Beloved children’s and YA author Lois Lowry is best known for her controversial novel The Giver, but she’s penned light, comical tales as well, including her latest, which will be released April 30th, Gooney the Fabulous.
If you missed the first part of our interview with this Newbery award-winning author, you can read it by clicking HERE, then come on back. In this, the second and final part of our interview, Ms. Lowry discusses the influence of her characters and readers, and reveals what we might be surprised to know about her. Enjoy!
Part 2: Interview with Lois Lowry
Q: Do you keep your emotions in check when you’re writing or are you emotionally “involved” with your characters and their journeys? Which of your books, and/or which of your characters, has touched you the most, and for which of your works do you feel the most pride or joy for having written?
LL: I travel with each fictional character I create, down whatever path I have set them on. I feel their feelings, share their joys and sorrows, smile at them, choke up sometimes, laugh aloud from time to time, and worry on their behalf. I think I do it to the same degree with each book, with each protagonist and I don’t empathize any more with the one who is “me”…as Elizabeth is, in AUTUMN STREET…than with the completely fictional. They all become real to me, at least for the time that I am writing their stories.
I do feel a particular joy and pride for the young girl named Rabble Starkey in the book of that name, and for her very young mother, Sweet Hosanna. They are completely fictional. But they had so very much to overcome, and they did it with such hard work, such integrity, such deep hopes for the future. I admired them and I positively glowed with pride for them at the ending.
Q: Do you think about your readers often? How do they influence your work, and do they influence the enthusiasm you have for your work?
LL: I don’t think about them at all. Not while I’m writing, at least. I think about the book characters, who begin to seem very real to me. Later, after a book is published, I hear from readers and then I think about them, with affection and amusement and concern. But not during the writing.
Q: Though the books are very different, The Giver, Gathering Blue and Messenger are considered a trilogy. What is the binding thread between these books for you, and what do you hope they deliver as a whole that they might not each deliver alone?
LL: Each of these books postulates the particular organization of a small society and then places one character within it…in each case a young character…whose role, fictionally, is to uncover the flaws that are jeopardizing the group to which he/she belongs, and to try to “fix” that world. It’s a microcosm, in each case, of our own real world.
I was simply examining the deep flaws in our own societal structure: the deceits practiced by our government, for example; the desperate wish we profess to have for freedom even as we allow our own freedoms to be subverted; our too-human arrogance and selfishness. Each book explores different aspects of the fear and self-interest we are all, individually and as a society, prone to. Each presents the concept that it is the young who are selfless and can change the world.
Q: Tell us about your latest book, Gooney the Fabulous.
LL: This is the third of a series that will…if I live long enough! …..carry Mrs. Pidegon’s second grade classroom through a school year, centering on the one iconoclastic character, Gooney Bird, who with her imagination and creativity makes various learning concepts fun. In the third book the class is learning about fables (hence the title) and are creating their own. Fables, of course, are stories with a moral. This book, however, does not have a moral! I hope none of my books do. GOONEY THE FABULOUS is just good fun, with some humor and some wisdom and a lot of lively second-graders.
Q: Do you believe any of your stories taught you something about yourself, as a writer or simply as a person?
LL: Oh, I’m sure they all have. Because I have to think when I’m writing. I think about the choices characters make, the issues they wrestle with, the problems they face and overcome. Those are all universal things. When I think about their lives, I think about my own. We do the same thing, incidentally, as readers.
Q: If you could not write, if there were no books to read, what would you do and why?
LL: Something creative. I would paint, or draw, perhaps. I would try to find some way to make the world a little more beautiful, a little more serene, or to bring joy to people.
Q: What’s one thing people might be surprised to learn about Lois Lowry the writer, and about Lois Lowry the person?
LL: I doubt if there are any surprises to my role as a writer. My books reflect me. There are no secrets to them, nothing arcane. As a person? Well, I’m seventy years old…a mild-mannered, bifocal-wearing grandmother. So people would be surprised (and shocked) to know that I am occasionally pretty foul-mouthed. Well, what the hell. I think the state of the world frequently calls for a four letter word.
[WU Note: At this point in the interview, Lois Lowry answered a few questions from an enthusiastic 6th grade reading class.]
Q: What kind of books do you like to read, and what is your favorite book that you have read? (Riley & Thomas)
LL: I like autobiographies and memoirs: the stories that people write about themselves. And collected letters. One of my favorite books is the collected letters of E.B.White.
Q: Who is your favorite author? (Haley)
LL: Ian MacEwan (a British author for adults)
Q: Did you want to become a writer or author when you were a child? (Allyson, Morgan & Joe)
LL: Yes, I never had any other goal.
Q: At what age did you write your first book? (Jared)
LL: My first PUBLISHED book…when I was 39. My first book? Probably age 9 or 10.
Q: What were your parents like? Did they inspire you? (Ethan)
LL: My mother was a shy, gentle, very nice person. My dad, a very organized and meticulous man. They both loved their children a lot but neither of them was very demonstrative. And neither of them was a writer. But they gave me a typewriter for my 13th birthday, in 1950…back then, kids didn’t get big gifts like that. It meant that they understood me, and my dreams.
Q: Of all the books that you have written, which one is your favorite? (Avery & Callie)
LL: THE SILENT BOY.
Q: What is the hardest part about writing a book? (Kristyanna)
LL: Knowing when to stop and say The End. You’d like to go on forever.
Q: Do you go back into the story once it’s finished and change things? (Kevin)
LL: Yes, I do a lot of revisions.
Q: Where is your favorite place to write? (Ben)
LL: In my studio, a room off the barn of my 18th century farmhouse in Maine.
Q: If you were to compare one of your books to your life, which one would it be? (Ashley)
LL: AUTUMN STREET.
Q: How do you become an author? (Rachael)
LL: You read and read and read, because you learn everything you need to know about writing by reading good books.
Q: Which interests you most, writing for kids or adults? (Ashley)
LL: I’ve done both, but I guess I enjoy writing for kids more than for adults.
Q: I feel your book The Giver is based on the corruption of the Roman Republic, but does it have a warning to humanity about the failures of democracy? (Dimitri)
LL: It relates to any civilization that has become corrupt and destroyed itself. Could be Rome. Could be the Soviet Union. Could be Nazi Germany. And yes, it could be a way of saying Alert! Alert! to certain democracies. It’s a warning about extremism.
Thank you, Lois Lowry, for a fascinating interview!