OHYA authors discuss first stories, literary heroes, best-selling books, more.
1. What are 1–3 words that describe your books?
Margaret Peterson Haddix: Suspenseful, weird (sometimes) and fun
Edith Pattou: Thrilling, romantic, hopeful
Lisa Klein: Historical, literary
Natalie Richards: Page-turners with heart
Erin McCahan: G*ddamn funny
Linda Gerber: Middle-grade mysteries
Julia DeVillers: Empowering, relatable, funny
Jody Casella: Broken kids, secrets
2. What is your best-selling book?
Haddix: “Among the Hidden”
Pattou: It's pretty much a tie between “East” and “Mrs. Spitzer's Garden.”
Richards: “Six Months Later” but possibly “One Was Lost.” Not sure.
McCahan: “Love and Other Foreign Words”
Gerber: “Death by Bikini”
DeVillers: “Trading Faces,” with Jennifer Roy
Casella: “Thin Space”
3. Which of your characters is most like you?
Haddix: I always tell kids it's whichever one they like the most. But that's because it's hard for me to look at my own characters (or my own personality) that objectively. (It's also hard to choose between so many characters.)
Pattou: Neddy from “East,” because he is loyal and brave (but not too brave), plus he's a book-loving, poetry-loving nerd like me.
Klein: None are like me! The one I'd most like to be is Albia in “Lady Macbeth's Daughter,” because she rescues Scotland from the murderous Macbeth.
Richards: Mallory from “What You Hide,” because she's resilient and resourceful even in hard circumstances.
McCahan: Josie Sheridan, from “Love and Other Foreign Words.” She says what I think.
Gerber: Probably Cassidy's mom from the “Lights, Camera, Cassidy” series, because I also love travel and can also be a little obtuse sometimes.
DeVillers: Jamie from “How My Private, Personal Journal Became a Bestseller.” That character is a mini-me—she's based on me at 14.
Casella: Marsh Windsor, the main character in “Thin Space,” because he is very persistent.
4. Title of your first story and how old were you?
Haddix: The first story I remember writing down was something like “Ned and Ed and Ted and the Red Bed” when I was in second grade. I don't think anything actually happened in that story except a lot of rhyming.
Pattou: “The Adventures of Lipid Shortsock” (a swashbuckling squirrel). I think I was about 7.
Klein: “My Bad Day.” I was about 8.
Richards: “Barbara Frances Bizzlefishes.” I was in second grade.
McCahan: I don't remember the title, but in third grade I wrote a short story about how my stuffed animals came to life at night and entered a different realm by means of the clothes chute.
Gerber: An untitled but illustrated ode to rainbows
DeVillers: “Tommy the Turtle and Sally the Snake.” I was 6 and won a newspaper contest with it!
Casella: “You Are Cute” (a story about two kids telling each other they are cute). Age 7.
5. One thing you need to do before you sit down to write?
Haddix: I'm not sure there is anything I always have to do before I write. I would say “have an idea,” but even that isn't essential, as the ideas often come as I am writing.
Pattou: Get my mocha from Starbucks.
Klein: In the winter, turn on my space heater.
Richards: Call Jody Casella. Ha!
McCahan: I work on my computer, but before I start, I have to make sure I have a tidy stack of notepads and at least four pens handy.
Gerber: Shake off the world and get into my writing headspace. Can't get on social media or read the news before writing. Big no.
DeVillers: Get my sparkling water.
Casella: Read over what I wrote the day before.
6. Author you would most like to meet,living or dead?
Haddix: J.K. Rowling. Or possibly the “next” J.K. Rowling who's going to come along. It would be interesting to talk to someone with that level of talent and potential before the world discovers her.
Pattou: Ursula K. Le Guin
Klein: Shakespeare, who else?
Richards: Anne Lamott
McCahan: Well, I'd like to be living when I meet Francisco X. Stork.
Gerber: Elizabeth George Speare
DeVillers: The Moriarty sisters—can they count as one? Liane, Jaclyn, Nicola—brilliantly unique in different genres.
Casella: Jane Austen
7. Your favorite thing to do when you aren't writing?
Pattou: Either walking or reading
Klein: Reading while traveling
Richards: Throwing pottery (badly) and goofing off with my kids
McCahan: It's a toss-up between cooking and Irish dance. I do practice my steps in the kitchen while I'm waiting for things to bake.
Gerber: Travel, read, listen to music and hang out with my family. Sometimes simultaneously.
Casella: Reading or gardening
8. If you weren't an author, what would your dream career be?
Haddix: I can imagine doing other jobs, but I can't imagine anything but writing as my “dream career.”
Pattou: Either a librarian or a director of music videos
Klein: A librarian in the days of card catalogs and date stamps and reference books
Richards: I work in a library. And I'm an author. There isn't a dream better than the one I'm living.
McCahan: Statement analyst. I can think of nothing more fabulous than being paid to analyze words.
Gerber: Chocolate taste-tester
Casella: I never wanted to be or do anything else.