Friday, March 29, 2013

Author Interview with Natalie Standiford



The DMS was lucky enough to interview Natalie Standiford, author of the middle grade novel The Secret Tree. Lizzy recently reviewed this intriguing story, and it was great to share our thoughts about it and hear yours! We are excited to learn a little bit more about the story behind the story. So, without further ado... take it away, Natalie! 


What inspired you to write The Secret Tree?

I wanted to write about the neighborhood where I grew up, in Catonsville, Maryland. It was full of eccentric characters, and I wanted to show that the suburbs are not as bland as some people think. Then I saw the Wong Kar-wai film IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE, which is very much an adult movie but had a scene that made an impression on me. A soldier is returning from fighting in Vietnam, where he has seen terrible things in the war. On his way home he stops at the famous ruins in Angkor Wat, Cambodia. He finds a hole in a wall and whispers all his secrets into it. Then he plugs the hole with mud and straw, hoping the secrets will never escape. I loved that idea. When it was time to think about what kind of secrets my characters should have, I was inspired by POSTSECRET, an art project by Frank Warren, where he asked people to write a secret on a postcard and mail it to him anonymously.

How long did it take you to write The Secret Tree?

I mulled the idea over and made notes on it for a year before I started writing. The first draft took about six months to write, and revisions took maybe four months. So all together, about two years.


What are some of your favorite books from childhood? Were there any specific authors who inspired you?

I loved E.B. White. STUART LITTLE was my favorite of his books, but of course I loved CHARLOTTE'S WEB too. I adored Beverly Cleary and HARRIET THE SPY, and LITTLE BEAR by Else Holmelund Minarik. There was a book called WHAT DO YOU SAY, DEAR? by Sesyle Joslin (and illustrated, like LITTLE BEAR, by Maurice Sendak) that I read over and over. It was a book of manners, but I thought it was hilarious. And GO DOG, GO! by P.D. Eastman.

Where did you come up with the characters Minty and Raymond?

Minty is kind of based on me, I suppose. Raymond was inspired by a strange boy I used to see on my school bus when I was in first and second grades. I didn't know him but I felt a distant affection for him for some reason. He seemed to have a good heart.


If you could befriend a character from any of your books, who would you befriend? Why?

It's funny but I've never thought of asking myself this question before. I've been so intensely involved with my characters that it feels as if they're already friends. But if I had to choose one to be friends with in real life, I guess I'd choose Minty. She's fun and sensible and loyal and good-hearted. Though Lennie Calderon and Jane from CONFESSIONS OF THE SULLIVAN SISTERS would be fun to hang out with, because they're so evil-minded. And I have a soft spot for Beatrice from HOW TO SAY GOODBYE IN ROBOT.

Where do you like to write? Do you listen to music while you are writing?

I write in a tiny office in my apartment. I can't listen to music while I'm writing, especially music with lyrics, because I need to hear the words in my head as I write. That's one reason I can't write in cafes (the other is I get distracted by eavesdropping and people-watching). But I wish I could write to music—it would make the work more fun.

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be? Why?

I live in New York because I'm happiest here. I've wanted to live here since I was thirteen. I'd like to try living in France or Italy or California for a while but I'd always come back to New York. There's a great sense of possibility here, as if anything could happen. Plus, most of my friends live here.


The roller derby came up throughout The Secret Tree. Have you ever been in a roller derby or is there a team you cheer for?

I've never been in roller derby—I'm a terrible skater. I've only seen it in movies. But I love the tough girl-ness of it and I especially love the skaters' clever names.


Where can we purchase your books?

Anywhere! If your favorite local book shop doesn’t have what you're looking for they can order it for you. 

Amazon ☞ Barnes and Noble 

Connect with this author:
Author Website  Facebook ☞ Twitter


21 comments:

  1. I saw this book at the Scholastic Book Fair at my daughter's school. It's now on my TBR list.

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  2. I very much enjoyed this interview. The secret tree is already on my must-read list. I’m fascinated by the POSTSECRET art project, but I worry about the kind of things people write on anonymous postcards – it must be a bit like confessing your sins. Can you imagine receiving a card where someone confessed to a murder? Scary stuff.

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    1. Barbara- I am curious about the types of secrets in the POSTSECRET project too! I bet people feel better when their secret is out there and off their chest. Hopefully no scary secrets! ~L

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  3. Great interview! And I absolutely love how you came up with the idea! It sounds like a great book!

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    1. Cherie- So glad you enjoyed the interview. It was so fun to find out where the ideas came from. :) ~L

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  4. I had a great time reading the interview, too, especially the parts about the boy on the bus and POSTSECRET. (Although I haven't thought of it the way Barbara had ... would make a good story idea, huh?) I haven't watched IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE, but I love how Natalie described that scene!

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    1. Claudine- I am so happy you enjoyed the interview. So many interesting points! :) ~L

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  5. Thank you all for your nice comments! I agree that PostSecret can be disturbing, though it is really fascinating. None of the secrets in my book are that upsetting or adult. But it was interesting to read the PostSecrets and think about the KINDS of things people keep as secrets.

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    1. The above comment was from me, Natalie! I don't know why it posted as "Unknown," but I can't seem to make it say my name!

      -Natalie

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    2. Natalie- Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your thoughts with our readers. :) ~L and F

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  6. I am way too chicken to do roller derby as well. I wouldn't want to break a bone or get teeth knocked out and I was never a good skater either. This sounds like a fun read! Thanks for sharing and have a wonderful weekend!

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    1. Heidi- I think I would be too afraid to do roller derby, too. I know one of my friend's mom is a roller derby skater. She has 6 kids and is part of the derby at night (I think only one night a week). That is a tough mom! :) ~L

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  7. Very entertaining interview! I love the title. Anything with "secret" in it I usually like. I, like Natalie, can't write with any distractions around me. but then I can't go to sleep with any either.I envy my best friend who goes to sleep every night with an audio book playing.

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    1. Weirdly, I like to fall asleep to the radio, especially to the sound of voices talking.
      -Natalie

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  8. I love this post! The Secret Tree sounds like something I'd love to read, and I love the cover (I simply adore covers with birds :]). I enjoy listening to music while I write because I'm always listening for something in the song to inspire me or give me an idea for a scene or character, but I could never write in public because I love to people-watch, too! Haha. Natalie's answers were great! Awesome interview! ;]
    ~Katertot <3

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    1. Katertot- I agree with you that the cover is so good! It is a fun book for sure. I love to people watch, too! :) Thanks for stopping by! ~L

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  9. This was a great book! I really liked learning the "behind the scenes" of it! :D

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    1. Erik- I am glad you enjoyed the book and that you liked learning about the behind the scenes part of the book. :) ~L

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  10. I love the title - very interesting. Sounds like a fun read.

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    1. Donna- It is a great title! A fun read for sure! ~L

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