Thursday, May 27, 2010

Author Interview: Jeanne DuPrau

When Ms. DuPrau agreed to do my little interview I was very excited. What an opportunity!

The City of Ember (Books of Ember)I told Jennifer, my husband, my daughter who's read 'The City of Ember.' Everyone I could think of that would... you know... act excited for me. Then I sat down and tried to come up with questions to ask her. That's where it got tough. Jeanne has done a lot of online interviews and has been asked a lot of the same types of questions: 

What books do you like? Which character are you most like? What are you working on now?

I didn't want to do that to her... or to you, the blog reader.

I wanted something really good. So I slept on it and mulled it over for a while before I came up with, what I considered to be adequate questions.

City of EmberThe funny thing is that in trying to find the perfect questions I asked her next to nothing about her books.


Luckily I had added a 'safety' question at the end... which you'll see here in a minute.

So, without further ado, here is some of the interview with Jeanne DuPrau. Author of the 'Ember Series,' the first of which, The City of Ember, has been made into a major motion picture (why do they call it major do you think?).

Also, remember to read the full interview over at our interviews page.


Q. What is the earliest novel you remember falling in love with?
It's hard to choose just one. I loved The Moffats, by Eleanor Estes; I loved The Four-Story Mistake, by Elizabeth Enright; I loved The Secret Garden, and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and Tom Sawyer, and so many more... I can't put one above the rest.
Q. I noticed in some other interviews you've done that you have been reading and writing since your earliest years. So have I, but for me it was always a way of escaping the stress at home... this grew into a massive love for the capacity of 26 little letters and as an adult I find that I am drawn (in an almost sacred manner) to the artistic aspects of writing.

So what is it about the written word that draws you?
I love being taken into other worlds, even when my own is perfectly satisfactory (and also of course when it's not). That's certainly what drew me to reading in the first place. As for writing--I did it for fun from an early age. I wrote stories, plays, newspaper articles, character sketches, poems, all kinds of things. I just wanted to put words together. In junior high, I had a teacher who taught me grammar (including diagramming sentences). I loved it. My mother scrutinized everything I wrote for clarity, spelling, punctuation, and proper organization. It was annoying at the time, but extremely helpful. I learned to put my writing skills together with my thoughts, my imagination, and my feelings and come up with an effective and sometimes even a powerful piece of writing. That was a wonderful thing. Still is.
Q. What types of music do you prefer?
Classical music--all eras except the discordantly modern; lots in the vast archives of folk, rock, and (to a lesser degree) pop; opera (but only the gorgeous arias, not so much the parts in between). I'm learning to like some kinds of jazz.
Q. Do you listen to music as you write?
Almost never. It's too distracting--I can't hear the rhythm of my own words if I'm listening to music. Very occasionally, I'll put music on when I actually don't want to pay attention to what I'm writing, when I want to just spill out words and make it impossible for my inner editor to do its job. 
Q. How do you think music affects your style?
I don't know that it does. My style tends toward the spare and direct rather than the lush and complex, and my taste in music is sort of like that, too. I like solo piano and chamber music, for instance, better than symphonies.
Q.The flip-side of that question is, do you find that listening to music can create characters in your mind? Or has created characters?
Yes, but not while I'm writing. Once I saw a very striking dance performed by two people on a blue-lit stage, and it stirred up a feeling in me that turned into a story. But I haven't had this experience very often.
Q. The classic question everyone seems to ask you about your books is who are you more like Lina or Doon. You've said you're like both of them, but what I'm curious about is whether there has ever been a time when you were annoyed with either of them? Do you ever get to the point when writing a scene when you just want to tell the character to shut-up!? 
This hasn't happened to me. The opposite is more likely to happen--that my characters aren't doing enough, they're sitting around and thinking and worrying too much. I want to tell them to DO something!
Q. What's on your reading wish list?
I want to read Ian McEwan's new book, Solar; also Margaret Atwood's The Year of the Flood, and Jane Smiley's Private Life; and I'm always looking for really good books about dogs.
And the big thing I forgot to ask and she caught!?
Music is important in The City of Ember. There's a night when the people of Ember all come together and sing the three songs that celebrate their city. For one of those songs, I had a particular tune in mind, a dark and gorgeous hymn called "Once to Every Man and Nation." When the movie of the book was made, I told the movie makers about that hymn, but they made up a completely different (and to my mind, completely inappropriate) song. So disappointing! It could have been a powerful scene.
Wow, I can't believe I missed that one... after all it's like the whole reason we have this blog. Gah!

Here are some YouTube's of "Once to Every Man and Nation"

(No political agenda in this one... it's just the best one I found)

Books: Ember Series by Jeanne DuPrau
            The Moffats by Eleanor Estes
            The Four-Story Mistake by Elizabeth Enright
            The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
            The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
            Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
            Solar by Ian McEwan
            The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood
            Private Life by Jane Smiley
Music: Once to Every Man and Nation by James R. Lowell


Jaleh D said...

Wow! That's really cool you got to interview her. Coming up with questions is really tough.

cannwin said...

Yeah. I honestly just figured it wouldn't kill me to email her and ask and then she emailed me back! It was very exciting and gave me tons of courage to email other authors in the future.


Cari Hislop said...

Somehow I missed this interview back in May (probably because I was la la)

I really enjoyed the interview, especially this question and answer rung a bell...

?How do you think music affects your style?

"I don't know that it does. My style tends toward the spare and direct rather than the lush and complex, and my taste in music is sort of like that, too. I like solo piano and chamber music, for instance, better than symphonies."

I've never thought to connect how I write to what music I like to listen to. I shall go away and think about it. Lovely interview questions! I've never read this I'll have to go away and look her up...this could cost me! ;)


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