|Margaret Dilloway, photo by Saflower Photography|
Margaret Dilloway is the author of the new kids' novel Momotaro: Xander and the Lost Island of Monsters. Dilloway's novels for adults include How to Be an American Housewife and Sisters of Heart and Snow. She lives in Southern California.
Q: How did you come up with your character Xander and with the idea for retelling the story of Momotaro?
A: I'm half Japanese and my mom would read me this Momotaro picture book when I was little. The book only skimmed the story and I thought it could go much more in-depth and be relevant to today's events and a Western audience.
I wanted to create my own legend based on the story, using a character who would be half-Japanese, like me, because I never saw myself in literature when I was a kid.
Q: Did you know from the beginning that there would be more than one book?
A: I hoped there would be more than one, so I planned for it! My editor wanted to know right away if there could be a second, so luckily I had the idea for that ready to go, and she loved it.
Q: You wrote on your website that you worked on many different drafts of this book before having a breakthrough. What finally clicked into place?
A: The voice of Xander and the plot. I'm not sure how it happened. I worked on it off and on. Suddenly a draft started working and my kids wanted to read more of it instead of saying it was just "okay."
Q: As someone who's written for adults and children, is your writing process different depending on your audience?
A: Adult novels are almost twice as long, so there are more subplots and things like that, but it's basically the same.
Q: What can you tell us about the second Momotaro book?
A: It's called Xander and the Dream Thief , and it's about Xander trying to control his new powers in his regular life. He's a bit traumatized by what happened to him in the first book, so he has constant nightmares.
His grandmother gives him a charm to take the nightmares away. In using it, he sets off a chain of events in which everyone's dreams-- not just their night dreams, but their goals and motivation and hopes-- are deleted. And his powers stop working. Then he has to go on a quest to get them back.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: It's been thrilling to see how kids react to this book. The best comment I've gotten from several parents is that their kids chose reading this book over playing video games.
It's really a story about friendship and how the power of imagination can be used to thwart these dark forces we see in the world.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb. For a previous Q&A with Margaret Dilloway, please click here.