What inspired you to write Walls Within Walls?
I researched them and was intrigued about how differently they lived from us. I started to think that all homes represent the people who live there and that when we move away, we leave clues behind us. Since the walls were open for the remodeling, we left clues in our walls, hoping someone finds them in 100 years. In my book, that actually happens!
How long did it take you to write Walls Within Walls?
I wrote in in about nine months, revised it for another 3 and then spent a bit of time finding an illustrator and publisher. From writing the first chapter to see it sitting on a Barnes and Noble shelf took about two years.
What are some of your favorite books from childhood? Were there any specific authors who inspired you?
I love Roald Dahl and still go back to James and the Giant Peach or Matilda when I want to smile. The Mixed up Files of Basel e. Frankweller, the Nancy Drew Mysteries, and any books where the characters show cleverness, strength and a bit of humor usually hook me.
Where did you come up with the characters CJ and Eloise?
I invented Eloise because she reminds me of the prim, older women who live in New York City and are full of historic information. I needed a character who could babysit the children but be easygoing enough to not give them the space they need to get into a bit of mischief on their own. I also like when characters of different generations become friends.
CJ is very much like my eldest son. He loves information and is calm when things get hectic.
If you could befriend a character from any of your books, who would you befriend? Why?
I modeled the four Smithfork kids after my own children so it’s tough to ask me to pick a favorite child! In fact the way I repay my own children for reading my work is to let them choose the names of characters. The kids names in that book are their own middle names and most of the other names are the same as their friends. Leaving the kids aside I’m a fan of Ray the doorman or people with unique traits that make them stand out. I also liked Julian in the end because he changed over time and became a happy person.
Where do you like to write? Do you listen to music while you are writing?
I love music and I love writing but I can’t enjoy both at the same time. I get easily distracted so I write in a very small office that has no wifi. I often write on the floor with my legs straight out in front of me. People sometimes come by my office which has a glass wall and only see my head sticking out over my desk.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be? Why?
The real answer is that I’d like to move around during the year. My parents are from Ireland and my grandparents farm there is a magical place and then maybe live somewhere in the mountains because I love snow and love to ski. New York is a great place to see theatre and I go to a LOT of plays. A long time ago I went to Hawaii and still think I’d like to live there for a while and get a lot better at surfing. I guess my answer is that I can’t answer that question. The world is such a fantastic place.
I love history and love sharing little stories about things that happened in the most ordinary of places. In New York, I continue to find special, quiet spots that have a little story to tell. There’s a meat packing district and a fish and fruit market in the Bronx. If you get up early enough (4am) you can see the sale of food to the thousands of restaurants and stores that will use those ingredients all day. However my favorite place is a school. Long ago I got involved in a school that worked hard to educate children who were having a hard time learning. When I see kids who thought they couldn’t learn being successful, I feel my heart soar.
Are you currently working on a book? If so, can you tell us a little bit about it?
I wrote a sequel to Walls called Lost in London but it won’t be published until 2016! I also have an adult novel that will be out next fall.
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