Kathryn Lasky interview with David Alan Binder

posted Oct 19, 2016, 5:42 AM by David Alan Binder

Kathryn Lasky interview with David Alan Binder

 Her website:  http://www.kathrynlasky.com

 Very shortened bio from her website: 

 College: In grade school and high school, nobody thought I was especially smart. I must have been a late bloomer. But I did bloom in college. I went to the University of Michigan and got lots of A’s. I loved English. I became an English major. I loved Victorian literature and Romantic poetry and Renaissance literature and just about any kind of literature anyone could imagine.

 My first job: A really stupid one—writing for a fashion magazine. Let’s skip that phase of my life.

 My second job: teaching school—but I don’t remember much about it because I met this cute guy and fell in love. He became my husband. His name is Chris Knight.

 He is so different from me that I can’t believe I fell in love with him. He is short and blonde. I was tall and dark. But most of all, Chris is physically very daring and I'm a wimp. He was a National Geographic photographer and a documentary filmmaker.

 When we got married my parents gave us a sailboat. Would you believe it that Chris talked me into sailing across the Atlantic Ocean in this thing! It was only thirty feet long. I threw up the whole way. But I did stand a watch twice a day for four hours each time even while throwing up. In between the seasickness I did find some beautiful extraordinary things out there in the vastness of the ocean. I loved the bird life and the dolphins were so playful and to watch the dawn break on a calm morning in the North Atlantic is a spiritual experience. We sailed twice across the Atlantic. Twice is definitely enough. I did manage to write a book about it all called Atlantic Circle.

 When we came back I wrote my first children’s book and had my first child. Max.

 All my best ideas for books, one way or another come from experiences with my family—from being a mother, a daughter, a sister, and a wife.

 

She was too modest to mention it but by my count she has written about 121 books!

 

1.     Where are you living currently?

Near Boston, MA.

 

2.     What is the most important thing that you have learned in your writing experience, so far?

There’s always some way you can solve a problem—be it a snag in the narrative, a flaw in your conception of a character, or a plot issue. If I keep at it, I can fix it.

 

3.     What would you say is your most interesting writing, publishing, editing or illustrating quirk?

I’m not sure if I really have the distance to recognize my quirks, although I’m sure there are plenty.

 

4.     Tell us your insights on self-publish or use a publisher?

 

a.     Who is the name of your publisher and in what city are they?

My publisher for most of my books is Scholastic in New York. But I do have a new middle grade novel just out from Random House. More Than Magic.

 

5.     Any insights eBooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing?

I mostly write for children, middle grade fiction. It has been my experience that children not go for eBooks that much.

 

6.     Do you have any secret tips for writers on getting a book published?

Write what you believe in. Write it the best you can. Avoid following trends.   Also join SCBWI. The Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators if you want to write children’s books. They have chapters all of the country and the world and have many meetings where editors come and review manuscripts.

 

7.     How did you or would you suggest acquire an agent?  Any tips for new writers on getting one?

I would go online and simply look up literary agencies. See what kinds of books the various agencies publish. Their websites give a lot of information. Try and gauge what might be a match for you, and then follow the submission guidelines to a T. Agencies are swamped with submissions. So they will look for any excuse to throw out a manuscript.

 

8.     Do you have any suggestions or helps for new writers (please be specific and informational as possible)?

It’s a process and everyone’s process is going to be different. I myself when I get an idea for a new book try and write out a very short description like the one you would find on the flap copy of a published book. Flap copy tells a reader in sometimes less than one hundred words what the book is about. It’s designed to hook a potential buyer. But the ‘buyer’ in this situation is the writer. You! You want to commit to writing this story because you just LOVE it already.  From that point on I start making outlines of the structure of the book and how the narrative will unfold. This is just my process. Other writers have different approaches. But for More Than Magic I had this idea about an animated character stepping out of a television set and asking for help. SO I scribbled down this bit for flap copy before I had ever written the first word of the actual book: Ryder Holmsby is the same age as Rory, the popular TV cartoon character her animator parents created. Ryder and Rory are alike—bold and brave! But Ryder is a bit lonely: Mom passed away a couple of years ago, and Dad is dating a woman with snooty teenage daughters. Ryder doesn’t fit in with them at all. 
 
And then: Shazam! Rory jumps out of the TV into Ryder’s bedroom to tell her that the TV studio behind her parents’ show is trying to turn Rory into a dopey princess—no more adventures. She needs Ryder’s help! The two girls team up with a crew of animated and real-life friends to save the day in both worlds. 
 

9.     What was one of the most surprising things you learned your creative process with your books, editing, publishing or illustrating?

I don’t know if this is surprising but a good editor is really a treasure. They see things, anticipate things that I don’t have a clue about. A good editor will guide you to make sometimes very slight course corrections that become crucial in the telling of a story. When that happens I always think Jeez why didn’t I see that!!!

 

10.                        Do you have any tricks or tips to help others become a better writer (please be as specific and information as you possibly can)?

As I already said try writing the jacket copy, or flap copy first. You might want to make notes on each character—their physical attributes, their quirks—how they dress. Dress was particularly important to my character Ryder Holmsby. She went for a very king of funky vintage look. I started keeping a file of pictures I found on the internet of outfits she would like. Keep in mind an arc for a character. Characters to be dynamic must change, grow, and acquire strength. You have to be very aware of your character’s goals. The best characters are nuanced and never totally predictable.

 

11.                        Do you have any suggestions for providing twists in a good story?

I think if you keep what I just said above about characters having arcs you will uncover a lot for potential twists.

12.                        What makes your or any book stand out from the crowd?

Honestly I am just not sure. I think a critic or one of my editors could tell you that better.

 

13.                        What are some ways in which you promote your work?

I’m not very good at promotion. I mean I have a website and a blog on that website. I leave most of the promotion to the marketing and publicity department of the publisher. I love doing interviews like this. So that’s one way.

 

14.                         What is the one thing you would do differently now (concerning writing or editing or publishing or illustrating) and why?

If I knew that one thing I guess I would do it. I like to think of myself as a reflective person. But I can’t think of how to answer this question. I’m not perfect by any mans. I’ve had a successful and satisfying career. So I really can’t complain. I’m sure there are things I should be doing differently but I just don’t know what they are.

 

15.                        What saying or mantra do you live by?

Words mean something. I believe in stories. I believe in the power of stories. Neil Gaiman said it best in Sandman: “Everybody has a secret world inside of them... No matter how dull and boring they are on the outside they’ve all got unimaginable, magnificent wonderful, stupid, amazing worlds. Not just one world, hundreds of them, maybe thousands.”

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