The DMS was lucky enough to interview Margaret Peterson Haddix. Lizzy recently reviewed a few of her stories: Takeoffs and Landings, Among the Hidden, and Double Identity, and it was great to share our thoughts about it and hear yours. We are excited to learn a little bit more about the story behind her awesome stories. So, without further ado... take it away, Margaret!
What inspired you to write the Shadow Children series?
I got the idea for the first book in the series, Among the Hidden, when my husband and I were talking about whether or not to have a third child. One of the things we talked about was the issue of overpopulation, and at a certain point, I just thought, “Well, if that were such a huge problem, there’d be a law, that nobody could have a third child!” And then I thought, “Wow, what if there were a law like that?”
How long did it take you to write Among the Hidden? Which book in the series took the longest to write?
It took me about two or three months to write the first draft of Among the Hidden, then another couple months after that to do the revision. Probably Among the Barons took the longest to write, because it took the most revision.
What was your inspiration for the characters Luke and Jen?
Luke was one of those rare characters who just appeared pretty much fully formed—I felt like I knew him very well, right from the start. In Jen’s case, I knew before I started writing about her that I wanted her to be a bold, brave character, largely to serve as a contrast to Luke at that point in the story, because he was terrified, even as he did courageous things. Then I started writing about Jen, and it almost felt like she took over—like she was standing there with me saying, “Oh, no, don’t put words in my mouth; this is what I’d say in that instance’, and this is how I’d react in this other circumstance…” I usually have to have more “get acquainted” time with my characters, and I felt very fortunate with both of those characters that their personalities were so clear so quickly. They were just completely themselves.
What are some of your favorite books from childhood? Were there any specific authors who inspired you?
I was a huge bookworm as a kid, and pretty much read anything I could get my hands on. Books were especially important to me when I was in about fourth-sixth grade, and some of my favorite books then included From the Mixed-Up Files of Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg; She the Adventuress by Dorothy Crayder; The Long Journey by Barbara Corcoran; The Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett; Enchantress from the Stars by Sylvia Engdahl… and about a million others. I would say that I was influenced and inspired by all of those authors.
If you could live anyplace real or fictional, where would it be? Why?
Hmm. I am perfectly happy living where I currently live (Columbus, Ohio) but I would definitely enjoy visiting lots and lots of different places. I love to travel, pretty much anywhere. Because I am in the midst of writing a time travel series right now, my mind also jumps to historical time periods I would love to visit (but only if I don’t have to put my life in danger to go there). London during World War II springs immediately to mind, because I am fascinated with that time, and I’m curious if people really were as brave as they sound in the historical accounts—but I am certainly glad that I didn’t have to live through such a dangerous place and time.
If you could befriend a character from one of your books, who would you befriend? Why?
Probably Luke would be my first choice, because he is so lonely during much of Among the Hidden. He definitely needs a friend!
Takeoffs and Landings shows a family with tension and struggles. The characters are so believable. Did the multiple points of views and emotional differences make this a challenging book to write?
Yes, the changing points of view did make this a challenging book to write, but that also made it a very fun book to write. I could tell something from Lori’s perspective and then switch to Chuck and realize that even though I’d had them standing in the very same room, they were experiencing everything very differently. The hardest part was figuring how not to just tell every scene twice, which would have become very boring for the reader.
You write books in a variety of different genres. Is there a genre that you prefer? Or is there a way you decide which genre you are going to write next?
I love being able to switch back and forth between genres, so I guess my best answer to which I prefer is, “a variety!” Usually I don’t think about which genre I want to do next as much as I try to determine which story I have growing in my head is begging the loudest, “Write me next! Write me next!”
I work pretty far ahead—right now I am working on the eighth and final book in the Missing series (tentative title: Redeemed). It won’t actually come out until Sept. 2015, so I feel a little foolish saying much about it this far out except it’s going to end the whole series, and hopefully that will be very satisfying for readers. In the meantime, I have the sixth book in the series, Risked, newly out now, dealing with the Romanovs in Russia, and the seventh book, Revealed, will be out next year.
Otherwise, I have a stand-alone young adult novel coming out in November called Full Ride, which is about shame, guilt, family secrets—and a full-ride college scholarship. And then in fall of 2014, I’ll have a book called Palace of Lies come out. It is a companion to two of my earlier books, Just Ella and Palace of Mirrors.