Saturday, December 10, 2016

Author Interview with Jane Sutcliffe



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

32 comments:

  1. Thank you.
    As a biography/autobiography/memoir addict I loved hearing about another in my tribe.
    And have long been awed at the gifts which Will gave us which we accept and use without knowing.
    And King Tut is a intriguing next book too. Good luck - and have fun.

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    1. EC- We are so glad you enjoyed learning more about Jane and Will. It is amazing how much Will gave us! :)

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  2. Will you watch TNT's upcoming new WILL TV series?

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    1. Dezmond- We are definitely curious about it! :)

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  3. Never knew that was where wild goose chase came from. Learn a lot through research indeed.

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    1. Pat- Research helps reveal amazing things! :)

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  4. I do love this book. It's a terrific addition to any collection of books for children. Thanks for an interesting interview.

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    1. Rosi- So glad to hear you also enjoyed Will's Words. We agree with you that it is a terrific addition to any collection. :)

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  5. I think it is pretty cool that you are opening young people up to Shakespeare... I wasn't much into him in school until I became older and realized that many movies were based on his stories and understood he wrote a great deal of masterpieces xox

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    1. Launna- We think it is cool that Jane is opening young people up to Shakespeare too. :)

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  6. Hi DMS - fascinating post ... and where words come from - so many ideas ... the English language fascinates. I've written about him occasionally ... but Jane's book sounds a great buy ... cheers for now - Hilary

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    1. Just bought for an American lad ... so it'll be there for Christmas or just after New Year ... we await the 'dreaded' A delivery service. Cheers H

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    2. Hilary- Yah! How wonderful that you bought this for an American lad. An awesome gift and we hope the delivery service delivers it one time. Will is certainly a fascinating person! :)

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    3. He absolutely loved it - so I'm encouraging him to come over here and drop you a note - I'm sure he will do ... so great book! - thoroughly enjoyed ... - Happy 2017 ... cheers Hilary

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    4. Hi Jane, Jess and Steph ... (he couldn't post the comment himself for some reason) but this has come through from my ecstatic lad - looks like I'll have an English convert on my hands very soon!:

      "good idea you adding my comment to yours. i like that idea. the one i did on amazon was long and i added more stuff about genre and disagreeing with editors pick for age group. they said 3 to 6 and i think its middle grade and could be a good intro to Shakespeare for y.a. and adults and get them wanting to find out more.

      for sure it got me more interested. i even when and read summaries of a few of his plays. i checked out romeo and Juliet, hamlet, mcbeth, timon of Athes and titus andronicus. yikes! all today's blood and gore movies doesn't have anything on the tragedy titus andronicus. it's got limbs cut off, tongue cut out, rape, killings, i person buried alive, cannibalism and insanity. the summary says there's "an average of 5.2 atrocities per act, or one for every 97 lines."

      anyway heres my cut down version off what i put on amazon (it already showed up on amazon). i added the first couple lines about the blog interview. you could leave out whatever you want to or change it up however you want to.

      it’s really cool to read interviews with authors and find out about them and what makes them tick. i liked learning about miss jane and about her current books and the new ones that will be coming out.
      i got Wills Words as a Christmas gift from my “grandblogmom” miss hilary who lives in england. wow! what a surprise to find out today we still use lots of words and phrases written by william shakespeare hundreds of years ago. how cool is that!

      the book taught me a lot of stuff about shakespeare, the days of london play houses and the people who went to the plays. i was surprised only men and boys acted in the plays. no women allowed! and for sure i was surprised the audience could be rowdy and rude … yell and toss stuff at the actors. yikes! who’d want to get a ripe tomato smack in face right in the middle of saying a line. splat!
      you know what else surprised me? after reading this book, i wanted to know if there are more of his words and phrases we still use today. i did some research and found out there are lots more. and, even more surprising, i want to learn more about shakespeare, his plays and poems. but…don’t tell the guys. i don’t want to be a "laughing stock" (will’s words from The Merry Wives of Windsor)."

      Happy New Year to one and all ... this is a great thumbs up to you Jane ... Congratulations - cheers Hilary

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    5. Hilary- Thanks so much for posting this here! So sorry he had trouble posting. We think it is awesome that you spread the love of Shakespeare and inspired him to want to learn more. We are thrilled he loved Will's Words and it is great that he put up a review. :) Thanks for sharing! ~Jess and Stephanie

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  7. I loved this book when I read it. Thanks for showcasing it for other reader to find and enjoy.

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    1. Alex- So glad to hear you read and enjoyed Will's Words too. :)

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  8. This was a great interview, ladies. I had no idea Shakespeare claimed hurry and excitement.
    Jane, wishing you much success with this wonderful book.
    Hi Jess, Stephanie.

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    1. Hi Sandra- We are thrilled you enjoyed the interview. We learned a lot about Shakespeare too! :)

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  9. Most young people aren't introduced to Shakespeare. Is it even tough in school anymore. Nice interview.

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    1. Mary- Shakespeare is still taught in school, though how much probably varies from school to school. This is a great book to get kids excited about Shakespeare. :)

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  10. Ooh, a book about King Tut sounds great. Best of luck.

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  11. Great interview. This book sounds good, all the best!

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    1. Nas- It is a great read! I learned a lot. :) ~F

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  12. I love hearing the makings behind a book. It's always neat to see how they kicked off :)

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    1. Anna- I love to learn the story behind the story too. :) ~F

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  13. What an interesting way to write a biography, using his words. Congratulations, Jane. Wonderful interview. Best of luck to you.

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    1. Beverly- Jane really did an amazing job and Will's Words is a treat for sure. :) ~F

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  14. I love William Shakespeare, so knowing that there is a book written for children to help them understand a bit more about him and his work is so brilliant! And it must have been hard to decide what to write and how to write it - I can just imagine the struggle. I think the illustrator did an awesome job as well :)

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    1. Olivia- Savannah- Readers will love learning about Shakespeare because the writing is so enchanting. The illustrations match the words beautifully. Teachers will have a blast using this as a teaching tool. :) ~F

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