Friday, June 17, 2011

SCBWI Team Blog Exclusive Interview: MARY POPE OSBORNE

I raised my hand high for the chance to interview the incomparable MARY POPE OSBORNE as part of our SCBWI Team Blog Exclusive interviews.

Mary Pope Osborne is the author of one of the most successful children's book series EVER: The Magic Tree House series. The first Magic Tree House book, Dinosaurs Before Dark, came out in 1992. Now both #46 and #47 are available for pre-order and are as popular as ever.

I first knew Mary Pope Osborne as a teacher. For my students, reading a Magic Tree House book meant they had reached a huge milestone. Once they had read one they could declare, "I'm a chapter book reader." So exciting. Although, not all young readers may know Mary Pope Osborne's name, they know her beloved characters: Jack and Annie. And they can rattle off title after title of her popular books.

Mary Pope Osborne will be a giving a keynote, as well as conducting a breakout session during the SCBWI summer conference in LA.

And now, welcome to Mary Pope Osborne!

Your MAGIC TREE HOUSE series is really a series like no other. You can now pre-order both books #46 and #47. How do you maintain your inspiration and joy as you continue to work on such a successful and well-known series.

First I love my readers – kids between 5 and 9 are the most generous human beings on earth. They always give me encouragement and inspiration. (One young reader once sent me an apple and some marshmallows in case I needed a snack break from my writing.) Second, I love my characters Jack and Annie. I’ve come to think of them as friends and always look forward to finding out how they’ll behave in new times and places. Third I love exploring and researching all those different times and places. In fact, doing research for each book is the most fun part of the work and often dictates the plot and story elements. I’m always on the lookout for new information that will help keep the series fresh.

Somewhere along the way, has the success of the series ever brought fear that got you "stuck" as you moved forward to the next book?
This may sound hard to believe, but I honestly don’t think about the success of the series. I think about writing the stories for my husband Will who is my sounding-board, and I think about my editor Mallory Loehr who has worked on every single book. And I think about Jack and Annie and let them tell me what they would do and how they would feel in the places and situations I create for them.

If I stick to the task at hand, following Jack and Annie moment by moment, I never seem to get stuck. My advice for writers is not to worry about the sales of your work or even whether it’s “good”, but rather, invest yourself in the process of writing for the joy of the experience.

Such great advice!

Before Magic Tree House you published several other books. Do you ever dream up stories and characters unrelated to MAGIC TREE HOUSE?

Actually I had published at least twenty other books before I started the series; and I continue to write other books. Many of my books were retellings of mythology and folklore, including a six-part series of tales from the Odyssey. I’ve also written a number of Dear America books, picture books, YA novels, two mysteries, biographies, and works of nonfiction, such One World, Many Religions. All these works have helped the Magic Tree House series, as I incorporate myth, history and biography into Jack and Annie’s adventures.

And, you must tell us about all those adorable pups on your website's home page.

Oh, they are so glad you asked about them. Joey and Mr. Bezo are Norfolk terriers, and like many terriers, they are little demons with huge personalities and a great resistance to being obedient. They rule our house and have us very well-trained. The third dog, Little Bear, is a precious adoptee whom I first saw walking blithely down a country road. I liked to think he was waltzing into our lives to the tune of Moon River. He’s been a blissful companion ever since and endlessly tries to discipline his two scrappy brothers.

Thank you, Mary! I can't wait to meet Jack and Annie's creator in L.A.

For more, here's a great video interview about her creative process.

If you haven't registered for the conference yet you're in luck! Early registration (at a discount) will remain open until Monday, June 20th. Take advantage. Sign up HERE.


Andrea Mack said...

Thanks for the great interview. I really liked hearing about their creative process.

Cuppa Jolie said...

Thanks, Andrea.

Lee Wind, M.Ed. said...

Thanks Jolie and Mary,
this was great - and I loved the question (and even more the answer) about how not to get stuck!
I'm very excited to hear Mary speak at the upcoming summer conference!

Gretchen said...

Really enjoyed your interview, Jolie, with Mary. Especially where she reveals she writes for the JOY of of the experience!