get through this. You don’t ever have to do it again.” Well, not only did we get through it, but it was glorious. And I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
6) What’s something you wish you’d known about writing when you started out? What’s something you wish you’d known about publishing?
I knew a lot about publishing, compared to most, because I worked for a literary agent for several years, and because I have two family members who are well-known children’s book authors, Elizabeth Levy and Robie Harris. (However, nepotism only goes so far — I got pulled out of the slush pile like everyone else)! So I had a lot of industry knowledge of the good, the bad and the ugly. But what I didn’t know about publishing, or about writing, was how hard it would be to let go. I’m a person who likes to keep control of as many details as possible (the term “control freak” is so judgmental, I find, but not totally inaccurate). When publishing a book, there are a lot of times when you just have to let go and recognize that many smart people are involved in the process. That was a tricky one for me.
7) What would your daemon be?
Wouldn't we all love it to be something noble, like a snow leopard, or playful, like a seal? Or maybe a Fennec fox! But we don’t choose these things. I just hope it wouldn’t be a rat. I really hate rats.
8) My book doesn’t have dragons, but it does have... Um... cat barf? Turtle pee? An invisible (and perhaps imaginary) cheetah named Flare? Gah... I need to write a book with dragons next time. So much more noble than turtle pee...
Come back next Tuesday for the Here Be Dragons interview with Mary G. Thompson, author of Evil Fairies Love Hair!