Q: Did you always aspire to write young adult fiction, or is this something you fell into or migrated to? Do you write in any other genres?
A: When I began “The Mysterious Benedict Society,” I had been writing literary fiction for adults for years. I’d published a number of short stories and written a novel called “Flood Summer” that would eventually be published, though at the time I was uncertain of its prospects.
I’d thought that one day, when my son, Elliot, was old enough to read (he was then just 2), I would write a book for him, a mysterious adventure of the sort I liked to read when I was young. But then I found myself increasingly preoccupied with the ideas occurring to me for just such a story, until finally I decided to go ahead and write it.
More “Mysterious Benedict” books followed, and I’m currently working on another novel for young readers, but I also intend to write more literary fiction for adults.
Q: In a way, you have a large responsibility: Young people who read a great book, who are captivated in their early years by the magic of fiction, are more likely to become regular readers and think creatively. How conscious are you of this effect, of the power of good writing, when you are working?
A: I’m not, really, though I’m always trying to write a great book, one that will have a strong effect on its readers. And I’m always grateful and touched when I hear from a young reader (or a parent or teacher) that my books have made an impact on them.
Q: Describe your daily writing routine. Are you an early riser, or do you find time late at night?
A: It works best for me to write in the mornings, to be sure that I get it done. Putting it off can mean not doing it at all, since something might crop up during the day to distract or prevent me, and by the time my kids are in bed at night, I don’t exactly feel fresh and ready to start concentrating. So I rise early and read, get my sons off to school, then exercise and shower, after which it’s still morning and I feel alert enough to work well. At least that’s always the plan, always the hope.
Q: What book made a big impact on you when you were young? And what made you want to become a writer?
A: “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” is the first novel I remember really doing a number on me. And not long after, when I’d read some of the other “Narnia” books, I was disconcerted one day to discover the Dawn Treader sailing into one of my daydreams unbidden. I didn’t consciously decide to include it in the daydream, yet there it was. That experience gave me some hint at the power of books, I think.
I’ve always loved stories, and for whatever reason, that love made me want to write them. It’s a bit mysterious. Most people love stories, but not everyone feels a powerful urge to create them. I always felt it, though, and my parents and teachers encouraged me enough to make me feel like I was good at writing and should keep doing it. So I did. And I still feel that urge to write, and, lucky for me, I still love doing it.