Our first Mystery Author is…..Drumroll!!!!!!!!!!!
An author whose book, The Underneath, has ended up on no less than 10 Newbery short lists, and is my personal favorite to win, Kathi Appelt is also the author of more than 20 books.
The language in The Underneath is lyrical (her background as a poet is evident), moving, and pulls you immediately into a hypnotized spell so all you can do is read, read, read….
The Underneath was also a National Book Award Finalist. When I met Kathi at NCTE, I told her that I have been confident in her book’s “Newberyishness” from the moment I started reading. I have also told people I’ll eat the cover if it doesn’t win (that of course is grandiose foolishness but I read a lot and feel very passionately that this is a WINNER!) Without further blathering on my part, here is the blog interview with Kathi Appelt…
Q. What was your favorite book as a child?
Hands down, Black Beauty, by Anna Sewell, followed closely by National Velvet, by Enid Bagnold.
Q. What is the best memory you have of school or a teacher?
I had so many wonderful teachers that it could take me all day to list them, but two stand out from my childhood. One was Mrs. Beall, my first grade teacher. She was the first to tell me that I could be a writer when I grew up. The other was my junior English teacher, Mrs. Franco. She seemed to inherently know that there was more to me than I knew about myself. She handed a copy of Faulkner’s Sound and Fury to me and said, “Read this.” It was a book that changed the way I saw literature and reading and the world. It changed me.
Q. Were you always a writer? A reader?
Yes on both counts. I can’t remember a time without paper and words.
Q. What’s your earliest memory?
Gosh, I don’t remember. I have some very vivid memories, but I’m not sure how they fall chronologically. I remember a moment when I must have been around four and my family went to the Houston Live Stock Show and Rodeo. We were walking through the fairgrounds and looking at all the animals. When we came to the hogs, I remember being terrified at the sight of them. My experience of hogs up til then was “The Three Little Pigs,” and to my mind, they were small and fluffy. These hogs were not at all like that. And not only that, but they were enormous, like the size of small buildings, way bigger than me. They scared the living daylights out of me. I remember my dad holding onto me to keep me from coming right out of my skin.
Q. What is one book you will never be too old to love?
Sandra Boynton’s But Not the Hippopotamus.
Q. When you were first starting out as a writer, did anyone give you advice that really stuck with you?
The best advice, which is rather cliché and trite is simply: write everyday. I do.
Q. Where do you write?
I will attach a photo. Most of my writing gets done at my desk. I have a small studio office in the upstairs loft of our house. It looks out into a large oak tree and there is always plenty of activity out there between the birds and squirrels. I’ve also learned to write on the road, in hotel rooms, airports, planes, boats, you name it. I feel like my laptop is more like an appendage than a separate thing.
Q. What was the most surprising/thrilling thing about being a published author?
The day I received a hard-bound copy of my first book was one I’ll never forget. I made all of my family members and my neighbors, my friends, look at every page. I swear I carried it around with me for weeks.
Q. Are the characters you wrote about based on any real-life people? Did anyone in your life influence the personalities of the characters?
I would say that pretty much every character I’ve ever written was based upon someone I’ve known. We’re all influenced by the people in our lives. So, yes, I draw upon my family members and my acquaintances.
Q. What are you working on now, and what new release(s) can we expect to see from you down the road?
I have a picture book called The New Baby Blues that will be out some time in 2010. Kelly Murphy did the art and it’s truly wonderful. She really brought the text to life. It’s beautiful.
I just turned in my second novel, tentatively called Keeper. It still has miles to go, lots of revision. So, I don’t know when it’ll come out.
Q. If you had a free day with no responsibilities and your only charge was to enjoy yourself, what would you do?
I’d probably do what I do every day, at least when I’m home. Write a little, walk a little, read some. Watch a movie.
Q. What are you currently reading or planning to read?
I just finished Cynthia Leitich Smith’s new novel, Eternal, which was wonderful, as well as Tim Wynne Jones’ The Uninvited—wow, that one took my breath away.
I’m in the middle of Masterpiece, by Elise Broach, and loving it.
Picture book-wise, I love Rebecca Kai Dotlich’s new Bella and Bean, which I’ve been carrying around and hugging. Don’t you love it when you love a book so much you just want to hug it?
Q. Do you have a favorite author?
I have many favorite authors. Cynthia Rylant, Jane Yolen, Bruce Coville, Marion Dane Bauer, Norma Fox Mazer, Susan Straight, Toni Morrison . . . this could take all day.
Q. What do you do when you aren’t writing?
I enjoy going out to listen to live music or to watch a movie or play. I like to walk. And I really like road trips. I was born in a car, and I guess I just love getting in and going.
Q. What was your first job?
I worked in “Lamps and China” at Sears. That was my first “official” job. Before that, I babysat and did chores for my mother.
Q. You desperately wish you knew how to…
Play the piano and/or the guitar. I’ve dabbled in both, but never really got the hang of either. I’d like to try again.
Thank you Kathi for so graciously agreeing to be interviewed. Keep warm!