Wednesday, October 25, 2017

7 Questions For: Author Katherine Applegate

Katherine Applegate was born in Michigan, a fact which allows her to pretend she is a hearty Midwesterner, even though she hates the cold. Katherine’s parents, a tolerant sort, allowed her to have many pets growing up, and she worked for a veterinarian in high school. She lived in Michigan, Illinois and Texas before graduating from The University of Texas at Austin with a degree in Aimlessness and a minor in Indecision.

Katherine worked as a plant waterer (killed them) and a cocktail waitress (spilled them) before realizing the world would be a safer place if she’d write books instead. Since then, she’s written over 150 books for children and young adults, many in collaboration with her husband, Michael Grant. Animorphs (Scholastic), their long-running series, sold over 35 million copies worldwide. They don’t collaborate much anymore, because they would like to remain married.

Katherine’s recent work includes a picture book, The Buffalo Storm (Clarion); an early chapter series, Roscoe Riley Rules (HarperCollins); YA thriller Eve and Adam (Feiwel andFriends / Macmillan), which she wrote with her husband, and Home of the Brave (Feiwel and Friends / Macmillan), which won the SCBWI 2008 Golden Kite Award for Best Fiction, the Bank Street 2008 Josette Frank Award, and was a SLJ Best Book of the Year.

In 2013, Katherine Applegate won the Newbery Medal for The One and Only Ivan (HarperCollins) which she was inspired to write after reading about the true story of a captive gorilla known as Ivan, the Shopping Mall Gorilla. The real Ivan lived alone in a tiny cage for twenty-seven years at a shopping mall before being moved to Zoo Atlanta, where he was a beloved celebrity. The One and Only Ivan has gone on to win numerous additional accolades including the Christopher Medal, an SCBWI Crystal Kite Award, a nomination for the E.B. White Read Aloud Award as well as appearing in the coveted #1 spot on the New York Times bestseller list.

She lives near San Francisco with her husband, two children, and an array of neurotic pets. You can follow her on Twitter, Goodreads, or visit her website.

Click here to read my review of Wishtree

And now Katherine Applegate faces the 7 Questions:

Question Seven: What are your top three favorite books?

I understand that cheating is openly condoned for this question, so allow me to fine-tune: my top three children’s books this week are

Charlotte's Web (E.B. White)
No One is Going to Nashville (Mavis Jukes)
Tuck Everlasting (Natalie Babbitt)

Question Six: How much time do you spend each week writing? Reading?

I aim for 2 hours a day writing and read as much as I can, whenever I can.

It’s so important to connect with work daily, if possible, even if it’s only for 5 minutes. I keep an article by Walter Mosley nearby to remind me of this. “Writing a novel is like gathering smoke,” he says. So true.

Question Five: What was the path that led you to publication?

Path? You mean there’s an actual path? I need to update my GPS.

I took the longest, most circuitous route imaginable. Degree in liberal arts/English. Too many years waitressing (badly). Ghostwriting endless books. Girls who love horses. Horses who love girls. Sweet Valley Twins (Jessica was the evil twin.) Disney Aladdin, Little Mermaid, Mickey Mouse (the usual suspects).

Finally, my husband and I got up the nerve to write our own series, Animorphs. After some more series, I started to write single titles with a beginning, middle, and end.

It was blissful.

Question Four: Do you believe writers are born, taught or both? Which was true for you?

Both. Talent and training help. But honestly, tenacity is every bit as important.

Question Three: What is your favorite thing about writing? What is your least favorite thing?

I adore rewriting. It’s like sculpting, with a keyboard instead of a chisel.

I hate the blank page. With a deep and abiding passion.

Question Two: What one bit of wisdom would you impart to an aspiring writer? (feel free to include as many other bits of wisdom as you like)

Ask yourself why you want to be a writer. Is it because you love words and stories? Because you want to leave a legacy behind? Because you long to connect with others?

It’s important, I think, to separate the act of writing from the act of publishing. They are two different things, and require different skill sets.

In the end, if you’re meant to be a writer, you’ll find you can’t give it up, despite your best efforts.

Question One: If you could have lunch with any writer, living or dead, who would it be? Why?

Jane Goodall. I want to be her when I grow up.

If Jane’s unavailable, E.B. White would be delightful, I’m guessing. Like me, he was an introvert. We’d probably just sit in the barn and watch the pigs in silence.


  1. I haven't read her books, but I will certainly do so. I loved her answers, especially the one to Question #4. Tenacity. Yes.

  2. Read Wishtree, her latest. It's a beautiful story.


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