Book Nerd Interview
Anne is also the author of the Cronus Chronicles (Atheneum), a middle grade fantasy trilogy about two cousins who unwittingly fall into a battle with Greek gods. The three books are THE SHADOW THIEVES, THE SIREN SONG, and THE IMMORTAL FIRE. In addition, she has written two novels for adults: SPILLING CLARENCE and THE DISAPPARATION OF JAMES (Hyperion). She teaches at the Hamline University's Masters of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Young Adults. Anne lives in Minneapolis with her young son and neurotic cats.
Stories help connect us to the world and to each other. I think stories are the only universal language people have.
What’s one thing that readers would be surprised to find out about you?
I’ve spent a lot of time trying to think of an answer that isn’t “I swear like a sailor,” but I can’t come up with one.
When did you write your first book and how old were you?
I wrote my first book in 2000, when I was 25. It was a book for adults, called Spilling Clarence. I didn’t discover writing children’s books until five years later, and I never looked back.
What was the greatest thing you learned at school?
The art of the em dash! It’s such a beautiful punctuation mark—though my copy editors might argue that I learned it a little too well.
How would you describe yourself in three words?
writer, teacher, mom
In your new book; The Real Boy, can you tell my Book Nerd Kids Community a little about it and why they should read your novel?
There’s a forest where the trees were once wizards, and in the forest is a village where people sell magical goods. A boy named Oscar works in the basement of one of these shops, preparing herbs for the magician who owns it. But magic is failing, and soon strange things start happening in the village—leading Oscar up from the basement and out into a world where the rules are changing.
For those who are unfamiliar with Oscar, how would you introduce him?
Oscar hasn’t interacted much with people, other than the magician and his rather mean apprentice. For most of his life, his friends have been the cats that live in the magician’s basement with him, so he’s not that comfortable with people. So he might not make eye contact when he meets you, and he might say something odd—unless you are a cat, in which case he will know just what to say.
If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
I think it would do Oscar a lot of good to meet Anne Shirley. He’s never had “scope for the imagination” in his life.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Kate DiCamillo. Her books are perfect jewels. And she clearly loves and respects her reader so much; I love that she never talks down to kids.
You have the chance to give one piece of advice to your readers. What would it be?
Read all the time, everything you can get your hands on.
What's the most memorable summer job you've ever had?
I worked in the public defenders’ office in Providence one summer. There were a lot of very dedicated, very overworked people there.
What decade during the last century would you have chosen to be a kid?
If I had to pick something different, I would love to be in the “Harry Potter” generation—the kids who got to grow up with those books as they were coming out. But I like being a kid of the 70’s—I got to grow up on Star Wars and E.T. I internalized a lot about storytelling seeing Star Wars 8 jillion times!
What scares you the most and why?
Snakes—my fear of them is completely pathological to the extent that I’m scared of rubber snakes, because while they PROBABLY will never come alive, you don’t know for sure. And mummies. Not the monster mummies, but the actual mummies in the museum. In the Metropolitan Museum of Art, you have to pass by the mummies to get to the women’s bathroom. I think it’s inhumane.
What is your greatest adventure?
Raising my little boy on my own, definitely. It’s an Indiana Jones-level adventure.
When was the last time you told someone you loved them?
Last night. It’s always the last thing I say to my little boy every night. Except when the last thing is “You’re supposed to be in bed.”
Who is the first person you call when you have a bad day?
I actually only use the phone if something’s on fire, or if I need my dad to go to Target for me. But my first act is usually to email my dear friend Laura Ruby, who is always ready with empathy and humor and a good cat picture, if needed.
When was the last time you cried?
I saw The Butler a few nights ago. I cried through most of the last twenty minutes. I cry like some people sneeze. It can be a problem.
Where can readers stalk you?
On the internet, I can be found procrastinating on Twitter. In real life, I am chasing around my boy, usually at Wild Rumpus Books for Young Readers, the park, or down any random sidewalk.
But it's been a long time since anyone who could call himself a wizard walked the world, and now that world is changing. Children in the city are falling ill, and something sinister lurks in the forest. Oscar has long been content to stay in his small room in the cellar, comforted in the knowledge that the magic that flows from the trees will keep his island safe. Now, even magic may not be enough to save it.
Oscar has been cooped up in a small area helping out Caleb. Perhaps Wolf's mistreatment of him has formed him into a shy and often times socially awkward person. It is not until he becomes friends with Callie that he learns how to deal with people. Callie is naturally kind and always try to bring out the good in people. Even when it seemed that Oscar was falling back into his shy and awkward self, Callie was always there to pull him right out. Readers will find Oscar's emotional journey with interacting with others to be relatable as we have all been through this phase. It is Oscar's young age that makes his journey difficult and Callie became his guidance. She is forgiving and even with Oscar's small steps outside of his comfort zone, she was always patient with him. She is the type of friend anyone could hope for.
There are multiple themes in the book which made the reading fun and unpredictable. Ursu's writing provided the right tone to deliver such a wonderful story. As humans, the world is full of uncertainty as much as we are uncertain about ourselves at times. She digs deep into Oscar's emotional thoughts and tells a world with a an uncontrollable hunger of magic and how greed ruins it. While the townspeople hide behind magic from the crisis that has engulf their world, Oscar discovers that the underlying problem is fear and must try to release his own fears in order to restore balance to the earth. The Real Boy is packed with suspense, adventure, and the interesting story of Oscar. As the plot unfolds, it takes readers into another world full of dark mysteries and interesting magical history and reminds us to never forget the past as it can come back with vengeance for disregarding the lessons set forth.