You have written nonfiction before, but Two Truths and a Lie is a bit different. How did you approach it?
It’s similar in that they all took a lot of research, but the research methods were different. For both Be a Changemaker and Emmanuel’s Dream, the key research was mostly from interviews that I conducted personally. For Two Truths and a Lie: It’s Alive! the research was mostly scouring reputable news sources and scholarly journals in online databases (thank goodness for my awesome public library system, which got particularly heavy usage for this one!). And, of course, writing the false ones was very different, since I could “cheat” and make up stuff whenever I wanted to.
Along those lines, you coauthored Two Truths and a Lie with Ammi-Joan Paquette. How was it working with another author?
It was fantastic! Joan and I think and work a lot alike, which made us really compatible throughout the process. We also bring a lot of different areas of strength to the table, however, so we were able to complement one another nicely.
How did the two of you end up working together?
Joan proposed the original concept to me, since it’s mostly nonfiction and I’m a nonfiction author (and Joan is my agent!). I didn’t feel right about taking her brilliant idea, though, so I told her she should write it. She wasn’t sure she was comfortable with the nonfiction elements, since she’d never done that before, so we came up with a compromise—write it together!
Take me through the writing process.
This series has to be one of the easier things to co-author, since all of the stories can stand alone. Once we have the overall structure figured out (the hardest part, see below!), we just start working on our own stories. We divide up the sidebars and other bits as well. Then we swap and edit each other’s work. We go through each other’s feedback and make one final pass before sending it back to our brilliant editor at Walden Pond Press, who then adds his own feedback.
We are both constantly recording stories that we’d be interested in writing. Together we came up with the plan and outline for the book. It takes a lot of back and forth, since coming up with the overall structure of the book—where everything fits and we each have the stories we’re most excited about—is the hardest part. We always have to sacrifice certain stories for the organization and flow of the book as a whole, but hopefully they’ll have a chance to show up in a future book someday!
What’s more fun — writing truth or lies?
At first, the lies were so hard for me to write, and were therefore not much fun at all! Now that I’ve gotten more comfortable doing them, however, I’m finding I enjoy them more, because I have more liberty to do whatever I want to with them and don’t have to be as worried about accuracy.
Is there one topic that you enjoyed more than others? Why?
No, I can’t say that there was. They were all fascinating. That’s why they ended up in the book!
What are you working on now?
We just finished up the text for the second book in the Two Truths and a Lie series, which will be a social studies compendium on history, geography, and culture. Next up will be digging into the photo research for that volume, which I’m really looking forward to. Seeing the pages brought to life by the designer is such an incredible thrill!
Is there a book from your own childhood that still resonates with you today?
My favorite book from childhood, which still resonates with me today, is Mog the Forgetful Cat by Judith Kerr. I have always loved a good underdog story, and Mog (although a cat) certainly fits the bill. Despite the family’s repeated and justified utterances of “Drat that cat!,” Mog comes through as the hero in the end, entirely due to her so-called failings. I also spent a lot of time reading our encyclopedia set when I was kid, and I’m still a constant seeker of information, which is probably why I’ve enjoyed working on Two Truths and a Lie so much!