Today to celebrate Utah Book Month we have Mette Ivie Harrison on the blog. I recently reviewed her book The Princess and the Hound and am looking forward to any other encounters I may have with her books. Let’s give her a warm welcome!
Where do your ideas come from?
Authors get asked this question a lot, but I'm not sure I have a good answer for it. The truth is, I'm not always sure where the ideas come from, and I'm not sure that I want to investigate too deeply. I'd prefer for the process to feel more organic and inspired rather than analytical. There are certainly times when I am watching a TV show or reading a book and think--I want to do something like this. Then the idea sits for a while before I figure out how to do it. I think that me sitting down and writing every day encourages the ideas to come to me. But there are honestly a lot of times when I wish ideas would stop coming to me. Most authors I know have a far longer list of books they want to write than they will ever be able to get to in a lifetime, and it can feel like a burden.
Who inspires you to write?
I have five children and four are teens right now. Some of them read more than others, but when they are excited about a book idea and want to read each day's output, that is very encouraging to me. I also have literary crushes on certain authors who I wish someday I could be as good as, including Jane Austen, Robin McKinley, Lois McMaster Bujold, Kate Elliott, and Megan Whalen Turner. I reread favorite books often, but sometimes this can be discouraging as well, comparing my unfinished book to their finished one. In the end, I simply like writing and that's what keeps me doing it. I enjoy the Zen state I get into and I enjoy the made up worlds and people that I get to write about.
What’s the first story you can remember writing?
I still have a story I dictated to my teacher in Kindergarten, on that huge butcher paper. I'd drawn a rainbow dragon and I remember the teacher saying to me, "this looks like a dragon who has a story." So I told her the story. She said, "What a great story. I'll bet you're going to grow up to be a writer." And from that point on, I knew what I wanted to do. I lost courage a little in late high school and during college, but it was still what I wanted to be, even if it wasn't what I said I was going to be.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Read a lot. If you're not reading 200 books a year, I think you should stop writing and spend the next two years reading everything you can get your hands on that is being published in the field you want to write in in the last two years. I say this because after many years of giving advice about sending queries and getting in the habit of writing, I have realized that so many people are thinking to get into publishing based on what they know about children's books from when they were children themselves. This is good background information, but it isn't enough.
You get to choose any of your characters to go out to lunch with. Who do you pick, where do you go, and what do they order?
Chala, definitely. And we don't go out to eat. She treats me to a very unvegetarian forest meal with the meat dripping blood over a fire.
If you could meet any author (living or dead), who would it be?
I'd say Jane Austen, but I'm pretty sure she would have no interest in meeting me and would be unlikely to actually talk to me. So I will say instead, Stephen King, since I think he would be interesting. But I should put in here that one of the most wonderful things about being an author is meeting other authors and realizing that they think of me as a peer. Some of the authors on the list of incredible people who actually think I'm one of them are: Orson Scott Card, Brian Selznick, Susan Beth Pfeffer, Shannon Hale, Libba Bray, Holly Black, Kathleen Duey, Justine Larbelestier, Sarah Beth Durst, Janni Lee Simner, Robin Wasserman, Lauren Myracle, Jo Knowles, Cecil Castelucci, Nancy Werlin, Kate Elliott, and on and on. I love that part of the business!
What are 3 words that best describe your personality?
compulsive, intense, determined
You are trapped on a desert island, with no way to escape. What 3 books would you bring?
Pride and Prejudice, Shards of Honor, The Queen of Attolia (I choose these three because they are the books I have read over and over most often over the last several years).
If you had to choose one food to eat for the rest of your life, what would it be?
bread, preferably from Kneaders.
What is your all-time favorite fairy tale?
When I was a kid, my mother used to play a record of fairy tales for us as entertainment. I remember distinctly listening to this tale about a brother and sister. The brother ends up getting killed with the lid of a chest and then buried under a tree. The sister has to figure out who did it and bring him back to life. I think. There were birds involved. There are always birds, aren't there? I don't remember the name of the fairy tale, though. I remember spinning out in my head different endings to it. I think I liked that the sister was the active one, and also that it wasn't a fairy tale that was well-known.