I was very pleased to have the chance to have an interview with the very busy and oh-so-talented Jeanne DuPrau, author of the Ember books: The City of Ember, The People of Sparks, The Prophet of Yonwood, and The Diamond of Darkhold.
How did growing up in the fifties influence you (or your mindset) when creating the world of Ember and Sparks?
During the 1950s, many people were worried that there might be a nuclear war. Some of them were building bomb shelters in their back yards. I used to read magazine articles with instructions about how to do this. All of it made a huge impression on me, and there's no doubt that it influenced my idea for Ember, which is a place built to save the human race from a terrible threat.
What came first, the premise or the characters?
The idea for the city came first. But very soon, I knew that my characters would be a boy and a girl, and that they would be young.
How important was it for you to have resonating characters that readers care about?
This was important. If readers don't care about the characters, they won't read the story. Lina and Doon feel very real to me.
What inspired you to go back to Ember--to return to telling Lina and Doon's story?
The third of the Books of Ember, The Prophet of Yonwood, is set in a different time and place from the first two and has different characters. I wanted to bring the series to a close by taking the story back where it started. I also wanted to tell what happened to the people of Ember as they faced that first hard winter in the town of Sparks.
What order would you encourage readers to read the Ember books in?
It's best to read them in the order they were published. Even though The Prophet of Yonwood comes chronologically first, its ending has more meaning if you've already read The City of Ember.
Can you share what “a day in the life” of a successful author is like for readers? What does a writer do behind-the-scenes?
I'm afraid it isn't very exciting. In the morning, I walk my dog, I eat my breakfast, and I check my e-mail. My writing time comes next. Usually it's no more than two or three hours. I sit at my computer, and I think and write. I stare out the window a lot. Sometimes there are phone calls, or books to be read for research, or letters or speeches to write. But if you made a movie out of my typical day, I have a feeling it would be so boring to watch that the audience would walk out.
If you could meet any author—past or present—who would you want the chance to get to know better?
I'd love to be at a dinner party with Mark Twain and get a close-up experience of his famous wit. I loved Tom Sawyer as a child, and I think the very scary cave scene in that book may have influenced The City of Ember. My book won the Missouri Mark Twain Award, so a little bust of Mark Twain sits on my desk and reminds me every day of one of my favorite writers.
Dystopian novels have always been a favorite sub-genre of mine. I’m wondering if you have a list of favorites to recommend. Which dystopian novels make your best list?
Among the classics, I'd have to list 1984, by George Orwell, and Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley. Cormac McCarthy's The Road has to be one of the bleakest and most powerful dystopias I've ever read. Among books for young people, I've admired Feed, by M.T. Anderson, and The Giver, by Lois Lowry. And don't forget Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury.
If you had twenty-four hours, a time machine, and a limitless supply of money, what would you want to do?
I would use the money to equip my time machine with wings, and I would fly backward and forward in time and see as much as I could of the past and the future. Twenty-four hours wouldn't be nearly enough! I'd want to see ancient Egypt, and Victorian England, and the dinosaurs...and then America a hundred years from now, and a thousand years from now... It's always seemed very unfair to me that we get only one short lifetime in the world.
For more on Jeanne DuPrau and her books:
01 Charger, the 160acrewoods, A Childhood of Dreams, A Christian Worldview of Fiction, All About Children's Books, And Another Book Read, Becky's Book Reviews, Book Review Maniac, Cafe of Dreams, Dolce Bellezza, Fireside Musings, Homeschool Buzz, Hyperbole, Looking Glass Reviews, Never Jam Today,Comax Valley Kids
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