LitStack’s Featured Author
We would like to thank Lois Lowry and her team at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for allowing us to feature her this month. We hope that you will revisit her wonderful backlist as well as her recent release, SON.
We were honored to sit down and chat with Mrs. Lowry about her books, writing and why there’s really no such thing as Writer’s Block.
LS: You have been writing and publishing books for thirty-five years. Did you have a different career prior to becoming a writer? What were the steps that led you to become an author?
My career was mostly wife, mother, and student (I went back to finish my interrupted college degree when my youngest (of four) child went to kindergarten). I studied photography in graduate school and became a free-lance photojournalist, then segued from there into writing books. My first book was published when I was forty. I had never had any professional aspirations other than being a writer.
LS: What did you enjoy reading as a child? What were some of your favorite books?
I was a voracious but indiscriminate reader and read most of the popular books of my era: The Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew, Mary Poppins. I loved “The Secret Garden” and the “The Little Princess”…both of them from my own mother’s childhood…and was very fond of a more contemporary book called “The Saturdays” by Elizabeth Enright. And one of my favorites was “Indian Captive” by Lois Lenski. I get a kick out of receiving letters now from kids who tell me they love “Strawberry Girl”…a Newbery winner, I think…but I have to respond that it was written not by me but by Lois Lenski.
LS: What authors most influenced you when you began your own writing career?
I began my own writing career when I was still studying literature in college and grad school, and I think writers like Flannery O’Connor and Carson McCullers may have been among my biggest influences, as well as Virginia Woolf.
LS: You have published over thirty books, including two Newberys. Do you have a personal favorite?
I think “Son” is actually my 40th book. My personal favorite is probably “Autumn Street”…published back in 1980…and I am also very fond of “The Silent Boy.”
LS: Actor Jeff Bridges has optioned film rights for The Giver. Will you be involved in the movie production and if so, in what capacity?
No, I have no involvement with the film.
LS: The Giver was published in 1993. How long did it take you to write this novel and what societal issues and current events at that time influenced the story, if any?
It probably took me a year to write “The Giver.” I don’t recall specific societal events from that time (1992) except the recent first Gulf War in which my son had taken part.
LS: You initially wrote The Giver as a stand-alone novel. Then came Gathering Blue (2000) and Messenger (2004) as companion novels. What prompted you, so many years later, to write a fourth in the series? Was it your readers who wanted to know what became of the young child Gabe? Or more your own desire to explore a conclusion?
I know there were questions left unanswered, and characters’ fates that were still of interest. Probably it was reader mail that kept me constantly aware of that. But as a writer you do become very fond of your own fictional characters and so it was enticing to re-visit some of them in the fourth book. The character of Claire took me by surprise, though; she was new and her story was very intriguing to me.
LS: You are credited for writing the first young adult dystopian novel. What advice do you have for other writers who are interested in writing this genre?
Frankly, I would tell those writers that the timing is wrong. There is an overabundance now of YA dystopian novels and a writer would be well-advised to look for something new and different rather than adding more to what is fast become an overstock.
LS: Do you ever suffer from writers’ block, and if so, how do you break out of a slump?
Well, let me get on my soapbox for a minute. I have come to loathe the phrase “writer’s block.” It doesn’t mean anything, really, except that like people in any other profession, sometimes writers have days when they feel sluggish and unimaginative. But so do teachers, or dentists, or pharmacists. Or lawyers. For some reason this mystique has grown up that there is an affliction that singles out writers. It doesn’t. It happens to everyone, and everyone goes on working on those days because it is their job. But it troubles me that kids are taught this phrase and it is too easily used as an excuse for not doing their best work.
LS: Considering your published works and achievements, you have obviously perfected a writing method for yourself. Tell us about your writing life. Are you a plotter or a pantser? Describe your daily writing routine and rituals.
I don’t really have any kind of a method. And I don’t plot things in advance, or make outlines or use index cards. I create a situation and a character in my mind and then I sit down and begin to tell that story. I acquire momentum and details…..and additional characters…..as I go along. Each day I revise what I wrote the previous day. I pay a lot of attention to transitions. I read dialogue aloud. I have an imagined destination and I aim the characters toward it, at the same time that I create obstacles and impediments for them, and I work hard at tracking their maturation and change. I remind myself always that something has to be at stake; the destination has to justify the journey.