Monday, August 5, 2013

Kathryn Lasky

Kathryn Lasky is the Newbery Honor-winning author of over one hundred books for children and young adults.

Her new book is Guardians of Ga'Hoole: The Rise of a Legend.

Late last month I asked the author about what she was reading.  Lasky's reply:
People are always so surprised when they find out that I read so much nonfiction—especially history and science. They think it’s weird that an author like myself who writes fantasy series like The Guardians of Ga’Hoole or The Wolves of the Beyond would look to the real world. But I do. You just can’t pull all this out of a hat. You need some grounding in reality. For example, for my new book, The Rise of A Legend, one of the books I read was No Easy Day about the Navy SEAL team mission to assassinate Osama Bin Laden. I mean, I am about as far from a Navy SEAL as one could get. I won’t go into details but I am of a certain age and have gray hair. I’m a grandmother for crying out loud! And I don’t know much about counter terrorism or assassination. So I had to read some books on it. In addition to No Easy Day I had to read several books on volcanology and was particularly interested in volcanoes in regions with a lot of ice.

I don’t read all science. Right this minute I am reading Neil Gaiman’s new book The Ocean at The End of the Lane. Neil Gaiman in truly a master of blending a world of fantasy with the quotidian world of cozy domesticity. There is no one like Neil Gaiman for conveying those weird dream-like states where you feel the characters almost paralyzed against some nameless, undefinable fear. Absolutely chilling!

I also love reading Jane Austen. I have a courtship and marriage proposal in one of my owls books that I think of as straight out of Emma. No one will think of that except me when they read the book. I mean it’s two owls not Emma and Mr. Knightly. But believe me I re-read parts of Emma to make that work.

I also read for voice and not just factual information. Before I started writing The Rise of A Legend I re-read an old book called The Book of Ebenezer Le Page. It is told from the point of view of an old man who lived on one of the Channel Islands, Guernsey, from before World War I to after World War II. Ebenezer had the most compelling voice of any character I had ever encountered in fiction. I had decided to write The Rise of a Legend in the first person and I thought I want to mimic that voice of Ebenezer because indeed Ezylryb, the main character, an irascible old owl, had always reminded me of Ebenezer Le Page.

So my books are often compilations of voices I have heard or read, images I have seen. A reader would never be able to specifically identify a phrase or an event or even a character. I make these things my own, or my book’s own. But it is as if all the books I have ever read are constantly flowing through me. It’s sort of like life. I am a careful observer of sunsets and dawns and weather in general and I file the special ones away someplace in my brain and then take them out and turn them over and peer at them as if they are wonderful jewels, and then think now where I could use this in a book?
Visit Kathryn Lasky's website.

--Marshal Zeringue