Twenty-eight. Three are novels for grownup readers.
How long does it take you to write a book?
I used to say at least a year, if there are no disruptions in my personal life and other responsibilities don't get in my way. But that ‘s not always true. The book I’m writing now is complicated and required months of research. It may take me another year to finish, though I’m hoping it doesn’t.
What were you like when you were growing up?
I was small, skinny, a late developer. At first, very shy and fearful. Then, around fourth grade, much more outgoing. I can't explain the change. I enjoyed drama, dancing, singing, painting and performing. I loved to roller skate (we didn't have roller blades then) and to ride my bike. I also loved going to the movies, and browsing at the public library. I was always reading something.
Of all the books you have written, which is your favorite, and who is your favorite character?
An impossible question to answer. It’s like asking a mother, which is your favorite child? Each one is special in a different way.
How old were you when your first book was published and which book was it?
I was twenty-seven when I began to write seriously and after two years of rejections my first book, The One in the Middle is the Green Kangaroo, was accepted for publication.
Were you a good student?
Yes, especially when the teacher made the subject come alive! English was my favorite subject because I always liked reading and writing. I wasn't that good at science and I gave up on math long before I should have. I like to think if I were in school today that would be different.
Are any of your other characters based on you or your family?
Sally, in Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself, is my most autobiographical book. I was a lot like Sally. Sheila, in Otherwise Known As Sheila the Great, has most of my childhood fears. And Margaret, in Are You There God? It's Me Margaret, is a lot like me when I was in sixth grade. (Uh-oh–now you know some of my secrets!) But Margaret's family is very different from mine.
What about Fudge?
I knew you'd ask me about him! Fudge was based on my son, Larry, when he was a toddler. Larry never swallowed a turtle, though. That idea came from a news article about a toddler who actually did swallow one!
Do you have a favorite place to write?
Actually, I have two favorite places. In Key West (where it’s always summer) my desk faces a garden. When I slide the doors open I feel like I’m working outside. I can even smell the gardenias. During July and August (I guess you can tell I’m a summer person) we go to Martha’s Vineyard, an island off the coast of Massachusetts. I have a tiny writing cabin there, far enough away from the house to feel very private. I get up early in the morning and work until noon.
Is it fun to be a writer?
Not always. It’s a solitary life and it can get lonely. You spend most of the day in a little room by yourself. But since I love to create characters and get to know them, I’m usually content.
Does anyone ever think you're writing about real people?
Yes. On a TV talk show, I was telling the host about Rachel Robinson’s family and he thought I was talking about a real family. I had to stop and explain that while they feel real to me, I’ve actually made them up.
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Sierra M. ~ Whittier, CA