This week's Let's Ask question was for the fabulous Susanna Hill.
Thank you Susanna for sharing with us today!
My question for Susanna:
One piece of advice I keep hearing is write what you know. You have a variety of children's books already published. Do you mind sharing how each book idea came about and which ones were your most fun to write?
There is no doubt that I write what I know. Family holidays and traditions, sibling rivalry, childhood milestones, new babies, sore throats, loose teeth, bad dreams, and life with pets.
Feelings (not just childish!) of joy, disappointment, discovery, wanting to be understood, anxiety, doubt, needing to feel important, surprise, accomplishment, and wonder.
Learning to count and tie shoes and ride a bike and make friends and play piano.
Planting a garden. Sleepovers. Baking cookies. Splashing in puddles. Losing a grandparent.
The everyday is where stories begin because that is where shared human experience lies.
Every single story I've written has been based, at least partly, on something I know. But many of them have other elements too, because you don't have to stick completely with what you know - there is plenty of room for learning things, and for imagination :)
I have never been a groundhog, but I know what it's like to want people to believe in you (Punxsutawney Phyllis.). I'm not a witch and I can't do magic, but I know what it is to have talents that are completely different from the rest of your family (Millicent's Magic - not published but a story I love!) I don't have direct experience operating heavy machinery, but I understand the fascination it held for my son, and I was able to educate myself about it enough to write a book about machines and people working together to build a house (The House That Mack Built).
Punxsutawney Phyllis came to me in the car on a gray, wintery Groundhog Day. I was driving my kids to school, and the radio DJ mentioned that Punxsutawney Phil had declared 6 more weeks of winter. Where I live, it seems like we always have 6 more weeks of winter. I thought to myself, gee it would be nice if for once we could have an early spring! Then I remembered that one of the best things about being a writer is that you get to call the shots. So I thought, I'll write a story where Punxsutawney Phil predicts an early spring! But then I got to thinking some more and I thought, hmm... why does Punxsutawney Phil always have to be a boy? A girl could certainly do the job just as well! I put the two ideas together, and voila! Punxsutawney Phyllis!
No Sword Fighting In The House - well, I have actually said that in my house on many occasions! :) There is a certain magic in sword fighting, apparently, that makes it fun whether you have wooden swords and shields (yes, my husband made my 5, 3 and 1 year olds wooden swords!) or plastic light sabers or cardboard wrapping paper tubes or sticks - as long as a lot of jumping on the furniture and yelling is involved it can't be beat :) In addition, kids (at least my kids) have a talent for taking things literally. So when you say "no sword fighting in the house" meaning "no violent games", they are perfectly capable of whacking each other outside instead and then saying, "But you said no sword fighting in the house! We weren't in the house!" Put the two together, and you've got a story.
And Can't Sleep Without Sheep is about a little girl who has trouble falling asleep because her mind is so busy. It is my son who has the busy mind, but I have daughters also, so the main character is a combination - my son's sleep habits, my daughters' gender. Apparently I spend too much time in the car with the radio on, because this story also owes itself, in part, to something I heard on the radio - a commercial for mattresses that said something along the lines of, "Mattress uncomfortable? Tired of counting sheep? Come get our mattress." And I thought, what if there was a child (like my son) who had trouble falling asleep, and had to count sheep so much that the sheep got tired of being counted? And there it was - Can't Sleep Without Sheep :)
I don't think I can pick out which ones were most fun to write. I have loved writing all my books - they have all been fun! - and my favorite tends to be whatever I'm working on at the moment because it's fresh and I feel excited about it, although I will always have a soft spot for Phyllis, Rose, and Can't Sleep!
So yes, I guess I write what I know!
And I love every minute of it!
Bio: Susanna Leonard Hill wrote her first book in 2nd Grade. It is called "The Girl and The Witch" and she will read it to you if she comes to your school! She is the author of 17 books for children (10 traditionally published although 1 is in Dutch :) and 1 digitally published with 6 more digital books forthcoming from A Story Before Bed.) She is a mom as well as a children's author. She loves reading, writing, and visiting schools to share her stories and her passion for writing with kids. She also loves horses and her two rescue dogs. Susanna is always happy to hear from readers, so please visit her website (http://www.susannahill.com), FaceBook page (http://www.facebook.com/SusannaLeonardHill), and blog (http://susannahill.blogspot.com) Twitter http://twitter.com/#!/SusannaLHill!
Thank you for visiting today!