The DMS was lucky to interview Jane Sutcliffe. Fairday reviewed her book Will's Words, and it was great to share our thoughts about it and hear yours! We're excited to learn a little more about her story. So, without further ado... take it away, Jane!
What inspired you to write Will’s Words?
Much of the credit has to go to my editor at Charlesbridge, Alyssa Pusey. She contacted me a few years ago and reminded me that 2016 was an anniversary year, the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare. Charlesbridge was looking for a Shakespeare-themed picture book to commemorate the event—did I want to write it? Of course, the only possible answer to that question was “Sure!” (accompanied by some jumping up and down and fist-pumping, I admit).
The rest was up to me. I had to decide what kind of book I wanted it to be. I had done a lot of biographies in the past but I knew I did not want to do this as a biography. For one thing, there are already some excellent Shakespeare biographies for young readers out there, most notably Diane Stanley’s Bard of Avon. For another, we just don’t know enough about Shakespeare’s early life to make it an interesting project for me.
Most young readers would not have been familiar with Shakespeare’s plays or even with Shakespeare himself. They may not even have heard the name yet. But I knew that they would know some of his words and sayings, especially the everyday words like “excitement” and “hurry.” So I decided to write about those. Those words and saying are in use all around us every day and we don’t even know we are actually quoting Shakespeare when we use them! But I didn’t just want a laundry list of cool words and phrases. I wanted to insert them all into a running text in a meaningful way. What better way than to tell the story of Shakespeare’s plays and the Globe Theatre using the words and phrases from those plays.
How long did it take you to write Will’s Words?
It took five months to research and write. Because we wanted the book released to coincide with the actual anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, the deadline was very tight. And I knew that as I was writing, the illustrator, John Shelley, was waiting to see what I came up with so he could begin planning the illustrations. His deadline was even tighter than mine!
You must do a lot of research for your books. What is your research process like? Was there any aspect of your research for Will’s Words (or another book) that was the most interesting?
William Shakespeare is one of the most widely researched subject in history and I quickly found that there is not much consensus on exactly how many words he coined. Some sources says thousands; others say he actually didn’t invent them but rather just popularized words that were already in use. I had to check and double check to make sure that phrases I wanted to use in the book actually did originate with William Shakespeare. Sometimes it was frustrating.
I really wanted to be able to use the phrase “wild-goose chase,” which, believe it or not, comes from the play Romeo and Juliet. I had a hard time fitting the phrase into the story of a trip to the Globe Theatre—until I found out that the original Globe had room for three thousand people but absolutely no bathroom facilities. So I wrote: “Trying to find a restroom at the Globe would have been a wild-goose chase.” Ha!
What are some of your favorite books from childhood? Were there any specific authors who inspired you?
Like most authors, I was a great reader, and an even greater re-reader. Every year I reread Little Women and The Wizard of Oz, my all-time favorites. I had a series of classic books so I was also a fan of Tom Sawyer and all kinds of fairy tales. As you might expect I also loved nonfiction, especially biographies. I spent my entire fifth grade reading nothing but biographies.
How do you decide which nonfiction topic you will write about next?
Usually I write about whatever strikes my fancy. I try to read about a variety of topics and I stay on top of whatever anniversary might be coming up in the next few years. I wrote my middle grade nonfiction book The White House is Burning: August 24, 1814 to coincide with the bicentennial of that event in 2014.
If you could befriend a person from any of your books, who would you befriend? Why?
I only write about real people so it would be a famous person from history. That’s a hard choice. I’ve written about such incredible geniuses as Shakespeare and Michelangelo. But I think I’d have to say I’d choose John Adams. I have tremendous respect for our founding fathers so I would consider it a great privilege to get to know him and count him as a friend. There are so many questions I’d love to ask him. From my research he also seemed like a pretty approachable guy who considered himself just a farmer at heart.
Where do you like to write? Do you listen to music while you are writing?
I’ve trained myself to write just about anywhere. I even write in my car while I’m driving. I have a digital voice recorder I use to work out sentences or paragraphs of books I’m working on. I have my favorite spot at home where my I can spread out all my research and write, with my dog asleep at my feet. No music, just snoring.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be? Why?
I love where I live now, but to be honest, I hate cold. I mean I really detest it. I don’t want to move; I just wish it could be summer all the time.
Are you currently working on a book? If so, can you tell us a little bit about it?
I’m actually working on several things right now. I’m excited to be researching a book about the search for King Tut’s tomb. It’s tentatively being called King Tut, Howard Carter, and the Search for the Lost Tomb. It will deal not only with Tut’s life but with the search for his tomb by archaeologist Carter. The anniversary of that discovery is coming up in a few years. It’s one of those subjects that never goes out of style but I’m hoping interest will increase as the anniversary approaches. Besides, I’ve done quite a few picture books lately. I’m eager to do another middle grade nonfiction book.
Where can we purchase your books?
They are available in most bookstores and through online retailers such as Amazon and Indiebound. Can I put in a plug here for your small neighborhood bookstore? If they don’t have a book you want, they will certainly be happy to order it for you.
|Will in the wild at Linda's Story Time|
We recently met Jane Sutcliffe at the CASL/CECA Technology and Literacy Summit. Thanks for introducing us to Will's Words!
|CT authors, Jane Sutcliffe, Jessica Haight, & Stephanie Robinson|