INTERVIEW WITH LANA KRUMWIEDE
How did you get started writing?
In 2001, I started writing poetry and stories. I had been a preschool and kindergarten teacher, and I had young children of my own, so it was very natural for me to write for children. After a few months, I began to wonder if any of my writing was any good. I enrolled in a writing course at a local university to find out. Our instructor taught us how to submit to magazines, so I started submitting. Before the semester had ended, one of my pieces was accepted in The Friend (a religious magazine for children) and I was hooked! I wrote for magazines for the next seven years. At that point, I had an idea for a novel that wouldn’t leave me alone. The novel became my focus for the next three years, and eventually became my first book, Freakling.
Who influenced you?
My mother has always been an avid reader and took us kids to the library often. She was the one who helped me fall in love with books. Gayle Hane and Louise Plummer were instructors of my early writing classes and helped me see myself as a writer. As far as authors whose work I admire, that would be Scott Westerfeld, Garth Nix, Lois Lowry, Margaret Peterson Haddix, and Brandon Sanderson.
Do you have a favorite book/subject/character/setting?
I love any kind of speculative setting. It’s so much fun to imagine far-fetched worlds! At first, I was afraid to write speculative fiction. I thought it would be way too hard to do all that world building. I tried writing contemporary realistic fiction, thinking it would be a better way to break into novel writing (write what you know and all that). Then I realized that all my favorite books are either science fiction or fantasy, so what made me think it was a good idea to write something that I don’t even enjoy reading that much? Once I understood that joy was an essential element of writing, I discovered that “too much work” wasn’t really an issue.
Just to be clear, I do occasionally read and enjoy well-written contemporary realistic fiction, but not nearly as often as I read speculative fiction. And yes, I do agree with the write-what-you-know principle, but I’ve come to understand that research, imagination, and extrapolation are also ways of knowing.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to be an author?
(1) Write what you love.
(2) Don’t be afraid of hard work.
(3) Make revision your BFF. It’s where bad writing becomes good, and good writing becomes great. (See #2.)
(4) Seek out good feedback on your writing. Listen carefully, then make your own decisions.
(5) Never forget who’s the boss: the story! Do what the story needs you to do.
Where is your favorite place to write?
I find that I do my best writing at home, late at night when the house is quiet and I’m the only one awake. My analytical brain goes to bed early, but my creative mind stays up late!
What else would you like to tell us?
First, I’m very excited to share two books that will be coming out in 2015: True Son, the third book of The Psi Chronicles; and a picture book, Just Itzy, illustrated by Greg Pizzoli (both from Candlewick Press).
Second, I’ll share with you one of my pet peeves. I absolutely cringe when I hear people say that writers are born, not made, and that creative writing is somehow an intuitive thing that cannot be learned. I don’t believe that for one second. I believe drive and desire are more important than “raw talent” (I’m not even sure what that term means). If you have a strong enough desire to tell your own stories, you can become a good writer. It may take much longer than you’d like. It will require learning new skills and sacrificing other things to make time for writing. It may require finding the right mentors and devoting years to the study and practice of writing. It may take you to the limits of your patience, humility, and perseverance. But the ability to write well CAN be learned. Believe it!