Leslie Connor is the author of The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle, a new novel for kids. Her other books include Waiting for Normal and All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook. She lives in Connecticut.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for your new book, and for your character, Mason Buttle?
A: Characters are always composites of people I have met, read about, or can imagine. That’s who Mason is. I spun all the deeply earnest, honest, underdog kids I have ever observed into his character. I knew him before I knew his story—if that makes any sense.
I always ask, what has made this character the way I am seeing him in my mind’s eye? What has happened? That’s what eventually brings the backstory to the surface. Then I can ask what happens next?
My plots are fed by nonfiction, including newspaper articles, but those are merely jumping off points for my imagination.
Q: Given the novel's title, the concept of truth comes up a lot in the book. Why did you decide to focus on that?
A: I was very interested in taking a good look at the way we tell stories, and about how and why the truth is sometimes not believed.
It was compelling to write a character who feels he has told the truth but then begins to wonder, is there more truth? Did I miss some part of the truth? Is it my fault that I know only what I know?
Q: Why did you decide to set the novel in an apple orchard?
A: Well, one reason is familiarity; I grew up in a development that had once been an orchard so I knew the terrain! But I also felt that Mason was a character who would be sewn, by his good soul and heritage, to the constant of the returning of the apple season; it is, for him, a place that is also his measure of life and time.
Q: Mason has learning differences and uses technology to help him. Did you need to do much research to write the book?
A: Voice transcription programs are common now. (Many of us have it on our phones.) I interviewed a Dragon Naturally Speaking user about her experience with that program. I also watched video demonstrations, especially those that pertained to the classroom.
(As with anything related to tech, I wonder what has changed in the months between that research and the publication of this book!)
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I’m working on a middle grade novel about an art-loving girl and a difficult yellow dog. They are both getting used to the same new home. There’s an emerging thread about how we carry our pasts and the secrets we keep.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: I’m very grateful to you for reaching out to me, Deborah. Thanks!
--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Leslie Connor.