Interview with Newbery Honor Author Kirby Larson

Get to know Kirby…

Kirby Larson went from history-phobe to history fanatic while writing the Newbery Honor book, Hattie Big Sky and has continued that focus with The Fences Between Us and The Friendship Doll, as well as other titles in the pipeline. 

A collaboration with Mary Nethery has resulted in two award-winning nonfiction picture books: Two Bobbies: A True Story of Hurricane Katrina, Friendship and Survival (illustrated by Jean Cassels) and Nubs: The True Story of a Mutt, a Marine and a Miracle. 

Kirby has shared her passion for writing with thousands of kids and adults, in nearly twenty states and as far away as Germany,Lebanon and Qatar. She lives in Kenmore,Washington with her husband, Neil. When she’s not reading, writing, or walking Winston the Wonder Dog, Kirby enjoys gardening, bird watching, traveling, or drinking lattés with friends. For more info, visit her website and blog

Let the conversation begin!

If you could only write one more book, what would it be about?

I imagine it would be just like all my other books – a story which explores what it means to be a decent human being. 

Do you begin with character or plot?

Character! I’m a wretched plotter. 

What advice would you give young writers?

Dear Young Writer: Read as much as you can and honor the fact that there are stories only you can tell. So tell them!

What one word describes you?

Stubbornly optimistic. How else could I keep writing?

Most embarrassing moment?

When I drove my son to early morning band practice and my car broke down in the school driveway, blocking the incoming and fully loaded buses. Did I mention I was still in my nightgown at the time? Of course, there was also the time I told an editor about a book I really didn’t like, unaware that he had edited said book. And then there’s the time.  .  . you may sense a theme here. 

What’s the first item on your bucket list?

Three things: Going to Turkey, calling Car Talk and learning to perfectly poach an egg just like Julie did in Julie and Julia

What do you do to recharge your creative batteries?

I walk – with Winston the Wonder Dog, preferably on a beach. 

What book was the easiest to write? Hardest?

The nonfiction picture books that I wrote with my friend, Mary Nethery (Two Bobbies: A True Story of Hurricane Katrina, Friendship and Survival, and Nubs: The True Story of a Mutt, a Marine and a Miracle) seemed easier because the work and stress and worry were split in two. And the joy at the successes of those books is doubled. I would highly recommend collaborative writing. 

Do you let anyone read your work-in-progress?

First drafts are kept close to the vest. Revisions are read by my critique group (Bonny Becker, Kathryn Galbraith, Sylvie Hossack and Dave Patneaude) and my writing friend, Mary. 

Outliner or seat-of-the-pantser?

Seat of pantser first, then scene outliner. 

What element would you add to your writing space if money wasn’t an issue? 

More bookshelves!

How long do you take to write a book?

A little too long. 

In grade school, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A bareback circus performer or a spy. Or both. 

Easier to write before or after you were published?

Neither! Writing is hard. Good hard, but hard. 

If you could spend a vacation with three authors, who would they be?

Karen Cushman, Barbara O’Connor, and Mary Nethery. And I would love to have a dinner party with M.T. Anderson, Rodman Philbrick, Karen Hesse, Frances O’Roark Dowell and Jennifer Holm, who would keep things lively. 

Daily word count?

Right now, for a first draft, 2000 words.  

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About Brittney Breakey

I love reading children’s fiction, coffee dates with my husband, trips to the library, thrift store bargains, chips and salsa, music of all kinds, lazy summer days, competitive games of Pictionary, and celebrating a long day of writing with ice cream and peppermint tea. I’m a two-time graduate of the Institute of Children’s Literature, and I’m currently working on a humorous mystery for middle graders. I launched Author Turf in January 2011, and it has been an absolute honor to work with so many inspiring authors, promote their work, and learn about their writing processes. I hope you enjoy each and every interview.
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