So excited that Deborah Hopkinson agreed to stop by our blog today!
What inspired you to write about Jane Austen?
That’s simple: I love Jane Austen. I’ve actually been a Jane Austen fan for many years. I can’t remember when I first read and fell in love with Pride and Prejudice, but it was probably in middle school. Sense and Sensibility and Persuasion are my other two favorites. Austen is a great role model of determination and perseverance, and also is an author who embraced revision – something that I think can be hard for all of us, especially young writers.
Why do you think it’s important for children to learn about Jane Austen?
I think it’s important for children and teens to be aware of major writers of the past, and especially of strong women who succeeded against great odds. And hopefully, when readers see her name when they’re older, they might be more inclined to pick up an Austen novel.
What did you think when you first saw the illustrations?
I love the art for this book! Illustrator Qin Ling was born in Shanghai and now lives in Canada. She has perfectly captured the lightness, humor, and humanity that characterize Austen’s work.
You seem drawn to historic fiction, why?
I love writing both historical fiction and nonfiction and often switch back and forth, depending on the story. Ordinary, Extraordinary Jane is nonfiction, while my picture book on Charles Dickens, A Boy Called Dickens, qualifies as historical fiction because it includes made-up dialogue. I love reading about the past, and I feel that historical context is important for understanding politics and culture today, no matter where you live.
What is your favorite part of writing and publishing books?
I love working with editors on the process of making writing better. And, of course, it’s always exciting to see those first sketches for a picture book! Perhaps best of all is meeting young readers and sharing history with them. In spring 2019 I will visit schools in several states. It’s a great way to meet educators, parents, and students.
What advice would you give parents who are trying to ignite a love of reading in their kids?
I have said this a lot, but it bears repeating: Keep reading with your child no matter how old they are. It’s fun to read picture books together, but taking turns reading a novel aloud is a great way to share stories. And for parents of middle schoolers and teens, you have a built-in book club in your family. Read nonfiction and fantasy together; if you watch films based on books, read the books together (first!). And don’t limit yourself to longer works: there are many sophisticated picture books being published.
Most of all, keep reading together.