Today, I am welcoming Lynne Rae Perkins to Kid Lit Frenzy. Lynne's newest book is NUTS TO YOU.
I loved the author's note and the description of the park and the squirrel and the peanut butter sandwich. As you wrote NUTS TO YOU, did you have other experiences where your characters surprised you?
I love it when characters surprise me, and they always do. There is a time in the writing of every book where the characters stop feeling like people/animals I made up, and start to take on a certain independence. Then I put them in situations and wait to see what they'll do, like an improv theatre troupe.
In NUTS, for example, I loved the moment when Chai, who has been a cautious squirrel and is so terrified when he is in the crevice with the bobcat waiting outside, loses his fear.
Writing a book where all of the characters are animals must be different than writing a story where it is clearly realistic fiction. Are there certain challenges or benefits to writing one type of story vs. the other?
My squirrels became quite real and individual to me while I worked on this book, and they are clearly more human than squirrels actually are. But it was fun to imagine the world from a squirrel's point-of-view -- for example, the part that describes the first time Chai saw hunters wearing camouflage and thought he was seeing floating human heads with no bodies.
The combination of animal qualities and human qualities puts us in a place where normal rules don't apply, and that is fun, and freeing. But it still has to feel believable within the new, made-up rules.
In looking through all of the books that you have written, I realized that you illustrated Seed by Seed (which I loved). (Thanks!)
Did you have to convince your publisher to allow you to do the illustrations for NUTS TO YOU? Do you think you will ever do other picture books? And do you ever sketch out characters or scenes when you are writing other books?
I've written and illustrated half a dozen picture books, and so far, all of my novels have drawings. The first time I submitted part of a novel with drawings (All Alone in the Universe), my then-editor said that as kids get older, they don't really want illustrations in their books. But by the time I finished it, she and the art director were saying, "More drawings!"
I think it's becoming more and more common for novels to include drawings in some way. It's pretty exciting -- there's a whole spectrum of possibilities between a straight-text novel and a graphic novel.
I was an artist before I was a writer so, for me, sometimes drawing feels like a better way to say something. But I really love how the two forms can work together. They have a little conversation.
I do sketch characters sometimes. My drawings tend to be either diagrams (of some unlikely things) or attempts to communicate a moment.
Do you have any special writing routines, and what is your writing space like (coffee shop, office, other)?
My writing routine can vary, but it happens in two main places.
First thing in the morning, I sit in a chair in my bedroom with my notebook and a thermos of coffee. Morning is a great time to write, because my mind is fresh and uncluttered. Whatever I put in front of it, that's what it gets interested in. (My bedroom, however, is not nearly as uncluttered as it appears in this drawing.)
After about an hour, I get dressed and go downstairs to my studio, where there is both a big desk and a small couch. Also, a very big window that looks out into our backyard full of trees. And squirrels.
(It's a pretty big room. My desk, and two big tables, are not visible in this photo.)
I often start off by re-writing what I wrote the day before, by hand, with a pen in a notebook. I revise as I go, and new ideas pop up. I try to end the writing session when I have some kind of idea of what's coming, but not enough time to dive into it. That way, I know where to start the next time. And some part of my mind turns ideas over and sorts out tangles while I think I'm paying attention to making dinner, etc.
Are you working on any new books/projects that you can share with us?
I'm working on the illustrations for a picture book, but I think I'd like to keep it a surprise. I'll just say it has a boy and a dog in it.
What has been your favorite question or letter from a reader (either at a school visit or in a letter/email form)?
I love hearing from parents who say that their child has to read this or that book every night. I loved the girl who wrote that she loved CRISS CROSS so much she wanted to marry it. Those things can really warm a writer's heart.
I think the one of the most thought-provoking questions I've been asked came a number of years ago. I had written and illustrated three picture books, and I was visiting a school in Iowa City. A little boy there asked me why all my characters had blue eyes. The obvious answer was that many of the characters and stories were about me and my family, and we all have blue eyes. But it really made me think, and was probably the first step in expanding my cast of characters. If we go back to question #2, I could say that when your characters are animals, no one feels excluded because of race or eye color or culture. I think that's a nice benefit.
What is your favorite Independent Bookstore and where is it located?
I have at least two. One is a tiny one called Dog Ears Books, in Northport, Michigan, which is about fifteen minutes from where I live. Pamela Grath, the bookseller there, sells both used and new books, and is such an avid reader and supporter of authors. I've launched my last two books there.
And in Traverse City, Michigan, is Horizon Books, a much bigger store that has been one of the downtown anchors for many years.
Now that you have me on this topic, I can think of so many -- to be honest, I haven't met an independent bookstore I didn't like! Going into a bookstore when visiting a new place always grounds me and makes me feel comfortable and connected and stimulated, all at once.
Thanks for including me in your blog: I'm honored!
About the Author:
ynne Rae Perkins is the creator of several acclaimed children’s books. She was awarded the Newbery Medal for her novel Criss Cross, and its companion, All Alone in the Universe, was named an ALA Notable Book and ALA Booklist Editors’ Choice, among other honors. Her recent novels include As Easy as Falling Off the Face of the Earth and her most recent title, Nuts to You. She has written and illustrated six picture books, including Snow Music and Home Lovely, both Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Books, as well as The Cardboard Piano, Pictures from Our Vacation, The Broken Cat, and Clouds for Dinner. She is also the illustrator of Seed by Seed, a picture book biography of Johnny Appleseed, by Esmé Raji Codell. Lynne Rae Perkins lives with her family in northern Michigan. For more about Lynne Rae Perkins, check out her website.