Thursday, April 30, 2015

Interview With Sarah Weeks

Here is an interview that Scholastic had with the author of PIE, Sarah Weeks.

Author Sarah Weeks

Book Box Daily: If you had to describe your new book, PIE, in five words, what would they be?
Sarah Weeks: Heartfelt. Wholesome. Funny. Sweet. Delicious.
BBD: PIE is set in a small, close-knit community in which everyone knows their neighbors. Was this inspired or influenced by a community you’ve lived in, personally?
SW: I spent my summers as a child on an island in Lake Michigan. Now I spend my summers in a little town in the Catskill Mountains. So yes, I have had some personal experience with living in a close-knit community. Ipswitch, PA, is a fictional place, and one of the things I loved about creating it was developing the feel of the town and inventing the people who would live there.
BBD: In PIE we learn a lot about the pie preferences of a number of the book’s characters. Did their personalities easily dictate their taste in pies? How many different kinds of pie did you bake before settling on the recipes you included in the book?
SW: I knew right from the start that Alice’s favorite pie would be peach. To me, nothing tastes more like summer than peach pie. I began collecting pie recipes from friends and family while I was still working on my first draft. As the recipes poured in, it was fun to try to match the pies to the characters in the book. I love to bake so I often make pies, but last summer (2010) I only baked pies that I was considering for the book
BBD: Lardo the cat is not what most people would consider an “ideal” companion. Was he inspired by any pets you’ve known?
SW: Um, I know this will be an unpopular answer with many, but I’m not a cat lover. I’m a dog person. I grew to love Lardo in the course of writing PIE, but I wouldn’t really want to own him.
BBD: PIE fits into so many different categories—it’s a story about friendship and family, it’s a story about inspiration, it’s a classic “whodunit” mystery. Are these the types of books you enjoyed reading as a kid? Can you tell us what books were your favorites?
SW: I was a huge fan of Freddie the Detective Pig when I was a kid. I’ve always loved mysteries, though I find them kind of hard to write. My editor can attest to the fact that I did a lot of rewriting. Jane Quizzenberry was not the original cat-napper; it was the mayor’s wife. The tricky thing about mysteries is dropping the clues at the right time, and making sure not to leave any loose ends.
BBD: The importance of family is a recurring theme in your novels. In each, the central character has a loving (if sometimes complicated) relationship with at least one key relative. Is that a conscious choice on your part, and if so, why?
SW: I have to say, it’s not a conscious choice. I’ve always been attracted to things that are surprising. I was very close to both of my parents, and I’m very close to my children. Family is the most important thing in my life, so I guess it’s not surprise that I like to write about it.
BBD: The kids you depict in your books tend to be smart, resourceful, and brave (at least eventually!) about confronting their fears. Do you think that you, personally, were such a kid?
SW: Brave? Who me? As a kid I was goofy and creative and sensitive. I like to think I’m all of those now too—just with wrinkles.
BBD: When you begin writing a novel, which usually comes first—a character or a plotline?
SW: I always start with characters. I make them talk to one another and as wacko as it sounds, they often tell me what the story should be about.
BBD: How has your background as a singer and songwriter influenced the way you approach your writing?
SW: In PIE I got to write song lyrics for Alice to sing. I studied piano and viola and voice in high school and music composition in college. For many years before I became an author I was a singer songwriter, writing for Disney and Sesame Street. I believe in perfect rhymes—no cheating! It was really fun to make up the songs for Alice and also to write the Lardo jingle.
BBD: You’ve written more than 50 books for young people—picture books, beginning reader books, chapter books, and middle grade novels—but so far no young adult novels. Do you think you’ll ever write anything specifically aimed at a teen audience?
SW: Maybe. If the right idea comes along I’d love to write a book in the voice of a teenage girl.
BBD: How (if at all) does your process for writing a chapter book or novel differ from your process for writing a picture book?
SW: The process for writing a picture book is completely different from the process of writing a chapter book or novel. For one thing, most of my picture books rhyme. Also, when I write a picture book I’m always thinking about the role the pictures will play in the telling of the story. It can take me several months to write a picture book, but it takes me several years to write a novel. I usually have a couple of things going at the same time, so that I can change it up a little. I might spend the morning working on a serious novel and then switch over to something lighter in the afternoon.
BBD: You are one of the esteemed authors who founded Authors Readers Theatre. Can you tell us what your group does and how that idea came about?
SW: ART was started about six years ago by Avi, Walter Dean Meyers, Sharon Creech, and myself. We love the format of reader’s theatre so much—putting together scripts made up from scenes in our books, rehearsing together, editing together, and then performing at conferences of librarians and teachers. It’s so much fun! The group has expanded and changed over the years to include other wonderful authors such as Brian Selznick, Pam Munoz Ryan, Katherine Patterson, and Bruce Coville to name a few.
BBD: Can you share with us an especially memorable question or comment you’ve received from one of your readers?
SW: I get a lot of letters and e-mails from kids—all of which I answer. Most of their messages are very sweet and complimentary, but sometimes they’re funny. Those are the ones I tend to remember. For instance, someone recently wrote to say “I was looking for Twilight in the library, but it was checked out so I read your book So B. It instead. It was pretty good—but you could use some vampires.”
BBD: Finally, what are your top five favorite pies?
SW: Blueberry, peach, pumpkin, lemon chess, and chocolate angel pie. The last one is not one of the recipes in the book, but anyone who wants to know how to make it can write to me on my BLOG and I’ll be happy to share the recipe!
We’d like to thank Sarah one more time for taking a moment to talk with us.

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