The Secret Garden was one of my absolute favorite books as a child. When I found out that The Humming Room was similar, I was so excited to read it. Did you worry that people will overlook Roo's story because they would be looking for comparisons with The Secret Garden?
Oh, I was full of worries when I wrote this book, but then I’m a natural-born worrier. The idea of reinventing a classic was as exciting as it was nerve-jangling. The fact that The Secret Garden was one of my favorite books of all time really amped up the pressure. Still, out of this miasma of anxiety, the character of Roo emerged so powerfully that I knew her story could stand on its own.
When I finished reading The Humming Room, I immediately had to go look up the islands. What was your favorite part of doing the research for the book?
All of it! Researching The Humming Room was bliss. The Thousand Islands region of New York is paradise—in the summer, at least. I wandered around islands, spied on osprey nests, and found out from a wildlife rehabilitator how to feed a baby bird (with a paintbrush). I guess my favorite piece of research was when I accompanied the island mail carrier on his rounds. We zipped through the St. Lawrence River on his little green boat, stopping to deliver the mail to the islanders. That boat went so fast I thought I might throw up. In a good way, I mean.
Your books are all set in present day. Do you ever see yourself writing a book in a different time period? If so, what one?
I have this lingering fantasy that I’ll write a book set in England in the mid 1800’s. The thing is, though, I can’t even remember the combination to my gym locker, much less retain the tiniest details of everyday life in the Victorian Era. I suspect my brain would erupt in flames if I even tried.
With all of your books, I have come to love your characters. What is the secret to writing characters that readers will connect with?
If I were at a party, my characters are the sort of people I would gravitate toward—for better or for worse. I write about people who fascinate me, so it’s possible that my obsession with them transfers to my readers.
I know I have mentioned this before to you, but your writing is truly lovely. What is your editing and revision process like? And have you worked with the same editor on a number of books or do you have a different editor each time?
Like most writers, I revise A LOT. The first draft often resembles a puzzle that has been put together by someone who hasn’t had their morning coffee yet. I have to go back in many times to make sure all the pieces are snug and in the right place. I’ve been very fortunate with my editors. Jean Feiwel at Feiwel & Friends edited both The Kneebone Boy and The Humming Room, with a light, but magical, touch. She always seems to understand what I am shooting for in each scene, and with gentle nudges she aligns me with my intention.
When I interviewed you last, I commented about the wonderful cover for The Kneebone Boy. You seem to have some great cover karma. Now looking at the cover for The Humming Room - did you work with the same designer? A different one? And did you get any input on the cover?
Cover karma! I like that. Yes, I must have done something really nice for an artist in a past life, because I am one lucky gal when it comes to my book covers. The Humming Room cover was done by the mind-blowingly gifted Jason Chan. He also did the stunning cover for The Kneebone Boy. Before Jason Chan came along, I used to worry about my covers (I told you I’m a worrier). Writers generally have very little control over what their covers will look like. But Jason is such a visionary that I would literally write a book based on one of his covers.
When I think about my favorite books as a child, I think of the ones that I took out from the school library or classroom library over and over again. It seems that everyone has at least one book that may have never made it back to the library because it was so well loved. Do you have one?
If you could spend the day with a book character (doesn't have to be one of your characters), who would it be and what would you do?
Hands down, I’d spent the day with Roald Dahl’s The BFG, drinking frobscottle and making whizzpoppers.
Thanks Ellen for doing this interview....and I can't wait to get the book into the hands of students.
You can follow her on twitter: @ellenpotter
To find out where all the stop are on The Humming Room Blog Tour, click here.
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