Thursday, December 20, 2007
Guess Who's Visiting Today? Kimberly Willis Holt!
You heard it here first, folks (well, maybe second - Pajamazon readers heard it first - but you all heard it from me). Here's my exclusive interview with the lovely and talented Kimberly Willis Holt:
by Erica Perl December 20, 2007
ESP: So, hi and welcome to Pajamazon. For those of you who are just tuning in, our guest today is Kimberly Willis Holt. She is a fabulous and versatile children’s book author who won the National Book Award for her novel WHEN ZACHARY BEAVER CAME TO TOWN and who is here to talk about her new book, PIPER REED, NAVY BRAT. I had the pleasure of reading PIPER REED, NAVY BRAT this fall, after snagging an advance copy at the ALA conference. My 8 year old daughter actually read it first and loved it, so she was almost as excited as I was that Kimberly would be getting her pajamas on and visiting us here at Pajamazon. But enough about us. Let’s get to the interview. Hi, Kimberly. Welcome to Pajamazon.
KWH: Hi, Erica. It’s nice to be here.
ESP: Warm milk? Ovaltine?
KWH: Oh, gee. I do love chocolate, but I’m fine.
ESP: Okay, let’s talk about your new book, PIPER REED, NAVY BRAT. I know that the main character was inspired by your experience being a “Navy brat” as a child. In what ways do you think that kids who are not from military families will be able to relate to Piper and her family?
KWH: Well, even though Piper is a military kid, she’s wants some of the same things that other kids want. She wants friends. She wants to have fun. She wants a dog. On that level, most kids will be able to relate to her. Also, I hope they will have empathy for kids who have to move a lot.
ESP: When we moved it was a huge deal for my older daughter. I can see how readers might relate on that level.
KWH: I believe they will because I’ve already witnessed that empathy at a bookstore in the Atlanta area. The members of a mother and daughter book club were some of my first readers of PIPER REED, NAVY BRAT. The kids wanted to know if Piper was going to move in the next book. I asked, “Do you want her to move?” Together they said, “NO!” I loved that reaction because they related to what Piper would have to go through if she did have to move. They put themselves in her shoes. That’s what reading does for us. It lets us see the world through someone else’s eyes.
ESP: To what extent did the current war in Iraq affect your decision to write this book and this character?
KWH: None whatsoever. I’m a Navy brat and my editor had wanted me to explore that military childhood for over ten years. That was before the war. I never thought I would write about that because I thought it would be too close to truth to make it fiction. Then one day I heard a carefree voice that said, “I’ve lived everywhere.” That voice belonged to Piper. The book has an autobiographical framework. My dad was a Navy Chief. He served for twenty-one years. The year he retired from the Navy was the year that I graduated from high school. My entire childhood was spent as a military kid, moving all over the world. Like Piper, I’m one of three daughters. But I’m the oldest, not the middle child. So there are common threads.
ESP: Some of your Young Adult books deal with fairly weighty themes, like death, illness, rejection, and prejudice. I can’t help but wonder… are rockier waters ahead for Piper?
KWH: Piper Reed is a different sort of book for me. And though I hope it offers some depth, it is lighter and humorous than anything I’ve written before. I plan to keep it that way.
ESP: Okay, here’s a question on behalf of all Offsprungians who pursue or aspire to pursue creative pursuits while juggling diapers and daily domestic drama: Did you write when your daughter was young and, if so, how did your experience as a parent affect your writing?
KWH: Although it helps to have a young person at home, I’m most inspired by my own childhood. I started writing when my daughter was in first grade. I usually wrote from early morning until she was out of school for the day. But I’m ashamed to say there were times I wrote when I should have been doing more interacting with her. I think I squeezed five years of writing into those first eighteen months. But as guilty as I feel about that, my daughter says one thing she learned from me is to follow her bliss. Still there are those regrets on my part.
ESP: That’s great to hear about your daughter. I hope my kids feel the same way! What made you decide to go for it and pursue your writing? What advice can you give re: making these choices?
KWH: Since I was twelve I wanted to be a writer. I had a lot of encouragement in junior high, but in high school I allowed one teacher’s opinion of my writing to keep me from going after my dream. It wasn’t until I was 33 that I picked up a pen and started to write stories. But even those years that I wasn’t writing fiction, I wrote. I wrote in journals. I wrote long letters to family and friends. Words have always been a part of my life. When I finally started to go after my dream, I wasn’t going to let anyone stop me.
ESP: And it’s a good thing, too, because if you had, we wouldn’t have Piper. Or SKINNY BROWN DOG (my four year old’s favorite). Thank you so much for visiting us, Kimberly. And best of luck with PIPER REED, NAVY BRAT. I’m excited to hear that there’ll be more books about her.
KWH: You can count on it. Thanks for having me. It has been my great pleasure.
And that concludes our first guest author interview!
Oh, wait, I almost forgot. I promised we’d give away a book. Drum roll please….
And the winner is… paperbagshoes!
Her “pick me pick me” comment must have had some magic to it! Although I’m going to look into getting an extra copy sent to Mama to tha Max since she actually HAS navy brats… that should count for something, even in a random drawing! Thanks to everyone who commented and entered our drawing. Tune into Pajamazon for more book talk and interviews!