Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester is very happy to shine our Friday spotlight on the author of many children’s and young adult books, Margaret Peterson Haddix. I am going to let Margaret introduce herself to you, and tell you a bit about herself!
Hello! I am Margaret Peterson Haddix, the New York Times-best-selling author of more than forty books for kids and teens. I grew up on a farm in Ohio. After college, I took jobs as a newspaper reporter, a newspaper copy editor, and a community college instructor before writing my first book. And I’ve been writing ever since!
Where can people find your work? (Besides Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester–though they should totally check here first!)
Of course I recommend Annie’s Book Stop! But I also recommend independent bookstores in general. And I always like to support libraries as well.
How can we follow your work and share your awesomeness?
You can find information about all of my books on my website, www.haddixbooks.com. I’m also available on Facebook and Instagram as HaddixBooks, and on Twitter as mphaddix.
What was the inspiration for [newest release/series release is part of/spotlighted release]? What were the steps you took to bring it from initial inspiration to the finished book?
For the Greystone Secrets series as a whole, the inspiration was a newspaper column I read more than thirty years ago. It was a strange and tragic story about a mother finding out that about three siblings who had been killed in a car crash—and the kids who died were the same ages and had almost the exact same names as her own children. She was, understandably, quite freaked out. That true story stuck in my mind for decades, but for about 29 of those years, I didn’t think of it as a tale that would inspire anything that I might write. Then, rather randomly a few years ago, I happened to recall that story, and for some reason I saw it from a totally different perspective: If the mother was so freaked out to hear of such a tragedy happening to a family so much like her own, what would it be like to be a kid who found out about such an awful tragedy happening to a family so much like your own? That gave me the first seeds of the idea for THE STRANGERS, the first book in the series, where Rochester, Emma, and Finn Greystone learning about another Rochester, Emma, and Finn who had just been kidnapped. And… then they learn that the similarities between them and the other kids are not coincidences.
In the newest book itself, THE MESSENGERS, I got to continue exploring the idea of doppelgangers who are—or are not—exact doubles. But I was also inspired by current events, and thinking about how people seek out or do their best to avoid acknowledging or revealing truth.
What character did you love or hate the most while writing? And why?
I’ll go with the love answer: As in the earlier books in the series, the perspective in THE MESSENGERS bounces between various kids, usually Finn, Emma, and Chess. And while I feel in love with all the kids, I especially enjoyed writing from Finn’s perspective. He’s such a happy-go-lucky kid, so ready to greet the world and everyone around him with joy. Even when I put him into dangerous situations, he still retained his positive outlook and his innate hopefulness. It was impossible not to feel hopeful right along with him!
What draws you to the particular genre or style that you write? What do you think draws readers to these kinds of books?
A sixth grader at a school visit once announced to me that she’d analyzed all of my books (which then numbered about forty) and told me she’d figured out the common denominator in everything I wrote. This surprised me, since I’ve written in such a variety of genres and even styles: I’ve done science fiction, dystopian/speculative books, historic fiction, contemporary realistic fiction, quasi-fantasy/magical realism… But when that sixth grader told me her analysis, I totally agreed. Essentially, she said I always write about secrets: either a secret someone is desperately keeping, or a secret someone is desperately trying to find out. And it is true that almost every single one of my books could be described that way. I am so fascinated by secrets that I have trouble understanding why any reader wouldn’t want to dive into those kinds of books. The promise of “You’re going to find out this tantalizing secret if you just keep reading…” is always enough to keep me flipping the pages as a reader!
What else can we expect from you in the near future?
The next book I’ll have coming out is THE SCHOOL FOR WHATNOTS, a stand-alone book that also includes secrets, a mystery, and kids being brave. Oh, it has Whatnots, too.
(THE SCHOOL FOR WHATNOTS is due out in February 2022.)
What has been your favorite adventure during your writing career?
I have two approaches to this question. My favorite adventure of the writing itself is that moment when everything changes, and it all becomes real to me. One moment I am sitting at my computer typing, and I am completely aware that I am myself and I am typing words showing up on a computer screen. And then I forget that, and I am totally immersed in the story. Yes, I am still typing, and yes, I am still myself, but mentally I am my main character and I am feeling all the character’s emotions and thinking all her thoughts. And when I look around, my eyes don’t see my ordinary office; instead, I feel as though I am seeing through my character’s eyes. I feel as though I have adopted all of her other senses, too—I have become her, as well as myself. This is a feeling that I love when I am reading other authors’ books, and it’s an amazing feeling when I am writing my own books as well.
Since my writing “career” also includes a lot of traveling around and talking with readers (or, at least, it did pre-pandemic, and hopefully will post-pandemic as well), I have also appreciated all the adventures of going places I wouldn’t necessarily have gone without the invitation of a school or library. Some particular highlights have been going to Ketchikan, Alaska; Honolulu, Hawaii; and Shanghai, China.
Thanks so much for taking the time to answer these questions for us, Margaret, and for joining us for an interview on the Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester YouTube Channel!