Today we are honored to have has our guest, well known children’s author, Carol Weston.
Thanks Carol for accepting Bookpleasures’ invitation.
Could you tell us something about yourself, where you were born,educated, lived, when you first book was published, and how many have you written? Which one do you consider your best?
Thanks for asking! I was born in Westchester, a suburb north of New York City. I went to public schools until twelfth grade, then I lived in France on a program called School Year Abroad. Afterward I studied French and Spanish comparative literature at Yale, then got my M.A. in Spanish from Middlebury.
My first book, GIRLTALK: All The Stuff Your Sister Never Told You, was published in 1985. I am proud to say that it is still in print! I've now written ten books--fiction, nonfiction, and a memoir--and I don't have a favorite, though trying to make up problems about children (my novels) is more fun than trying to solve problems for teenagers (my advice books). I enjoy following Melanie Martin's antics (The Diary of Melanie Martin starts the series) and I like collecting quotes for my books that use quotes (For Girls Only and For Teens Only).
Did anyone step- up to mentor you when you started writing?
My mother wrote poetry and was the garden editor of House & Garden, and my father wrote for newspapers and television. It was great growing up in a home where words mattered. They were realistic, however, about the difficulty of making a living as a writer, so they didn't push us in that direction. Nonetheless, I grew up thinking that the word ""book"" started with a capital B.
How many languages do you speak and has this helped you in yourwriting?
I speak French and Spanish (and English!) well, and Italian poorly. Mi piaccerebbe parlare meglio means ""I'd like to speak better"" and always gets a laugh. When you can speak a different language, you have a key to a culture. So being able to speak different languages has enriched my life, and therefore my w riting.
Are you influenced by any of the writers you currently read?
I am in three book clubs! One with adult women, and two mother-daughter book clubs. Recently, I've enjoyed The Namesake, The Lovely Bones, Atonement, The Corrections, When the Emperor Was Divine, Angle of Repose, and other books, including classics by Tolstoy, Wharton, Salinger, Dahl, and Salinger. I'm not sure that I've been directly influenced, but reading good books always makes me want to write good books!
What are some of the things you enjoy about writing children's books?Have you ever thought about writing a book for adults?
In college, I hoped to write a Great American Novel for adults. Instead I've been writing for kids about an American abroad, a plucky foreign correspondent who ventures to Europe and tells all about the food, language, art, and customs. The novel I'm writing now, the fourth, is called Melanie in Manhattan, and Miguel (a boy from Spain) visits Melanie in her hometown. It's fun to write from a child's eye because nothing is sacred. Melanie can be very opinionated whether about El Greco or Florence--and get away with it every time.
One thing that is satisfying about writing for kids and teens is that they reread books over and over. My favorite ""fan letters"" are the ones that begin saying something like: I don't usually like to read but I really liked your book. It really is possible for authors to turn children who are reluctant readers into readers, to unlock that pleasure for people. And that's exciting.
Do I hope to write a novel for adults someday? Yes. In fact there's a big box in my office. . .
Did you model Melanie and Matt after your own children?
I kept lots of diaries as I was growing up. And I worried a bit. Melanie, the ten-year-old turned eleven-year-old is partly based on me and partly on my oldest daughter. Matt the Brat, her little brother, is based partly on my youngest daughter, partly on my nephew, and again, partly on me because I was the baby in my family.
My daughters are now teenagers, but they are still very helpful with my books. They read them before publication, and if they say something funny during dinner, they often follow it by saying, ""Mom, write that down!""
How do you go back to being eleven? Is it from memory or is it from being with children of that age?
Both! Maybe my Inner Child is. . . eleven!
Did you really visit Holland, Italy and Spain with your family?
Yes, our family visited all three countries -- separate trips! And I did lots of research. Since I lived and studied in Spain years ago, it was easier for me to try to ""illuminate"" it and to have fun with the Spanish pronunciation. (For instance, I knew that España sounded like S Pon Ya and Columbus or Colón sounded like Cologne!)
Did you have a boy friend in Spain other than your husband?
Sí, I confess! I dated a wonderful Spaniard for several years. The ""Antonio"" character in With Love From Spain, Melanie Martin is based in part on him. He's the one who really introduced Spain to me decades ago, so I am happy now to introduce the country to young Americans. By the way, he is still friends with me and my husband.
Have you ever been embarrassed by ""false friends.""
Good question... but nothing comes to mind.
(When Norm and Lily, Bookpleasures' reviewers and today's interviewers, were in Greece a few years ago, they had been staying in a tiny hut near a windmill overlooking the Aegean Sea. One evening, as they were walking up the 100 stairs to return to our hut, a Greek gentleman greeted them with the words ""Ya Khara."" (Good evening in Greek). As Lily speaks Arabic,she burst out laughing, as the same words mean ""You sh...t in Arabic. Not very nice!
Another example, Lily often uses the term ""entertain"" when she means to use ""maintain."" The French word is entretien.)
Are you concerned about today's children and their families? Do you feel there is a lack of strict discipline?
I don't think strict discipline is really the solution, though parents certainly need to give their kids love and guidelines. I worry that kids and teens overvalue material things. But you know what? The older generations have always worried about the younger generations. Here is what Socrates wrote way back in 400 BC: ""Young people nowadays love luxury; they have bad manners and contempt for authority. They show disrespect for old people...contradict their parents, talk constantly in front of company, gobble their food and tyrranize their teachers.""
Kinda puts it all in perspective, doesn't it?!
Review of Melanie Martin Goes Dutch:The Private Diary of My Almost Bummer Summer With Cecily, Matt the Brat, and Vincent van Go Go Go
Review of The Diary of Melanie Martin or How I Survived Matt the Brat, Michelangelo, and the Leaning Tower of Pizza
Review of With Love From Spain:Melanie Martin
Thanks once again Carol, it was a pleasure to hear your thoughts.
You're very welcome!