Excitement - It's Finally Here!

Because reading is such a crucial part of a writer's life, I've created a page of interviews on some of my (and your) favorite authors. Have a favorite author that you'd like to see here? Check out their website and see if they have any info on interviews. Keep in mind that an author's life is a busy one and there is a good chance they won't have time to do a personal interview. If that's the case, don't despair - the world is full of wonderful writers! You'll see this page fill up in no time...

Heather Vogel Frederick

Heather Vogel Frederick has written many books including The Mother-Daughter Book Club series, Once Upon a Toad, the Spy Mice series, The Voyage of Patience Goodspeed, and The Education of Patience Goodspeed. She has also written two picture books: Babyberry Pie and Hide and Squeak. Her upcoming book, the seventh book in The Mother-Daughter Book Club series, will be coming out in the summer of 2015. To learn more about Heather Vogel Frederick, check out her website here.

April 24, 2014

1. When did you first show interest in writing? How old were you?

I started writing almost as early as I started reading. I've always loved making up stories!  I still have one of the first "official" ones I wrote, in second grade. It's called "The Clever Giant" and it isn't very clever, but I was extremely proud of it.  

2. Where and when did you grow up?

I grew up in New England in the 1960s and 70s.  Small towns in New Hampshire (Peterborough; Hanover) and in the Boston area (Concord; Lexington).

3. What was your favorite book when you were younger?

I don't know if I had a single favorite -- but I had some that I read and re-read and re-read.  The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken. The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare. The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander. Charlotte's Web by E. B. White.  Half Magic by Edward Eager. The Borrowers by Mary Norton.

4. What was the first book you ever published and how long did it take you to write it?

My first published book was THE VOYAGE OF PATIENCE GOODSPEED.  It took me about three years to write, because I was juggling writing with a full-time job. Plus, there was a lot of research involved (it's historical fiction, set in 1835 on a Nantucket whaling ship).

5. Where did you get the idea for Mother-Daughter Book Club series?

The idea for the mother-daughter book club series actually came from my then-editor, Alyssa Eisner Henkin.  She called me up one day out of the blue and said, "Heather, there are mother-daughter book clubs all over the place these days -- I think it would be fun if someone wrote a story about one.  How about you?"  Stunned silence on my end of the phone.  I have two BOYS!  I've never been in a mother-daughter book club, and I never will be!  But my editor recalled that I spent my middle school years in Concord, Massachusetts, where Louisa May Alcott lived when she wrote "Little Women."  She suggested I have the book club read that and -- well, I was instantly hooked.  Louisa was one of my childhood heroes!  So armed with a title and that idea, I was off and running search of characters and a plot.  And the rest is history.

6. Who did you grow up with?

Not sure I understand this question. I have two younger sisters, if that's what you mean.

7. What is  your family like now?

My husband and I are almost-empty-nesters.  Our younger son (see above: two boys) graduates from college this spring.

8. Who really helped you become an author? Your family, friends, teachers?

Let's see, quite a few people.  My father, who read aloud to me nearly every night when I was growing up and who took my writing seriously, giving me pens and pencils and journals and encouragement and feedback. My grandfather, a former bookseller who loved books and who shared them with me every birthday and every Christmas. A children's librarian named Marjorie Hamlin, who taught a children's literature class at my college and has been my mentor ever since.

9. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Sure.  First of all, READ.  This is the number one most important thing that an aspiring writer can do.  You're like a sponge at this point, soaking up all that beauty in the books you read, and when it's time to write books of your own it just pours out the end of your pen.  Beyond that, keep a notebook handy.  Keep several.  Ideas tend to arrive at the most inconvenient times, and if you don't write them down, you'll forget them!

10. What is one quality that you consider important as a writer?

That quality would be persistence.  You can't give up -- it can take a long time to grow as a writer and get to the point where you have a publishable book. And then it can take a long time to get the book published!  You have to persist.

Tony Abbott

Tony Abbott is the author of numerous books for children, such as the Lunch-Box Dream, The Postcard, and Firegirl (winner of the 2006 Golden Kite Award, given annually to recognize excellence in children’s books). He has also written many series including the Secrets of Droon series, the Copernicus Legacy series, the Underworlds series, as well as many more. Check out his website at http://www.tonyabbottbooks.com/  to learn more about his work.

October 1, 2013

Hi, Danielle. I love the idea of The Writer's Journal, and I'm happy to answer your questions. I'll check out your site in depth, too. My own site has been changing over the last few weeks and months, and I'll try to give yours a mention (not sure how changes work yet!). But here goes: 

1. When did you first show interest in writing? How old were you?

I was probably in fourth or fifth grade when I first thought about writing, putting ideas down. Like most children, I guess, I started drawing first. But I was never very good at it. Nothing looked like what it was supposed to. The book I really loved when I was young was The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. It was the characters from that, especially Mole and Rat, who made me want to write about them, to make the story last longer and so the characters could do new things. After that—I was nine or ten—I wrote a lot. 

2. Where and when did you grow up?

I was born in Cleveland, Ohio, in the 1950s. Looking back on it, it was a very different and much simpler time. I don't know if I was particularly happy, but that seemed to be normal in my neighborhood. A couple of years ago, I visited my old neighborhood, the first time for fifty years—a half century!—and it was the familiar and completely different at the same time. So very much smaller. The distances between things were radically different in my mind. Where I thought were hills, there were no hills. It was as someone had rearranged everything. Disturbing in a way. Now my childhood home exists in two versions, the one I grew up and the one it is in reality. 

3. What was your favorite book when you were younger? What is your favorite now?

I mentioned that earlier: The Wind in the Willows. It was so funny and the language so beautiful, that you couldn't help but be swept away by it. That neighborhood that I just described became a wooded area in England, and my best friends became Rat and Mole. My favorite now? Gosh. I try to answer that question and I can't get it down to one book. Maybe The Sound and the Fury by Faulkner? I can read that many times. What Ho, Jeeves is another I love. Also Farewell, My Lovely, a detective story. I just finished Dr. No, the James Bond book, and I really loved it. I have dozens of favorites. 

4. What was the first book you ever published, and how long did it take you to write it?

Danger Guys was the first book, published in May of 1994. It's fairly short, 60 pages, but I wrote it a thousand times to get it right (and it worked!). All in all, it probably took me close to a year. It started as a short piece, about 10 pages, and I expanded it, added more characters and incidents, more conversations between the two main characters, which suggested more scenes. The publisher decided to take it on in December 1992, and it came out a year and a half later. 

5. Where do you get your inspiration?

Everywhere. I read incessantly. I travel. I love museums. I sit and think and imagine. Everything writers see and hear and feel comes together and new ideas form. 

6. With whom did you grow up?

My family was a father, who was away for a few years getting his graduate degrees, a mother, and a brother one year older. No pets until I was college age. 

7. What is your family like now?

My wife, who does all of our electronic and social media work, my two daughters, aged 23 and 27, and two dogs, a mixed breed and a Corgi. 

8. Who really helped you become an author? Your family, friends, teachers?

Everyone was very supportive, including my employer. To go all the way back, there were lots of books in my house, and I drew inspiration from them. 

9. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Read everything. Not only in the area you want to write, but everything else, too. Writers today need, I think, to know as much about different kinds of writing as they can. Reading good writers teaches you how they were able to do what they did. You borrow from great books and writers. Also, do as many different kinds of things as you can: volunteer, work here and there, cook, do yard work, sing, all that stuff. And give yourself time to put your ideas together into stories. 

10. What is one quality that you consider important for a writer to have?

Openness to the world. Ideas are everywhere; all you have to do is look around. 

11. What do you do when you get writer’s block?

I don't admit writer's block. If you say you're suffering block, it has control over you. Ignore it. When you want to write but nothing is coming, it's not a block. It's simply that your brain is tired. Do something else: yard work, go for a walk, play your violin, listen to someone else play violin. When your mind is ready, you'll get back to the desk, and it will be fine. 

12. What keeps you going?

My characters. I never want to leave them for very long. I love them as companions and I like to be where they are. The other thing is that I love stories, the shapes of stories with beginnings, middles, ends. I want to be inside a story. So I have to keep writing.

Great questions! Thank you for the opportunity. And good luck with The Writer's Journal!  

Thanks, Tony! What an enlightening interview!

And, yes, I know this page seems empty right now, but do not fear - there's at least one interview in progress and many  more on the way!

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