Q. How did you become interested in writing and when did you decide that you wanted to be a writer?
Seems like I’ve always been a writer! When I was five, I wrote and illustrated a little story, and was so very proud when my mom put the pages together and stapled them. Suddenly, I had a book of my own!
I was lucky to grow up in a house filled to the gunnels with books, and so between my love of reading, and an early inclination to express myself through the written word, becoming a writer just sort of . . . happened. A happy circumstance of nature and nurture, I suspect.
Becoming a writer was a “happy circumstance of nature and nurture, I suspect.”
Q. Who were some of your major influences when you were growing up?
My parents were avid readers, and so that, of course, was a big influence. There were some inspiring teachers and encouraging librarians in my life when I was a kid, and that helped support my passion for reading and writing, too.
And, like Jane Austen did during her childhood, I read pretty much everything I could get my hands on — the good and the bad, the age-appropriate and also books that were well over my head at the time, by authors such as Thomas Wolfe, Sinclair Lewis, Taylor Caldwell, Katherine Anne Porter, and Woody Allen. (I had to catch up with those when I was a teenager, and beyond.)
Q. Young Jane Austen: Becoming a Writer is a fantastic story that details the life of Jane from birth to the time she makes the decision to become a writer. What was the process like for you in researching Jane Austen and ultimately completing such a wonderful book?
Thank you for the kind words! The research process began very informally, really almost randomly – I happened across a biography of Jane Austen on my library’s new-book shelf and I snatched it up — and then I got so interested in the subject that I launched into a binge-read of other biographies which, in turn, in a snowball sort of way, ended up becoming the research for Young Jane Austen. Before all this, I knew very little about Jane Austen — an appalling lapse for someone who studied English and American Literature and Language in college!
The narrative section in “Young Jane Austen” is a hybrid of fact and fiction. Illustration by Massimo Mongiardo.
As for completing the manuscript: whenever I start a book, I have a pretty clearly defined sense of where I want to end up, and in this case, I knew I wanted the narrative — a “speculative” hybrid of fact and fiction — to end when Jane is 11 or 12, the point at which most biographies begin to dwell pretty thoroughly on her life.
Q. Do you have any unique rituals or habits that you do prior to sitting down to write?
No, I’m afraid I’m not that original! Like many writers, I’m a morning person, and am dependent on a good strong cup of coffee before I sit down in front of my computer.
Q. How would you describe your writing style?
I write for both children and for adults, so my style tends to vary quite a bit. Sometimes I write using a wild riot of adjectives and adverbs — which is tremendous fun! — and sometimes I write with a very deliberate spareness. Also fun. It’s just different.
This excerpted interview appears with the kind permission of Friday Night Books, where it was originally published.