writing it. I like that part…. Megalomania… You know, having control over an entire world? [Laughs]
SH: That’s funny. Like we were talking about earlier, when you’re a writer there’s so much that can happen to ego, bothgood and bad and everything in between. But young-adult authors tend to be pretty down-to-earth, don’t you think?
SM: Well, I think writing YA keeps you humble. Because everybody says to you: “Oh… you write for children. Isn’t that nice?” It can be so patronizing sometimes, and, absolutely, it keeps you humble. It makes it so you can’t possibly become the “I am an author” author. There’s no way to do that when you write for children. [Laughs]
And one of the little “icing things” of this career is to have these kids come up to tell me that this is the first book they’ve ever read for pleasure.
SH: I think there’s also an element of:
It isn’t all just about me
. We’ve both written adult books. I think, when you’re in the adult market, it’s all about how many books you sell and what awards you get. But when you’re writing in the children’s market, it’s about the children, too. And you’re part of this team—with librarians and booksellers and parents and teachers—and you’re promoting literacy and some good stuff beyond just:
I’m writing a book, and now pay me for it
. So I think people tend to be more even-tempered and more balanced in the children’s world.
SM: Because I didn’t set out to write for children, I would never have thought that my books would promote literacy. Someone would have to be a real reader to ever pick one of these up, just because they’ve run out of everything else. [Laughs]
And one of the little “icing things” of this career is to have these kids come up to tell me that this is the first book they’ve ever read for pleasure, and that they’ve moved on. Now they’ve read this other one, and they’ve read that one, and now they’re so excited about some other bookthey’ve found. And to have written the first book that got them excited to be a reader—oh, that’s an amazing gift.
I wish I could give everybody that gift—to find the book that does it for you.
SH: It is. The best compliment that I ever get is not that my books are their favorite, but that mine was the first that made them fall in love with reading.
SM: And now they’ve gone on. You know, I had a great childhood, and one thing that made my childhood so special was that because I loved to read, I lived a thousand adventures—and I was a thousand heroines, and I fell in love a thousand times. And now, to open up those worlds for somebody else… I know how great it is, and I wish I could give everybody that gift—to find the book that does it for you.
I did an interview for
once, and the camera guy who was setting everything up said: “So this book is about aliens?” I said: “Yeah, kind of.” And he said, “Well, you know, I think I’ve read three books in my life. I hate reading, ever since school—it was such a torture.” And I just thought:
How sad! There’s some book out there that’s perfectly tailored for him, and he doesn’t know.
SM: But he’s not going to pick it up, because he had a bad experience. I really feel like one of the important things you can do for kids in school is not just give them the classics that teach them about excellent form and really great writing style, but also throw in a couple of fun things that teach them that reading can be this amazing adventure. Let them love some story, so at least they know not all books are “hard” or “difficult,” but that they can just be fun.
SH: I agree so passionately about that. And I think some of the key is to have a lot of variety. Because not every genre, or every storytelling style, is going to be right for everyone.
SM: Some people are going to latch on to Shakespeare, and they’re going to be like: [gasps] “The
Stella Leventoyannis Harvey