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Author of the Month
2007 Archive
Jane Yolen
ETC: Owl Moon is celebrating its 20th Anniversary. Why do you think this book has been special to so many people over the years?

YOLEN: Three things, really--it is a positive family story. It's about a girl and her father. Usually stories of a little girl are with her mother. It is gentle yet adventurous, quiet yet full of sound.

ETC: You write in many different genres. What do you think is the common thread that connects your books?

YOLEN: Honestly? Me. My interests, my passions. You will see a lot of nature, strong women, adventures, travel, fantasy, mystery, poetry, folklore, Arthuriana, and history--all things I love myself.

Sarah Miller
Sarah Miller, Author of Miss Spitfire: Reaching Helen Keller

ETC: What exactly is Miss Spitfire: fiction, nonfiction, biography?

MILLER: Miss Spitfire is historical fiction, a story told from Annie Sullivan's point of view. It's biographical, but not a biography. I ran across the term "fictional memoir" the other day, and I like that a lot.

ETC: Can you explain the difference between biography and biographical fiction?

MILLER: A biography is strictly facts - no invention. Unfortunately, many children's biographies are a muddy mix of facts and invented conversations. Some authors believe that kids won't read a book that doesn't have the feel of a story, so they make up scenes and dialogue to get the facts across in a more "entertaining" way. That really bugs me.

Historical fiction on the other hand is a story based on facts. I believe good historical fiction requires just as much research as non-fiction. The difference is that writing fiction allows you to use your imagination to fill the gaps between the facts. But even though Miss Spitfire is fiction, I couldn't just make stuff up.

Robin Brande
Robin Brande, Author of Evolution, Me & Other Freaks of Nature

ETC: The evolution vs. intelligent design debate is such a hot topic in this country right now. What made you decide to write about it for a teen audience rather than adult?

BRANDE: Actually, a lot of adults have read the book and really enjoyed it, so I think I ended up hitting both audiences without necessarily meaning to. But I just feel so much more comfortable in the teen world. I love reading YA--I'm currently devouring Stephenie Meyer's Eclipse--SO romantic and thrilling--and I love to write it. My own memories of high school are so vivid. Maybe it helps that my best friend is still the one I've had since sophomore year. Even though we've both been through so many changes since then--including both being lawyers--we still use high school as our frame of reference.

ETC: Are any of the characters in Evolution, Me, and Other Freaks of Nature like you in high school?

Deborah Davis
Deborah Davis, Author of Not Like You
ETC: What inspired you to write Not Like You?
DAVIS: I began with an emotion-packed image-most of my books begin that way-of a teenage girl finding her mother drunk and sick and passed out on the floor of their New Mexico trailer. She felt furious but also scared, and I was intrigued by the question of how a teen can love-and live with-a parent who is neglectful, irresponsible, and even hurtful. How would this girl take care of herself? How would she reconcile her love and her anger toward her mother? I knew that many people, teens and adults, would relate to these questions and to this girl's story. In the United States, one in four children under the age of 18 suffers from living with a parent who abuses alcohol, drugs, or both. So when this idea for Not Like You came to me, it seemed worth pursuing.

ETC: Was your life as a teen anything like Kayla's?

Sharon Dogar
Sharon Dogar, Author of WAVES
ETC: What do you hope for from your first novel?

Dogar: First of all, I just want to fulfill the childhood dream of seeing a book with my name on it actually on the bookshelves! I'm looking forward to finding out what the experience of being read by others is really all about. I hope that the story of Hal and Charley touches those who read it. I hope it operates successfully on several levels: that one can simply escape into the story, and find out "whodunit," that others may be moved by the loss in it, as well as the love, and in my wildest dreams, I sometimes imagine that it might help someone make more sense of their own experience. But most of all, I just hope it's a good read, and that it satisfies the unspoken, unwritten contract you make with a reader when they pick up your book-to have told your story as clearly and as well as you can.

Rochelle Strauss
Rochelle Strauss, Author of One Well: The Story of Water on Earth
From the interview...
ETC: What did you hope to achieve by writing One Well: the Story of Water on Earth?

Strauss: In writing One Well, I wanted to teach children about a topic near and dear to my heart - the story of water. Without water, nothing on Earth can exist. Yet the Earth's water is in trouble. Our growing demands and needs, the changing climate, pollution and development are all affecting the water in the Earth's global well. I wanted readers to learn about the importance of water and hear the stories about what's happening to it.

I also wanted to empower children to take action - to help them realize the power each of them has to conserve and protect the Earth's One Well. By demonstrating to them that even the simplest of actions can have a domino effect, I wanted them to understand their potential to influence and change the lives of every living thing around them.

ETC: What was the most challenging aspect of writing One Well: the Story of Water on Earth? And what was the most enjoyable?

Karen Lange

Karen Lange, Author
1607: A New Look at Jamestown - Ages 8-12

ETC:ETC: Your book looks at what new information is coming to light about Jamestown. What else can we expect to learn in the next few years?

Lange: The dig at Historic Jamestowne, led by Dr. William Kelso and funded since 1994 by the owners of the site-APVA Preservation Virginia-will go on as long as there's money to pay for it. Like a lot of archeological excavations, there's plenty more of the site to dig, it's just a question of funding. I know one of the things Dr. Kelso hopes to find is the earliest well, dug on the orders of Capt. John Smith. Wells are important finds because they contain items dropped into them while they were in use and then trash dumped into them when they are abandoned. That means they can hold a huge number of well-preserved objects from a short period of time-kind of like a time capsule.

Another dig that will tell us a lot of the early years at Jamestown is going on at Werowocomoco, the capital of the Powhatan Indian chiefdom, on the York River in Virginia. Werowocomoco had been inhabited for hundreds of years and was a sacred site to Indians when Powhatan chose it as his capital in the early 1600s. This is also where Capt. John Smith was taken as a prisoner of the Indians to meet the chiefdom's ruler, Powhatan, and where, according to Smith, his life was saved by one of Powhatan's daughters, Pocahontas. Archaeological excavations there just started during the last few years, and it's hoped they are going to help better tell the Indian side of the story, which, of course, was not recorded in written accounts.