Splendid Questions from Readers

It’s snowing!  Yay pretty snow!  This is both good and bad news.  Good news because, well, snow is pretty.  Bad news, because Sunshine LOVES IT.  LOOOOOOOOOVES IT!  Loves snow MADLY!  Wants to dash up and down the yard like a hyper-crazy snow princess!

But, of course, she can’t, because she’s still recovering from knee surgery and so she’s not really supposed to go above, say, a meander.  Try telling HER that.  She’s entirely convinced that she’s completely healed and ready for mad snow gallivanting RIGHT NOW.  Dear oh dear.

I got the most exciting package in the mail last week:  it’s oodles and oodles of letters from the fabulous students I met at Far Hills Country Day School!  YAY!  Oh my goodness, they’re so exciting!  I love the handmade thank-you cards and I am so so thrilled at all the great messages — thank YOU guys!  I was especially pleased by all the letters that said my dog is adorable (oh, yeah, she’s totally part of my slideshow).  Awww!  You sure know how to make me smile.  :-) 

Some of the letters have extra questions, so I thought this might be a good place to reply to them…I hope the letter writers come back to the blog and find my answers!  🙂

The first set of questions comes from Ashley P., who made me this awesome booklet and included drawings of her two Cairn terriers, Eli and Pepsi (AWESOME NAMES!), plus like a million terrific questions.  Let’s see if I can answer some of them:

How old is your dog?  What is her name?  Where did you get her?  Is she a rescue dog?  Is she crazy or lazy?
Too funny — I love these questions.  Her name is Sunshine, and she’ll be five years old on January 1st (that’s her real birthday — we didn’t make it up!).  She’s not a rescue dog, although I definitely believe in getting a rescue dog if you can, because there are so many dogs out there that need love! 

But Sunshine came to us by destiny (if you ask me).  One of my co-workers (back when I worked in an office and had co-workers!) had a beautiful little white poodle (Juby!) who had puppies (with her boyfriend Gromit, who was a yorkie-poodle mix), so my friend was looking for homes for them.  I had no idea if I was ready for a dog (although I’d wanted one ever since I started living on my own), but it seemed like fate that these perfect puppies came along right then, so I couldn’t say no.  And I was SO LUCKY to get her, because Sunshine is the best dog in the universe!  🙂

Oh, and she is much more crazy than lazy!  :-)  I mean, she sleeps a lot, but only because I’m very boring, sitting at my computer typing all day.  If I would take her outside so we could run in circles around trees chasing squirrels and tennis balls literally all day long, she’d be THRILLED.

Do you have any other pets?  If you do, what are their names?  Where did you get them?  How old are they?
I don’t have any other pets (YET!) ;-), but Sunshine has a lot of furry friends, including her cousins Fuzz and Onion:

Fuzz&Onion2What?  Who?  Us? 

Fuzz (the gray one) and Onion (the stripy one) are my sister and brother-in-law’s cats, and Sunshine ADORES them.  They are somewhat less enthusiastic about her (cats who don’t like having their heads jumped on!  Imagine!), but I’m sure once they find out they’re going to be featured in the "Friends of Sunshine" section of my new Pet Trouble website, they’ll warm up to her.  🙂

Fuzz&Onion1You mean we’re going to be FAAAAAAMOUS?

Yes!  I have grand plans for a new section of this website devoted entirely to my shiny new Pet Trouble books, although it’s going to take me forever to build, so don’t get too excited yet.  I mention it here because now I HAVE to build it, don’t I?  :-)  I’m hoping it’ll be up by April, when the first two books come out.  And ideally it will feature three hundred million photos of adorable pets.  Yay!  :-)   

Still more questions from Ashley!:

How long have you been an author for?  Do you "always" have to write a book?  How long did it take before you were a "real" author, like writing long books (not picture books)?
Ooo, interesting questions!  I’m not even sure how to answer.  Like, did I become an author when my first book was published, or when I started writing?  Because I’ve been writing ever since I could write, basically, but my first book was published eight and a half years ago, and my first long book was published four years ago.  But I think anyone who writes stories because they love it can count as an author, even before they’re published!  :-)  Especially nowadays, when you can publish your own writing on the Internet if you want to, no matter how old you are. 

As for always having to write a book, I do usually have a deadline looming ahead of me (right now I have three coming up in the next two months, that I can think of) (er…hope I’m not forgetting any!), so in that sense I’m always working on something.  But even without a deadline I’m usually thinking about new ideas, so there’s always a book in my head somewhere!  I hope that answers the question.  🙂

And her last question:
Do you have any favorite sports teams?
The Boston Red Sox!  Wooooo!  Well, OK, I have to say that, now that I live in Boston, because otherwise our plumbers and mailmen and insulation installers will hate me.  (Seriously, the number of times I’ve been asked whether I’m a Yankees fan when I tell people we moved up here from New York is alarming.  For the safety of our pipes, I must say no!  Boo!  Never!  My socks are totally red!)  ;-) 

But my husband has always been a Red Sox fan, so I feel safe saying that I am, too, given that I do not actually watch sports, and that he always has to explain the rules of whatever game we are watching whenever the TV accidentally falls on something sports-ish-looking. 

Football especially baffles me.  Why do they keep STOPPING all the time?  Run run STOP.  PAUSE.  STAND AROUND.  Sheesh.  No wonder it takes so long.  I much prefer the rugby I occasionally saw when I lived in New Zealand.  It’s thrilling and violent and crazy and the New Zealand All-Blacks do this fantastic Maori war dance called the haka, where they stick their tongues out and try to scare the bejezus out of their opponents before every game.  Check it out:

Cool, eh?  So the New Zealand All-Blacks are also one of my favorite sports teams, apart from the fact that I don’t actually ever watch their games or have any idea how they’re doing or even if they’re still a team anymore, but clearly: Maori dance = awesome.

We are also, technically, Buffalo Bills fans, although as far as I can tell we are not speaking to the Bills at the moment.  Adam grew up near Buffalo, so he’s eternally loyal in his heart, but lately he’s been stamping around glowering at the TV whenever they’re on, so I assume that means they’re not doing well this year.  Yeah, I’m good at picking up on signals like that.  😉

Does Team USA count as a sports team?  Because I did watch the Olympics!  Michael Phelps woo! 

More questions!  Eric R. writes:  Does your family influence you in your writing?

Sure!  I’m often thinking about my sister Kari when I write, because she likes all the same books I do, so I always hope she likes my books, too.  And the friendship between Hermia and Helena in This Must Be Love is based on my friendship with Kari, although she’s quite a bit more sensible than Helena in real life.  :-)  Plus my mom reads ALL my books and makes lots of detail-oriented comments that I would totally miss otherwise.  In my experience, moms make great editors!

I’ve also noticed that the parents in my Pet Trouble books are often a lot like my own parents, although I try to make them all different.  But I have to be careful, or otherwise the dads will always be funny and wise and busy and sweet, and the moms will always be the helpful, smart, problem-solving ones who know everything about what’s going on in their kids’ lives and are experts at how to take care of the dog.  I’ve tried to mix and match their personalities a bit more, so the Pet Trouble parents aren’t exact replicas of mine, but if you knew my parents when I was growing up, you’ll probably find hints of them in all the moms and dads.

Then there’s Adam, who is a great influence, especially because he’ll patiently listen as I endlessly outline my problems with each book until I talk myself into a solution.  He has a lot of brilliant ideas, too, and, not that I’m admitting anything, but it’s entirely possible that all the cute boys in my books are loosely based on him (especially Alex in This Must Be Love…and probably Parker in Pet Trouble: Runaway Retriever). 

Patrick writes:  How long do you think you’re going to be writing?

Oh my goodness…forever and ever, I hope!  I think it’s the best job in the world and I’m super-lucky to be able to do it full-time.  I’ll keep writing as long as there are still people out there reading!  🙂

And in a related question, Neil P. and Victor L. write:  What is your favorite thing to do in your free time?

I’d say this is related because writing is my favorite thing to do, so I kind of think all my time is free time, and I just like filling up most of it with writing.  But when I’m not writing I love to read, or watch TV, or surf the Internet (mostly reading about TV!), or play with my dog (lately we’ve been playing hide and seek instead of chase the tennis ball, because it involves much less running!). 

Probably my favorite thing to do besides write is take Sunshine to agility classes, where she jumps over hurdles and runs through tunnels and it’s hilarious and adorable.  This is the amazing lovely wonderful place where we take her for class, not far from where we live:  Go Play!  And we miss it so much!  I can’t wait until she’s well enough to go back for more jumping and running!

(I also quite like to complain about TV, if you haven’t noticed.  ;-)  OMG, I hope Heroes sorts itself out in the new year!  If you ask me, they didn’t kill off NEARLY enough annoying characters in the Vol. 3 finale last night!  Harrrumph.  But mostly I love TV…like Chuck and Gossip Girl and Battlestar Galactica and How I Met Your Mother and The Office, all of which are excellent and don’t make me yell at my TV at all.)

If I had more time, I would read more, because there are SO MANY amazing books out there that I can’t wait to read (on my list right now are three more big gigantic ridiculous grown-up books: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, No Ordinary Time (so I can try comparing our shiny new president to FDR instead of Lincoln),  and The Children’s Hospital, which I’ve just started, and it turns out it’s kind of spontaneously and astonishingly post-apocalyptic, which I’d forgotten about when I got it out of the library, so that was a very exciting discovery). 

And I know there’ll be more books I want to read in the future, because several of the letter-writers mention that they want to be authors when they grow up.  YAY!  That’s the best thing about being an author.  If I were, say, an Olympic swimmer, I’d be competing against every other swimmer and I’d have to be like, "no, no! don’t be a swimmer! wouldn’t you rather be a piano tuner?" so that I’d have less competition.  But only good things come of there being more good books in the world, so do it!  Become authors!  And then send me your books so I can read them!  🙂

OK, one more question for today, and then I’ll save the rest for later.  Emily M. asks:  Would you rather use your real name or a pen name when you are writing a novel?

I get a lot of questions about my pen names, which is funny to me because I hardly ever think about them.  When I’m writing a book, it just seems to make sense which name should go with which kind of story (Heather Williams for Little House books, Erin Hunter for the Warriors/Seekers books (of course!), and Tamara Summers for romantic comedy — my own name for everything else!). 

It’s funny because I guess I want to be famous, like every author, so for that reason I like using my real name…partly because I’m hoping if I get REALLY famous, people will start naming their kids "Tui" and then it’ll become like this totally normal name and I won’t have to spell it for everyone all the time.  ;-) 

But mostly I just want people to read and like my books, so I don’t really mind which name goes on the cover.  If a different name would make more people read one of my books, I’d be OK with that.  For instance, we picked the pen name Heather Williams for the Nellie Oleson book so that people would find it on the bookshelf next to "Wilder" when they’re in the bookstore or library looking for Little House books.  Otherwise it would be hidden over in "S", and how would they know to go looking for it?  I wrote the book for Little House readers (and I hope they like it!), so I didn’t mind using a different name, because the important thing is for them to find it and read it!  :-)  Fingers crossed that it’s working!

All right, that’s probably enough questions for today…that was fun!  Thank you SO MUCH for your wonderful letters!  I promise I’ll answer more questions soon!

Also, I have another "welcome to the world", this time for Noah Steven!  Yay!  New babies everywhere!  I wonder if he and Ellie will go back and read my blog archives in ten years and realize they were immortalized in this fashion.  🙂

And happy Hanukkah to everyone who’ll be celebrating it this weekend!  Hooray!

Quote of the Day: 
Cameron: You have a new friend.
John: Her name is Riley. And you probably creeped her out. When you talk to people, don’t stand so close.
Cameron: I was assessing her threat level.
John: Well? Am I safe?
Cameron: I don’t know. Girls are complicated.
— Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles