Best Book I Have Not Read

Writing, Reading, Teaching, Life, Attempting to Balance it All

February Mystery Author revealed February 20, 2009

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foundMargaret Peterson Haddixmhaddix


Q. What was your favorite book as a child?

I didn’t have a single favorite, and even if I had, it would have varied year to year. Some of the books I remember re-reading many times because I loved them so much were: The Little Princess, by Francis Hodgson Burnett; She the Adventuress, by Dorothy Crayder; From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, by E.L. Konigsburg; The Long Journey, by Barbara Corcoran; and Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery.

Q. Were you always a writer? A reader?
I was always a reader, definitely. I can’t really say that I was always a writer. I had lots of ideas for stories when I was a kid, but I was a bit lazy about actually writing them down!

Q. What’s your earliest memory?

Being the flower girl in my mother’s cousin’s wedding. I was 2 ½ at the time, so the memory experts would probably say that I don’t really remember this—I just remember remembering it, and being told about it. But I think I can remember standing at the back of the church beside my older brother (who was the ring bearer) and seeing the huge pews, towering above my head—row after row of them—and being terrified out of my wits. I completely forgot what I was supposed to do, so I asked my brother, who was all of four and, in my eyes, an expert on everything. He said, “Dump the flowers.” So I turned over my whole basket of rose petals right there at the back of the church, and blithely strolled to the front, mission accomplished.

haddix-officeQ. Where do you write? Would you attach a picture of your office or work space?

I have an office in my house. For years, this was the whole family’s shared computer space, and I was always having to move my stuff out of the way when someone else needed to use the computer. Now it’s solely my work space. So, often when I’m in the thick of a book—especially one where I’ve needed to do research—I can get very slobbish with piles of books and paper all over the place, just because I can. It doesn’t look great, but that way I know where everything is. (I’ve sent you a slightly tidier picture.)

Q. What was the most surprising/thrilling thing about being a published author?

I have a two-part answer to that. The most surprising/thrilling thing about being an author is the writing itself, particularly the part where an idea that I fall in love with jumps into my head and the right words for expressing that idea also jump into my head, and I suddenly have a story—plot, characters, narrative, etc.– that thrill me, that didn’t exist, and then suddenly, just is.
When it’s going well (which of course, isn’t always the case) then the writing itself is also the most thrilling part of being a published author. But if you want to emphasize the published part of that, then there’s a second part to the thrill, which is when readers love my stories as much as I do. This is particularly amazing and thrilling when it’s someone who seems very different from me, who I would assume wouldn’t like the same things that I would like, but does.


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’ve never put someone I know in real life into one of my books exactly as they are, but I have certainly pulled characteristics from real people I know to give to my characters. I liken it to making a Lego creature using pieces from several different sets—what I come up with is different from the people who inspire me, but sometimes you can recognize the source.

Q. What are you working on now, and what new release(s) can we expect to see from you down the road?
Right now I am working on revising the third book in The Missing series. The second book is all done and is due out in August. I also have another book coming out this year: a young adult novel called Claim to Fame, which is due out in November.

Q. If you had a free day with no responsibilities and your only charge was to enjoy yourself, what would you do?
Wow, I think the last time I had one of those was about sixteen years ago! (Pre-parenthood). I would try for a balance of all of my favorite activities: reading, writing, maybe seeing a movie, hanging out with family and friends, and doing some sort of physical activity, like hiking or biking or swimming. Of course, that’s probably too much to try to do in one day, which is indicative of how my life usually goes… I’m always running out of time for the things I want to do!

Q. What are you currently reading or planning to read?

Right now I am reading The Known World, by Edward P. Jones, for a book club that I am in—very much a mind-blowing book. So far, it’s fascinating, but also emotionally difficult to read at times. I recently finished Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, which I greatly enjoyed. I had thought I would read Laurie Halse Anderson’s Chains next, because I’ve heard wonderful things about it. But I think I may need something lighter in between the slavery books.

Q. Do you have a favorite author?
Not a single favorite. Some of the authors writing for adults whose work I generally enjoy include Anne Tyler, Margaret Atwood and Barbara Kingsolver. In the area of YA and kids books, it would be John Green, Laurie Halse Anderson, E.L. Konigsburg, Edward Bloor, and Cynthia Voigt. And lots of others that I’m not thinking of at the moment.

Q. What do you do when you aren’t writing?

A lot of Mom stuff, although now that my kids are teenagers, I’m not doing nearly as much chauffeuring, etc. as I used to. I do volunteer work through my church, including tutoring and occasionally helping out at a homeless shelter. I read a lot—it’s nice that I have a job where I can justify this as “work.” I do a fair amount of travel, both on trips with family and/or friends, and on work-related trips. This fall I am going to Germany for ten days to promote my books there—I’m really looking forward to that.

Q. What was your first job?
What counts as a first job? The first work I ever got paid for was for helping out on my dad’s farm. (Not the easiest way to make money.) The first regular paycheck I ever got was for working as an assistant cook at a 4-H camp, the summer after my freshman year in college. And the first “full-time” job I had after graduating from college was as a copy editor at a newspaper in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Q. You desperately wish you knew how to…
I think if there were anything I desperately wanted to know how to do, I would desperately be trying to learn it. I can’t think of anything I’m that desperate about at the moment, but there are certainly things I would like to be able to do, or do better. One is that I wish I were a better skier, because this is something that my kids love (particularly my son), and it’s not something that I’ve mastered well enough to whole-heartedly enjoy with them. I have improved over the past few years, though.


 The other thing, which is actually a larger, longer-term goal, is that I wish I were better at speaking foreign languages. I have met people who know 10 to 15 languages, and can switch back and forth with seemingly no effort. They’ll say, “I’m sorry—English is not one of my better languages,” and then speak it with almost complete fluency.  I really envy that skill. I used to be fairly good with French, but have forgotten a lot over the years, and I can make an attempt, at least, at Spanish. But with both languages (and, I suspect, any others I would try to study) I am far, far better at reading and writing it than actually conversing. Maybe someday when my kids are grown and I have more time I will be able to make more of an effort at this.




February Mystery Author Clue 4 February 19, 2009

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The same book that came from an idea during her first job also became a movie by Shyamalan. The publisher threatened legal action. Many ideas in the movie and book are very similar.

As curious as that makes me, I still won’t ever see the movie.


February Mystery Author Clue 3 February 18, 2009

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This author attended the same undergraduate university as I did.


February Mystery Author February 16, 2009

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This author grew up on a farm in the Midwest.


Welcome Mary Pearson! January 23, 2009

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Author of the big hit The Adoration of Jenna Fox (my review), as well A Room on Lorelei Street, Scribbler ofmaryepearson001002 Dreams and David v. God, this one time second grade teacher, Mary Pearson answered so we could get to know her a little better.  
maryepearson001004Q. What is the best memory you have of school or a teacher?
When I was in second grade I had a wacky, fun teacher who didn’t always follow the curriculum I’m sure, but she had every one of us kids engaged.  She was like the pied piper, but instead of a musical pipe, she transfixed us all with story.  She had so m
uch enthusiasm it was impossible not to catch it.  She read stories, but also made them up and let a classroom of wiggly kids participate in the telling of it by providing the sound effects.  That experience was such a positive one for me and I think left every child feeling like a participant in the creation of the story.  My best friend was also in that classroom and she has gone on to be a very successful writer, but in the educational field. I wonder how many writers that one teacher spawned?  Thank you, Mrs. Alsenz!    

Q. What’s your earliest memory?

I remember standing on my back porch watching my mother sort laundry.  I was a toddler and I suspect I saw her do that a lot and perhaps wondered why she found laundry so interesting.    

Q.  What is one book you will never be too old to love?

All of them?  Seriously, I think no matter how old you get, a good book is a good book and there is always a new side or perspective to explore, or a journey to enjoy all over again.  As C.S. Lewis puts it, “. . . a book worth reading only in childhood is not worth reading even then. ”  From Dr. Seuss, to E.B.White, to Lewis Carroll, to Beatrix Potter, and more–there are books and stories worth revisiting over and over again.  If I ever get too old to appreciate books from my childhood, it is time to stop reading.    

Q. When you were first starting out as a writer, did anyone give you advice that really stuck with you?

I have received so much wonderful advice over the years, not to mention that I am a writing book junkie–I love to read advice and process books on the subject–but early on, I read a book, The Writer’s Book of Checklists where the author Scott Edlestein discussed the fears of writing and how to get over them.  He said,  “When fears arise, acknowledge them, and keep writing anyway.”  As a new writer I did have a lot of fears so I found this encouraging.  I wasn’t alone.  Fear was not my stomping grounds alone.  So I wrote through my fears to finish my first novel.  That manuscript was never published but it was a huge milestone for me that helped me to go on to write other books that did get published.

Q. Where do you write? Would you attach a picture of your office or work space?
I converted a bedroom in my house into an office. It is nice and roomy and I have trees right outside my window that always seem to have a bird dropping my to peek in at me.  And there is plenty of room to spread out manuscripts on the floor when I get to the middle and I have to “see” the manuscript because it is starting to overwhelm me.
This is shortly after I cleaned it, so it is a rare moment of minimal clutter.  I even cleaned my bulletin board which before this was so loaded with “stuff” you could barely sneeze without something falling off of it.  Check back in two weeks and I am sure it will be a mess again.    

Q. What was the most surprising/thrilling thing about being a published author?

That people I don’t know, who live in places I have never been, and who live lives I can’t begin to understand, and have experiences and belief systems completely different from my own, are actually reading something that I wrote and on some level, are relating to it, so that even though we are so different we still have common ground too.  When I get a letter from someone whom I have never met and they share with me their response to one of my books, it amazes me every time.    

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 new book coming out this Fall called THE MILES BETWEEN about four teens who embark on an “unauthorized” road trip in search of one fair day.  The main character has an obsession with coincidences and also a secret she is keeping from the rest of her road trip renegades, and as the story unfolds, she discovers they have secrets of their own.  It is an outrageous, larger-than-life story where fantasy bleeds into reality and you are never sure where one ends and the other begins.  I had a lot of fun writing it.    

Q. If you had a free day with no responsibilities and your only charge was to enjoy yourself, what would you do?

ohhh, I love this question.  I would probably going walking barefoot at the beach with a small pack on my back with water and a sandwich and chips and a book of poetry and walk as far as I felt like and stop and have lunch when I wanted, read when I wanted, and listen to the waves and think.  I would love that.    

Q. What are you currently reading or planning to read?

I am currently reading The Comeback by Marlene Perez which I am really enjoying, and up next is Three Cups of Tea, a non-fiction book I have heard great things about.    

Q. What do you do when you aren’t writing?

Well, besides all the things that everyone else does, like laundry, bills, cleaning, and the endless list of musts that seem to take up way too much time, I like to take long walks with my husband, work out in the garden–especially in spring–cook for my family and friends, play games, and of course, read!    

Q. What was your first job?

My first job was a salesgirl at Raj of India in our local mall, a store that no longer exists.  I was in charge of stocking the incense and incense burners.  During those few months I smelled enough incense to last me a lifetime.  I am no longer a fan of incense, to say the least.     

Q. You desperately wish you knew how to…


.Oh, so many things. Play the piano. Perform ballet. Win at Jeopardy. My interests and aspirations are lofty and mundane.  
Her Site:  Mary Pearson
Who is Jeanna Fox?  site for The Adoration of Jenna Fox 






Mystery Author Two: Clue #4 January 22, 2009

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She “adores” research and had to do a lot for her most recent novel, especially researching future technologies


Mystery Author Two: Clue 3 January 21, 2009

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She “scribbled” out her second book the following year (after the first novel) and won the Golden Kite Award for her third novel!