Not only was I able to interview one, but TWO magnificent authors. The second is Kirby Larson - who has written one of my favorite books, Hattie Big Sky. I asked Kirby some questions about writing and herself which she answered below.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
Because I was such a huge bookworm, reading all the time as a kid, writing stories felt like a natural next step. One of my favorite things was making up little plays and making my two younger brothers and sister be in them, but I always got the starring role! I had no idea that I could be a writer of books for children, however, until I was an adult. The trigger for pursuing that path was Arnold Lobel's MING LO MOVES THE MOUNTAIN. When I read that book to my then-small children, a little switch went off inside me and I knew I'd found what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I truly do hope I'm writing until I'm 99.
What is the story behind the first book you got published – how many tries to find a publisher, etc.?
This is ancient history -- so long ago, I can scarcely remember! I do remember that I began writing for children when my kids were teeny ones; maybe it was in the late 80s. My first book wasn't published until 1994. Along the way, I accumulated enough rejection letters to start a good-size bonfire -- and I'm still getting rejections! The first book that sold was a chapter book, one I was inspired to write by my daughter who loved Patricia Reilly Giff's Polk Street School Kids series. She got so frustrated when we'd read all the books out at that time. That made me realize that perhaps there was room in the market for more chapter books. . . maybe even one written by me! Before I even started the manuscript, I studied Patricia Reilly Giff's books thoroughly, even typing two of them out to help me get a feel for the rhythm, pacing and length of a chapter book. My daughter's second grade teacher was crazy about pigs so I played around with that idea and soon had a chapter book manuscript of my own, Second Grade Pig Pals. That manuscript was rejected only 4 or 5 times before Holiday House published it.
How do you choose your topics for your books?
It varies with each book. The chapter books focused on that confusing time of life, in the primary grades, when you're trying to figure out the "rules" of life, like how to be a good friend and what on earth it is that adults want from you. The Magic Kerchief grew out of my childhood love of fairy tales; Hattie Big Sky out of a curiosity about my great-grandmother's homesteading experience and the Two Bobbies out of wanting to share a story of hope in a time of trouble.
What is your favorite food??
Homemade berry pie is something I can never resist and red licorice is my favorite junk food.
Who are some of your favorite authors?
Thank you for not asking for favorite books! I hate trying to answer that question; it's really, really hard for me to select just a few. Authors I read and admire include (but are in no way limited to): Laurie Halse Anderson, M.T. Anderson, Betsy Byars, Karen Cushman, Brenda Guiberson, Karen Hesse, Laura Kvasnosky, Barbara O'Connor, Dave Patneaude, Katherine Paterson, Ann Whitford Paul, Neal Shusterman . . . and I hate the fact that in putting these names down I am omitting many, many others. The children's literature world is full of fine, fine writers and illustrators -- we are so lucky!
Who has inspired you as a writer?
My mom and dad believed I could do anything, if I set my mind to it; I am ever grateful to them for their faith. My husband carried the financial burden of our family for far too many years, all the while certain I would someday "make it." I am thankful to my kids for story ideas and for my favorite word, "Mom," and I couldn't keep writing without the support of the generous and loving community of children's book creators.
Plans you can share for upcoming books?
My friend, Mary Nethery, and I have a second book coming out in fall 2009; titled Nubs: A Mutt, A Marine and a Miracle, it tells the amazing story of an Iraqi dog and his bond with a US Marine. I am working on another (and overdue-to-the-editor) historical novel and am taking notes for a possible second story about Hattie.
What has been one of your favorite books to write?
Hattie Big Sky was my favorite to write for so many reasons: it felt like a love letter to my grandmother (and great-grandmother) and it also introduced me to research -- something I've discovered I thoroughly enjoy. The research and writing of HBS also led me to other historical fiction ideas, so I've got book ideas lined up for a ways to come.
Where is your favorite spot to write?
I have a great (and very messy) office at home which suits me well but, lately, I've been taking my laptop to a local coffee shop because I like what happens when I change up my work space and habits.
Can you tell us a bit about your family….
I have a darling and long-suffering husband who has been my sweetheart since we attended the Senior Prom together in 1972. Our son, Tyler, lives in New York and currently works for HBO though his mother is not-too-patiently waiting for the day when he also becomes a writer. Our daughter, Quinn, is an interior designer who lives with her husband, Matt, in a community about 40 minutes south of us.
Thanks again to Kirby Larson for appearing, courtesy of Provato Marketing, for other stops on the tour please check www.provatoevents.com.