What inspired you to write Ruby Holler?
In a letter that my aunt wrote after my father died, she told a story about him and ended it with, “That was when we lived in the holler.” Holler? I hadn’t known my father and his family had ever lived in a holler. Although I wasn’t sure what a holler was, I began to imagine such a place. In my mind, the holler was a lush valley with a creek running through it. The more I thought about that place, the more I wondered who might most appreciate it – perhaps two children who had never had such beauty and freedom in their lives.
How long did it take you to write Ruby Holler?
Ruby Holler took about two years to write. I made a few wrong turns along the way! Otherwise, it would have been finished in a year.
What are some of your favorite books from childhood? Were there any specific authors who inspired you?
We did not live near a library, nor was there a library in our school. The only books I remember reading when I was young were Nancy Drew mysteries that a neighbor loaned me. I also read comic books because those were available at the local drugstore and they were inexpensive.
Where did you come up with the characters: Florida, Dallas, and the Trepids?
This is the greatest mystery of writing—where do these characters come from?! I think I started with the idea that the two children would be brother and sister but differ in personality, and that they would not have had much care or love shown to them and thus would be rough around the edges but still feisty in spirit. The Trepids –well, I knew the orphanage managers would be stingy (in all ways) and that would be a good contrast to what Dallas and Florida would find with Tiller and Sairy.
If you could befriend a character from any of your books, who would you befriend? Why?
I’d probably want to befriend all the main characters and tell each one, “It’s going to be okay. You’ll see.”
Where do you like to write? Do you listen to music while you are writing?
I write in my home office, which overlooks woods and water. I’m surrounded by photos, books, papers, pens and pencils. I’m not usually able to listen to music while writing because it distracts me. I need to be able to ‘hear’ the voices in my head.
Although I’ve been able to live in some terrific places (England, Switzerland), I am now living exactly where I want to be: near the coast of Maine and close to my grandchildren.
In Granny Torrelli Makes Soup Bailey and Rosie learn some lessons while helping Granny cook. Do you have a favorite recipe or meal that you like to make?
I often make Granny Torrelli’s chicken zuppa, served with a tossed green salad. That zuppa is my grandchildren’s favorite!
Love that Dog and Hate that Cat are both books written in verse. Have you always been a fan of poetry? What inspired you to write books in this style?
I have always written poetry—just as I have always written prose. When I started Love That Dog, the narrator’s voice just popped out in short lines and evolved into a distinct verse voice as he gained confidence. I had so much fun with that book, and so when readers kept asking for another one about Jack, I wrote Hate That Cat. I love Jack’s voice.
Where can we purchase your books?
You can find my books at most bookstores, and if they don’t have them in stock they can order them for you.
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