Monday, May 11, 2009

Interview with Claudia Mills

Monday, May 11, 2009

I asked Claudia Mills, the author of the wonderful book, How Oliver Olson Changed the World, if she would answer a couple of questions about the writing of Oliver Olson for my blog readers, and she said, "Yes!" She's like that, you know. She shines with fun and good heart. Below is a short exchange between Claudia and me about her characters and a little insight into the writing process.

ME: I love the way you write, Claudia, and your characters are so lovable. I wondered if you could tell us how you create your characters? What is the inspiration for them? How do you make them so appealing and believable? Is there anything else you'd like to say about character development?

Claudia: Thanks for all your kind words, Clara! I don't really sit down to write with a pre-conceived notion of what my characters are going to be like. Well, maybe I do. I knew Oliver would be the child of overprotective parents, a kid who doesn't have much confidence in himself, and that Crystal would be the spunky girl who drags him out of their orbit somehow. But that was all I knew when I started. The rest emerges on the page, as I write. For me, character development is all about putting your characters into an interesting situation and then watching what happens. The key is to come up with the interesting situation. I do that part. But then the characters themselves do the rest.

When I wrote OLIVER, I knew that the kids would be making dioramas for their study of the solar system, and that Oliver's parents would be completely controlling about his. Believe me, I have interacted with SO many helicopter parents here in Boulder and I have made my own share of dioramas for my kids when they should have been making their own. (And decorated Valentine boxes, too!). But I had no idea that Oliver and Crystal would end up making a protest diorama on behalf of Pluto. That idea was theirs alone! And now it seems to be most readers' favorite part of the book.

ME: Thanks for joining us, Claudia! I hope all of you will look for Claudia's other books as well. I'm sure most of you are familiar with her Gus & Grandpa books: Claudia is a graduate of Princeton University. She worked in publishing for many years at Scholastic and now lives in Boulder, CO. As well as writing charming books for kids, she teaches Philosophy at the University of Colorado.

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