Author website/social media: www.melanieconklin.com, @MLConklin on Twitter
1When you were my age (8), did you like to read?
When I was eight years old, I loved to read! I always took a book with me in the car, especially on the long drive from North Carolina to Buffalo, NY to visit my grandparents. That takes 12 hours! I would read several books going one way, then swap them with my cousin in Buffalo so I had new reads for the way back.
2 What was your favorite story?
My favorite were stories that had anything to do with horses—so, Black Beauty, and horse-racing mysteries, and veterinarian stories like James Herriot’s. I grew up riding horses, and I loved stories that showed how incredibly tender and loving horses can be, as well as passionate and fiery! I also liked a good cry, so stories like The Secret Garden and Charlotte’s Web were favorites, too, along with every one of the Babysitter’s Club stories.
3 How do you get your ideas?
My best ideas come from paying attention to my life. There are moments that make you smile, or cry, or laugh, and those are the moments that feed into stories. The start of a story always comes from a What If? For Counting Thyme, that question was, what If your little brother or sister got sick? What if you had to move to New York City to help them? (I moved to New York City TWICE, so that’s an experience I knew a little bit about!)
4 Is it hard to write a book?
Books are not easy to write because they take a long time to complete, but writing CAN be easy. My best trick for making sure writing stays fun is really listening to my heart about what I WHEN I really want to write. It is no use beating yourself up for not writing when what you really need is to stop and eat lunch, or read someone else’s book, or go see a movie. Experiencing life and other people’s stories fills you up so that you have a lot to say when you do sit down to write.
5 Mom says your book is about a family where one kid has cancer. That sounds like a really hard topic. Was it hard to write this?
The story in Counting Thyme is about a girl named Thyme whose little brother, Val, has cancer. I wrote about this because the same thing happened to friends of mine many years ago, and the story really stuck in my heart. While cancer was a tough subject to research and to write about, I also felt driven to do a good job showing what it’s like for families to go through this experience.
6 What author do you really like right now?
Ooh, this is such a great question! I read a LOT, so I have many authors to recommend. One of my recent favorites has been Erin Entrada Kelly, who just won’t he Newbery medal! Her books have such great friendship stories, with lots of Filipino traditions that are fascinating to read about.
7 Do you have any new or lesser known authors you would suggest?
I also love Debbi Michiko Florence’s JASMINE TOGUCHI books because Jasmine reminds me of myself as a kid. I’m a little obsessed with Celia Pérez’s THE FIRST RULE OF PUNK. The zines in this book are so cool! Elise Gravel is an author you should check out. Her books about OLGA are hilarious, and her illustrations are awesome!
8 What advice do you have for a kid who wants to be an author?
My advice for anyone who wants to be an author is to start a writing notebook. It can be whatever kind of notebook you want—I like smaller ones, with spiral binding so the pages flip all the way around. Let yourself write WHATEVER YOU WANT in your notebook. I like to keep several notebooks, one for random ideas and notes, and separate notebooks for each book I’m working on. A notebook gives your mind a place to play and collect ideas. Plus, you can doodle in them!
9 As an author, do you hear from your readers? What do you like about that?
I love hearing from readers! Sometimes I get letters in the mail, and those are always so special because it takes work to mail a letter! I also love reading email messages and tweeting with readers. Reading was so special for me growing up that it’s a real privilege to have kids reading my book now. Plus, young readers share the best comments, because you are full of ideas.