Describe your latest project.
Just in Case is the story of a fifteen year old boy who becomes obsessed with the idea that Fate is out to get him. So he changes his name, and the way he looks, and with the help of a sexy older girl, his dog (an invisible greyhound), his best friend, and a very precocious baby, he tries to escape from his fate. Of course poor Justin is completely paranoid (imagine thinking Fate is out to get him!) except that the book's narrator IS Fate, and he is, in fact, out to get Justin Case.
I guess I'd call it a typical coming-of-age story with a fairly untypical cast of characters and some very surprising twists.
What is your favorite family story?
Oh, it has to be a book called The Good Master by Kate Seredy. It's set in Hungary in the early 1900s, and is about a spoiled girl from the big city (Budapest) who goes to live with her cousins deep in the country. Sound familiar? I liked the idea so much that I borrowed the bones of it for my book How I Live Now, which is also about a difficult city girl who goes to live with country cousins. The resemblance may end there, but The Good Master deals beautifully with many of the themes I like best nature and family and the healing power of love.
What fictional character would you like to be your friend, and why?
No contest. Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes. He's wild, non-conformist and completely uncivilized, has a fantastic imagination, a very loyal tiger, hilarious parents, and is never ever ever ever boring.
If you could choose any story to live in, which story would it be? Why?
I was always insanely jealous of Alec from The Black Stallion series I longed for a gigantic wild horse that no one else could ride, and the sad thing is, I haven't outgrown the longing. I'd give anything to be Alec in The Black Stallion. Still.
Introduce one other author/illustrator you think people should read, and suggest a good book by him/her.
I recently read Siobhan Dowd's A Swift Pure Cry set in Ireland with a wonderfully strong, unsentimental heroine and loved it.
Describe your most memorable teacher.
My best teacher ever was Mr. Salinger at Ainger School in Waban, Mass. He was funny, interesting, smart, and challenging; every kid in our class adored him. I had him when I was 11, in 1967, and I still think of him often and wonder if he knows what an incredible impression he made on us.
What is your favorite literary first line?
"If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth." The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger. Boy, do you ever know you're not in for Anne of Green Gables with that line!
Why do you write books for kids?
I'm in my late 40s but somehow my brain got stuck at about 16. I think I'm still going over my own adolescence, trying to figure out how it all went so horribly wrong.
Tell us about your pets.
I am SO glad you asked. I have recently acquired two lurcher puppies lurchers are half sight-hound (Greyhound, Deerhound, Saluki, Whippet) and half something else. Mine are Whippet crossed with Bedlington Terrier, very scruffy looking, fast as bullets, and (like me) they love to snooze. They're also fond of digging deep holes (possibly looking for dinosaur bones), chasing squirrels, and eating shoes, the more expensive the better. They're called Juno and Blue and despite loving them madly, I'm always tempted to give them away to the next person who admires them.