What inspired you to write Lions and Liars?
My goal with Lions and Liars was to write a romp. I wanted to create something that would delight readers and leave them feeling really happy—that floating-on-air feeling you get after reading certain books. To that end, a lot of my work for this project involved cramming as many wonderful, amazing, and weird things as I possibly could into this story. There are zany mishaps, escaped zoo animals, a case of mistaken identity. Ultimately though, the book is about the power of friendship to help us love and accept ourselves. I think that’s the most wonderful and amazing thing of all.
How did you come up with all those great character names?
A lot of my characters are known only by their nicknames: Ant Bite, Specs, the Professor, and Nosebleed. This book deals with a cast of kids who are very concerned with establishing their identities—something I think preoccupies a lot of middle grade readers. Nicknames are such a concrete way to define who we are. They’re names we get to choose ourselves or that our friends give us because of something we’ve done. They can say more about us than the names our parents give us at birth. I’ve always been fascinated by them—maybe because I never had one. Also, from a writer’s standpoint, nicknames can be a fantastic way to develop characterization. Even if you’ve never picked up the book, I bet you already know something about a kid called “the Professor.”
What do you love most about this novel? What do you hope your readers will take from it?
My favorite moment of the novel is when my dear, unfortunate hero, Frederick Frederickson, realizes that life is always going to be a struggle, but our friendships make it all doable and worthwhile. I hope readers feel that same optimism that Frederick feels—and that I feel. I hope they are amused and amazed. I hope when they close the book they’re a little bit happier than before.
What was your favorite part about writing Lions and Liars? Most difficult?
It was really hard for me to figure out what my second book was going to be about. I tried a lot of ideas that didn’t work, but once I began Lions and Liars I knew what I was doing. Writing this book felt really natural. This feels like the story I was supposed to write, and I am so happy and proud of how it turned out.
In what ways did the WCYA program shape your writing?
VCFA gave me—and continues to give me—so much respect for the craft of writing books for children. This community of writers humbles me over and over again, and makes me hungry to learn more and improve my own work.
Who were your advisors?
While I was at VCFA I worked with Julie Larios, Coe Booth, Susan Fletcher, and Martine Leavitt. And I recently did a post grad semester with Sarah Ellis! All of my advisors are fantastically talented. Each of them gave me tools and skills that I will continue to use as long as I write. I’ve been incredibly lucky.
And some fun questions — favorite books growing up?
When I was growing up I was a huge Beverly Cleary fan. My library at school had the Beverly Cleary books. I read them all, and I loved them so much that my mom bought me my own set. Also, my parents were big fantasy readers, and they started me on their books really young. A lot of Tolkien and Harry Potter. When I was in fourth grade my favorite series was The Belgariad by David Eddings.
Favorite books now?
Right now some of my favorites are the Confessions of Georgia Nicolson series by Louise Rennison, everything by David Sedaris, and everything by Cassie Beasley(she rocks). I recently read and loved Saffy’s Angel by Hillary McKay.
What’s going on in your spare time?
When I’m not reading or writing I like trying out new recipes and going for walks with my German shepherd, Mouse. I also really enjoy the demolition phase of home improvement projects.
Thanks for sharing, Kate!