In Their Own Words:

Interviews with Children's and YA
Authors & Illustrators

Watt - Wynne-Jones

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

“At a time when women’s rights and opportunities were limited, Moina had made a difference. She was strong and purpose filled. And the motto she lived by--"Whatsoever your hands find to do, do it with all your might"--opened up endless possibilities for her.”

—on THE POPPY LADY: MOINA BELLE MICHAEL AND HER TRIBUTE TO VETERANS (PB)

 

Scaredy Squirrel
"It’s humor that finally made Scaredy what he is now. And writing humor was not something I knew I was able to deliver. I sat down one day and decided to approach this story in a new way, by being as ridiculous as I could. Then, ideas started popping in my head."

—on SCAREDY SQUIRREL (PB)

 

Becoming Billie Holiday“Billie has been my muse for decades. Like her, I grew up in Baltimore. I heard her music at an early age because my father was a jazz fan and owned a few of her records.”

—on BECOMING BILLIE HOLIDAY (YA)


Rules of Survival
So, what I am trying to do, I think, is use the external and very dramatic threats involved in a suspense plot—murderers, kidnappers, drug dealers, whatever—as metaphors for the very real terrors of actual adolescent life.”

— on THE KILLER’S COUSIN (YA), among others.

 

AUTHOR UPDATE: Nancy Werlin

 


"However, a problem was clearly stated when one editor who liked my work began her critique ' 'Poetry does not sell!'"

— on EARTHSCAPES (PB)

The World According to Rock
"At first it was very difficult to write simple English and not "Geologeez" jargon."

 — on THE WORLD ACCORDING TO ROCK (PB)

 

Mammoths
"...Kurt Cyrus was going to illustrate. I knew from his other books that he drew great cows. But he almost turned the book down. He was tired of cows. The reason he agreed to do it was because..."

— on SIXTEEN COWS (PB)

See also Lisa Wheeler on Career Building.

Author Update: Lisa Wheeler

 

Looking for Uncle Louie
"I think studying novel writing through the years, as I worked on middle grade manuscripts, helped prepare me for writing a picture book."

— on LOOKING FOR UNCLE LOUIE
ON THE FOURTH OF JULY
(PB)

 

Art from the Heart“When she started painting, she did it after putting in a full day's work doing household chores on the plantation, which at that point was a haven for well-known writers and artists to create their craft. Clementine started displaying her work on a clothesline and later in life had her work displayed in museums.”

—on ART FROM HER HEART: FOLK ARTIST CLEMENTINE HUNTER (PB)

 

Flora Segunda
"When you are a kid, everything can feel so super-charged, and yet as adults we forget this and figure that nothing in a kid's life can possibly be that important."

—on FLORA SEGUNDA (MG)

 

“Writing across genres has given me joy. It’s made writing a path full of surprises. It’s given me a sense of freedom to choose what I like to explore. It’s allowed me to dive into subjects that intrigue me. I think that makes my writing stronger because I write out of a passionate interest in a theme, subject or emotion.”

—on CAREER BUILDING

 

When Kambia Elaine Flew Down from Neptune"When all the bids were in, Barbara chose Simon & Schuster Publishing, because their editor, David Gale, provided her with the best detailed letter of how he would market the book."

— on WHEN KAMBIA ELAINE
FLEW DOWN FROM NEPTUNE
(YA)

Author Update: Lori Aurelia Williams

 

chosen one

 

“Long ago, I heard about a girl who had run from her home because she didn't want to marry a much-older family member. The moment I heard that story, I was like, I'll write a book about that some day. But the story stayed just a kernel of an idea for many, many years.”

––on THE CHOSEN ONE (YA)

 

 

Bull Rider“I learned that most injured soldiers want to return to their units. I learned that TBI can be invisible and still create life-altering changes in its victims' thought processes. I developed a deep respect for the men and women who've given so much in the line of duty. I began to understand how people hold up in war time.”

—on BULL RIDER (YA)

Every Time a Rainbow Dies
"The focus of the story changed as my characters became real. I had to abandon revictimization as a focus. Most women or girls don't report rape and most women of color don't receive any form of justice. I could work that angle, but that wasn't where my heart was. I did know what Thulani and Ysa were to each other and that this was stronger than formula."

—on EVERY TIME A RAINBOW DIES (YA)

Jumped“If this were a Shakespearean tragedy, Leticia would torture herself pondering what to do. But alas, Leticia is concerned with gluing on her false fingernail tip and getting a good seat to the fight at 2:45.”

—on JUMPED (YA)

See also Rita on Career Building.

Hard Love
"The chairperson of the committee called and asked if I minded being put on the speaker phone. She's told me she was calling from ALA so I was pretty excited."

— on HARD LOVE (YA)

AUTHOR UPDATE: Ellen Wittlinger

 

 

Escape from Arylon
"It’s wise to have a basic idea of how you want the trilogy to play out before you start sending it off to publishers because one of their questions will be, 'Do you know how it ends?'"

—on ESCAPE FROM ARYLON (YA)


The Dumpster Diver
"One thing I kept waffling over was whether to have Steve the Dumpster Diver get hurt. I didn't want this book to be heavy-handed and preachy. Didacticism: the kiss of death in reviews! I didn't want my book to discourage "respectable people" from Dumpster diving. I wanted this book to be a call-to-action to all of us to stop wasting so much stuff, and an inspiration to make new things from junk."

—on THE DUMPSTER DIVER

 

Jake stays awake“...soon enough, I started to get comments from the editor that certain changes needed to be made. The character was too fat. His hair needed to be wavy. The story needs changing.”

—on JAKE STAYS AWAKE (PB) and JAKE STARTS SCHOOL (PB)


Thief in the House of Memory
"So I was on the rebound, so to speak, and wrote very gingerly. I wasn't exactly insecure but smarting. The thing was, I knew I was in the zone with this -- it was my kind of book. But it wasn't an easy book to unlock."

— on A THIEF IN THE HOUSE OF MEMORY (YA)