For those who might not know, Grace Lin is the author of early readers, picture books and novels, including Ling and Ting, Dim Sum for Everyone!, and Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. Her latest book, Starry River of the Sky has not actually sat on the bookshelves in my library as it is always in some student's hands.
Grace has a wonderful Website full of information about her, her books, her family, and the writing process.
I have been to quite a few book signings with Grace and love to watch her interact with her readers. I usually put myself near the end of the line to be able to both watch this wonderful interaction and also garner a few moments for myself. It is always a pleasure to speak with Grace.
JKR: You have a very loyal following in my library (and, I am sure, all libraries), how might you explain this?
GL: Thank you! I hope its because readers can sense how much I care about them. In my new book, “Starry River of the Sky” there is a character who says, “When people tell stories, they share things about themselves.” So, my books are my way of trying to share myself and, in a way, become friends with the reader.
JKR: When do you know if a story idea will be a novel, picture book or early reader?
GL: I write out my idea. I sketch it out and it just happens organically. The story seems to choose.
GL: For me it is the early readers. I have to be concise and interesting -- writing early readers that have enough of a story and are interesting is harder than writing a novel.
JKR: Ling and Ting is wonderful! As a library teacher, I love having great early readers to promote. This book is also fun because we have many twins in my school and they love telling people that this is exactly what it is like. Are there plans for more?
GL: Yes! I have just finished Ling and Ting Share a Birthday.
JKR: What is your favorite part of the writing process?
GL: It depends upon the book. Mostly it is the revision. The first drafts are hard, but I like to go back and work with what I have written.
JKR: Do you have your entire story complete before you begin writing or does it unfold as you write?
GL: For novels, yes, I have to submit an outline to my editor and publisher. Sometimes things change along the way and then the manuscript has a few surprises for them!
JKR: The titles of your books are lyrical and magical, how do you come up with them? Does the title emerge from the story or vice versa?
GL: Thank you! It’s really, really hard to come up with them.Sometimes I start with a title, but my editor will want something different and we have to go back and forth. For Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, I finally realized the last line of the book should be the title. When I was writing Starry River of the Sky, I knew the last line would be the title as well, but we still did have to change it because it was too close to the title of another book published at the time.
JKR: The imagery in your novels is so strong, do you visualize your stories when you are writing them?
GL: I’m happy to hear this. I draw a map of the story so I can see the whole environment and where the characters will be during the story. I can see where the characters will be traveling. The third book may include a map!
JKR: You are a very talented illustrator. Not only are the illustrations beautiful, they connect to and help tell the story in an authentic way.
GL: Thank you. It is important that I am able to create my cover art. I can control what is there and ensure the cultural integrity of the cover.
JKR: Are there any books or writers who have influenced your writing?
GL: Lucy Maud Montgomery for one. I love Anne of Green Gables. Natalie Babbitt is another. Her writing is amazing. There are many books, but Cricket in Times in Square and Charlotte’s Web and The Search for Delicious would definitely be on the list..
JKR: Do you have any advice for young writers?
GL: Read! Read everything!
So, listen to Grace! Read! Read everything!