1. When I was younger I followed your Shadow Children series very closely. Looking back, what are your feelings about it, especially now that dystopians are very popular?
Welcome to Ohio Author Appreciation in April! Today we have an interview with an author whom I have loved for a very long time but only recently realized was from Ohio. This author is well known for her The Missing and The Shadow Children series. She has also written tons of standalones including Double Identity and Running Out of Time. Many people I have talked to over the years have cited atleast one of her books as a childhood favorite. Her newest book, Palace of Lies, comes out April 7th (tomorrow). Please welcome Margaret Peterson Haddix!
I’d like to be able to say, “Look how far ahead of my time I was!” But Lois Lowry’s THE GIVER came out five years before AMONG THE HIDDEN, and there were lots of other examples of dystopian novels before mine (not to mention, unfortunately, dystopian societies in the real world). So I can hardly claim to have been such a trend-setter. But I do think there are plenty of reasons dystopian novels have such an impact. Seeing fictional characters grapple with and even overcome overwhelming challenges can help readers in not-such-bad-situations put their own problems into perspective–and help readers who are facing difficult situations of their own believe that change is possible.
2. You also have a stand alone called Running Out of Time, where did you get the idea for that book and did it require a lot of research?
I started thinking about that book because of an article that I wrote as a newspaper reporter (my previous career). I’d interviewed people who worked at a historic village as something like re-enacters–they had to pretend to be typical frontier villagers in the 1800s. That made me want to write about a fake historic village where the kids don’t know the truth about what year it really is. Even after the research I did for the newspaper article, I also had to do a lot more research about American history, Indiana history, and what I guess you could call social history.
3. You have written quite a long list of books, how long does it usually take you to write one and what is that process like?
I usually figure about 4-6 months per book, including all the revision time, but some books have gone much quicker than that and some (especially the ones involving a lot of research) have taken longer. Before I start, I spend a lot of time just thinking about the germ of the idea I’m interested in. Sometimes I do some pre-writing as well, in the form of an outline or synopsis. However, I’m really bad at following through on my original plans, because I almost always get distracted by new and what I think of as better ideas as I go along. When I’m in the midst of writing intensively, I try to build in lots of time when I’m exercising (walking or swimming) or doing boring chores (washing dishes, folding laundry, mowing the yard) where I’m pondering knotty questions about what to write next.
4. Your books cover all sorts of different topics, do you have a favorite to write about?
I’m not sure this counts as a topic, exactly, but I love the combination of a spunky, plucky character and a bizarre, thought-provoking situation.
5. Do you ever play favorites with any of your characters?
I think it’s probably not good for my characters to be a favorite of mine, because I tend to throw the most problems at the ones I like most. I do sometimes go into a mode where I just fall in love with my characters, and I think they’re so wonderful I just want to protect them from any harm. But then they and I quickly get bored with that, and I move back into a mode of throwing problems at them, because I know they can handle it.
6. What were your favorite books when you were younger?
There were so many! Here’s a short list, that still leaves out a lot:
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, by E.L. Konigsberg
Enchantress from the Stars, by Sylvia Engdahl
The Long Journey, by Barbara Corcoran
She the Adventuress, by Dorothy Crayder
Anne of Green Gables, and pretty much everything else I read by L.M. Montgomery
The Changeling, by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
7. Can you tell me a little bit about your new book? What was the inspiration for it?
PALACE OF LIES is about Desmia, a girl who’s been raised as a princess. But her experience with palace life has made her distrust everyone, because she’s been exposed to so many people who try to get and use power for their own gain. For the first time in her life, she now has friends she’s starting to believe she can trust. But then a catastrophic fire that she barely escapes leaves her wondering who she can trust–and how she can and should use her own power to help her new friends. Desmia first appeared in an earlier book of mine, PALACE OF MIRRORS, and I knew as I was writing that one that Desmia had a story of her own that I would want to explore someday. Touring castles and palaces in Scandanavia gave me the idea for the fire that sets the whole book in motion. I was fascinated to hear about a palace in Denmark that burned to the ground partly because nobody told the people fighting the fire that the palace had secret passageways.
8. What’s next for you?
Lots of new stuff! In 2016 I’ll start a new duology (i.e., a book and a sequel) as well as a trilogy. The first book in the duology, UNDER THEIR SKIN, comes out in January, with the second book, IN OVER THEIR HEADS, following in 2017. The trilogy, tentatively titled THE CHILDREN OF EXILE, will start in fall 2016.
Many thanks to Margaret Peterson Haddix for stopping by.
Margaret has donated two books to the OAAA giveaway including Just Ella and Palace of Mirrors, the books that proceed Palace of Lies. Stop by the giveaway page to enter and don’t forget to check out the new book as well!