Archive for Fan Mail

Fan Mail Wednesday #284: Emergency Author Interview!

 

At a recent school visit, an eager student came up to me after a presentation hoping for an interview. Unfortunately, it was toward the end of the day, I still had books to sign, etc. There wasn’t time. I said I’d be happy to answer questions if she wrote to me. Usually it ends there.

And guess what? She persisted.

We admire that attribute in young women, don’t we?

Here’s the email, sent by Chloe’s librarian, and my response.

 

Hi Jimmy,

I apologize for the rush, but a student of mine, Chloe, has some interview questions that she needs answering as soon as possible.
1. What was the first  book you ever wrote?
2. What was the favorite book that you’ve ever written?
3. If you were not an author, what would be your second career and why?
4. From where do you get your inspiration? Do your kids inspire you?
5. When you were young, were you good at reading?
6. What is your favorite book?
7. What “role” did you play when you were in school? Were you the teacher’s pet? The sports jock? The bully?  etc
8. Why don’t any of your characters get killed?
9. How does your childhood affect your career as a writer?
10. What made you decide to become a writer?
11. Are you working on a new book? And if so, what is it about?
12. Would you want to choose any of the covers for your books?
13. How long do you think you will keep writing?
Thank you so much!
Aliya
I replied:
Since this is a rush, let me answer without too much thinking . . .
1. Maxx Trax: Avalanche Rescue! It was a picture book about superpowered trucks.
2. Blood Mountain, coming in October.
3. Editor. Something with a creative element involving books.
4. Inspiration is all around me, including my children.
5. Good at reading? Hmmm, I think so; I don’t recall having any problems with it. But I was not an enthusiastic reader until high school, college.
6. Of all books? Oh my. Where the Wild Things Are is pretty darn good! I like Owl Moon a lot. My favorite novel from the past year is titled Overstory by Richard Powers.
7. I didn’t really fit into a category. Not a jock, not a clown. I flew under the radar with a small group of close friends. The misfits?
8. I have had characters die in The Fall and Before You Go, but those books are for older readers (grades 7-up). I’ve also had characters face serious illness in Six Innings and The Courage Test. So it’s not all been just rainbows, cupcakes and unicorns. And, technically, Adrian in Better Off Undead is a 7th-grade zombie — he died and reanimated — so I’ve got that covered, too.
9. My childhood, my roots, profoundly affect everything I write. Most clearly and obviously in the Jigsaw Jones series, where he is the youngest of a large family — like me.
10. I don’t think we “decide” to be writers, so much as we pick up a pen and make time to write. It can be a journal, a letter, a poem, a story, whatever. It’s just how I’ve processed my thoughts and feelings.
11. I am the “thinking” stage of a new book that features Mary, a minor (but crucial) character in the book Bystander. Haven’t written a word yet — but I’m getting there!
12. Would I like more of a voice in the creation of my book covers? Yes, yes, yes.
13. I will write until the day I die. There’s no reason to stop. Of course, I may not have any readers left. But the truth is, I’d do it anyway!
Thanks for asking.
 
My best,
James Preller



 

Fan Mail Wednesday #283: Madalyn’s Note

 

It happens fairly often on school visits. After a day of presentations, somebody hands me a note. In this case, a friend delivered it for a friend. I said thanks and tucked the folded page into my bag. My reply is below.

 

 

Madalyn, 

I totally remember you. 

You asked a question — and you wore a Hufflepuff sweatshirt. Is that right? You self-identified as a huge Harry Potter “maniac.” I noticed you when I gave my presentation. You were present, listening, involved, soaking it all up. That is, in other words, you were perfect. And impressive. Thank you. I’ve had kids fall asleep, you know! Teachers, too!

Anyway, hey, thanks for going the extra yard and writing that kind note. 

I know you are a big reader. And I’m sorry to report I have not written any books that are 10,000 pages long. To me, reading and writing have always been connected. One feeds the other in a long, beautiful, continuous loop. Every writer is different, but we are all readers. Book lovers. 

Like you.

Get yourself a journal. A place to go with your thoughts. If you go to a movie, tape the ticket into it. Write about what makes you mad, or sad, or causes you to laugh out loud. Maybe start a story one day. Or not. It’s okay. There’s no hurry.

Oh: I forgot to tell you! I have a picture book coming out next year, ALL WELCOME HERE, that’s illustrated by Mary GrandPre. Yes, the incredible artist who did the art in all the original Harry Potter books. So I guess I have a Harry Potter connection, too. Isn’t that cool? I thought you’d appreciate it, as a Harry Potter fan. At least Madalyn will understand my excitement. After all, she’s a maniac.

     Love your self-portrait with the manga eyes. Stylish and hip.

Be well & keep reading, my friend,

James Preller

FAN MAIL WEDNESDAY #282: Art & Poems from Ohio!

I received one of those rare, beautiful packages that fortunate folks in my line of work sometimes get — an envelope bursting with kind wishes from a classroom of young artists and writers, all masterfully orchestrated by a creative, book-loving teacher.

Each second-grade student made a watercolor painting on one side of the card, along with a haiku on the reverse side. (And boy, wouldn’t it be great if that became a thing — sending me haiku written by elementary school students. I’m all in.)

Here’s a few random examples to give you an idea of the poems and birthday wishes . . .

 

 

 

Believe me, I could have shared any number of them. All the students did a great job. Thank you, boys and girls and class hamster.

I replied to the class:

 

Dear Mrs. L,

It is such a nice thing to have good friends in Ohio. I feel truly blessed to receive your spectacular package in the mail. It combines so many of things I love into one simple manila envelope: artwork by young people, haiku, a love of books, good memories, friendship.

I’ve laid out the cards on my floor and I’m admiring them now. Such variety: snowflakes and snowpeople and rainbows and falling snow. But it’s the haiku I love the most. As you know, I have a book of haiku coming out . . . someday. It takes so long. I wrote the haiku back in 2016. The artist, Mary GrandPre –- who illustrated the Harry Potter books –- signed on to do the artwork. But it takes time to make a book. In this case, four years. It’s been delayed twice. The waiting is the hardest part. Now I’m hearing Spring of 2020. Oh well. In the end, all that matters is the finished book. When you hold a book in your hands, you don’t worry if the art came in late or not. Or if the publisher was slow in the turn around. You just want a satisfying book that touches your heart.

In the meantime, I still try to write at least one haiku every single day. It doesn’t always happen, but I do try to take a few minutes to look at things, to appreciate the moment. Yesterday I drove in a gusty winter storm, watching the wind whip the light, powdery snow in swirls, so I wrote:

 

Wind-swept snow twirling

in graceful patterns -– dancers

In satin dresses.

 

I don’t think that haiku is quite right — maybe it will never be — but I’ll likely revise it over the next few days. No matter, now I’ll always remember the way the wind moved that light, powdery snow.

Maybe the wind and snow were dancing together?

You are right: R.W. Alley –- we call him “Bob” –- is a terrific illustrator. I love his work; he really makes those characters come alive. I think, also, that Bob sees the kindness in the Jigsaw Jones stories, and you can feel it in his warm drawings.

You know, people complain about the winter. Well, people complain about a lot of things. But right now I’m sitting with a puppy at my feet –- his name is Echo –- and he’s a terror –- and there’s a blanket of snow on the ground. I can’t see the shape of the sun, hidden in the gray haze, but there’s a sharp brightness trying to pierce through the clouds. Faint shadows of tall pines lay quivering on the land. The world is a beautiful place, don’t you agree?

I loved my visit to your school last year. You laughed and laughed. I can close my eyes and hear it still. Thanks for your friendship.

All good things, your friend,

James Preller

 

P.S. Mrs. L can call me Jimmy!

FAN MAIL WEDNESDAY #281: Happy Birthday, Kiera!

Here’s a particularly entertaining letter from Kiera, who is having (hopefully!) a swinging, taco-friendly birthday on Sunday. Hey, Kiera, you don’t look a day over 37. I mean 9!

I replied . . .

 

Dear Kiera,

Oh my, what an entertaining letter that comes to me all the way from Keosaugua, Iowa. Here on my birthday –- number 58! –- it feels like a gift from the universe. Thank you.

When I look deeper into the envelope, I find a bracelet you’ve crafted for me, using Jigsaw Jones’ favorite colors, borrowed from the New York Mets. I’m wearing it right now (see photographic evidence as proof). True story!

How did you know I desperately needed one?

Our kind and shaggy goldendoodle, Daisy, died two months ago. It was heartbreaking for all of us. Like your dog, Daisy was not (at all!) the brightest, but she may have been the sweetest. To ease our pain, we got a new puppy, which my daughter named Echo. He’s a rescue pup, part border collie, part who knows! He’s full of energy and mischief. My days are filled with long walks and attempts to keep Echo from eating the furniture.

I’m glad you are a Jigsaw Jones fan. I love The Case from Outer Space and The Case of the Buried Treasure very much, but I think that the new one, The Case of the Hat Burglar, might be the best of all. It comes out in August.

Happy birthday, Kiera. You are a terrific writer, by the way. Funny, too. Keep it up! I hope there are gazillions of tacos in your future!

Besides baseball, my favorite sport is . . . READING! It should be in the Olympics.

Oh, also: I have a new book that just came out (January 29th), called The Big Idea Gang: Everybody Needs a Buddy. I think you might like it. Did you ever hear of a “buddy bench”? The story is about that, and more! Friendship, kindness, community. And benches.

Thanks for making my birthday a happy one. Your friend,

 

James Preller

FAN MAIL WEDNESDAY #280: Kicking Off the New Year

 

I may not know what day it is, but I do know the year — 2019, people. All. Year. Long. A strange year in my professional life with a wide variety of new books on the horizon: a new Jigsaw Jones, a new series (“The Big Idea Gang”), a middle grade survival thriller (Blood Mountain), and a picture book in haiku (All Welcome Here). Crazy, I know. All over the map. I’m hoping that folks find ’em, read ’em, like ’em, tell their friends.

Today’s letter comes from Lena in deepest Ohio:

 

 

I waited a year and replied:

Dear Lena,

Whew, that’s over. Welcome 2019, glad to be here, happy & alive & writing to you.

Your letter arrived during the holidays, so I set it aside. “I’ll deal with Lena next year.”

Yes, I have a birthday coming up. Soon to be 58 years old. You should try it someday, not as bad as it sounds (or looks!). Maybe like oysters in that sense. But I still refuse to eat clams, no matter what anybody says.

Anyway! I’m as old as your grampa and you and I share a birthday month. When it comes to presents, all I ever ask for is warm socks (a result of a mid-winter birthday) and books –- always books. I guess that’s another thing we have in common, the love of reading.

My favorite Jigsaw Jones title? Hmmm. I love The Case from Outer Space because it’s funny and The Case of the Buried Treasure because the mystery is so satisfying. I have a new one coming out in August –- does that seem far away? -– titled The Case of the Hat Burglar. I’m very proud of that one. I find that my favorite books tug at your heart a little bit. Maybe it’s just a moment in the book, a brief passage, but a true emotion can lift a book into the sky.

I do have a new book coming out at the end of January (that’s, like, soon!), titled Everybody Needs a Buddy. It’s part of a new series, “The Big Idea Gang,” and I’d say it is just a notch more challenging than Jigsaw Jones. Maybe you’ll give it a try?

As a reader, I like all sorts of things. I guess I’m always trying something different: sports, science fiction, biography, mystery, graphic novels. I listen to my friends. If they rave about a book, I’ll give it a spin.

Happy New Year, my new friend!

James Preller