Kathryn Erskine spent many years as a lawyer before realizing that she’d rather write things that people might actually enjoy reading. She grew up mostly overseas and attended eight different schools, her favorite being the Hogwarts-type castle in Scotland. The faculty, of course, did not consist of wizards, although . . . how did the headmistress know that it was “the wee redhead” who led the campaign to free the mice from the biology lab? Erskine draws on her life stories to write her novels including Quaking, an ALA Top Ten Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers, Mockingbird, 2010 National Book Award winner, The Absolute Value of Mike, a Crystal Kite Award winner, and the upcoming Facing Freedom (Fall 2013). For more info, check out her website, blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.
Let the conversation begin!
Can you share a nugget of writing wisdom?
Write from your heart. If you bare your soul, readers will know it. They’ll respect you and hear you.
What is your favorite part of the day?
Early morning. It’s quiet, I can write, the birds start singing and I can watch the sunrise. All with coffee, of course.
If you were handed free opera tickets, would you go or sell them?
I would go because even though it’s not my favorite art form I like to try challenge myself to see how I can make the experience positive.
Will you have a new book coming out soon?
Not soon enough — next year. It’s called FACING FREEDOM and is about a boy who has a mystery to solve to find out the truth about his family and his community.
What is your worst scar? How did you get it?
My worst physical scar is still very minor — a cut on my left index finger from cutting up cheese and meat for guests at a garden party we were giving when I was a teenager in Scotland. It probably should’ve had stitches but I wrapped it in a towel and kept working. The show must go on!
What genre do you avoid writing?
Hmmm…I’ve avoided writing fantasy because there are so many others who do that really well and, while I like fantasy, it’s not my favorite. I prefer realistic, either contemporary or historical. I do want to write books for all ages of readers, though, from picture books through adult, and I’m currently working on that, with several picture books and an adult novel in progress. I also have an idea for a graphic novel. Would anyone like to illustrate it?
How do you recharge your creative batteries?
Take a walk, meditate, go on a trip, do something totally unrelated to writing but still often creative (e.g., cooking, making jewelry, games, puzzles), spend time with friends, watch the sunrise.
Can you tell us about the book you’re working on? Is it coming easily or have you run into road blocks?
I’m working on a Middle Ages action adventure novel now, which is a lot of fun to write. The only thing that slows me down is the research because I want to make sure I get all the historical details correct. I love that part, though, so I really don’t mind. Sometimes I do wish I could clone myself so I could get more done.
Are you a person who makes the bed in the morning?
Usually, but only because a made bed makes the whole room look neat, whereas as an unmade bed makes even a tidy bedroom look like a dump. I don’t enjoy the work part but I do enjoy feeling like things are clean and tidy.
Do you collect anything?
My husband would say pillows. I have the hardest time finding a pillow that feels comfortable. I think story ideas, memories, and photos are the things I collect and hang onto the most.
Do you come up with your book titles?
Yes, and I either know it right away or it takes a long time to come up with a title that really captures the essence of the story. QUAKING and THE ABSOLUTE VALUE OF MIKE were immediate; MOCKINGBIRD didn’t hit me until I realized that Caitlin’s voice reminded me of Scout and that there were a number of significant similarities between my story and TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. FACING FREEDOM went through lots of title changes and I haven’t yet named the Middle Ages manuscript I’m working on now — but the next one, a teen road trip novel that’s only partly written, is called GLORIOUS AND FREE.
What is the easiest part of the writing process? Hardest?
The easiest part is the creative outpouring of ideas, often in a jumble of scenes and characters, but all funny or heartwarming or beguiling. The toughest part for me is the shaping, making it all progress in a way that makes sense. I used to say that revision was the hardest part but now I see revision as a second (or third, or fourth, or fifth!) chance to say exactly what you mean.