25 Women to Read Before You Die

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Kids' Q&A

N. D. Wilson

Describe your latest project.
One Hundred Cupboards is the first installment in a fantasy cycle that I've had brewing in me for quite some time. The adventure, set in Kansas, begins when a long-sheltered boy named Henry York discovers 99 small cupboard doors hidden under plaster in an attic wall. Together, Henry and his impulsive cousin Henrietta, work to open the none-too-friendly doors, discovering that each cupboard leads to a different place — an island hill, a busy post office, a cold throne room, and even a grandfather clock. It isn't long before they discover that the cupboards were hidden for a reason, but by then, it may be too late.

  1. 100 Cupboards
    $8.50 Used Hardcover add to wishlist

    100 Cupboards

    N. D. Wilson

  2. Leepike Ridge
    $15.99 New Hardcover add to wishlist

    Leepike Ridge

    N. D. Wilson

What fictional character would you like to be your friend, and why?
I've always thought Gandalf would be a handy acquaintance. You know, for when I'm stuck in those dark places, or the goblins have gotten to the ponies.

If you could choose any story to live in, which story would it be? Why?
You know, I like this one — the story we're living in here. There's no end to the things that could happen, and it has every element, every character, every tragedy, every triumph, and every four years there's even the Winter Olympics.

Okay, that's a cop-out. I would love to live (could I just visit?) in Terry Pratchett's Discworld. Especially if I got to stick close to Sam Vimes, and if I could still hear Pratchett's narration while I wandered the streets of Ank-Morpork.

What is your favorite literary first line?
"There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it." — C. S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

How did the last good book you read end up in your hands?
I married into it. Back when I talked my lovely wife into teaming up with me, my (okay, our) library doubled and there were a lot more authors and titles that were outside my normal reading rut. That was seven years ago, and I only just now fished a memoir off the shelf entitled Albert Camus and the Minister. Before he died, my wife's grandfather had talked her into picking it up. I haven't actually finished it, but thus far it's grabbed me — a blend of the comic, the tragic, and the clumsy.

Why do you write books for kids?
What other audience is there? My imagination travels in patterns that more easily gel with kid readers than adults. Kids still demand satisfying endings (literary adult readers frequently pride themselves in a taste for the unsatisfying). Kids love the fantastic, they love to be surprised and amazed, while adult readers have often lost any sense of wonder when they look at the world. However, when you write for kids, adults will read it and frequently even regain a sense of that childish wonder. And they manage to keep their self-respect, because it's not as if the book was intended for them — it's for the kids. Right.

I have written short stuff for adults (and plan on doing more), but even then I'm trying to capture a childish perspective and deliver it with a blunt, innocent humor.

What is your favorite family story?
One that makes me quite happy is about my nephew Knox, my sister Rebekah, her husband Ben, and a very cavalier mouse.

They were preparing to move out of their apartment. Knox, their son, was a solid, round-cheeked one-year-old. One morning, while brushing his teeth, Ben saw a mouse meandering down the hall. After consulting with himself, he decided there was no good reason to tell his wife. After all, they would be moving soon. But the next morning a tunnel had been carved through a loaf of bread and the kitchen counter had been decorated with... spoor.

Bekah was soft-hearted, and she had a toddler moseying around the house. She didn't want to shed the poor rodent's blood, and she really didn't want traps or poison around for Knox to find. That night, when Knox had been packaged in a too-small, red union-suit and tucked into bed, Ben placed a large bucket beside their couch. He balanced a ruler between the bucket and the couch and glopped some peanut butter on the end hanging over the bucket. The theory was as follows: the mouse would walk out on the ruler, eager for peanut butter. The weight of the mouse would then overbalance the little bridge and the rodent would fall into the bucket. The still-living creature could then be released into a park or some such. Ben and Bekah went to bed full of confidence, and pleased with their generous spirit of forgiveness and live-and-let-live.

In the morning, my sister went out to check the trap. The ruler had indeed fallen into the bucket, the peanut butter had been consumed, but the mouse was nowhere to be seen. Signs of the rodent's indignation were scattered all over the arm of the couch. In the dining room, vengeful droppings had also been spread around the center of the table. Bekah's anger was quickly growing, and at that moment, Knox began yelling in his bed. "Sheep! Sheep!" came the toddler's cry. Bekah hurried into his room. Knox was sitting up in his crib. He pointed to his chest, and then to his dresser.

"Sheep," he said again. In the middle of his red union-suited chest was a small wet spot, and in the middle of the wet spot was a single mouse dropping. The rodent had fully retaliated, hunkering down on a one year-old's chest, no doubt looking him in the eye while he did his evil deed. Knox, being inexperienced at that age, had identified the creature as a sheep.

Shakespeare: "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned." I can testify to the fact that "Hell hath no fury like a woman with a pooped on child." My sister discovered anger like she had never known. Ben converted the apartment into a warehouse of death-traps, they put Knox in the car, and left for the day.

That night I received a phone call from my plump nephew. "Sheep, bye-bye," he said.

And there was great rejoicing.

If you could pick anyone to illustrate one of your books, who would it be and why?
N.C. Wyeth (assuming that he could work from the grave). And here are my ironclad reasons: First, my books would suddenly be worth a lot more. Second, I would love reading back through them. Third, his illustrations inspire me. If I could ever make my prose as strong as his art, my happiness would slop onto the floor.

÷ ÷ ÷

N. D. Wilson is a Fellow of Literature at New Saint Andrews College, where he teaches classical rhetoric to freshmen. He is also the managing editor for Credenda/Agenda magazine, a small Trinitarian cultural journal. He lives in Moscow, Idaho with his wife and four children.


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