The Mafia 4-1-1 is where we ask authors the same 4 questions, an additional 1 specific to their book, and for 1 fun photo.
Today we welcome Kathryn Erskine, the acclaimed author of many distinguished novels for young readers, including MOCKINGBIRD, winner of the National Book Award; THE ABSOLUTE VALUE OF MIKE, an Amazon Best Book and ALA Notable Book; and QUAKING, an ALA Top Ten Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers. Her latest book, The Incredible Magic of Being, was released this past October and has garnered rave reviews!
- What was the inspiration for this book?
My stories begin with a character talking in my head. Soon other characters join in and I feel the setting very strongly as I get to know these people. I have no idea of the journey we’re on or why. I think one of the inspirations for The Incredible Magic of Being is surviving cancer and being grateful to be here and frustrated seeing people bored or complaining about mundane things (like, admittedly, I had). I wanted to shout, “Life is an amazing gift! Take it, love it, do something with it!” I think this is my tribute to life. Also, I want kids to know it’s OK to think and dream and question; in fact, it’s great because who knows what wonders you’ll discover. I’m not sure kids are allowed enough time to sit and daydream.
- What is your writing process? (Do you write a certain number of pages daily, etc.)
My writing process can best be described as random. I don’t have a schedule and I don’t believe you have to write every day to be a writer. A writer is the kind of person you are and how you see the world; whether you write at a particular time or not doesn’t matter. While I’m on my daily walks, running errands, traveling or anywhere away from my desk, I jot down ideas or record them, emailing them to myself. I consider that writing. Solving a problem in my head is all part of writing, too. Then there’s the business of writing—posting, preparing for workshops or school visits or presentations, reading, traveling, etc. Like all writers, I wish I had more time to just write.
- What is the best piece of advice you’ve received regarding writing?
Never give up! I almost did, until I heard an editor give a fabulous keynote about sticking with it, improving your craft, and eventually getting published. I felt like she was talking to me, and I followed her wisdom. That editor, years later, became my first editor, just by happenstance. That’s the incredible magic of the universe!
- How long from when you started writing the featured book until it was published?
It took almost four years from the time Julian first spoke inside my head until the book was actually published. Mr. X, Julian’s next door neighbor, was a tough nut to crack!
- Julian loves science and astronomy. What kind of research did you do for the book, and how long do you spend researching?
I’m a research hound. I love it, and I also think it’s critical. I took an astronomy class, went to observatories, went to Maine, talked with a whole host of experts from astronomers to doctors to therapists to sheriffs, and read about and researched everything mentioned in the book, whether it’s something obvious like anxiety or dark matter, or something small like bus schedules or running to Target to check the brand name on a picture frame. It’s all about making the whole story feel authentic, so you feel as if you could be a part of these people’s lives.
Please share ONE fun photo of yourself as a middle-schooler.
Sure! Here’s my school photo from when I was Julian’s age (and a lot like him, only quieter) and it always cracks me up because I look a little spacey (I was always daydreaming) and had, once again, forgotten to take my sweater off so my picture day outfit was a complete waste. :o)
Thanks so much for taking the time to share with us! The Mafia wishes you the best of luck with your new book.
More about The Incredible Magic of Being:
Some might say Julian is sheltered. But he lives large, and his eternal optimism allows him to see infinite possibilities wherever he looks.
Despite his optimism, he is anxious about his stressed family falling apart. Even his ability to “uni-sense” what’s happening with his sister is gone. If he can make his family focus on the magic in the universe, surely they’ll appreciate life again. Now that they are moving from Washington, DC, to rural Maine, Julian can use his beloved telescope without any light pollution. He can discover a comet, name it for himself, and show his family how they’re all truly connected.
As Julian searches the night sky, he encounters a force that may drive his plan apart. His neighbor, Mr. X, could bring an end to his parents’ dream of opening their B&B. Could one negative force unravel everything? An avid student of science, Julian understands that there is much about the universe that we don’t yet know. Who is to say what’s possible and what’s not?
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