Tony Abbott has published over ninety books for readers 6 to 14, including the series The Secrets of Droon, and the novels Kringle, Firegirl (2006 Golden Kite for Fiction),The Postcard (2008 Edgar Award for Best Juvenile Mystery), and most recently Lunch-Box Dream. New series for readers age 7 and up include Goofballs (Egmont) and Underworlds (Scholastic). He frequently appears at conferences, book festivals, and schools nationwide. For more info, visit his website.
Let the conversation begin!
Describe your writing journey, from aspiring writer to published author.
It’s been an oddly direct path, only it took decades to get there. I was born in a house of books. My parents were teachers, there were tons of books around, the local bookmobile, the public library, the influence of my brother, who was a constant reader. I understood that books were good and noble things. In high school, I wrote poetry and short stories; this continued in college, where I had some things published in the campus newspaper. I honed in on poetry after school, published in small magazines, married, had children, and all the writing elements in my life turned toward writing for young people. My first book was accepted in 1992, so this year marks a tidy anniversary for me.
Outliner or Seat-of-the-pantser?
Outliner, for the most part, though I never cease to try to break that when writing standalone novels for older readers. When writing mysteries, particularly things like GOOFBALLS, my latest series, I find that I have to work out the plot fairly tightly, so that the mystery itself holds water. But with older books — such as one I’m writing now — the only outline is in my head, and it’s pretty hazy, which I am loving.
What piece of advice would you give the younger you?
I might want to have started writing earlier, so it would be something like: “Start writing earlier!”
If you could throw any kind of party, what would it be like?
Several choice writing friends, sitting in club chairs, talking books, and drinking Scotch.
If you could choose anyone, who would you pick as your mentor?
I’d like to pick Dickens’ brain. I could listen to Faulkner talk for hours. I would love to have been in Richard Yates’s creative writing classes.
The best part of waking up is?
Knowing that I have a full day at my desk ahead of me.
If you could be any fictional character, who would you choose?
Either Jude the Obscure or Mole, from The Wind in the Willows.
What do you miss most about being a kid?
Slow afternoons, the sort of thing Carson McCullers writes about: “It was four o‘clock in the afternoon and the kitchen was square and gray and quiet.”
That. I want that back.
What was the last movie or book that made you angry? Explain.
J. Edgar. Horrific screenplay, so poorly done; the whole thing was telegraphed in during a storm. What a mess.
What songs are included on the soundtrack to your life?
All Around the Watchtower (Hendrix studio version)
Goldberg Variations (Dinnerstein recording)
Where Were You (Jeff Beck)
The first 10 tracks of Birth of the Cool (Miles Davis)