At the risk of sounding like Chandler Bing, could it be a bigger week for books? In just a few short days, the 10th and final book in the bestselling multimedia adventure series The 39 Clues will hit stores, and to celebrate, we’ve got some exclusive info for you. But first, let’s recap what we already know, shall we?
- The 39 Clues Webcast: A LIVE WEBCAST with all seven authors of The 39 Clues is being held on August 31 at 4:00pm ET. You can find out more here! Plus, if you have a burning question about the Cahills, the authors just must answer it for you. Stop on by and submit it.
- The 39 Clues on TV: The Cahills have hit the small screen with a nationwide television commercial campaign, airing now! You can watch it here.
- The 39 Clues in Entertainment Weekly: All seven authors sat down for a round-robin interview last week. Check it out here!
Now, how about what we don’t yet know about The 39 Clues – and specifically, about Linda Sue Park, author of Book #9, Storm Warning?
We snagged an interview between Linda Sue Park and librarian Kathleen Gocksch from Mandracchia-Sawmill Intermediate School in Commack, New York, where the series is “wildly popular.” Kathleen got firsthand info from the author about how it felt to contribute to the groundbreaking series, her advice for young readers, her own writing process and journey, and much more. Check it out!
Kathleen Gocksch: The 39 Clues is wildly popular in my school library in Commack, New York. My students are 3rd through 5th graders, aged 8-10. What advice would you give to them if they are thinking of a career as a writer?
Linda Sue Park: READ a lot. Read all different kinds of books, fiction in every genre, nonfiction, poetry. You might think you don’t like a certain kind of story, but here’s my rule: I’ll read ANYTHING as long as it’s good!
Write a lot. Experiment with different kinds of writing. If you like to write fantasy, try your hand at a sports story. If you keep a private journal, start a ‘swap’ journal: You write something, give it to a friend, he or she writes something—either a response to your entry, a continuation, or something of their own—and gives it back to you. And everyone who writes should try poetry—it’s the best way to learn to make every word count.
Get yourself attached to a losing sports team. Not a winning one. (I grew up a fan of the Chicago Cubs….) When you’re a fan of a losing team, you experience a continual cycle of hope and disappointment – hope and heartbreak. That’s what life as a writer is like, so you can start practicing now!
KG: How did you decide to write children’s books? Did you think of yourself as a ‘children’s book author’ or did it just happen?
LSP: In hindsight, my subconscious must have known that I wanted to write children’s books, because I have always loved reading them, even as (or maybe especially as) an adult. But my first children’s book (Seesaw Girl, published in 1999) ‘just happened’—I didn’t know what kind of story it was when I started it. It was only when I was finished that I realized I had written a middle-grade novel.
KG: What was it like to write the ninth book of the series after five other authors had put their stamp on the storyline? Was this experience more difficult than creating your own story from scratch?
LSP: In some ways it was easier in that many of the decisions had already been made for me, i.e., the main characters and their quest. But I also felt a lot of pressure because the preceding books had built up such a tremendous fan base! I didn’t want to let them down and I was anxious about making book 9 as thrilling as the others were.
KG: I noticed that there is a theme of female empowerment in Storm Warning. For example, the Madrigals are descended from a female and they take their mother’s name. Can you explain why you decided to include such strong female characters in your book?
LSP: Action-adventure stories are often dominated by males—authors, characters, readers. I knew that The 39 Clues has many girl readers and, like Jude Watson in Books 4 and 6, I wanted to give them female heroes to emulate. I also think it does the boys a lot of good to read about strong females!
KG: How has being a first-generation American influenced your writing? I read that your parents made the somewhat unusual decision to have an English-only household. Are you more observant of people’s behavior, habits, and cultural environment as a result? Does this sensitivity impact your writing?
LSP: I’ve always been interested in language and culture, and perhaps this is because of growing up with the kind of awareness unique to young people who are raised in ‘two cultures.’ I like your use of ‘sensitivity,’ as I’ve always thought of it as nosiness! I am endlessly curious about how other people live, and writing for me is a way to explore the world.
KG: Are there any similarities between your children and Amy and Dan in The 39 Clues series? In Storm Warning, Amy and Dan come to appreciate the strengths that come with each others’ very different personalities. Does that come from your own family life?
LSP: My characters are always influenced by people I know, including my family. But it’s hard for me to point out specific characteristics, in part because I often can’t remember where things come from—they’re just floating around in my mind. More importantly, every character I write about—even the ‘bad guys’—have something of ME in them. The only way I can make a character realistic is to draw from my own experiences and emotions.
KG: Do you have a separate space just for writing? What’s your routine?
LSP: I have a study where I do most of the work on my novels using a computer. For a picture book or poetry, I might sit somewhere else with paper and pen. When I’m working on fiction, I try to write at least two pages every day. Then I start the next day by revising and editing the previous day’s pages. Sometimes that means I end up throwing away the whole two pages! But that’s okay—as Thomas Edison said, it means I’m finding out what doesn’t work.
KG: I’ve noticed that you have a great online presence through your blog, website and Facebook account. How difficult and time-consuming is it to maintain these online outlets, write, and have a personal/family life?
LSP: Keeping up with all the changes in the online world is impossible for me. I decided to have a blog as long as it wouldn’t be a source of stress: I blog when I feel like it, which means very irregularly. Not the best use of a blog, but it’s my compromise. As for my Facebook fan page, my niece maintains it for me!
It’s never easy for anyone to balance work and family life, but I know how fortunate I am in having a family who has always supported me. “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” I don’t know who said that, but it’s true for me. I never forget that I am one of the luckiest people on the planet: Every day I get to do work that I love. I even get to call reading great books part of my ‘work’!
What do you think, OOMers? Are you getting pumped for the conclusion to The 39 Clues?
Previously On Our Minds:
* Access granted! 39 days until the final book in The 39 Clues
* Attention: Storm Warning is here
* The 39 Clues books 9 and 10 covers revealed!