Questions for Suzanne

Is Love, Aubrey based on a true story?

Love, Aubrey is not based on a true story (thank God). The story did not happen to me or someone I know; Aubrey is not a real person.

Where did you get the idea for Love, Aubrey?

It’s really hard to say exactly where a story comes from; I think fiction comes from everywhere and nowhere. So in that sense, I didn’t really “get” the idea anywhere, it just happened. I first knew that Aubrey was alone and that someone named Savannah was missing, and those two things interested me. I wrote to find out why they were the case (and I left the finished story just that way, too, for the reader). I find that my stories start much more as impulses than ideas. I had an impulse to discover Aubrey’s story, rather than an “idea” to use as a writing guide.

I also believe that underneath fiction, there is always something true, in the sense that the emotions in it reflect the needs of the author, audience, or culture (and in some cases, all three). When I look back on my life, there are specific things that probably helped form the feelings that became the heart of Love, Aubrey. I am afraid of a lot of things and I think some of those things showed up in the story—I don’t want to be more detailed than that in case you haven’t read the book yet! If you have, you can easily imagine what they might be.

Will you write a sequel to Love, Aubrey?

Right now I am not planning a sequel to Love, Aubrey for two reasons. One is that I really like where the story ends. The other is that I want you, as a reader, to be able to imagine the next years of Aubrey’s life the way you feel they should go. Again, I won’t be spoiling the book here, but many of you who write to me feel very strongly about what should happen next.

How long did it take you to write Love, Aubrey?

I wrote the first draft of Love, Aubrey in eleven months. Then there were a few months spent going through the different stages of editing.

Where did you get the idea for Eight Keys?

Eight Keys began simply as a mental image of a girl on a hallway of locked doors. I wrote to find out what was behind the doors.

The first part of the story I “heard” Elise narrate was a passage in which she misses the bus, and that was where I started writing.

Meanwhile, in “real” life, I was working with a group of sixth graders. Every time I saw them, someone was upset. Everyone seemed to have a designated position in the group and many of them were unhappy. I didn’t understand why they couldn’t see the power they had to change things for themselves. That idea filtered into Elise’s story as I was wrote.

Will you write a sequel to Eight Keys?

I’m not sure about a “sequel” in the traditional sense, but I have thought a lot about writing a companion book from the perspective of Franklin, Caroline, or Amanda.

Are you working on a new book?

Yes, always!

What is it like where you live?

I live in the Northeastern United States, in two different places within the region.

I live outside Boston, in a suburb. It is very nice there, with beautiful weather (in my opinion) throughout most of the year. It can get very hot in summer, but that’s great if you like to go swimming! There are lots of trees and lakes to cool you off. In the fall, the leaves turn a whole range of vivid colors and you can play in the leaf piles and just wear a light jacket or sweatshirt when you go outside. Though there are a lot of busy areas with shopping malls, highways, and tons of traffic, our house is outside the city where there are also pretty roads and some farms. There’s a lot of wildlife…these are animals I’ve seen in my yard over the years: turkey, deer, skunk, squirrels, and raccoons.

The other place I live is New York City. It is very bright, busy, and noisy. It’s a good place for a writer because you can easily meet with other writers and editors. There are many lovely parks (my favorite is Riverside Park). There are lots of great grocery stores and amazing restaurants.

It is easy to go back and forth between Boston and New York—it takes about four hours of ground travel or a forty-minute flight (I travel most often by train).

What is school like in New York City?

Public schools have numbers and sometimes many schools share one building. Most schools have a recess yard that is a black-top surrounded by a high fence (and some schools even have these yards on the roof!). The classes have 22-32 kids in them depending on which school and grade. There are also lots of private schools in the city, too, some of which are religious schools and some of which are just for girls or boys. Most of the private schools have uniforms but the public schools most often don’t (though I have seen some with them). There are also schools, both public and private, for students who need extra-hard work or extra help, or who want to study a special topic in-depth like art, acting, or science. The kids are able to go on lots of cool field trips, like to play in Central Park or hear music at Carnegie hall or walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, and they don’t even realize that people come from all over the world to do those things and they have them right at home!

Does it snow where you live?

It does! We got so much snow this past year! I am actually very excited every time it snows. Sometimes the snow means that school has to close for the day and no one can go anywhere at all. I’ve seen snow banks taller than me! There’s all kinds of fun activities you can do, like sledding and building forts. Sometimes the snow gets covered in a solid sheet of ice, which can make for awesome sledding. I remember the first time I experienced snow covered with ice (I think I was about four)…I went outside and reminded myself that my boot would just sink through the deep snow, but when I stepped onto it, it was hard enough to stand on! We had a lot of fun spinning and sliding across it that day. When we were older, we learned that if you formed a sledding path one day, and freezing rain came over night, you would have a superb track for super-fast sledding. My preferred sled is a snow-tube (like an inner tube with a seat and handles).

Do you celebrate Halloween?

Not really as an adult, but as a kid I always did! I used to love trick-or-treating. My first Halloween costume was Little Red Riding Hood. Later I went for several years as Donald Duck, and then later as a wizard, then bubble gum… When I was ten I made a map of the neighborhood and practiced my route starting in August with my very kind chaperone, Aunt Kathy, but come Halloween night the way we walked was nothing like I’d planned, of course—that also might have been the year my candy bag broke. Some years there were fun Halloween parties to go to or haunted houses to visit. I remember once—probably that same year I was ten—I went with several kids from school to a warehouse turned into a haunted house. We ran screaming through the entire thing, it was so scary…then we learned later you were supposed to go slow and really look at all the artwork. I guess we really fell for it!

What do you like to do in your free time?

I do some kind of exercise every day! I like to go swimming the most, and second I like long walks, but I also do a lot of lifting/stretching and I run once in a while.

I write a lot of letters, especially to my friends who are far away.

Cooking is definitely one of my interests…I love trying out new recipes and also being inventive and making things up as I go! My favorite thing to experiment with is sauce for pasta.

I’ll admit I love a nap…nothing like a good afternoon rest (okay, I like to rest in the morning sometimes, too!).

I like all kinds of games, from board and card games with friends to computer and video games. My favorite computer game is Roller Coaster Tycoon and my favorite video game is Zelda. And those have been my favorites for over ten years!

I read at lot…My favorite places to read are outside in the shade or curled up in my bed. I am a noisy reader; I’m always gasping at surprises and laughing at funny parts. I also love reading out loud to people, which I do both at work and sometimes with my family, especially my sister.

What are your favorite books and authors?

I love so many books! Growing up, I always said my favorite books were these four:
The Neverending Story by Michael Ende
Cassie Binegar and The Facts and Fictions of Minna Pratt by Patricia MacLachlan
The Giver by Lois Lowry

I have to say I have so many more favorites that it doesn’t make sense to call them favorites anymore! I love Harry Potter, His Dark Materials (by Philip Pullman) and the Anastasia books (by Lois Lowry). I also love books by Sharon Creech and Lemony Snicket. Recently, I have been enjoying the works of Diana Wynne Jones and Kristin Cashore.

Do you have any brothers and sisters?

I do! I have two younger sisters and a brother who is the youngest of all. We were always very noisy together (and still are).

What music do you like to listen to?

I don’t listen to the radio very much, unless I am in the car, in which case I’ll put on oldies or classic rock. I don’t listen to pop music or follow any bands. My favorite music is the kind I used to perform when I was in chorus at school, which was usually things like gospel, church music, or songs with lyrics from literature. My absolute favorite piece of music is Mozart’s Requiem, which I performed in both high school and college.

Can you visit me?

While I would love to meet each and every one of you, it may not be possible to visit you one at a time! If you are interested in an author visit, please talk to your school, library, or bookstore about arranging an event. Please click here for more details.

I live in England. If I write you a letter, will you write back?

Yes, I would love to send you a reply letter! Please print clearly so I can copy where to direct it.

I wrote you an email or a letter. When can I expect to hear from you?

I reply to all my mail myself. It may take a little while to hear from me.

If you email me, expect to hear back within one month. Sometimes writing, projects, the school day, travel, or life in general keep me from getting to my email every day—it doesn’t mean that anything is wrong. If you write to me and want a response, please make sure you are not blocking my incoming emails from your account, and, if you share an email account with your parents or other family members, let them know you are waiting for a reply from me.

If you send me a letter, it may take three months to receive a reply. Especially if you live outside the US, it can take a while for mail to reach me. Before it comes to me it goes to my agency or publishing house where lots of mail arrives for authors and has to be sorted. Then it has another journey on to me. Then I find a time to write back. Then it has to travel all the way back to you. I love reading and replying to your letters, and I want to give each of you a genuine, personal response, so please be patient while you wait to
hear from me!

Will there be a sequel to Beautiful Blue World?

Yes! Threads of Blue will be released in 2017.