Melissa Seymour: Hello, Lois! Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do.
Lois Lowry: I am a writer who does primarily books for young adults and middle-grade kids. It is my full-time job. I started doing this when my own children were teenagers. Now, many years later, they are grown…and I have a 30-year-old grandson. So I have been at this for a lot of years. My first book was published in 1977.
MS: Why is it so important for children to read? Did you read a lot as a child?
LL: Yes, I loved reading, as a child. In those days we had no TV! Books, for me, were a primary pastime. It’s harder now for kids, with so many choices of how to amuse themselves, how to learn, how to spend time, to focus on books the way I did. But I do think it’s important that kids read in order to develop their own imagination and creativity.
MS: You create very realistic characters… What’s your process for character development?
LL: I don’t have any formal process. Characters appear, almost fully formed, in my imagination; and they continue to develop as I write the story.
MS: Your female protagonists are strong characters and great role models for girls. Is this intentional? Do you feel it’s important for children to have strong female role models?
LL: The fact that I am female accounts for the fact that most of my books…not all…have female protagonists. The fact that they are “strong characters” is because such it is necessary to the story always. The protagonist is the one who makes choices, who faces obstacles, who battles through to achieve a goal. Male or female, that character has to be a strong one to engage the interest and empathy of the reader.
MS: Do you agree with the statement “Girls will read books with female and male protagonists but boys will only read books with male protagonists”?
LL: No, I don’t. One of my books, NUMBER THE STARS, is very popular with boys, though the two main protagonists are both girls. It may be a bit of a leap for a boy to pick up such a book…and it has a picture of a girl on the cover….but the important element for a reader of either gender is a compelling story.
MS: Was there ever a time in your writing career when you weren’t taken seriously?
LL: Probably when I was a housewife and the mother of four young children…and trying to write….very few people took my aspirations seriously. The important thing is that I did, always.
MS: How much time do you put into world building before you write a novel? How long did it take you to create your world in The Giver?
LL: Not much. It builds as I write it…and as I go back and rewrite it. The rewriting and revision is the important element. I discover the world as it creates itself. Then, as I begin to know it, I can go back and flesh it out.
MS: Who is your hero/heroine?
LL: Stuart Little. I love his indomitable optimism.
MS: What advice do you have for women aspiring to be authors, directors, producers or artists?
LL: My advice would be to take oneself seriously and to focus on the craft. Not to think about achievement or success but rather the work itself, the joy one can take in it….and the joy one can give to others.