Monday, January 24, 2011

Author Interview: Jennifer Trafton

Hooray! I was given the honor of interviewing the author of THE RISE AND FALL OF MOUNT MAJESTIC, Jennifer Trafton. The book is delightful! You must read it. 

First of all, I am blown away that this is your first novel. It’s really brilliant! How long have you been writing?

Thank you so much! I started really thinking about writing—doing it deliberately—when I was ten years old. I took a creative writing class and discovered how much I liked writing poetry. (I also have a vivid memory from that class of listening to a recording of Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Telltale Heart”!) My parents bought me a journal, and I filled those pages with very goofy and melodramatic poems for the next decade. When I was in high school, I started writing stories that I thought could be children’s picture books, and I sent them to agents and publishers and got many, many rejections. But I learned a lot about the publishing industry that way.

Did it take long to get this book published?

Six years from first draft to publication. So the answer is “yes!”

There are so many imaginative creatures in this book, where did the ideas come from?

Oh my, from everywhere. I can’t explain why my brain works the way it does. I remember that I imagined most of them from the inside out. In other words, I knew about their inner characters and personalities first, and then their external characteristics grew out of those internal ones. For example, the Leafeaters’ concern for courtesy, beauty, and correct grammar and their sense of superiority to others shaped the way I imagined their appearance, their way of talking, and the culture of their city.

Did you have any input in the selection of the illustrator? I think Brett Helquist was the perfect match!

I think so too! I’m not sure I can say that I had “input”—it’s ultimately the publisher’s decision—but when I heard Brett was being considered, I certainly expressed my enthusiasm! Brett’s style perfectly combined the fairy tale feeling and the quirky humor of the book.

I love the ending, but it leaves me with a question or two. Are you thinking about a sequel or do you think that’s the perfect way to end our time with Persimmony?

I had always intended there to be more to this story than just the first book. However, once I finished the final revision I realized that I also really like the openness of the ending. It’s a story about “mights and possibilities,” after all—there’s something appropriate about the fact that the reader wonders “what might be?” at the end. I enjoy leaving the reader with a bit of a mystery. Will there be a sequel? That’s another mystery—to me as well as to you.

I love to ask children’s authors what they read while growing up. What did you read? Did you have any favorite authors as a child?

Like many kids, I got hooked on certain series. C. S. Lewis’s Narnia books, L. Frank Baum’s Oz books, Noel Streatfeild’s Shoes books, Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time and its sequels, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books, and L.M. Montgomery’s Anne and Emily books were all favorites. I also read a lot of Beverly Cleary, E. Nesbit, Judy Blume, E. B. White, Louisa May Alcott, Roald Dahl, Joan Aiken, and Shel Silverstein.

What about now? Who are your favorite authors now?

I love Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Dorothy Sayers, George MacDonald, Annie Dillard, Wendell Berry, W.B. Yeats, Billy Collins . . . . I like Lewis Carroll even better now than when I was a kid. Some all-time favorite “adult” novels include Gilead by Marilynne Robinson, Cry the Beloved Country by Alan Paton, My Name Is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok, Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis, and Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.

Can you give us a sneak peak at what you’re writing right now?

Yes, as a matter of fact, it will be an extraordinarily exciting story with a hero, a villain or two, an utterly unique setting, a nail-biting climax, and possibly a few giraffes.

Giraffes - well now I really can't wait! 

Finally, if you could have dinner with any other author (alive or dead), who would it be? And more importantly, what would you talk about?
“‘The time has come,’ the Walrus said, ‘to talk of many things . . .’” I would love to spend an entire evening with Charles Dodgson (a.k.a. Lewis Carroll) making up nonsense words and discussing sealing wax and the correct way to swing a vorpal sword. We would, of course, sit on a briny beach and eat oysters and mock turtle soup. 

Sounds like fun!

My readers and I thank you very much for your time! We know you’re busy crafting your next brilliant novel – and we can’t wait to read it!
Thank you! It’s been a pleasure. 

If you'd like to read more about Jennifer Trafton or her new book, check out her website here.