Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Interview with Author Maureen McQuerry

Maureen McQuerry is a writer and teacher living in Richland, Washington. She is the author of Nuclear Legacy, (IP award winner) and Student Inquiry, and her new YA fantasy novel, Traveler's Market, released in July with Idylls Press. It is the second in the Wolfproof Trilogy.

What inspired you to write Traveler’s Market?
It’s the sequel to Wolfproof and follows naturally from the first adventure when characters from Celtic myth get involved in the lies of three middle school students. Traveler’s Market explains why these mythic figures choose Timothy James Maxwell. It also begins the quest for the Stone of Destiny, an important piece of Timothy’s own destiny. The more I researched British and Celtic mythology, the more intrigued I became with the legends. The battle scene at the market is based on the legendary Battle of the Trees.

The character of Nom the rat catcher was inspired by a “skunk exterminator” who helped us get rid of a skunk family under our porch. During a trip to NY’s Central Park, I was intrigued by the gates and their inscriptions. The Hunter’s Gate became the portal to the market. So many details come together to inspire and build a story.

Why did you choose the fantasy genre?
Fantasy is the most popular genre for middle grade and YA audiences. One reason is that fantasy allows us, the reader, to be the hero that slays the dragon. It reminds us that we are all more than meets the eye. I think that’s a powerful message for all readers, but especially for middle grade students who are trying to fit in and decide who they are. G.K. Chesterton says: “Fairytales are more than true, not because they tell us there are dragons, but because they tell us the dragon can be defeated.” We know there are dragons in the world, but it also important to know that even the most unlikely person can be the one to defeat the dragon. The best fantasy is ennobling. That’s why we love the Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia and Harry Potter. It’s the ancient battle of good against evil.

How does your experience as an educator influence your writing?
My students inhabit my stories. Not actual students, but bits and pieces of many of them. Because I worked with gifted kids for many years, the protagonists of the Wolfproof Trilogy, Timothy, Sarah and Jessica all fit into that category. Timothy especially finds himself an outsider in school. The things that fascinate him, words, puzzles, inventions don’t always resonate with his friends. In fact, when Timothy wants to think of just the right word, he pictures Scrabble tiles and adds up the points. I’ve had students tell me that the dialogue is very realistic. I guess it’s because I still have their voices ringing in my ears.

I also believe that middle grade students deserve beautiful writing. While plot and action are important, beautiful language, interesting vocabulary should be part of the books they read. It is difficult to find literary middle grade fiction. I wanted to write some.

Can you mention some of your favorite YA books?
Once and Future King—TH White—King Arthur, Merlin and the round table.
Peace Like a River---not marketed YA but with a compelling YA narrator—great storytelling!
Hobbit—Tolkein of course!
I Capture the Castle—Romance, growing up and figuring out who you are.
Dark is Rising series—Susan Cooper

What book are you reading now?
Summer! Such a great time to read and I read three books I want to mention.
The Invention of Everything Else by Samantha Hunt set in historical NY has a touch of magical realism, Alfred Tessla who invented the radio and a flying machine.
The Confessions of Max Tivoli—the story of Max, born looking like a old man who becomes physically younger as he ages, is poignant.
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle—Hamlet, dogs and a mute boy all rolled into one beautifully written, sad story.

Do you have any advice for young writers?
Yes! Write! Don’t put off writing because you don’t feel inspired. If people waited to be inspired books would not be written. Don’t put off writing because you don’t think you’re not old enough to publish. There are plenty of publishing opportunities for young writers. See the student writers tab on my website http://www.maureenmcquerry.com/ for some suggestions.

Write every day. Every time you write you get a little bit better.

Read! The best writers are readers. Read a wide variety of genres and styles. Stretch yourself. And read like a writer. Go back and see how a writer does something you admire. How do they make the character so real? How did they manage to scare you, make you laugh or cry.

Some of the best advice comes from a writer I admire, Jane Yolen. B.I.C. Butt in Chair!
Many people have great ideas, but the hard work is showing up every day and putting those ideas on paper when there are so many other things that call for our attention.

Thanks again to Maureen McQuerry for appearing, courtesy of Provato Marketing, for other stops on the blog tour please check Provato Events.