Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Interview with MOUSEHEART Author, Lisa Fiedler

I am excited to welcome author, Lisa Fiedler to Kid Lit Frenzy.  You can check out more about her new fantasy adventure, MOUSEHEART, here.

How did you wind up writing a Middle Grade adventure novel featuring a mouse with less than adventurous tendencies as the main character? Seems like a bit of a departure from your previous novels?! 

Nobody is more surprised than I am, but here we are. MOUSEHEART is a perfect example of how, with the support of a wise and imaginative editor, a writer can explore all sorts of new themes, settings and characters. Ruta Rimas and I worked closely in creating this trilogy. We knew animals would figure in somehow and agreed that swords would be a nice touch. But it wasn’t until one morning when Ruta spied a rat scuttling along the subway tracks and disappearing mysteriously into the darkness that we realized we had our setting ... and our species! I credit her with so much of this story—it’s been a true exercise in teamwork and I think it’s all that much stronger because of it. Of course there are still plenty of elements in MOUSEHEART that make it not entirely unlike the books I usually write--the humor, for example, and that little hint of romance between Zucker and Firren, which may or may not become a bigger factor in book two ... stay tuned!!!

There have been a number of comparisons between MOUSEHEART and the REDWALL series by Brian Jacques. Comparisons can always be tricky. What are your thoughts on this? 

I think if you’re going to be compared to something, it’s always nice to be in the company of greatness … and REDWALL is without a doubt great fiction. I’m flattered that my work is rubbing elbows with that series. I’ve also heard positive connections made to THE CRICKET IN TIME SQUARE, THE TALE OF DESPERAUX, THE WARRIORS and even STUART LITTLE. Wow! I’m absolutely thrilled even to be mentioned in the same breath as such wonderful books as these. Hey, wouldn’t it be fun to gather together all the great rodents of children’s literature together and throw a party for them? Can you imagine the cheese budget!?

In MOUSEHEART, the story begins in modern day Brooklyn, and ends up going underground but almost back to a medieval setting (without time travel)? Was there a particular reason for this decision? 

For me, giving Atlantia a medieval vibe lent a sense of timelessness to the story. I wanted readers to imagine that this sort of thing has been going on for ages. The presence of an Emperor, an evil queen, and a host of sword-wielding foot soldiers also heightened the fantasy factor. And the incredibly talented Vivienne To was able to really capture this mood in her gorgeous illustrations. As if talking rats weren’t extraordinary enough … let’s put them in a jerkin and really make it interesting!

MOUSEHEART is the first in a trilogy. Are there any secrets that you can reveal to us about what is in store for our friends in the next book? 

Pup is going to figure very prominently, but I don’t want to spoil it by revealing exactly how. Let’s just say he’s going to discover his rebellious streak. Hopper is going to find himself in unfamiliar territory once again … this time on a very famous bridge in a certain borough of New York. He’ll also make a new friend … one who is every bit as brave and loyal as Zucker only this friend isn’t a rodent. What is he? Hint: Meow!

Though I like everything from children's picture books to young adult novels, middle grade novels may be some of my favorite books ever. What drew you to writing for this age group? Have you always wanted to write for children? 

I agree … middle grade novels are the best! I still read them, and not just as ‘market research’ or to ‘check out the competition.’ Kids are such a great audience … a discerning audience to be sure ... which is why those of us who write for them need to be on our toes. I worry that people think a novel for a ten-year-old is somehow less valid than ‘grown up’ fiction but nothing could be farther from the truth. I always knew I would write but I never made a conscious decision to write for children. That was kind of a magical thing that happened. I was driving in my car and the first line of a novel just sort of came to me out of nowhere. And it was pretty obvious that it was a line that would be the beginning of a book for young people. It’s almost as if I was ‘invited’ by the story to be the writer of children’s fiction. And when you receive that invitation there’s only one possible response: Yes, thank you!

What was your own book journey like as a child and teen or did you find books later? Do you have particular books that acted as the backdrop to your life as a child and teen? 

My mother read to me a lot when I was little and I learned to read before I went to kindergarten. So while the other kids had nap time, I was allowed to sit off by myself and read! It was awesome. In third grade I discovered HARRIET THE SPY. Harriet was my hero! She wanted to be a writer, just like me. I didn’t have the guts to climb through my neighbor’s windows and spy on them (probably a good thing) but I did feel a real kinship with Harriet. I also loved all the magic-themed books by Edward Eager, especially KNIGHT'S CASTLE, which I read four times in one summer. I would get to the last page, close the book, then open it up again to page one and start reading it all over again. As a teenager I read Judy Blume (and blushed) and S.E. Hinton (and cried).

Okay, time to fess up, did you ever "borrow" permanently a book from the library or your classroom that you simply failed to return? What book was it? 

Yes, but not on purpose! I took out Bulfinch’s Mythology from my high school library. That thing wasn’t just a book, it was a TOME!! Nine or ten zillion pages! But it told the story of every single mythological god and goddess and I found it fascinating. I’d borrowed the book at the very end of the school year, and forgot to return it before summer vacation. And then I was too embarrassed to bring it back in September. I still have it. And I still read it!

What is in your TBR pile currently? 

I was lucky enough to be on a panel at Books of Wonder in New York recently and met all of these fabulous authors of middle grade fiction. I bought a signed copy (love those!) of each book and I plan to read them on the beach this summer! The list, in no particular order: The Ninja Librarians (Downey) The Tomb of Shadows (Lerangis) We Hold These Truths (Clements) Lantern Sam (Beil) Space Rocks (O’Donnell) and The Door (Marino).

What is/are your favorite indie bookstores and why?

The Dinosaur’s Paw in Newtown, Connecticut! It used to be in Fairfield and about twenty years ago I wandered in and met the owner … who just happened to be the wonderful Patricia Reilly Giff! She taught a writing workshop … it was amazing. Pat really helped me perfect the manuscript of Curtis Piperfield’s Biggest Fan which would become my first published YA novel. That wasn’t the only thing I got from that workshop—I found some wonderful writing buddies and we still meet for ‘writing group’ to this day!

I also love Anderson’s Book Shop in the Chicago area and RJ Julia in Madison Connecticut. I love people who love books! And that’s what the indies are all about.

If you could do a book tour with another author (living or dead) who would it be and why?

William Shakespeare. Talk about talent … and staying power! I love that he had such a sense of how we human beings operate. His characters are deliciously complex. And the language … amazing! Just being in the presence of that kind of genius would be a thrill.

What is the view from where you write? 

My office is off my kitchen (convenient for frequent coffee re-fills). Our golden retrievers, Montague and Capulet (Monty and Cappy for short) hang out with me while I write. The window overlooks the backyard, which on spring mornings is like bunny-rabbit rush hour. And occasionally a black bear (yes … really!) ambles across the lawn. I write best when it’s raining. Why? No idea. I just do.

About Lisa Fiedler:
Lisa Fiedler is the author of several novels for children and young adults. She divides her time between Connecticut and the Rhode Island seashore, where she lives happily with her very patient husband, her brilliant and beloved daughter, and their two incredibly spoiled golden retrievers.