Hi there. This is my interview page.
Oddly, no one has ever asked to interview me!
I know. I'm baffled too.
So I asked some people I know (some of whom are actual writers...)
to think of interview questions for me to answer.
Q: If you could be any letter, what would you be?
A: Are you serious? That's your question?
Q: Ok, ok. Why do you write stories for kids instead of math books, or computer repair manuals?
A: Very funny. Go away. No wait! Fix my computer first.
Q: When did you first start writing?
A: I've loved writing and stories as far back as I can remember. I even loved doing worksheets and book reports in school. Don't get me wrong, I was not a very good student, I just loved words.
The first serious writing that I remember doing was when I was about 11. I wrote poetry exclusively back then, and some of it wasn't too bad either!
Q: Where do you find your inspiration?
A: Mostly, I get ideas from words or phrases that I hear that stick in my head. It's like a little light bulb goes off and I say, "Hey, that sounds like a story!". Since I've worked in childcare on and off my whole life, I've seen and heard some amazingly silly and profound things. Silly and profound make good story material!
Oddly enough, I get some ideas from dreams. However, most of my dreams turn out to be too weird for stories!
Q: What is your writing ritual?
A: My ritual is that I have none. I just write regularly, otherwise the words build up in my head and I feel like they'll start spilling out my ears. Sometimes I write when I'm inspired. Sometimes I write when I know I need to finish something. That might look like me sitting at a desk, or me, in the middle of the night, writing by flashlight, or me, dripping wet from the shower, trying to find a pencil!
I'm also not a plotter or planner. I usually have no idea where my story will go till I get there. My characters and plot lead me, and when I try to lead them, they refuse to cooperate. I take my writing seriously, though. I write because I'm compelled to. Writing fills me up in a way that nothing else does!
Q: How did you choose youth fiction?
A: I think I didn't choose it. It chose me. Possibly because I love kids so much, and because I truly am a kid at heart. Some people say I never grew up, but I just cover my ears and sing "I'm not listening. I'm not listening."
Q: If you could have two things on a desert island, what would they be?
A: Can they be people? If so, I would have my husband and my son, but I sure would miss everyone else!
If not people, then I'd have a garden, tons of paper, and pencils. (I know, that's three. I cheated. I cheat at thumb wrestling too.)
Q: What is your mission statement as a writer?
A: Wow, this sounds like a spy novel! Ok, my mission, if I choose to accept it, is to create fun, engaging stories for children, that are age appropriate, uplifting, and don't have run on sentences. Silly is my favorite thing. "Feel good" is another. There's too much "non-feel good" in the world already! Easy to read for struggling readers is also a main goal for much of my writing.
Q: Who are your favorite authors?
A: It's SO hard to choose, but today, I think that I want to grow up to be Barbara Park, Lisa Graff, Jim Benton, Kate McMullan, Arnold Lobel, Shel Silverstein, and Barbara Kingsolver, all rolled into one... with a little bit of Mary Poppins thrown in there.
Mary Poppins isn't an author, of course, but I love how she really knows what's in the hearts of children. And I love how silly she is! Plus, She's got that umbrella that flies!
Q: What were you like as a kid and are your stories about you?
A: I was different and a bit of a misfit, but I had a lot of enthusiasm and a vivid imagination. I'm told I was a little bossy, which, I've heard, is a sign of a good leader! My report cards usually said I talked too much in class and I didn't apply myself. I think those teachers were confused. It seems I was applying myself to what I loved doing most.
I was also sensitive and I got bullied a lot, which, it turns out, makes great material for writing. Regardless of these misunderstandings, I loved people, and animals, and nature, and food, and collecting things, and I still do.
And, yes, I think our stories are always about us on some level. Sometimes my characters aren't me but the feelings are. Sometimes my stories are about how I wish the world was, which, on some level, is still about me.
Q: Why is the word weird spelled "e" before "i" instead of "i" before "e"?
A: Because it's one of the exceptions to the rule. I recommend being an exception to the rule, as long as you don't become an outlaw!
Jo Ann Banks Writer of Stories, Poems, and Silly Songs