Interview by Nicole Melanson ~
Kathryn Lasky is an award-winning children’s author who writes in many genres from picture books to middle grade and young adult novels. Her New York Times bestselling series, The Guardians of Ga’Hoole, became the basis for the Warner Brothers film, Legend of The Guardians. Among her many awards are the Newbery Honor, The Washington Post Children’s Book Guild Lifetime Achievement Award, and The Boston Globe Award for Nonfiction. Lasky also writes commercial fiction for adults under the pseudonym E. L. Swann. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband, Christopher Knight.
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED AS A WRITER?
I am not really sure how I got started. I thought of a simple little picture book that was based on a grandfather and a grandson. It was called I have Four Names for My Grandfather. The grandfather was my father and the grandson, as I did not have children at the time, was my nephew. My husband Chris photographed the story. He is a former National Geographic photographer so the pictures were really good. Little Brown bought it in a flash. I think they were very drawn to the notion of an intergenerational story and they loved the photos.
WHAT IS YOUR LATEST BOOK OR CURRENT PROJECT?
My newest book, Star Rise, was just released on December 30th. It is the second in my trilogy Horses of The Dawn. Horses of The Dawn is basically the story of the Spanish conquest of the New World told from the horse’s point of view.
WHAT IS YOUR WORK ENVIRONMENT LIKE?
Great—a cozy study that I have worked in for 35 years. Kind of overstuffed with family photos, and mementos. I have my kids’ art that they made when they were really little hanging on the walls. There are three windows that I can look out on my garden. Just spotted a cardinal!
WHEN DO YOU WORK?
Pretty much all the time. I take breaks to break it up because if I don’t my body would just seize up on me.
WHAT IS YOUR WRITING PROCESS?
I am constantly reinventing my work process in small ways all the time. But before I put pencil to paper or finger to keyboard I have thought about a project a long, long time. During this period of time, a project (or what I thought was one) might drift out of my head entirely. If it does, it’s gone and gone for good reason. It couldn’t sustain my interest. So when I do get around to actually doing a project I know it is one that I can get to the finish line with.
I begin with tons of research. Research really never ends. I keep doing it all the way through the writing process. And I am not talking about research for just a historical fiction book. People are always surprised when I say fantasy requires research. When I wrote the Guardians of Ga’Hoole I cannot begin to tell you how much research I did on owl behavior, their natural history etc… I organize it all into files on my computer but I often write with books on my lap. Then I start what I call a general outline that is really the narrative arc of the book. I am a dedicated outliner. I outline as I go along writing the book so by the end of a novel I might have nearly twenty outlines that work in a linear way to get me to the end of the book.
When I get to the end, that is just the beginning. I do at least three drafts before I send it into my editor, then usually three more for the editor.
WHY DO YOU WRITE?
I write because I like to imagine other lives and other worlds and it is really the only thing I am good at.
WHO OR WHAT INSPIRES YOUR WRITING?
Waking up in the morning inspires me. I mean what a great job—I get up every morning and reinvent the world.
WHAT IS THE HARDEST PART OF BEING A WRITER?
Having a book rejected just because people say this kind of thing doesn’t sell anymore.
WHAT IS YOUR VISION AS A WORD ARTIST OR BOOK INDUSTRY PROFESSIONAL?
To stay free and write what I want to write.
WHICH FEMALE AUTHOR WOULD YOU LOVE TO HEAR MORE FROM?
Kate Atkinson. I love her books. She can’t write them fast enough for me. She is a very funny British crime writer—although she does not necessarily like to be classified that way and she does write other things. But she doesn’t write for children.
Thank you, Kathryn Lasky!
— Nicole Melanson
* Author photo by Christopher Knight
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