The DMS was lucky enough to interview Jeanne DuPrau. Lizzy reviewed her story The City of Ember, 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, Jeanne!
What inspired you to write the Books of Ember series?
I grew up in the 1950s, when many people were worried that there might be a nuclear war. Some of them were building bomb shelters in their back yards. I think this influenced my idea for Ember—a city built to protect the human race from a terrible threat. But I was also just interested in the idea of a city that had no light other than electricity. What would it be like to live in such darkness, and to know that light and food and supplies were all running out? And not to know about weather or trees or animals (except for a few rats and insects) or any other places? All this grabbed my imagination. And once I'd written The City of Ember, I hoped it would make people think about our world—about the sun and the moon, the forests and the ocean, the wind and the rain—and how precious it all is.
How long did it take you to write The City of Ember? Which book in the series took the longest to write?
It's hard to say, because I wrote the book over a period of about ten years. I wrote a draft in a year or two, put it away for a long time because I could tell it wasn't right yet, and then rewrote it. It was a long process. It's also hard to say which book in the series was hardest to write. I had thought that after I'd written the first book, which was my first novel, the others would be easier. Not true! They were all hard in different ways.
What was your inspiration for the characters Lina and Doon?
Both Lina and Doon are like me in some ways. Lina likes to run, she likes to draw, and she likes to use her imagination. Doon likes to solve puzzles, he's curious, and he's interested in nature--what nature there is in Ember, mostly insects. Both these characters are more brave and daring than I am, but still, they're based on me more than on anyone else.
What are some of your favorite books from childhood? Were there any specific authors who inspired you?
I loved the Narnia books, The Secret Garden, Tom Sawyer, Mary Poppins, Winnie the Pooh, The Moffats, The Saturdays, Doctor Dolittle…on and on. Later on Dickens was one of my favorites, and I think his writing has influenced mine. I loved Ray Bradbury, too, whose books introduced me to science fiction.
If you could live anyplace real or fictional, where would it be? Why?
I used to think I'd want to live in England, in a charming village. But after I went to England and discovered that though the villages are charming, the weather isn't, I changed my mind. I might want to have two houses: one in the heart of Paris, and one in someplace beautiful and warm, like…well, California, where I actually do live.
If you could befriend a character from one of your books, who would you befriend? Why?
I would like to have Clary for my friend. She has a warmth and wisdom that I find appealing.
If you had to live in an underground world like Ember (knowing what you already know about the outside world), what would you miss the most about life above ground?
Impossible question! I guess I could answer it with one word: nature. But what would I miss most--the sun, the sky, trees, birds, animals, grass, weather, butterflies, oceans? I couldn't choose among them.
Are you currently working on a book? If so, can you tell us a little bit about it?
Yes--I've been working on it for quite a while. I'm not willing to give away any specifics about it at this point, except to say it takes place in a possible future, and it's for about the same age group as the Ember books.