The DMS was lucky enough to interview Ann M. Martin, author of the middle grade novel Belle Teal. Lizzy recently reviewed this interesting book. It was fun sharing our thoughts about it and hearing yours! (read the review). We are excited to learn a little bit more about the story behind her story. So, without further ado... take it away, Ann!
|Ann M. Martin|
What inspired you to write Belle Teal?
Belle Teal started off as a short story, inspired by a memory of an incident when I was in fourth grade. Several days before the first African-American student was to join my class in our mostly white elementary school, our teacher told us that a new student would be arriving and that he was black, and then she admonished us to treat him nicely. Why, I wondered, wouldn't we be nice to a new kid? It wouldn't have occurred to me to be mean to a student because he was black. But our teacher had inadvertently raised a sensitive issue and my classmates and I greeted Darryl with caution when he arrived. That was the idea that sparked the short story. I enjoyed writing about Belle Teal and her world and was eager to expand the story into a novel.
How long does it typically take you to write a book?
I like to spend at least a year working on a book. If a book involves research, I'll need more time. The first Doll People book, co-written with Laura Godwin, took almost five years to write, partly because Laura and I needed time to figure out how to work together.
What are some of your favorite books from childhood? Were there any specific authors who inspired you?
I have so many favorite books that it's hard to list just a few. Some of my favorite picture books are The Little House, by Virginia Lee Burton; Wait Till the Moon Is Full, by Margaret Wise Brown; the books by Beatrix Potter; and the Babar books, by Jean de Brunhoff. Some of my favorite titles for older readers are James and the Giant Peach, by Roald Dahl; the Wizard of Oz books, by L. Frank Baum; the books about Paddington Bear, by Michael Bond; the Magic books by Edward Eager; and the horse stories by Marguerite Henry. Interestingly, my favorite kind of fiction when I was a kid was light fantasy, but most of the books I've written are realistic fiction. When I write the Doll People books, though, I'm inspired by many of the authors whose work I read as a child, in particular Roald Dahl and Edward Eager.
Where did you come up with the character, Belle Teal?
Although Belle Teal is named after my great-aunt, and I drew lightly on my father's southern roots when writing the story, the character of Belle Teal is completely made up. I wanted to create a character facing serious challenges who was strong enough to meet them, survive them, and emerge even stronger. I liked Belle Teal's "family of women."
If you could befriend any of the characters from your books, who would you befriend? Why?
I would very much like to befriend both Hattie and Adam from A Corner of the Universe, as well as Belle Teal. I admire all three of them for their bravery, and for their determination to stand up to others and face scorn and ridicule. In Adam's case, the ridicule eventually wore him down, but I admire him for fighting as long and as hard as he did. Adam is based on an uncle of mine - an uncle I didn't have the chance to meet. I feel I know him a bit better now, though, through Adam.
Many kids have read The Baby-sitters Club series. Who is your favorite babysitter?
My favorite baby-sitter is Kristy, partly because I created her first and felt that she set the series in motion, and partly because she's my alter ego. Kristy is outgoing, not afraid to speak her mind, and full of big ideas. When I was growing up I was quiet and shy - a follower rather than a leader. Hmm. Which other baby-sitter do I sound like? Yes, I am much like Mary Anne. But Kristy is my favorite.
If you could live during any time period in history, when would it be? Why?
I've always been interested in Colonial New England. I know life was harsh then, but I like everything about the era from the crafts to the architecture. I could see myself living in a tiny village near the coast, going to quilting bees, waiting for maple sugaring time…
Where can we purchase your books?
In your local bookstore, in chain stores, or online. Be sure to check your school and public libraries, too.
Check out The Baby-sitters Club on THE STACKS @ Scholatic.com