Describe your latest project.
The Magic Thief is a book about Conn, a scruffy kid with a dark past who survives by picking pockets on the streets of Wellmet. When he picks the wizard Nevery's pocket, he sets off on an adventure involving magic, peril, misery eels, pugilistic displays, evil Devices, the most amazing locus magicalicus in the world, and crossing a (mostly) frozen river on a night of stars as bright as daggers. He also eats a lot of biscuits and bacon.
The second and third Magic Thief books are just about finished (there are three dragons in book three!), so I'm trying to decide what to write next. Maybe another Conn and Nevery book, because I really enjoy writing about them and the Wellmet world.
What fictional character would you like to be your friend, and why?
"An uncommonly engaging young narrator kicks this debut fantasy ahead of the general run....All in all a sturdy start..." Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Fantasy and adventure lovers alike will groan when they get to the tantalizingly mischievous ending, and are likely to hound you until the sequel arrives." School Library Journal
Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables, because she has a great imagination that would lead both of us into fun adventures (and probably get us into trouble); she's smart, brave, and loyal. Being Anne's friend would never be boring. I would think twice before eating anything Anne cooked, though.
Introduce one other author/illustrator you think people should read, and suggest a good book by him/her.
One of my very favorite authors is Megan Whalen Turner, starting with her YA fantasy novel The Thief. Turner does just about everything right her characters are deep and interesting, her plots are tricky and suprising, and her fantasy world is one in which you can spend lots of time. As a writer, I've read all of her books several times each just to figure out how she does what she does. The only problem is that she writes so slowly! The Thief came out in 1996, and she's only published two other books since then. It's hard to wait such a long time for a new Megan Whelan Turner book, but it's always worth the wait.
What was your favorite story as a child?
I loved Frances Hodgson Burnett's books, especially The Little Princess and The Secret Garden, but I remember in fourth grade deciding that Madeleine L'Engle was my favorite author. That was after I'd read A Wrinkle in Time and its sequel, A Wind in the Door. I loved Meg Murry, but Charles Wallace and the mitochondria piqued my imagination.
What do you do for relaxation?
Practice the piano, run, go for long walks along the Iowa River, pet my cats, hang out with my kids, watch anime, write email to my friends.
Why do you write books for kids?
Because kids are the best readers! Maybe kid brains are young and stretchy enough that when they encounter a new, imaginary world they can leap right into it. I wrote stories for adults for years until I realized that the stories I like best the ones with fun and adventure, magic and dragons were ones kids would like, too.
Tell us about your pets.
We have two cats, Sparkle (the smart one) and Feather (the dumb one). Feather is sandy-colored, wide-eyed, and beautiful; Sparkle looks just like Lady, the cat in The Magic Thief. I do most of my writing with one cat or another sitting on my lap.
If you could pick anyone to illustrate one of your books, who would it be and why? Conversely, if you're an illustrator, for what author would you like to illustrate?
I'm very lucky to have the perfect illustrator for the Magic Thief books, and that's Antonio Javier Caparo. We've never met each other, but somehow he puts into pictures exactly what my words are trying to convey; all the characters he drew looked exactly as I'd imagined them.
Make a question of your own, then answer it.
Q:Biscuits and bacon?
A: Yes, indeed! Biscuits (with butter and honey) if they're the Benet kind, not the Conn kind. Bacon if it's nice and crispy.