1. When you were my age, did you like to read?
My favorite kinds of books were adventures, especially books taking place in a world I didn’t know. I loved books that made me think, but I wanted them to be fast-paced stories with a lot of color and imagination. I have very fond memories of reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH.
2. What was your favorite story?
My absolute favorite was Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising. I’d always loved reading, but when I came across that book, my whole experience as a reader—and a writer—changed. Susan Cooper created a world of vivid characters in a setting that felt like a place I might had visited and slipped in a strong dose of British lore and magic. It was a different kind of magic than I’d read in other books, a deadly magic rooted in something very old. The Dark is Rising depicted dread and warmth in ways I’d never read before. It showed me how powerful a fantasy could be, and inspired me to start writing.
3. How do you get your ideas?
I read a lot of historical books, and I write down little things that I find interesting. A scrap of a detail might become an idea for a book. When I visit castles, I always think about how people must have lived back when the buildings were fortresses and residences, and ideas come to me then too. The idea for The Mad Wolf’s Daughter came to me as I was plotting the backstory of a minor character in another novel I was thinking of writing—a novel I decided to put aside because Drest’s story was much more interesting. I’m always thinking of ideas, so the challenge for me is more to pick only one rather than to come up with one!
4. Your book “Mad Wolf’s Daughter” has a historical setting. How did you research it?
Primarily through historical texts and websites. There’s a wealth of material out there and a thriving community of medievalists and other historians who are generous in sharing their studies. I also visited Scotland to wander around historical sites and get a feel for what living in—or invading—a castle might have been like.
5. What author do you really like right now?
I love Jason Reynolds’s books. His writing is staggeringly powerful, and beautiful, and so important for everyone to read. He’s telling the stories of kids whose hopes, conflicts, and needs are not often depicted in books for children, and thus creating a crucial mirror for many. For other kids, looking into these worlds will help them better understand the greater world they live in. Oh, and his writing itself is exciting, precise, and utterly rich. My two favorites of his books right now are Ghost and Long Way Down.
6. Do you have any new or lesser known authors you would suggest?
I’m really excited about a book called Meet Yasmin! that’s going to be published this summer. It written by Saadia Faruqi and illustrated by Hatem Aly, and it’s about a Pakistani American second-grader named Yasmin Ahmad who uses her huge imagination to solve various problems in a series of adventures. She has a lot of confidence, and is an utterly charming, fun character. This is an early chapter book that will inspire kids to think creatively.
7. What advice do you have for a kid who wants to be an author?
Read—a lot. Read what you love most, but read books beyond your favorite genres because you never know when you’ll learn (or love) something from a book you didn’t expect to even like. Along with reading, think about what you read: What do you like most? What did this author teach you—in terms of life lessons, but also in terms of technique, of writing a scene?
Keep reading, but also write, and write every day, if you can. Sometimes it’s hard to come up with ideas, so a notebook can help. Carry one with you everywhere and scribble down your thoughts when they come to you. These thoughts can be as small as an unusual color you notice, a describe that comes to mind when you see something like a flock of birds, or an observation you have: how other people are speaking or interacting. Dip into this notebook whenever you’re stuck on an idea and see if something from it inspires you.
And have fun! Writing should be fun most of all.
8. As an author, do you hear from your readers? What do you like about that?
I love getting notes from my readers. It’s humbling, flattering, and fulfilling to hear when someone feels moved by my book, or connects with my characters, or just feels inspired.
Thanks so much for the interview!