Katy Kelly is the author of the popular Lucy Rose and Melonhead books for kids. She worked as a journalist for People, USA TODAY, and U.S. News & World Report, and lives in Washington, D.C.
Q: What ingredients, in your opinion, does a good children's book need?
A: All good books need a strong plot, well-defined, interesting characters, compelling dialog, unpredictable turns, tight, cliché-free writing. I find that children’s and YA books are often better than adult books. They have to be. Grown-up readers will often forgive lumpy paragraphs, repeated sentiments, unnecessary words and wandering storylines. Children will not. They will drop the book.
Q: Your two series, featuring Lucy Rose and Melonhead, are connected, with the same characters showing up in both sets of books. Why did you decide to stick with the same characters, and do you have a favorite?
A: Like every mother of more than one child, I don’t have a favorite.
I invented Melonhead when I was writing Lucy Rose: Here’s the Thing About Me. I needed a boy who would get on Lucy Rose’s last nerve. By the end of that book I loved him— not surprising since I based him on my brother, Michael. By the end of the fourth book I knew he needed a series of his own.
Q: Before turning to children's books, you worked as a reporter. Are there skills from your reporting days that transfer to your writing of children's books?
A: Twenty years of feature writing taught me to pay attention to the details, to listen to what people say and how they say it. I do the same with my fictional characters, even though they’re all in my head.
Q: Your books are set on Capitol Hill, where you grew up. Do you use some of the experiences from your own childhood in creating the adventures of Lucy Rose and Melonhead?
A: Many. My brother, Michael, did think that running over rooftops was a shortcut. Melonhead agrees.
I feel so lucky to have grown up on the Hill. Most kids will never get to visit. I like giving them a sense of the neighborhood.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I’m doing final edits on my next book, Melonhead and theWe-Fix-It Company-- out in September 2013—and working on the next Melonhead, due out September 2014.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb