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Author Interview – Lois Lowry

Lois Lowry has received countless honors, among them the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award, the California Young Reader’s Medal, and the Mark Twain Award. She received Newbery Medals for two of her novels, Number the Stars and The Giver. Her first novel, A Summer to Die, was awarded the International Reading Association’s Children’s Book Award.
 
I had a chance to ask her a few questions.
 
 
You’ve won so many awards (too many to enumerate) including Newbery medals and the Edwards Award. Which of all your honors surprised or delighted you the most?
 
The first Newbery Medal, for NUMBER THE STARS, was a complete surprise. I was not aware that the committee was meeting to make the selection, had no idea my book was in contention. I was sitting at my desk on a winter morning when they called me and I’m sure I sounded completely confused: “Wha?” “Who is this again?” “What are you taking about?” (Four years later, THE GIVER was much talked about, so I was very aware; but I went on a trip to Antarctica…and when they made the selection, they couldn’t call me.)
 
 
Roald Dahl or Madeleine L’Engle?

I am hardly conversant with all the books of these two distinguished people. But I’m one of the few humans in this world who does not love A WRINKLE IN TIME. And I have loved reading Dahl to my kids and grandchildren, most especially JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH.
 
 
You cover many difficult subjects in your books, including death, the Holocaust, and racism. What was the most difficult subject to write about?
 
Goodness, there is no hierarchy of difficulty These are all tough topics and I just hope/try to bring as much intelligence and sensitivity as I can to them.
 
 
You live in a Maine farmhouse part of the year. What does it feel like, and how does that sense of place imbue your writing?
 
My Maine farmhouse was built in 1769, before we were even a nation. There is so much silent history in it, and in the surrounding land, which is very beautiful. I love the quiet there, the feeling of isolation and the past. Although I can write anywhere—I remember writing a chapter of GATHERING BLUE while waiting for a delayed plane in a midwest airport. But where I feel most at home writing-wise, is in the office I have created at the end of my centuries-old barn.
 
 
If you could have any superpower, real or imagined, what would it be?
 
I wrote a series of four books that became known as THE GIVER QUARTET and in each book the young protagonist has a kind of super-power. The final book, SON, depicts the super-power that I think is the most important we could have, and it is achievable by us ordinary humans: the power of empathy. In the book, it is called “veering”…the boy, Gabe, has the power to veer into the feelings of other beings, to feel them, to experience and understand them. There is no real magic to that power; it’s something we should all try to have; and we could change the world with it.
 

Lois Lowry is known for her versatility and invention as a writer. She was born in Hawaii and grew up in New York, Pennsylvania, and Japan. After several years at Brown University, she turned to her family and to writing. She is the author of more than thirty books for young adults, including the popular Anastasia Krupnik series.

 

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