Kathi Appelt, author of The Underneath and Keeper (newly released) is on a blog tour and has graciously agreed to allow me to interview her her at The Wormhole.
To ten-year-old Keeper, this moon is her chance to fix all that has gone wrong...and so much has gone wrong. But she knows who can make things right again: Meggie Marie, her mermaid mother who swam away when Keeper was just three. A blue moon calls the mermaids to gather at the sandbar, and that's exactly where she is headed -- in a small boat, in the middle of the night, with only her dog, BD (Best Dog), and a seagull named Captain.
When the riptide pulls at the boat, tugging her away from the shore and deep into the rough waters of the Gulf of Mexico, panic sets in, and the fairy tales that lured her out there go tumbling into the waves. Maybe the blue moon isn't magic and maybe the sandbar won't sparkle with mermaids and maybe -- Oh, no..."Maybe" is just too difficult to bear. Kathi Appelt follows up to herNew York Times bestseller, The Underneath, with a tale that will pull right at your very core -- stronger than moon currents -- capturing the crash and echo of the waves and the dark magic of the ocean.
Q. When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
A. It’s been such a long time that I truly can’t remember, but I do remember my first grade teacher, Mrs. Beal, who told me that she thought that I’d grow up to be a writer. So being a writer has been in the fabric of who I am for a very long time.
Q. How long does it take you to write a book?
A. Each book seems to have its own time-span. Both The Underneath and Keeper took about three years from start to finish. One of the things that might be surprising however, is that the length of the book is not necessarily relative to the length of time it takes to write it. My picture biography of Lady Bird Johnson, Miss Lady Bird’s Wild Flowers, took six years from beginning to end. There were many reasons that it took that long, some of which revolved around research, some of which had to do with personal things, but it still took six long years. Some of my other picture books only took a few weeks. So, there’s really not one answer.
Q. How many jobs did you have before you became a writer?
A. I’ve had many, many day jobs, including waitress, book store clerk, seamstress, secretary, etc., but even when I was working at those jobs, I still thought of myself as a writer. So for instance, I was a “writer who waited tables.”
Q. Always cats or do you like dogs too?
A. I love dogs, but I don’t want to own one. I grew up with some wonderful dogs, and they tend to show up in my work. But I don’t know much about caring for them, plus we have four cats and somehow I’m having a hard time imagining how they would respond to a dog in the mix…okay, I’m not having a hard time. I know that the poor dog would be total mincemeat at the end of the day. So for now anyways, no dogs. When I need a dog fix, I go visit my friend Rose who has the wonderful Stella and Bear.
Q. What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
A. Hmmm…a quirk? I’m not sure I have any kinds of quirks that would be interesting. I drink a lot of coffee. I tend to brainstorm in the shower—something about the flow of water gets the flow of ideas going. I’m also a big cat-napper. If I’m stuck, I can often turn it over to my subconscious brain and take a quick 15-minute nap, and sometimes get unstuck. I’ve also found that chocolate helps.
Q. Do you have a routine that you use to get into the right frame of mind to write?
A. I like to clear my desk off, get any filing or correspondence done, before I plunge in. Otherwise, I go sit on the sofa to write. A messy desk is a huge distraction. Then again, so is a messy living room. So, I guess I find the least messy place in the house, and that’s where I work. But I do feel most productive when I’m at my desk.
Q. What books have most influenced your life?
A. Black Beauty, by Anna Sewell; the poetry of Rudyard Kipling; just about anything by Cynthia Rylant.
Q. What do you like to do when you are not writing?
A. I enjoy walking, having dinner with friends, movies and plays.
Q. What is your favorite comfort food?
A. Mac and cheese. No question.
Q. What do you think makes a good story?
A. Authentic characters and an ending that seems inevitable. When those two things are in place, there’s nothing more satisfying.
Q. Who would you consider your favorite author and why?
A. Oh boy, I have so many favorites . . . Toni Morrison, Mary Oliver, Shakespeare . . . I think it would take all day to list them, and it seems like they change from time to time. Basically, I appreciate any author who works hard and writes something that sings to me.
Thanks so much Kathi for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer my questions and give us all a little bit of insight into what makes you tick! I was especially thrilled to hear that you were influenced by Black Beauty, as it was this book that fueled my love of reading. My third grade teacher gave it to me to read and I have loved both that story and reading ever since!!!
Kathi's next stop on her blog tour is The O.W.L. so be sure to swing by there tomorrow!