Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Author Interview with Ammi-Joan Paquette

Today's letter for the Blogging A to Z Challenge is the letter I, so I bring to you an interview with Ammi-Joan Paquette, a literary agent and author who writes picture books as well as middle grade and young adult novels. I've read Joan's THE TIPTOE GUIDE TO TRACKING FAIRIES (Tanglewood Press), a fun picture book detailing the world of fairies. I also read NOWHERE GIRL (Walker/Bloomsbury), a middle-grade adventure novel about a 13-year old girl who leaves the Thai prison she was born and raised in to search for her  dead mother's family in America. Joan took time out of her  busy writing schedule and agent job with the Erin Murphy Literary Agency to answer my questions.


I read somewhere you came up with the idea for THE TIPTOE GUIDE TO TRACKING FAIRIES while you were out walking with your daughters. Did you and your daughters ever come across a fairy on one of your walks?               Unfortunately, we never did meet any fairies in our tracking adventures—but it wasn’t for lack of searching! As a point of interest, the early drafts of this story stayed true to my daughters’ and my real-life experience: the fairy trackers come to the end of their walk not having actually seen the fairies, who have been lurking just out of sight (though visible to the readers). But after counsel from my very wise editor, I changed the text to what you see in the final version, with the face-to-face encounter at the end giving the story just the right joyful endcap. Those fairies are elusive, but not entirely unreasonable, when the conditions are right!

How did you come up with the idea for NOWHERE GIRL? The idea of a girl, born to an American mother, being raised in a Thai prison is such a grabbing premise for the beginning of a story.  
The inspiration came from reading an article about a young boy who had been raised in a Thai prison, along with his incarcerated mother. I could not stop thinking about this boy, wondering what his life would be like, how he would adapt to the outside world when the time came to reenter it, and what circumstances would bring a mother to this point where keeping her child behind bars was a better choice than the alternative. The character I created in NOWHERE GIRL differs from the original subject—Luchi is female, in her early teens, and born to an American mother. Those elements helped open the story up for me and turn it into something I could really explore and connect with, and hopefully bring to life for readers. 

What makes a story multicultural?
I think that a multicultural story pushes us to think outside the borders of the white American experience that colors so much of today’s fiction. There is no one single culture, background, or upbringing in the world today—we are a glorious mishmash—and I love that the market is opening up more and more to stories which reflect this. It has not been uncommon in past times for manuscripts to be rejected because they were not set in or focused on the US . Recognizing that we live in a big world and there are countless experiences for the sharing is what constitutes multicultural literature for me.

How do you manage your time between your kidlit writing career and agent duties for Erin Murphy Literary Agency? Both occupations operate very much on an ebb-and-flow basis—and luckily, so far everything has gone very smoothly to accommodate both careers. When I am swamped with agent work, my writing necessarily takes a back seat, and when I have a writing deadline, I will ease it up into the foreground a bit more. I do, however, very much view agenting as my primary job. Writing tends to get its back-scratching time mostly on weekends, time off, and occasional high-productivity forays to my local Starbucks.

What were your favorite kidlit books growing up?
Let’s see! I was a big fan of the Anne of Green Gables series; Tamora Pierce; Madeleine L’Engle; Betsy and Tacy; the Little House books. That’s what I can think of off the top of my head!

Any upcoming projects you’d like to mention? 
My newest book, which is just out this spring, is THE TIPTOE GUIDE TO TRACKING MERMAIDS. Following the familiar ground covered by the first fairy-tracking adventure, this book has the same type of gorgeous art-and-photography illustrations (this time by the uber-talented Marie LeTourneau). While the first book explored a more basic outdoor landscape, MERMAIDS takes young readers on a walk along the seashore, investigating the various natural elements to be found there, and hoping for that ever-important sprinkle of magic. It’s a terrific book for spring and summer!


Shelley Sly said...

Both the picture books and the middle grade novel sound awesome! Putting them on my To-Read list. Thanks for the interview!

Alison Miller said...

Awesome interview! And now I want to run out and grab a copy of the Nowhere Girl - sounds so good! Thanks for this!

Karen Jones Gowen said...

Fascinating interview!

Nice to meet you, and I hope you're enjoying the Challenge!

A to Z Challenge Host

Ruth Schiffmann said...

Great interview. I love the cover for The Tiptoe Guide to Tracking Mermaids. Sounds like fun, too!

Lynn Proctor said...

enjoyed reading your interview!

Jay Noel said...

Great interview.

I love Ms. Paquette's take on more multiculurism in YA literature. YA has always been on the forefront of this movement. Growing up, I didn't have much to read that I could relate to culturally. These days, it's better, but there's still a long way to go.

Lissa Clouser said...

I definitely have to check out the Tiptoe books now! They sound amazing!

Jemi Fraser said...

Great interview ladies! I was a huge Anne of GG fan too - still am :)

Sylvia Ney said...

I love the cover on "Nowhere Girl"! New follower here. I’m enjoying reading my fellow “A to Z”ers. I look forward to visiting again.


Cynthia said...

Thanks for the positive comments on this interview, everyone!

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