Interview with Local Children's Book Author, Anola Pickett
July 30, 2012
Laura: Hi Anola, thanks for talking with us. You got some big news last month, a Thorpe Menn Literary Award nomination. Can you tell us a little about that?
Anola: The award is sponsored by the local chapter of the AAUW (American Association of University Woman), and the Kansas City Public Library. It’s named for Thorpe Menn, who was the book editor at The Kansas City Star for many years.
L: How long have you lived in the Kansas City area?
A: I’m a native Kansas Citian, although I’ve also lived in St. Louis, Chicago, and Worcester, MA.
L: What did you do before you became an author?
A: I taught school, mostly in the middle school arena (grades 6, 7, 8), although I’ve also taught pre-K, French, and Composition I and II at the college level, plus community-ed classes in writing. Before I retired, I also served as a school librarian. I’ve had other jobs in public and community relations, but I always seemed to land back in a school situation.
L: I know you enjoy writing historical fiction. How do you choose what era to set your stories in?
A: The era seems to choose me! Both of my historical books have evolved from a true story or event that grabbed my interest and imagination.
L: I love the characters you create. Where do they come from?
A: The girl in Wasatch Summer is based on a real person, and I tried to imagine how a young girl would react to being sent to spend the summer alone in the mountains tending the family sheep. I added family members to fill out Hannah’s personal story, plus a best friend and an ornery boy from school. In the true story she was befriended by Blackfeet, who were camping nearby, and this gave me an opportunity to add characters from a different culture and to give Hannah a friend her own age. I named her Always Singing. Part of the fun of developing characters is dreaming up names for them!
L: You have a new book coming out. Would you tell us a little about it?
A: Whisper Island is set in 1913 on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The seed for the story came during a visit to those barrier islands, where I heard a shipwreck story that intrigued me. During my beginning research, I learned how hard the Life Savers had to work to save people from the ships that wrecked on the sandbars. I decided to create a girl character who longs to become a Life Saver and do this important work. Her problem is that she’s a girl and the Life Saving Service is restricted to males. Primmy is a spunky girl who won’t give up her dream. The book comes out next July. Give it a read to find out how Primmy resolves her problem!
L: I can’t wait! Here’s a question about your life in KC. When out-of-towners visit, what area attraction do you most like to show off?
A: There are so many beautiful, interesting things about our city, but if I have to choose one, I’d pick the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. It’s first-class!
L: What’s your favorite KC area restaurant?
A: I like the Aixois on 55th Street for an elegant French supper. The Bloomsbury Bistro on Mission Road serves an original, tasty lunch and is located at the end of an amazing antique mall. Paradise for an historical fiction author!
L: And finally, would you give us a book recommendation? Whose books do you turn to when you want to snuggle up with a good one on a rainy day?
A: I’m pretty eclectic and tend to love whatever I'm reading. I don't commit to a book unconditionally, so if I've stuck with one, it's my favorite at the moment. I love Anne Tyler and her quirky characters and insights into everyday life. Mystery is my favorite adult genre, and I’m sad that Robert B. Parker and Donald Westlake are no longer with us. Parker was a master at dialogue and Westlake developed the zaniest group of criminal characters.
Richard Peck is, I think, my favorite kids’ writer. He has a way of telling a story set in another time and place that takes the reader there and even when the story has serious overtones, there’s always a layer of hope and optimism.
Thanks for stopping-by, Anola! Good luck with the Thorpe Menn Award nomination.