Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Lisa Graff Interview & GIVEAWAY!!

Yay! Lisa Graff was kind enough to stop by on her Blog Tour! I got a chance to interview her, and we have a giveaway! Keep reading after the interview for your chance to win a FREE COPY of her new book SOPHIE SIMON SOLVES THEM ALL! (click here for my review of Sophie Simon).

Hello!! Thanks so much for your time. My readers & I appreciate it. I know you’re busy with the success of your previous books. How did it feel to have UMBRELLA SUMMER and THE THING ABOUT GEORGIE named to so many award lists?

Well, thanks so much for taking the time to talk to me! I’m thrilled to visit.

I can’t tell you how exciting it’s been to be on so many state lists. It’s a big, big deal for an author, because you know kids are actually reading your books, and that teachers and librarians are behind them, too. I can’t think of anyone else I’d rather have on my side than teachers and librarians! It means a lot.

I love to ask authors what books they read while growing up. Did you have some favorite authors or genres?

I really enjoyed funny books when I was a kid (and I still do!). A few of my very favorite authors were Roald Dahl (Matilda and The Twits were my favorites), Beverly Cleary, and Louis Sachar. A few years ago I was lucky enough to meet Louis Sachar, and I turned into a giddy fan girl. I could barely remember how to talk! The other books I absolutely devoured as a child were The Baby-Sitters Club books. I think I owned about 60 of them, and I loved them so much I wrote my name in all the covers. When I left for college, my mom made me donate them to the local middle school, which I was furious about at the time, although obviously it was a wonderful thing to do. Anyway, I think it’s funny now, because that same library has lots of copies of books I’ve written, too, so now kids can read books with my name on both the inside and the outside. :)

When did you start writing?

I’ve always written for fun, mostly because my older brother, Ryan, was such a good writer (he writes screenplays), and I wanted to be just like him. When I was in first grade I won second place in a writing contest at school for a story about a birthday party at the zoo which goes disastrously awry when one of the animals gets the hiccups. But I never really took myself seriously as a writer until my freshman year of high school, when two very important things happened. The first thing was that I joined the school writing club, which was lead by Mr. Harrison, who may very well be one of the top five awesome English teachers in the world. Being in that club was so wonderful because it encouraged me not only to produce a lot of work and look at it critically, but it also introduced me to many great friends who also took writing very seriously.

The second important thing that happened to me that year was that my half-brother, Robert, was born. This was important for many reasons, obviously, but in terms of my writing it was significant because I began writing a book for him (the first novel I would ever attempt to write). It took me four years to finish and was absolutely terrible—but terrible or not, it showed me that writing novels (and specifically novels for children) was a lot of fun, and something I might really want to do. That novel was never published (I’m very happy for that), but The Thing About Georgie, which was my first published book, is dedicated to Robert and my other half-brother, David, who is a few years younger.

Did you know you wanted to be a writer while growing up?

I really had no idea, actually. I liked books and reading (my mother is a librarian, so we always had a lot of great books to read), but my favorite subjects in school were math and science, and all growing up I thought I was going to be a doctor. I actually started college as a pre-med student, and it took me a few years to realize that I thought writing was more fun than studying protists (which are eukaryotic microorganisms, in case anyone was wondering. They are not very fun.).

If you weren’t an author, what would you be doing?

I think I would either want to be a children’s book editor (which I was for several years, until I left to write full time) or a high school biology teacher.

UMBRELLA SUMMER is a current popular title in my library, so I’d love to ask about that book first. I love Annie. Was there someone in your life who inspired you to create her? 

I’m so glad you love Annie! That character is mostly based on me as a child, although I wasn’t quite as feisty as she was. That book is probably the closest to my heart, since it came out of an experience I had as a kid. When I was nine years old, my older brother, Ryan, got very sick and was in the hospital for a long time, and even though he got better (thank goodness!) and is perfectly healthy now, I’ve always remembered how scary that time was, and how worried I was not only for my brother, but for myself, too. So it was wonderful to finally be able to write about all of those feelings, and equally amazing to hear that my book has helped some other families in similar situations.

Now about your newest book, SOPHIE SIMON SOLVES THEM ALL. You create the best characters. Sophie is super smart and knows what she wants. She wants to spend time learning, not making friends. How did you come up with the idea for this book?

Thanks so much! Sophie Simon was a character I’d had in my head for many, many years, but I could never seem to find the right book for her. I loved the idea of this super smart little girl who knew how to do absolutely everything—except talk to people her own age. I used to put her into exercises we would do in graduate school (I got my MFA for Creative Writing for Children in 2005), and I even once had a professor say, “This character is wonderful, but you’ll never find a story for her.” It wasn’t until I started thinking of her as sort of a hired problem solver, someone who could solve other kids’ problems, even if she didn’t like the kids themselves, that the ideas really started flowing. Still, it took about four years after that for me to find the right story for her!

I think you’ve set up the beginning of a great series! Are you planning more Sophie books?

I would love to write more Sophie books! I have ideas and outlines for many more Sophie stories, but I’ve been so busy writing other books lately I haven’t gotten a chance to get to them yet. Hopefully soon!

What are you working on now? Can you give us any teasers for any upcoming publications?

Right now I’m revising my next middle-grade novel (for the same age group at Georgie and Umbrella Summer). It’s called Double Dog Dare, and it’s about two kids, a boy and a girl, who are mortal enemies and keep daring each other to do more and more ridiculous things—until they discover that they have something surprising in common. It’s coming out late next year.

On your website, you say that you wanted to legally change your name to Lisa Graff, Great Scientist. Can we hear more about that?

At some point when I was very young, someone informed me that you could change your name when you turned 18, and I thought this was the best thing I’d ever heard. I went through a whole slew of ideas (the only other one I remember is “Cupcake,” but my mother absolutely put her foot down at that one), but “Lisa Graff, Great Scientist” was the one that stuck. I think I even made people call me that for several weeks. My brother will never let me live it down.

Thanks again! I appreciate your time. J

Thanks to you for letting me visit! This has been a blast. I hope your school year goes wonderfully!

 HERE IT IS....for your very own copy of SOPHIE SIMON...

Farrar, Straus & Giroux is giving away a free copy of Sophie Simon Solves Them All to one lucky blog reader! Just send an email to graff.lisa@yahoo.com, along with the name of this blog (Mrs. Hill's Book Blog), for a chance to win (winners will be notified within the week). Or follow along on the rest of Lisa's blog tour for more chances. For the full schedule of stops, visit www.lisagraff.com.