The DMS was lucky enough to interview Kathryn Erskine, author of the middle grade novel Mockingbird. Lizzy recently reviewed this interesting book (read the review). It was fun to share our thoughts about it and hear yours! We are excited to learn a little bit more about the story behind her story. So, without further ado... take it away, Kathryn!
What inspired you to write Mockingbird?
I wanted to write a book from inside the head of a child with Asperger’s, and as I was writing it, the terrible shootings occurred at Virginia Tech. It was appalling, and really had me struggling to figure out how to explain it to my children. I wondered how a child on the autism spectrum could understand or cope with such a tragedy, and that’s when I decided the book would open after Caitlin had lost her brother in a similar event.
How long did it take you to write Mockingbird?
About 6 weeks for what I call the “guts” of the story. It took a lot longer to trim it and shape it into the final story.
What are some of your favorite books from childhood? Were there any specific authors who inspired you?
I loved realistic fiction adventure which for me, since I grew up in British type countries, were Enid Blyton (e.g., FABULOUS FIVE series) and Arthur Ransome (SWALLOWS AND AMAZONS series). I think any powerful book inspires me, and there are so many of them. Some inspirational authors are Judy Blume, Katherine Paterson, Patricia Reilly Giff, Jerry Spinelli, Christopher Paul Curtis, Gary Schmidt -- I could go on and on.
Where did you come up with the character, Caitlin?
All my characters show up in my head uninvited. For Caitlin, I really had to get inside her head so I could accurately portray the daily life of a child with Asperger’s. For that, I did a lot of research, including reading, observation, workshops, hands-on practice, and talking with those who are parents or teachers of those with Asperger’s. Also, my daughter has Asperger’s -- it’s fairly mild but was much more evident when she was in elementary school.
If you could befriend any of the characters from your books, who would you befriend? Why?
I like a lot of the characters in my books because I feel like they “found” me and asked to be friends. That sounds completely crazy, doesn’t it? And yet, I feel that they have real personalities and human attributes because I try very hard to know their histories and write them as real people. I hope that if readers meet people like these characters, they might have a little empathy for them. Having said all that, I would LOVE to go anywhere with Moo! (She is the wacky great aunt in THE ABSOLUTE VALUE OF MIKE.)
What is your favorite song?
Wow, that’s a hard one. It really depends on my mood. I guess an old song, Pata-Pata, which I remember from living in Africa as a child, is one of my “go to” songs for feeling good. Just listening to it makes me want to dance, which I do. Even in the car. Even when I’m driving. It’s like Bill Cosby’s “chair dancing.” :o)
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be? Why?
There are so many places I’d love to live. Scotland was one of my favorite places growing up and I feel completely at home there. I feel comfortable in Italy and Canada, too. They are all beautiful countries with much to inspire a writer. I could even see myself living in Guam or Botswana for the warmth, both of climate and people, and the rich history and culture. For now, though, I’m happy right here in Virginia.
Where can we purchase your books?
They’re available at most bookstores and online, either in paper or electronic form. If you don’t see them at your local independent bookstore, I’m sure they’ll place an order for you!