Heather Vogel Frederick was born into a family of bookworms, and spent most of her childhood holed up at the library. When she wasn’t reading, she was writing, and she wrote her first novel at summer camp when she was 12. Fortunately for her literary reputation, it was never published. Equally fortunately for her literary reputation, she was given the chance to hone her writing chops a few years later when she launched a career as a journalist, an occupation that kept her happily occupied for two decades. A former staff reporter and children’s book review editor forThe Christian Science Monitor, Heather has also written for The New York Times, Family Life, Child, and Publishers Weekly, where she was a contributing editor for many years.
Heather’s work spans many genres, from picture books (Hide and Squeak; Babyberry Pie) to historical fiction (The Voyage of Patience Goodspeed), fantasy (the Spy Mice adventures), fractured fairy tales (Once Upon a Toad), and contemporary fiction (the Mother-Daughter Book Club series). WISH YOU WERE EYRE, the final Mother-Daughter Book Club story, was published last month. For more info, please visit her website.
Let the interview begin!
Describe your writing journey, from aspiring writer to published author.
L-o-n-g. We’re talking decades. I wanted to be a writer from the time I was about six, and I wasn’t published until nearly forty years later! The last half of that stretch I was published (as a journalist) in newspapers and magazines, though, which was some consolation.
Outliner or Seat-of-the-pantser?
Definitely a seat-of-the-pantser. I wouldn’t know an outline if it came up and bit me in the leg.
What piece of advice would you give the younger you?
Relax. Don’t be in such a hurry. It’s not a race; you’ll get there eventually.
If you could choose anyone, who would you pick as your mentor?
Hands down Jane Austen. Have you ever read the letters she wrote to her aspiring writer niece? Delightful stuff.
Which celebrity do you get mistaken for?
Um, this has never happened to me. Should I be worried?
When you have 30 minutes of free-time, how do you pass the time?
I wish I could say going for a run or doing something equally virtuous, but I’m usually guilty of frittering it away online…
If you were reincarnated as an ice cream flavor, what would it be?
Strawberry. It’s the girl-next-door of ice cream – cheerful, reliable, upbeat. Oh, and it’s pink. Who doesn’t like strawberry?
Ever written a book that never got published? Ever think you’ll give it a second chance?
I have a drawer full. I think most writers do. And funny you should ask, because I was going through that drawer recently, and there were several stories that gave me pause. “Hmmm. This isn’t that bad—I might be able to rework it.” Only time will tell. But I never throw anything away.
What mischief did you get into growing up?
My sister Lisa and I used to torment our younger sister Stefanie by concocting an “invisibility potion” – basically every spice we could find in the kitchen cupboard dissolved in water, plus blue food coloring – and make her drink it. Then we’d pretend we couldn’t see her. She’d go into hysterics and we’d get in trouble, but it was so worth it. Plus, I got to use this prank years later in my book MUCH ADO ABOUT ANNE.
What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
Turn the ringer on the phone off. Today that would have to include Internet access as well, which I do with a nifty little computer program called “Freedom.”
What’s your favorite outdoor activity?
Walking our dogs. I can walk for hours.
Trapped inside the Waldo wand, of course! My kids used to have one of those. It kept them busy for hours.
If you won the lottery, what is the first thing you would do?
Keel over in a dead faint. I’ve never bought a lottery ticket in my life.