Pat Schmatz is the July, Minnesota author in the spotlight here on BookSnob and I had a chance to interview Pat about her writing career and her books. Pat's newest book, Lizard Radio will be released in September.
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself?
I grew up in rural Wisconsin, and most of my childhood was spent with books and the trees, or books in trees. I had a few favorite branches to read from. I still have a lot of books and trees in my life, with some other things thrown in.
2. What inspired you to write BlueFish?
Bluefish was inspired by my love of the outdoors and my dislike for school. I started with a character who hated school with all of his heart, and then I asked him what he did like, and the story of Bluefish gradually became the answer to that question.
3. What is the inspiration behind Lizard Radio?
I keep a sketchbook, and between books I do a lot of drawing. One day I drew a picture of a lizard wearing headphones. The cord connected to nothing, and the lizard was desperately trying to get a signal. That was the inspiration, and the rest of the process was a matter of learning who that lizard was and where the signal came from.
4. Usually an author puts some of his own life experiences in the book. Did you do that? Do you have anything in common with your characters?
My main characters all have a lot in common with me, and so do some of the secondary ones. Others are drawn from combinations of people I’ve known. I’ll take this one’s ears, that one’s laugh, and bits of someone else’s back story. My own life experiences are woven throughout my books, all in disguise. I absolutely believe that fiction is lying to tell the truth.
How many books have you written? Can you tell us why you decided to become a writer?
I have five published books, and a couple more that live in a file drawer. I wanted to write for young adults before I was one myself. My inspiration came from the book The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. I read it the first time when I was around eleven, and it was life-changing for me. I carried that book around with me for years. It connected to a deep place inside, and made me feel less alone in the world. I knew then that I wanted to write things that would make other kids feel less alone. I wanted to make them feel the way Hinton made me feel – like maybe things wouldn’t be so bad, after all. Like there was a place for me.
6. As a creative writing teacher, what advice do you give to new writers?
Write and write and read and read. Read everything. If you like it, read it twice. Study the books you love. Write every day. Journal, write poetry and stories and song lyrics and comics. Write things you will never show anyone. Write in pencil, write with crayon, use markers and pens and keyboards. Build up your physical stamina so you can write without stopping for a long time. Go for walks. Look for magic. Eavesdrop whenever you can. And write and write and read and read.
7. Do you like to read? What authors or books influence you?
I’m a voracious reader. Books give me entertainment, understanding, knowledge, insight and peace. Reading is how I relax. As I’ve said, The Outsiders was my number one influence. Other important books for me have been A Wrinkle in Time by L’Engle,
8. Name one Young Adult book that you believe is a must read for everyone and tell us why?
If I had to give one, of course it would be The Outsiders. But I believe that different books speak to different readers. There are some books that are not considered anything special by reviews or children’s literature experts or anyone else, but they were still important to me. When I ask people about their favorite childhood or YA book, it’s often one that is long since out of print and out of memory for most of us, but it still lives on for the individual readers it touched.
9. In one sentence tell readers why they should read Bluefish?
Bluefish is about the importance of small kindnesses and taking the time to truly see one another, and we can all use a few more small kindnesses.
10. In one sentence tell readers why they should read Lizard Radio?
Lizard Radio is the story of a young, lonely lizard who finds a way to be true to her own values and have genuine connection with others, and that combination can be tricky for us all.