Q. In your books, "Poppy" and "The Mayor of Central Park" the characters are animals that have a conflict with one another, but the conflict is resolved very differently in these two books. What made you decide to end "Poppy" tragically and "The Mayor of Central Park" with a much happier resolution?
A. I'm not so sure I agree that the death of Mr. Ocax in POPPY gives the book a tragic ending. Actually, I thought the triumph of Poppy is rather upbeat--unless of course you were cheering for Mr. Ocax! Stories "end" when the logic of the plot brings you to a satisfying, logical, and emotional closure.
Q. What are you working on now?
A. I'm working on a couple of novels. One of them is set in medieval times. A fantasy, it seems to be (so far) a fable.
Q. What is a typical workday like for you?
A. We are a busy family, with one of our children still at home, fourteen year old Jack. In that sense I lead a very normal life. I try to work upon my writing every day, starting early, and putting in perhaps seven or eight hours a day.
Q. You have written books for different age groups and genres. Is there one you enjoy writing the most?
A. No particular favorite genre. What I like to write most is a good book. What ever moves me, emotional and intellectually is where I go.
Q. What types of books do you enjoy reading and how often do you read?
A. I read all kinds of books all the time. Sometimes my reading is devoted to my research. But I read history for pleasure too. I do read a lot of fiction. This week, I'm reading The Razor's Edge for a book club to which I belong. I'm also reading Njal's Saga, a 14th century Icelandic epic. I've also been reading lots of short stories.
Q. When did you begin writing for children and what inspired you?
A. I think having my own kids turned me to writing for young people.
Q. As you get ideas how do you decide which one to work on first and what age group to write for?
A. I get ideas all the time. I try to select the one that has most meaning to me, that I will enjoy working on for the year or so that it takes. As for which age group, it has much to do with the kind of story I'm writing.
Q. I enjoyed "Crispin: The Cross of Lead" and was excited to get to know Crispin and Bear again. "Crispin: At the Edge of the World" is the second in a three book series. Where did the idea of Crispin, Bear and their adventures come from and was a trilogy planned from the beginning?
A. The germ of the Crispin story came from a series of lectures I heard delivered by UCLA historian Teofilo F. Ruiz. Among the many themes he brilliantly pursued was the notion that with rise of modernity come the birth of the individual, of the common man and his reach for personal dignity. Crispin starts with nothing, not even a name. The story, as I first thought of it, would extend beyond the first book, and leave the boy--Crispin--in radically different circumstances. Some events have been there in my mind from the beginning, such as the fate of Bear in the second book. But Troth was, if you will, a discovery. The particulars, as always for me, emerge in the process. Serendipity, if you will. As the poet Robert Frost once said, "If there are no surprises for the writer, there are no surprises for the reader."
Q. The Medieval period in Europe is such an interesting and often dangerous time. What research did you do to prepare?
A. Most research comes from my historical book reading. Published research about this period of time is vast. One can find books about Medieval horses, food, entertainment, even Medieval forests, and on and on. I now have a very large and much read library about this period. That said, for Crispin at the Edge of the World I traveled to France. The town in which the climatic moments of the story take place--is a town which I visited. Indeed I stayed there one night in the castle depicted.
Q. While reading I was saddened by the loss of an important character special to Crispin. Throughout the book Crispin is determined to become a man, is the loss of Bear a key in Crispin's growth and journey to manhood?
A. I too was saddened by the loss of Bear--as I think can be experienced in Crispin's eulogy for him. Is the loss of Bear a key to Crispin's growth. What can I say? In life we pass through many doors, and many doors mean many keys. Some keys we lose. Some keys we keep yet forget what they are for. Some keys we always hold in our hands though we never find the door. But all these keys jangle in our heart.
Q. Do you have a title for the third "Crispin" book and a planned publication date?
A. As for the third volume, I think about it a lot, but I have yet to push one computer key on its behalf. So, no book, no title, no date. I expect to start work in the spring. Hang on!
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