It had never occurred to me that authors could be (nearly) as important as teachers and librarians in the process of a child becoming a reader.
Each month, we ask one distinguished author or illustrator to write an original post that reveals insights about their process and craft.
Much to my surprise, the question I heard most often, phrased in different ways, was: How do I write queer characters that are three-dimensional?
Years later, when I embarked upon writing The Underneath, I thought about how we are all subjected to hard things in our lives. We all experience pain.
For my upcoming book, I had to imagine what it might be like to be related to the Queen of England. To better imagine, I turned to research.
But not everyone fights a war with blade or bullet. Some were fighting their own shadow war of secret letters, false names, fake passes and perilous bluffs. I became fascinated by the spies – cunning, bold, ingenious and quite often female.
When I was a kid, I was obsessed with stuffed animals. I had 40 or 50 of them, enough to sag a bookshelf. They didn’t quite have distinct personalities, but in my mind Mrs. Lion, Mr. Hawk, and Princess Panther were brimming with life.
My experiences have not made me afraid to go into the bush. They have taught me valuable lessons. They have given me an appreciation of my capabilities—and kept me in awe of nature.
I’d take it all in, digesting these words, this language, these codes and sounds sloshing around in my head, mixing with the language of my older brother and what I’d hear him saying outside with his friends, also a language all their own.
The books I read as a child made me feel that whatever I was going through was OK because someone, some character or storyteller, understood what I was experiencing and I wasn’t alone.
I come from a small family and grew up in the suburbs of California. So what inspired me to write about a family and a setting so different from my own upbringing?