Alison McGhee is the author of the new children's book Firefly Hollow and the forthcoming Maybe a Fox, written with Kathi Appelt. McGhee's many other books include Someday and Star Bright. She lives in Minneapolis and in Vermont.
Q: Both Firefly Hollow and Maybe a Fox involve interactions between humans and animals. Why does that intrigue you?
A: I have a dog and a cat, and beyond I like watching animals when they don't know a human is nearby. A deer when I'm sitting on the porch of my shack in Vermont, birds at the little bird bath in my front yard, the rabbits who live in my backyard vegetable garden.
What is their experience of the world, this same world that I live in? How does it appear to them, and what do they smell and taste and see that I can't? Questions without answers, because I'm just a human being and limited to human powers.
Beyond that, though, talking animals in books are never really animals. They're humans disguised as animals.
Q: How did you come up with the setting for Firefly Hollow, and why did you focus on a firefly, a cricket, and a vole?
A: I envision the setting as somewhere in the rural northeast, which is where I grew up, and there are many similarities to my own early life: a school bus, rivers and creeks, woods, crickets and fireflies and meadow mice.
The original focus came from Christopher Denise's early sketches of a vole and a cricket, and then I made up the firefly because I've always loved watching them on summer nights. The boy just appeared one day.
Q: You’ve written for different age groups. Do you have a preference?
A: I love writing novels for adults and also for children. Picture books are devilishly hard for me, which is probably why I keep writing them (shouldn't they be getting easier by now?). I also love writing poetry and brief memoir pieces for adult or young adult readers.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I'm revising a new adult novel.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: I have a new picture book, Tell Me a Tattoo Story, that comes out in April - and I'm thrilled about it. It's the story of a little boy whose father tells him the story behind each of his tattoos. (The dad's tattoos, not the little boy's.)
--Interview with Deborah Kalb