Q: Where did you live when you were a kid?
I grew up on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Our house was five blocks from the Capitol of the United States. My brother and sisters and I played pick-up soccer on the Library of Congress lawn. We rode our bikes to the Smithsonian museums. We had a hilarious, fairly unsupervised, time.
Q: Is that why Lucy Rose and Melonhead live on Capitol Hill?
That is exactly why.
Q: Do your characters come from real people?
Many do. Lucy Rose’s grandparents, Madam and Pop, are so much like my parents that sometimes we call them Madam and Pop. Like the book Pop, the real Pop is not a fan of worksheets or homework. Madam and my mom both write advice columns. Melonhead’s best friend, the real Sam Alswang, is a young and daring friend of mine. His baby sister, Julia is also real. She’s not a baby anymore but she still is a kid. Also, the good teachers are named after the best teachers I know. The crummy ones are fiction.
Q: Do you have children?
My husband, Steve, and I have two children Emily and Marguerite.
Q: Do you have a pet?
We had a dog named Ellie. She recently died. Ellie was 19 1/2 years old. That’s 136 1/2 in human years! We now have a cute little Westie named Georgie who is 2 years old.
Q: Did you have a pet when you were a little girl?
Just like Madam and Pop, we had a giant black poodle named Gumbo. We did not have a chimpanzee. This chimp was visiting. Pop was writing a story about the circus and the monkey trainer asked if I would like to see a chimp. Pop said, “Who wouldn’t like to see a clothes-wearing, backwards-skating chimpanzee?” It turns out I was among those who would not like that at all. Pop says I was jealous of the chimp’s roller-skating abilities.
Q: When is your birthday?
November 13th. I am the oldest
kid in my family.
Q: Why do you write books?
Mostly, I want to make kids laugh their heads off.
Q: Did you go to college?
I studied Painting and Printmaking at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. After I graduated I worked as an illustrator and later I worked with my husband, a graphic designer and art director. A few years after that I went to work as a writer for People magazine. For many years I did both jobs.
Q: Where did you work?
From People I went to USA Today newspaper, where I was a feature writer. I was a senior editor at US News magazine when I began writing Lucy Rose in my spare time. I am a person who likes changing careers.
Q: What is the hardest part of writing a book?
Sitting down and doing it. Sometimes I pack up my laptop and work at Politics & Prose bookstore near my house, or at the library or in a Starbucks. That keeps me from frittering time on the Internet. I always tell kids what my dad told me: If you write one page every day at the end of the year you will have a 365 page book. Wouldn’t that be something?
Q: Do you have any ideas for new books right now?
I am working on the 5th Melonhead book. I have mapped out the next Lucy Rose book—she’s going to camp—but I’m not exactly sure what is going to happen.
Q: What were your favorite books when you were a kid?
I was mad for Blueberries for Sal and even madder for The Night Before Christmas, which, when I was two years old, I insisted my mother read to me every night for a year. She has loads of patience. When I got older I loved Nancy Drew, Harriet the Spy and Homer Price and the Donut Machine. I still like stories where the kids solve the problems.
Q: If you weren’t a writer, what would you do for a job?
I imagine I would still be an illustrator but maybe not. Once I master a skill I tend to try something new.
Q: What are your hobbies when you aren’t writing?
I still draw and paint. I hang out with my family and friends. I visit schools. I volunteer. And I read.
Q: Out of the books you wrote which is your favorite?
It’s usually the one I’m working on at the time because it’s in my head all the time. But if I look at all my books together, I can’t pick a favorite.
Q: Who is your favorite character?
I love all my main characters- Lucy Rose, Jonique, Madam, Pop, Melonhead & Sam. I think the reason I care so much about them is because they are all connected. Without each other they would be less interesting.
Q: How did you learn to tell stories?
When I was growing up my parents, brother and sisters and I all came to the dinner table with our news of the day which my mom called the “Scoop du Jour”. My dad told funny and exciting stories about his job as a newspaperman. My mom, who grew up in Louisiana, told us about Mardi Gras and relatives including our grandfather who wore spats and gambled. My siblings and I listened to them and told our own stories. We figured out how to make funny stories funnier, how to peel away extra words, what to hold back to make the ending a surprise. Three of us became writers, though I didn’t start until I was in my later twenties.
Q: Did you always want to be a writer?
No. I wanted to be an artist.
KATY KELLY © 2013 All rights reserved
Cover Illustrations by Gillian Johnson