Describe your latest project.
My newest book is The Prophet of Yonwood, to be released on May 9, 2006. It's about the events that led up to the building of the city of Ember. Those events form the background of a story that takes place in the town of Yonwood, North Carolina, where eleven-year-old Nickie Randolph has come with her aunt to claim her great-grandfather's very old house. She finds the community in turmoil. A woman has had a terrifying vision that she can describe only in garbled words, and the townspeople are trying to interpret what she says, fearing that she's predicting the war that seems to be on the horizon. Nickie, who wants to help the troubled world, gets all tangled up in this situation and finds out that trying to do the right thing can sometimes lead to doing very much the wrong thing. Along the way, she meets some peculiar people a girl hiding in a closet, a boy who keeps snakes, and a crabby recluse with something amazing in his house.
What fictional character would you like to be your friend, and why?
I would like to know Dickon, in The Secret Garden, because he knew how to sit still and have birds and animals come to him. I'd like to sit next to him in the garden and let the animals come to me, too.
If you could choose any story to live in, which story would it be?
I loved Elizabeth Enright's books about the Melendy family when I was a child and thought it would be wonderful to be part of that family. They were funny and smart, they knew how to have fun, and they had great freedom to wander around outside and find adventures.
Introduce one other author/illustrator you think people should read, and suggest a good book by him/her.
I first discovered Hilary McKay when her book Saffy's Angel came out. She's a charming, witty writer, whose characters are both very quirky and very real. Read Saffy's Angel, and then read the other two books about the odd but lovable Casson family, Indigo's Star and Permanent Rose.
What is your favorite breakfast cereal?
Gourmet granola, with lots of nuts. In summer, I like berries on top.
What was your favorite story as a child?
Do I have to stick to just one? There were so many. I loved the Narnia books by C. S. Lewis, the Mary Poppins books by P. L. Travers, the Borrowers books by Mary Norton. I loved The Secret Garden and Alice in Wonderland and Tom Sawyer. I read all these (and others) many times. Oh, mustn't forget Dr. Doolittle, and The Moffats, and Homer Price, and... (on and on).
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a writer who illustrated her own stories. Later on, I found that I was much better at writing than at drawing, so I dropped the illustrator part. Fortunately, the books I've ended up writing aren't the kind that have illustrations anyhow.
Tell us about your pets.
I have a Cairn terrier named Ethan. He's a blond with big brown eyes and a calm, peaceful nature. He goes slowly on walks because he likes to sniff everything, and I want to walk fast, but other than that, we agree on just about everything.