One way to learn more about a character you’re writing about is to interview them. This process can be as fun and surprising when the character is based on a real-life person as when it is not.
I recently interviewed “Daniel” from my picture book Going to Antarctica. In the story, the family’s furnace has broken and feisty 8-year-old Daniel is excited to help the repair man. When Mama asks him to stop helping, what will he do Why, he’ll comply with his “not-very-happy-about-it” draggy feet and plan an escape to Antarctica, of course!
The real-life Daniel is every bit as feisty as his written counterpart–if not more so! Here is the transcript of our recent interview:
I’m here with Daniel, the main character in the picture book Going to Antarctica. We’re going to ask him a few questions.
Good morning, Daniel.
Gooood morning, Mrs. Seward
How are you today?
Good. I brought my cat Maggie to show.
Oh. She’s a very pretty cat.
Yep. She’s named Maggie.
What a nice name. Now, we have a couple of questions for you. First. we’re wondering what your favorite color is.
Blue, no red, no blue, no red, no blue, no red . . . .aughhhh! (pause) I don’t have a favorite color.
What about your favorite food?
Pizza rice casserole.
Oh, yum. Some people may not have heard of pizza rice casserole. Can you tell us what it is?
It’s rice, cottage cheese, browned hamburger meat, and tomato sauce all put together. You just mix it together after the meat is browned.
Wow. Since it’s PIZZA rice casserole, is there pizza seasoning or anything in there?
Because of the pizza sauce—spaghetti sauce is pizza sauce.
That works for me.Our next question is–what books are you reading right now?
Mandie and the Invisible Troublemaker.
That sounds like fun. What do you like about the Mandie series?
They’re mystery books!
Are there other mystery books that you like?
I love ALL mystery books.
Do you have a favorite book of all time?
No. Probably my least favorite is picture books.
Oh really. (I didn’t think until after the interview to ask what he thought about being the main character IN a picture book. . . .)
I’ve read a 31-chapter book in probably 45 minutes.
Wow, that’s pretty impressive.
I’m also pretty good at piano. Wanna hear my latest song?
Yeah . . . let’s wait just a minute though.
So we know what your favorite food is. We know you don’t quite have a favorite color. What’s your favorite subject in school?
What do you like about science?
Well, last week a scientist came. He comes every few weeks, and he was like, “Well, let’s just assume that we want this hard-boiled egg inside my Erlenmeyer flask.” He didn’t push it. He put it in cold water and it went in. And then he put pressure (blowing-whoo whoo whoo whoo) and stuck it in the hot water and the egg came out the top. Finally. (laughing-he he he he) He started with a tiny egg then got a fatter egg, because the tiny egg wasn’t going out.
Did he tell you how it worked?
Mmmhmmm. After you let the egg down, you gotta hoo-hooo-hooo.
(Nodding) You get pressure into the system then stick it in hot water really fast so that the egg’s up there.
Is it because the warm water rises—warmth rises?
It’s actually because warm molecules, they move around faster. And cold molecules move around slower. I bet ice molecules are moving around like thiiiiiiis (slow motion), and gas molecules are moving around like whoooosh (fast motion)
Oh, yeah. Probably as fast as you move, huh?
What are some of your favorite hobbies, some of the things that you like to do?
Read, piano, math.
Oh, you like math?
I’m a whiz.
I love science too.
So do you like things like domino toppling?
Cool. What about making chemical reactions?
That’s part of science! I might be a chemist when I grow up.
That would be—
I could be a chemist, a pianist. . . I could be all sorts of things that I have talents for.
I could be a chemist AND a pianist.
You could be anything you want to be—
I’d have certain days I was a chemist and taught people how to do chemistry, and I taught people how to do piano while I was just a great pianist and performed on certain days.
That would be great. We’re just about to wrap up the interview. Would you like to play one of your favorite piano pieces for us?
I’ll play the newest one. It’s called “Sword Dance,” and it’s in D Minor Position.
**Plays** (click to hear this short portion of the interview: Daniel Interview Piano )
Very nicely done. Thank you so much. And thank you for taking the time to interview with us this morning.
Thank you. Bye! Wait! Let’s interview my cat!