Q: How did you come up with the idea for Lily's Promise?
A: Like a lot of our characters, Lily is a little bit me. Though I wasn’t homeschooled, I did change schools a lot, including in different countries, so I always felt like the odd one out. I was also very, very shy so those parts of Lily were easy to write.
And yet, if you feel you don’t fit in, there are always others who feel the same way, and may have more reason to feel sidelined than you do.
So, what if you banded together and made your own group of
friends that was accepting of all kinds of people? And spoke out against
bullying? You have the choice and the power to decide what kind of life you’re
going to lead and how your world is going to be.
Q: What role do you see the character Libro playing?
A: Libro is hopefully both comic relief and literary commentator. I hope readers will find Libro funny and also enjoy hearing about the story and the writing process.
Kids often ask me questions like “Why did this character do that?” “Do you ever have to rewrite stuff?” “What do you do when you get stuck?” “What kind of research do you do?” And even, “Where in your house do you write?”
I thought it’d be fun to answer some of those questions within the book by having Libro comment on the author, the characters, and the story.
Q: You've written for different age groups--do you have a preference?
A: Honestly, I just write whatever stories come to me. Some are obviously middle grade or young adult; others are crossovers. And, of course, some are for the very young or even for adults!
Q: What do you hope readers take away from Lily and her story?
A: To paraphrase my neighbor, who’s reading my books with her boys, it’s important for kids to try understand the different people they meet, and to learn to use their voices to stand up for themselves and their friends.
I hope readers take away a sense of empowerment, that every moment is theirs to make of it what they will, and every moment is a chance to start again if you don’t like what you did before.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I’m working on several picture books, a couple of adult novels, and a middle grade dystopian, which is something I never thought I’d write!
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: The same day Lily’s Promise publishes, All of Us, a picture book with Alexandra Boiger, also publishes. Alexandra's art is stunning and I hope readers enjoy the story of how each one of us belongs in this world.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Kathryn Erskine.