You know that scene in Disney's Snow White when all of the forest creatures gather around Snow, and she sings A Smile and a Song? I feel as though Hilary McKay's newest protagonist, Lulu, would appreciate that scene. I know I do. Pretty much every time an animal crosses my path, I say hello. Whether that animal has two legs, four legs, or a tail matters not; I greet most passersby and wish them well.
Sadly, I am not hugging a deer as I type this post. Happily, I did have the chance to speak author Hilary McKay about her animal-friendly characters and her past and future stories.
The protagonist of your latest series, Lulu, has a wonderful way with animals of all kinds. What inspired this series? Have any of your own pets, past or present, wiggled their way into the books?
Yes, I grew up with pets as a child: dogs and rabbits, birds and guinea pigs, and a pet hedgehog rescued from a bonfire (named Bonny!) Everything except cats, because my father could not bear cats. It has been just the same with my own children (only we have a cat as well). Naturally, they found their way into my stories - in fact, my daughter's hamster and its epic journey across rooftops and inside wallspaces gave me the entire plot for the sixth of the Lulu series, LULU AND THE HAMSTER ON THE ROOF.
How many books are currently planned for the series?
There are six books here in the UK, and I have two more to write.
(Note for American readers: Book #3, Lulu and the Cat in the Bag will be available fall 2013.)
You are known for your books about the Casson family - Rose, Saffy, Caddy, Indigo. Do you have siblings who resemble any of the Cassons?
No, I don't have siblings who resemble the Cassons. Nor do my own children resemble them, or their friends. Deliberately. They would not appreciate being used as book-stuffing! But on the other hand, we do have guitar players, and drawing-on-the-wall artists, and animal lovers, so how can I truly say? I suppose I borrow little bits from time to time.
Which character is the most like you?
Which is the most like me? None of them. They are all much nicer than me.
Your novel Wishing For Tomorrow is a Sequel to A Little Princess. What moved you to write this story?
I always loved this story, and when my daughter was very little I read it to her and she loved it too. One of her many questions was, 'What happened next?" And so I did wrote the book for her, but also for me, because I also wanted to know what happened next.
Did you have to get the rights/clearance to write the sequel?
I did not.
Which of your novels has taken the longest to write?
I have written so many books that I really cannot remember which has taken the longest. Even after I finish them there is still so much work to be done with cover art and illustrations and things like that. They generally take a couple of years, start to finish.
What do you do when you have writer's block - or when it's tough to sell a story?
Writer's block is hard. I go for walks. I make the characters speak in a different way -- write a diary or a letter, have a conversation etc. I doodle!
It's never been tough to sell a story. I sold my first and went on from there. I've always had somebody wanting to publish my work. I have been lucky, lucky, lucky, and met the right people at the right time. I am very aware of that.
Are you working on anything presently?
Yes, I am working on two more Lulu stories and a sequel to my latest longer novel, Binny For Short, which is already out here in the UK and will be published in the US this summer.
Ask (and answer) a question you always wish someone would ask you, but no one ever does.
Would you like wings to fly? Yes, please.
Name ten of your all-time favorite books.
Well, I will name five, just in case by the end of this tour I am listing dozens!
The Once and Future King (T H White)
The Worst Journey in the World (Apsley Cherry Garrard)
The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint Exupéry)
David Copperfield (Charles Dickens)
Code Name Verity (Elizabeth Wein)
Tomorrow's tour stop is Biblio File.