FLR: When did you realize you wanted to become a writer?
IL: I always had stories in my head when I was growing up, but whenever I tried to write those stories down, I quickly became frustrated when my handwriting could not keep up with my imagination. So it was not until my late teens — when I learned to type — that I thought I might ever successfully write a story.
FLR: Do you have any ideas for an upcoming novel that you can share?
IL: Right now I’m working on something new, something a little different from Savvy and Scumble. But I don’t like to share what I’m writing too soon. I have to hold all of the steam of a new story inside me. That’s what powers me to write it down.
FLR: Any advice can you share with students who are striving to be authors?
IL: Be brave.
Read a lot.
Learn to make friends with Revision (that’s revision with a capital ‘R’).
Write first because you love to write — that love will show up in your work.
Do your research.
Learn everything you can.
Trust your own voice.
Oh, and did I mention? BE BRAVE!
FLR: Where do you go to write?
IL: I used to write all over the place: at home, the library, in airports, hotel rooms, hospital cafeterias, cafes, anyplace I could find a quiet spot close to where I needed to be. Recently, I decided that, in order to write happily and productively, I needed to find my own space. So I now have a tiny little office in a building close to my daughter’s school. In the office, I have a table, a swivel chair (for spinning), a skateboard as a foot rest (highly recommended for diffusing energy while sitting still) and an old laptop with no wi-fi card in it (no internet!). I get so much more writing done now.
FLR: Do you write your ideas and manuscripts in a journal, or is your computer the first place you compose your stories?
IL: I use journals and sticky notes (and the backs of envelopes, receipts, movie tickets… whatever’s handy) for brainstorming and for outlining. I do all of my actual writing on a computer.
FLR: Who is the person you turn to for advice or guidance?
IL: I turn to an old friend who is a writer, too. My agent and editor always give me feedback and help me get my books whipped into shape.
FLR: Do you think you’ll continue writing for middle-graders, or would you be interested in writing young adult novels as well, where characters with special gifts and supernatural abilities abound?
IL: I love writing for young people: middle-graders, young adults, chapter books, picture books… who knows? Maybe someday I’ll have the opportunity to try writing for every age group!
FLR: Your work brings to mind the works of other authors who incorporate elements of fantasy into middle-grade fiction. What do you think of classifying Savvy and Scumble as modern tall tales?
IL: I always enjoy it when my books are compared to tall tales because, wanting to embody my own vision of ‘American magic’, I intentionally tried to conjure up a tall-tale, larger-than-life, big-fish-story atmosphere.
Q: What do you think are some of the differences between English fantasy and fantasy from the U. S. – if any?
IL: There are all types of fantasy, of course, but when I was first sitting down to think about what sort of fantasy book I wanted to write, I knew I did not want to pen something new about wands and wizards, potions and spells, or unicorns and elves. There are already so many wonderful books filled with those things. I wanted to write fantasy that reflected a sense of Americana… small towns, apple pie, canning, baseball, Ford trucks, tenacity, family and superpowers.
FLR: Were you working at other employment while you wrote your first books? How do you balance time to write with other demands?
IL: I was working for a local government office when I wrote Savvy and did not quit that job until after I’d begun to write Scumble. Even now, as a full-time writer, it can be difficult to balance my time—a fact to which anyone who works from home can attest. Getting a writing space that is not in my bedroom or living room has helped a lot.
FLR: Having published two successful novels now, do you find the process becoming easier or more difficult? Why?
IL: Some things are getting easier, while other things still remain as challenging as ever. Before my first book came out, public speaking was really nerve-wracking for me. I still get nervous sometimes, but not as often. On the other hand, I think I remain just as nervous now about sharing my new writing with people, as I was when I sent out my first query for Savvy.
FLR: On your blog you frequently have a word of the day and from your books it is obvious that you enjoy words. When did that fascination with language begin for you?
IL: I still have my childhood copy of The Sneetches, by Dr. Seuss. It is completely marked up. Some words are underlined, others circled. Good heavens! Some words are even entirely blacked out. Looking at the book back when I was little, one might have thought that I’d grow up to be an editor, not a writer. I also remember being extremely excited to learn about ‘ch’ in the first grade. I loved the fact that if you put ‘c’ and ‘h’ together, you make a new sound. Growing up, I was exposed regularly to Shakespeare (which I cite as the source of my love for all things alliterative), and in high school I took Latin and semantics. College found me in an introductory linguistics class, where I delighted in learning all sorts of fascinating things about how language is formed.
FLR: Do you think that the procrastination that you complain about in your blog affects your creativity?
IL: Yes and no. Procrastination stemming from fear or uncertainty does affect my creativity. Procrastination that stems from the need to let ideas come when they are ready does not. But if procrastination is sheer avoidance? Yeah, that’s bad.
FLR: Is your imagination a childhood gift or a carefully nurtured talent? As a child, were there times when adults tried to stifle your imagination or creativity?
IL: Imagination is to children as water is to fish. Children breathe imagination. When do we start learning to hold our breath? Who tells us to do that? Adults, peers and the internal voices of doubt can all be so clangorous and noisy. Young or old, we need to keep breathing through that noise. We need to keep imagining.
FLR: What other authors or illustrators do you particularly admire now that you have publishing experience?
IL: I greatly admire anyone who can create a sentence or a character or a story that makes me swoon with jealousy wishing I had created it myself. A couple of authors whose books I’ve read recently who have a way of building the most wincingly-perfect, beautiful show-don’t-tell sentences are Cynthia Lord (Touch Blue) and Rita Williams-Garcia (One Crazy Summer).
FLR: What is the Status of the Savvy Movie?
IL: A Savvy feature film is currently in development with Walden Media. As of the moment I’m answering this question, the initial screenplay has been completed and the great director-hunt is on. Very exciting!
FLR: How has winning the Newbery Honor changed your life?
IL: I wish that when the Chair of the Newbery Committee handed me my plaque at the Newbery banquet she had also given me the ability to write a perfect first draft. Because, even with that award in hand, writing remains just as much hard work as it was before the award. I feel very lucky. Because of the award, I’ve had the opportunity to meet so many great people who I might not have had a chance to know before. It showed me, once again, how many wonderful people there are in the children’s book world. And how many great young readers there are as well!
Q: Did anything significant happen when you turned 13 to change your life?
IL: I don’t actually remember turning 13. Maybe that is the reason I like to write stories about other people turning 13 in exciting, unforgettable ways!
FLR: Do you plan on writing more stories about kids with a Savvy?
IL: I have a third book in mind, but it’s not next on my writing plate.
FLR: What advice would you give kids where everything they touch seems to end in disaster (Like Ledge or Rocket?).
IL: Be yourself and trust that things will get better — but don’t sit around waiting for things to get better on their own. Find what you love to do, what makes you happy, and even if you are terrible at it, do it anyway and have fun.
FLR: The advice that Ledge gets throughout the book is good. Are these bits of wisdom ones you heard growing up? What is your favorite?
IL: I’ve tore down a number of barns of my own (metaphorically speaking) over the years. But I had a very supportive family when I was growing up and family members I knew would still be there when the dust settled. I’m the mother of a teenager, so I’ve had opportunities to try to help my own child weather some internal storms as well. I think my favorite advice in the book is the bit about ‘scumbling’ not being about trying to fit in with the rest of the world. Instead, scumbling is about trying to take the thing about yourself that feels the most different or out-of-control and fit that thing in with who you are already. Scumbling (as I choose to define it) is the process working through fear to get comfortable inside one’s own skin.
Q: In Scumble, you told not only the story of Ledger but also his cousin Rocket. Are there any plans to tell the story of Samson?
IL: If I do write another ‘savvy’ book, Samson will definitely be in it. To me, he is like the quiet cornerstone of these stories. Maybe that is because, secretly, I can relate to him the best.
FLR: Why did Scumble take longer to write than Savvy?
IL: Ah… well, ahem. I got a little busy after Savvy came out. And I was simultaneously trying to adjust to an all-new life. After the Newbery announcement, I also felt an enormous amount of pressure to create the best follow-up book that I could. I’m very pleased with the way it turned out.
FLR: Savvy and Scumble are similar to tall tales in American folklore. What is your favorite traditional tall tale and why?
IL: Sally Ann Thunder Ann Whirlwind Crockett—hands down! I’ve always loved stories with strong female characters, so how could I not like “the prettiest, the sassiest, the toughest gal in the West” who was “tougher than a grumpy she-bear and faster than a wildcat with his tail on fire and sweeter than honey, so that even hornets would let her use their nest for a Sunday-go-to-Meeting hat.” (Quoted from the story retold by S.E. Schlosser.)
Y’just gotta love a character like that!
Browse our list of titles written by Ingrid Law.