Wednesday, June 17, 2009

An interview with Lois Lowry

It is my great privilege and honor to have been able to interview the amazing Lois Lowry, a fellow Houghton Mifflin Harcourt author, about her amazing career, her characters, and her writing.

First, for those of you not familiar with Lois' books, I ask you..."where have you been?" Lois is famous for her Anastasia Krupnik series that started in 1979 and continues today with more Anastasia books, as well as a spinoff of her brother, Sam. She's also penned the ever-so-charming Gooney Bird series. Lois lives and writes in New England, where she makes her homes in Maine and Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Thanks to my fabulous publicity contact at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, I was able to snatch a few minutes of Lois' time to ask her some questions.

Marley: Thanks so much for joining us here at Books, Boys, Buzz, Lois! We appreciate your taking time out of your busy schedule to answer some questions for our readers. My first question in, you've been writing for many years now and have created some amazing characters with Anastasia and her brother Sam, the Gooney Birds, not to mention all of your single title books. What do you think it is about your writing...your storytelling...that resonates so well with readers that keeps them coming back for more?

Lois Lowry: I’m not sure I have a good answer to that. I think I’m pretty adept at getting into the head and heart of a character and writing through his/her sensibilities (I don’t mean, necessarily, writing in the first person, although that is true sometimes) and so the character, to the reader, seems real and believable---even when exaggerated, as Gooney Bird, for example. I think I’m good at assessing and choosing detail, and that I have a good sense of the fluency and flow of language. And I avoid like the plague trying to hook into any glib, contemporary vernacular. Most of these are subliminal things but they do affect a reader and a reader‘s reaction.

Marley: That's excellent. Can you tell our readers a little bit about your journey to publication? What was your original inspiration to start writing?

Lois Lowry: Nothing unusual here. I majored in writing and in literature in college. Writing had always been my goal. I married young, had children young, so I postponed professional writing until the kids were in school, then began working as a journalist and photographer. Fiction was always my first love but it was (probably still is) much harder to achieve publication of fiction. I did not plan to write for young people. But when a children’s book editor, having read some adult fiction I’d written, contacted me and asked my to consider writing a YA book...I took her up on it. That resulted in my first book for a young audience---A SUMMER TO DIE---(1977, still in print) and eventually, after other books, I realized I loved the young audience and their response. Gradually I shifted until I began doing kids’ books almost exclusively.

Marley: A SUMMER TO DIE is a phenomenal, timeless book. You write a lot about your own personal experiences, weaving in deep and believable emotions. How is it for you when you're writing such personal stories? How do you manage the emotions? How do you answer readers' questions when they're seeded in stories related to your own life?

Lois Lowry: I’ve always felt that the best way to write a story is as if you are writing a letter to a friend. The reader, actually, is a friend...just one you haven’t met in person. And so you tell that friend your story, and you tell it with the kind of affection, intimacy, and honesty that a friend deserves. It’s true that some of my fiction has arisen from my own experience. But I treat “real” fiction the same way---it, too, becomes a true story to me. I don’t “manage” emotions; I let them affect the telling. And I try to do so with honesty. Same with readers’ questions.

Marley: That's a beautiful way to view writing and your stories..."a letter to a friend." I'm sure that's helpful to any aspiring writers out there. Since you have literally your own library of titles, can you tell us which is the "book of your heart" or the one that stands out as your all time favorite and why?

Lois Lowry: I am particularly fond of one called THE SILENT BOY, which is set in the time of my own mother’s childhood, and in the town where she lived, and illustrated by old photographs—several of her as a child. It is not a “true” story, but it has all the elements that appeal to me: the visual element in the old photos, the nostalgia and the carefully-chosen details, quite a complex plot, characters with heartbreaking problems, and some deeply felt themes.

Marley: I can see how that would be a favorite for you. A lot of our readers are fellow writers and/or aspiring writers. Let's ask a question for them like what is your writing "ritual?" Do you play music? Seclude yourself? Go to Starbucks or tuck away in a nook in your home?

Lois Lowry: I have two houses, and I have an office in each house. In summer, I am in Maine, which is much more isolated, so with fewer distractions, and I am able to work better and more productively there where it is quiet and undisturbed. But the rest of the year, in my “real” house, I also work each day, sit at my desk for many hours. Few rituals. No music. No Starbucks. But I do read poetry frequently. It reminds me, lures me back into, the cadence and flow of lyrical language.

Marley: I'm jealous of your getaway in Maine! My getaway is putting on my headphones during my lunch break so I can block out everything else. LOL!! So what can we look forward to in the future from the amazing pen of Lois Lowry?

Lois Lowry: I have a picture book, CROW CALL, coming out in the fall, gorgeously illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline. In spring, 2010, a light-hearted playful novel called THE BIRTHDAY BALL, with black-and-white illustrations by my friend Jules Feiffer. A lot of other stuff, including a new Gooney Bird, in the works, but I don’t like talking about things in progress. Superstition, maybe.

Marley: LOL! I certainly understand that! And we appreciate the preview of the books you can talk about. I'm sure our readers here will run out and get them as soon as they hit the shelves. I want to thank you sooooooooo much for hanging out here with us at Books, Boys, Buzz. We all love your books and you're an inspiration to us in our own writing. We wish you much continued success!! Thanks again!

For more information about Lois and her books, please visit her website at

Thanks again to Lois! If you'd like to win a copy of your favorite Lois Lowry book, please leave a comment in the comment section and let us know what you think of Lois' interview. You may comment/enter as many times as you'd like.

Marley = )

GHOST HUNTRESS: THE AWAKENING (Available Now! Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
GHOST HUNTRESS: THE GUIDANCE (Coming September 2009, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
GHOST HUNTRESS: THE REASON (Coming May 2010, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
(Coming September 2009, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
CHRISTMAS MIRACLES (Coming October 2009, St. Martin's Press)
SORORITY 101: Zeta or Omega? (Available from Puffin Books)
SORORITY 101: The New Sisters (Available from Puffin Books)


Summer said...

omg. Lois Lowry. *hyperventilates* How cool! Yeah, she is the best. What a great interviews. Lots of cool insight into how her mind works. I love it! What a great read! How are you guys pulling this off?

My fave Lois Lowry book? The Giver, duh! I like think about it randomly sometimes and I'm like, Jonas where are you? My favorite part is when Jonas asks his parents if they love him and one of them is like, Jonas, you of all people, precision of language, please! So so sad. Baby Gabe... and everyone. I love that book and I love to re-read it like the first time.

When I was a kid I was a big fan of Anastasia. What a fun series.

But yeah, who doesn't want a career like hers? Thanks for the interview!

Me said...

Delightful interview, Marley. I love the advice about writing as if you're writing a letter to a friend. That make so much sense! I'll have to try it. =)

TinaFerraro said...

Thank you SOOOO much to Lois Lowry for visiting with us here at the Buzz Girls blog. My children and I own many of her books! And this was a wonderful and insightful interview.

Heather Davis said...

Wow -- I can't believe Lois Lowry is on the buzz blog! Sooooo cool. My recent fave LL book is Gathering Blue. Loved it.

Thanks for coming to the blog, Lois! Everyone, be sure to post your comments, since someone will win a book!


Janie Emaus said...

I've always loved Lois Lowry's books. Thanks for such a great interview.

C.R. Evers said...

Wow! What a fabulous interview! Lois is one of my all time favorite authors and one of my biggest inspiriations as well!


Erica said...

I'm jealous of your getaway house in Maine! That's one of the places I want to travel someday.

Great interview!

Katie said...

Great interview!

Marilyn Brant said...

Ohhh, I'm such a fan! Wonderful interview, Marley. Lois, thanks for writing books that touch the hearts of readers both young and old. The Giver is one of my all-time favorite YAs, even though I read it as an adult. Its themes and images have stayed with me for years...

DeNiSe said...

Lois Lowry book was the first book I ever read I love her books
the Giver was amazing and so well writen

The Lovely Reader said...

Oh, nice interview, very extensive. I enjoyed reading it :)

Lois Lowry, amazing :D I would love to get into this contest. The Giver was my favorite book by her.

Llehn said...

It's always exciting to have an insight into an author's mind. The first Lois Lowry book I ever read was The Giver. I was intrigued by the premise and I wasn't disappointed when I finished the book!

Cara King said...

Fabulous interview! And it's so nice to know more about the great Lois Lowry!

I have to agree that The Giver is my favorite Lowry book, too. It's just so...disturbing. In a good way. It really sticks with you.

Babycat said...

Great interview...Lois Lowry is an amazing author...

stephhale said...

Amazing interview, Marley. Lois is such an amazing writer! Thanks for being an honorary bee, Lois! ;)

Mena said...

I really like the letter to a friend that hasn't been met in person. That's so cool! I agree with that philosophy. The Giver is still one of my all-time favorite books and I learn more from it each time I read it. *That's* the mark of a good book!

Lindsay said...

OMG! Wonderful author! Great interview!


Amanda Villagómez said...

I like the idea of reading poetry often to inspire writing.

I read The Giver this year in Spanish.

MarjoleinBookBlog said...

lovely interview, this book sounds so great, and I love the cover!