Ellen Potter's newest book, Slob, comes out on May 14th! I haven't read it yet, because the ARCMs. Potter was kind enough to send is meant for my 5th grade Reluctant Reader's birthday, so I have to sneak to read it. Ms. Potter was also gracious enough to take time for an interview, despite being very busy. Look for Slob out soon, and also make sure to check out the great mystery, Pish Posh, and the fun Olivia Kidney series.
Ms. Yingling: Were you a big reader as a child? What did you like to read?
Ms. Potter: I was a voracious reader as a kid. I wasn’t fussy either. I read anything I could get my hands on, but my favorite books were Harriet the Spy, A Wrinkle in Time, The Secret Garden, among a bazillion others.
Ms. Yingling: You tend to write about unusual characters. What is the most unusual thing about yourself?
Ms. Potter: Well the thing is, I’m quite boring. That’s why I love writing about unusual people. But if I HAD to pick one thing unusual thing about myself, I guess it would be that I can do a wicked toad imitation.
Ms. Yingling: Your main character in Slob is overweight. There are relatively few books with such characters. What motivated you to write about an overweight character?
Ms. Potter: The story was inspired by someone I knew when I was a child. This boy was overweight and picked on mercilessly, even by one of the gym teachers. But this boy was also extremely clever and innovative, and he was able to fight the bullies with his brains rather than his fists. I was always very impressed by him, but as a kid I don’t think I truly understood how difficult things were for him. Once I started to write SLOB from Owen Birnbaum’s perspective, I began to realize how truly heroic this boy (the real one and the fictional one) really was.
Ms. Yingling: Are mysteries hard to write? How do you keep track of all the twists and turns that they require?
Ms. Potter: I don’t think of myself as a true mystery writer. I’m guessing that a real-deal mystery writer probably has a very organized mind, which I certainly do not possess. I just like to spike my stories with a mystery because . . . well, who doesn’t love a good mystery?
Still, my stories often have many different threads that have to be woven together in the end. I don’t consciously try to tie up all these threads. I never plot out my books beforehand. In fact, I generally don’t know what’s going to happen from one page to the next. Yes, I am alert for ways to connect all these threads in tidily, but I prefer to let the story be guided by the characters. They have much better navigational skills than I do. Ask anyone who has seen me looking for my car in the parking lot.
Many thanks! Just a note: Notice how the last two writers have described themselves as voracious readers? That's a happy thought to get librarians through the day. Maybe the really picky kids who drive me crazy searching for just the right book will grow up to write wonderful things some day!
5/18/2009-- Thanks to Ms. Potter, I got some MAJOR Mom Points on my daughter's birthday. She was thrilled beyond belief at her own personally inscribed copy of Slob. There were actually speechless gasps and wide eyes. Since there is an unwritten law in our house that it's unfair to read a gift book before the intended recipient has read it, I will be able to review this soon.
And yes, my children look a little like me.