Interview: Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams
Current Mood: thirsty
Current Song: The Golden Girls score music
Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams have teamed up to write a new series for kids called Goddess Girls. Giggles abound when youthful versions of the Greek goddesses you know from classic mythology have enrolled in Mount Olympus Academy. The first two books in the line, Athena the Brain and Persephone the Phony, hit bookstores just yesterday. The authors are having a blog tour, and today's stop is right here at Bildungsroman.
Little Willow: Welcome, ladies! Joan, in our previous interview we discussed how you and Suzanne sent drafts back and forth via email since you live in different states. Did you appreciate the ease of editing and communication that the Internet provided? What do you think is the hardest part about collaboration?
Joan: Good questions, Little Willow, and thank you for having us visit your blog today.
Little Willow: You are welcome! Thanks for coming by.
Joan: I think there was an adjustment period during which we learned not to tiptoe around too much. You start out saying everything so politely, but then things get hectic, and there's not really time to explain all the reasons you want to change something. We pretty quickly realized that we weren't going to hurt each other's feelings if we rewrote each other's work. The more we revised things, the more the stories began to sound like a single author wrote them. Getting it done on deadline wasn't a problem because we have similar work habits. We both do what we promise. That's huge. In any partnership, you have to be able to trust your partner to do what they say they're going to do. As for email, I don't think we could have made our deadlines without it.
Little Willow: Who is your favorite Greek goddess?
Suzanne: Persephone. We all have light and dark sides to our personalities. :-)
Joan: Athena, because she's brainy. Although part of me longs to be beautiful Aphrodite as well.
Little Willow: What is your favorite Greek myth?
Joan: There are so many, but I'm partial to the myths surrounding Zeus. He's the king of the gods (and the principal of Mount Olympus Academy), so he's a larger-than-life figure and that's how we portray him -- over the top. The myth in which his wife Metis (a fly) is buzzing around in his head has always intrigued me. I can only imagine how crazy that would make you. How about you, Suzanne?
Suzanne: I've always liked the Persephone myth. It's not just an explanation for seasons - it's also about mothers and daughters, and how hard it is to see one's daughter(s) grow up and move away. My own adult daughter is living in Norway right now, so this story resonates. Luckily, communicating over long distances today is a snap with email, cheap phone plans, and Skype. (Though even today, internet access might be difficult to get in the Underworld!)
Little Willow: I bet Hades has an unlimited plan. If you could travel to any ancient society, where would you go and why?
Suzanne: I'll say ancient Rome. I traveled to Rome and Florence last summer with my family. I was fascinated by the Coliseum and other ruins, and by a day visit to Pompeii.
Joan: It's a toss up between Rome and Egypt. I took equal amounts of Roman and Egyptian art history as an undergraduate. I remember stopping along the side of the road near Austin, Texas one time to gather red clay so I could concoct my own "authentic" paint for the skintones in an Egyptian-style painting as a class project. I've been to Rome, but Egypt is still on my to-do.
Little Willow: I'd visit Ancient Egypt first, then go to Greece, Rome, and so many other places... You've both written picture books as well as chapter books. Which storytelling format comes more naturally to you?
Joan: My first published book was an easy reader with Grosset & Dunlap called Pajama Party and my second was a novelty board book for tots called Boo Who? A Spooky Lift-the-Flap for Scholastic. I love both of those formats. I think it's fun to figure out how to make a novelty book physically function--to figure out how the flaps or other moving parts work. As you know, Lorie Ann Grover and I have a blog to celebrate toddler books at http://readertotz.blogspot.com Lately, I've been in a picture book writing phase (Groundhog Weather School), but I enjoy chapter books (Doll Hospital) just as much. I think I like the variety of working in all four of these formats and would get bored if I only stuck to one.
Suzanne: Probably chapter books just because I've done so many chapter book series in the last several years, but I started out as a picture book writer.
Little Willow: All right, Suzanne, the spotlight is on you for the next couple of questions: What inspired your book series called Princess Power?
Suzanne: My love of fairy tales inspired the Princess Power books.(Plus, I always wished I could be an adventure-loving princess.) The magical objects I gave each of my princesses - Lysandra's purse that never goes empty of gold coins, Fatima's flying carpet, Tansy's magic flute, and Elena's healing lotion - were taken in one form or another from traditional tales. The friendship between the princesses (and also between the flower fairies in Fairy Blossoms) is as important as the fantasy elements of the stories, of course.
Little Willow: What inspired the Fairy Blossoms series?
Suzanne: Fairy Blossoms started with a "what if" question: What if fairies had to go to school to learn the skills they need to become fairy godmothers (or as I call them - fairy helpers). Naturally, just like Cinderella's fairy godmother, or wish-granting fairies in numerous other tales, these young fairies need to learn many things: how to whip up beautiful gowns for human women, how to transform everyday objects (like pumpkins) into things useful to humans, how to decide if a human is worthy of help, etc.
Little Willow: Both of those series were for slightly younger readers than Goddess Girls, which is aimed at tweens. What's your favorite group to write for?
Suzanne: My favorite group to write for is probably ages 7 – 10, but writing Goddess Girls with Joan for the slightly-older tween audience has been a blast.
Little Willow: Who are your favorite fictional fairies? Mine are Tinker Bell from Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie and Tiki from The Fairy Rebel by Lynne Reid Banks.
Suzanne: Oooh, I love The Fairy Rebel! I think Tiki would have to be my favorite fairy. I like that she's so unconventional.
Little Willow: You get many points from me for loving The Fairy Rebel and Tiki! Suzanne, I asked Joan this in when I interviewed her last year, so now it's your turn: what are your ten favorite books of all time?
Suzanne: My ten favorite books of all time. Wow. You mean top ten children's books, right? That's a tough call for a former elementary school librarian like myself. Ask me another time, and I would probably give you a completely different list, but here goes:
Little Bear by Else Minarik, illustrated by Maurice Sendak. My grandparents gave me this easy-to-read books on my 7th birthday, and I still have my rather ragged, much-loved copy.
Winnie-the-Pooh and House at Pooh Corner. My mother read these books to me and my sibs when we were young. I loved all the characters, especially gloomy Eeyore.
Julius, the Baby of the World (and lots of other picture books by Kevin Henkes)
Holes by Louis Sachar
Junie B. Jones and middle-grade novels by Barbara Park
Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary
Harry Potter series
Joey Pigza books by Jack Gantos
Catherine Called Birdy by Karen Cushman
True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi
Joan: These are the kinds of questions we never think to ask each other, Little Willow. It was fun to read Suzanne's answers. Thanks so much for having us visit your blog!
Follow the Goddess Girls Blog Tour! Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams are doing Q&As at the following blogs. Other special surprises will be popping up, such as book giveaways and interviews with the Goddess Girl team at Aladdin, editor Emily Lawrence, book designer Karin Paprocki, and cover artist Glen Hanson.
April 4th: Bookmuncher
April 5th: readertotz, Suzanne's Place, and Joan Holub's blog
April 6th: Cynsations
April 7th: Bildungsroman
April 8th: Zoe's Book Reviews
Want to get the first two Goddess Girls books for free? Leave a comment below with your email address, and tell us who your favorite Greek goddess is and why. The first person to do so wins!
Update: The winner is Jenna, who will be sharing the books with her class. Thanks, Jenna!