In Their Own Words:

Interviews with Children's and YA
Authors & Illustrators

Smith- Swanson

Sample these Author Profiles and Stories Behind the Stories, then follow the links to the full interviews.

Elizabeth and Jenna from JINGLE DANCER

“The character Cousin Elizabeth from JINGLE DANCER is an attorney who can't attend the next weekend's powwow because she has to work. She has been much remarked upon because professional women, especially professional Native women are so rarely seen in children's picture books.”

— on JINGLE DANCER (PB)

Read more from Cynsations: on JINGLE DANCER (PB); RAIN IS NOT MY INDIAN NAME (MG); INDIAN SHOES (CB); PERIOD PIECES (MG); IN MY GRANDMOTHER'S HOUSE (MG); and MOCCASIN THUNDER (YA)

See also TANTALIZE, ETERNAL and more global interviews with Cynthia, including 10th Anniversary Feature: Cynthia Leitich Smith and Reflections on a Decade

Anatomy of a Boyfriend
"ANATOMY OF A BOYFRIEND concerns a girl whose intelligence is above average but still longs uncontrollably for her knight in letterman jacket. Her behaviors may seem crazy, but in truth what she's experiencing couldn't be more natural and human."

—on ANATOMY OF A BOYFRIEND (YA)

 

Drums...
"You know what? When I told my older sister I was writing a funny novel about a 13-year-old whose little brother has cancer, she said, 'Sounds like a real commercial blockbuster. Let me know how that goes!'"

— on DRUMS, GIRLS & DANGEROUS PIE (YA)

 

Jerry Spinelli"They met and did Stargirl-like things: dropping loose change on sidewalks, slipping anonymous compliments into fellow students' lockers, etc. Local women of accomplishment came to speak to them. Their sub-groups were called 'constellations.' At year's end they held an Inner Beauty Pageant."

—on STARGIRL (YA)

Lament“It seemed that in the first version, my main character was too middle grade, and she also was entirely without a spine. Also, there was not nearly enough angst and nookie, though I didn't realize this at the time.”

—on LAMENT: THE FAERIE QUEEN’S DECEPTION (YA)

 

 

 

Shiver“If I was a novel and my books were chapters, Shiver would be a new chapter for me. Actually, it would possibly be a new part. One of those ones that says something like "Part Two: The Journey" and underneath has a little black and white illustration done by an eccentric old guy with a hyphenated last name. And possibly a quote from Yeats, followed by the regularly scheduled chapters.”

—on SHIVER (YA)

 

Fairy Tale Feasts
"My mother [Jane Yolen] has long said she has written every kind of book except a sports book, a cookbook, and a hard science book. She finally wrote Moon Ball, so sports was done. But, she hates to cook, so without me doing that part..."

— on FAIRY TALE FEASTS:
A LITERARY COOKBOOK FOR YOUNG READERS AND EATERS
(PB)

 

Close Encounters
“You see, when I write a book, it’s like I’m hopping in my car, and I’ve decided I’m going to visit Alaska. I have only a vague idea where Alaska is, and an even vaguer idea of how I’m getting there, because I don’t have a map, and why would I stop for directions? Eventually I do arrive, and although I’ve made a lot of detours, this is the way writing works for me.”

— on CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF A THIRD-WORLD KIND (MG)

 

Blue is for Nightmares
"Having done this research and seeing the way that Witchcraft is so often negatively portrayed in the media, I wanted to show the true peaceful nature of this earth-based religion, without the hocus-pocus. I wanted to weave an education into the story, using Stacey Brown as a reflective, self-empowering young woman."

— on BLUE IS FOR NIGHTMARES (YA)


 

Project 17"I started to delve into the research--visiting the hospital, talking to former patients and staff, and reading and viewing everything I could get my hands on concerning the hospital. I got completely haunted by the research, so much so that I started keeping myself awake at night."

--on PROJECT 17 (YA)

 

Deadly Little Secret“I wanted to write a story where the main character has to struggle with the idea of falling in love with someone who could potentially be dangerous.”

—on DEADLY LITTLE SECRET (YA)

 

Ola's Wake

"The idea for OLA'S WAKE came to me about ten years after Mother died. It was at her wake where a friend of hers asked if Ola had ever told me about the time they went berry picking and a bear got after them."

— on OLA’S WAKE (MG)

 

A Bad Boy
"Now there was a moment I'll never forget. I had published plenty of nonfiction books, but I had never really considered writing a novel. I was charged up. I went to my room and wrote until I couldn't stay awake any more. Then I jolted awake at about 4 am (probably only about two hours later) and wrote until breakfast. I couldn't stop. The book was pouring out of me."

— on A BAD BOY CAN BE GOOD FOR A GIRL (YA)

 

Author Update: Tanya Lee Stone

Last Summer of the Death Warriors“I was inspired by Cervantes' Don Quixote. I wanted to write about the kind of transforming relationship that Don Quixote and Sancho Panza have and so I came up with my own D.Q. and Pancho Sanchez!”

—on THE LAST SUMMER OF THE DEATH WARRIORS (YA)

Rainboy Joe and Me
"One night, after returning from New Orleans, the image of a musician with a rainbow coming out of his saxophone came to me so vividly that I knew I had to turn it into a story."

— on RAINBOW JOE AND ME (PB)

 

Red Light Green Light"Once I saw the book as a journey, then it all came together."

— on RED LIGHT, GREEN LIGHT (PB)

 

To Be Like the Sun“The text of this book is addressed to a sunflower, beginning with the seed that a child is about to place in the ground: ‘Hello, little seed, / striped gray seed. / Do you really know everything / about sunflowers?’”

—on TO BE LIKE THE SUN (PB)