My name is Susan L Ross, and I’m an author from Maine and Connecticut. For more information about my two middle grade novels, Searching for Lottie and Kiki and Jacques: A Refugee Story, you can visit my website at: www.AuthorSusanRoss.com. I’m also on Twitter @SusanRossAuthor.
My new book, Searching for Lottie, is a modern mystery about a 12 year girl named Charlie who tries to discover what happened to her grandmother’s sister, Lottie — a young violinist who disappeared during the Holocaust. Charlie knows that Lottie probably perished, but the more she learns, the more she wonders: Is is possible that Lottie survived? Much of the story is based on my own family’s history. My first book, Kiki and Jacques: A Refugee Story, is about a refugee Somali girl and boy in Maine and was inspired by my childhood home in Maine.
- When you were my age (9), did you like to read? When I was young, I didn’t just like to read — I LOVED to read. My main interest was horses, and I would devour any horse-related book I could find: Black Beauty, Misty, and The Black Stallion were among my favorites. There was just one thing that I liked even better than reading — and that was writing! I wrote my first novel in fourth grade. It was called Diablo, and the story was about — you guessed it — a horse. I had a wonderful teacher named Mrs. MacDonald, who even let me stay inside at recess and write.
2. What was your favorite story? As a kid, another favorite book was The Little Engine that Could. In Searching for Lottie, Charlie’s Nana Rose is always full of optimism, in spite of early tragedy and hardship. She has encouraging sayings for almost everything. Like Nana Rose, Charlie keeps going when things get tough. She thinks about The Little Engine That Could and repeats to herself: “I think I can, I think I can…!”
3. How do you get your ideas? I usually get my ideas from a real-life setting or something that is true. Kiki and Jacques: A Refugee Story was inspired by the many Somali families who have settled in my childhood home in Maine and my belief that books can help make our world a kinder, better, place by letting kids experience different cultures through diverse characters and stories. I want my readers to feel as if they are a character within each story and in this way, build empathy for the characters around them. The idea for Searching for Lottie came from my own family’s experiences during and after the Holocaust — and seeing how much it meant to my kids to learn about our family’s history.
4. What author do you really like right now? I am an enormous, life-long fan of Patricia Reilly Giff, who won two Newbery Honors with her wonderful books. Her newest middle grade novel is Island War. Pat wrote the lovely blurb for the jacket of Kiki and Jacques: A Refugee Story.
5. Do you have any new or lesser known authors you would suggest? A “newer’ author whom I admire is Anna Crowley Redding, the author of Google It: A History of Google. She writes about STEM subjects, something I am definitely not good at — so I love learning from her books!
6. What advice do you have for a kid who wants to be an author? Here is my advice for a kid who wants to be an author (and guess what? It’s the same advice for adults!) KEEP WRITING! It takes a really long time to write a book and can feel exhausting sometimes, but don’t give up. Remember, so much of writing is thinking about your stories — and then, revising your drafts. Like Nana Rose always says in Searching for Lottie: “If at first you don’t succeed — try, try again!“
7. As an author, do you hear from your readers? What do you like about that? I love doing school visits and hearing from my readers. For World Read Aloud Day, I was able to Skype with many schools on the same day — it was SO cool talking with kids from Iowa to Ontario. I felt especially happy after reading a review of Kiki and Jacques from a Somali girl in Australia; she was excited because she rarely sees books about her culture. Best of all, she thought I got the details right. Since authors do a lot of research — I met with Somali teens over several years to learn about their lives and was tremendously inspired by them — I was delighted she felt that way.
8. If you could portal into any book (yours or another person’s), what book would it be? The story behind Searching for Lottie is based on my own family’s experiences, so if I had a portal, I think I’d use that to find out even more about our family’s history. My son did a school project about my refugee mother’s journey to America, and I began to realize that although many years had passed since World War II, in some ways, it felt like our family history had actually gotten closer and more accessible because of the Internet and because kids can ask questions today that were sometimes too painful for my generation. All families, whatever their backgrounds, have stories — and it is so important for kids to save these memories for the future.
Many thanks and let me know if there’s anything else you need — I love your blog and think you are amazing!