WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO BECOME A WRITER? I just had the desire to express myself, to put into words some of the feelings and experiences I have had.
WAS THERE A TEACHER OR OTHER MENTOR WHO INFLUENCED YOUR WRITING? I had no idea what it meant to "be a writer" when I was young, but an eighth-grade English teacher pulled me aside one day and asked, "Do you keep a journal?" "Have you thought of being a writer?" That planted the seed, though it took at least another ten years before I started to think of writing as a profession. There were many other teachers after that who encouraged and influenced me, but she got the ball rolling.
HOW DID YOU GET THE IDEA FOR YOUR AWARD WINNING BOOK? Once, when I was in college in New Jersey and it was raining, I had the inspiration for a kind of children's poem about the rain in Hawaii--how we view it so differently in the tropics, almost like a friend. That got me started thinking about nature and the ways that we children in Hawaii learn from nature, and eventually all the thinking got me started on a couple of children's books.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE LINE FROM YOUR AWARD WINNING BOOK AND WHY? I love the line about a rare thunderstorm that came in from the sea and how the "lightning cracked the sky open like a coconut." Of course, it's a metaphor, and fresh ones are always nice. But also it seemed especially true to the situation--the jaggedy white lines across the dark sky are like the jaggedy white lines across the brown hull of a coconut when you crack it open. The meat (the white) is a wondrous thing... And the illustration for that page is awesome.
WHICH OF YOUR CHARACTERS FROM YOUR AWARD WINNING TITLE DO YOU BELIEVE ARE MOST LIKE YOU AND WHY? Hmmm. The main character, as a girl who spends a lot of time by herself on the beach.
WHAT MESSAGE DO YOU HOPE READERS WILL GLEAN FROM YOUR AWARD WINNING BOOK? Well, sometimes we fear change, or we see the change or loss of something as a bad or sad thing, until we understand the nature of transformation. And also how much we should open our minds to dreaming.
TELL US SOMETHING INTERESTING ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE AS A WRITER: It took 30 years between when I first conceived this story and when it was published. I think that says something about persistence, but also about the power of revision, and the fact that you do become a better writer over time.
IF YOU COULD BE COMPARED TO A WELL-KNOWN AUTHOR WHO WOULD YOU MOST WANT THIS TO BE AND WHY? I've always said E. B. White because he, too, is most known for his book on style, but then he wrote such wonderful books for children. And he was a clear, eloquent essayist.
WHAT HAS HAD THE GREATEST IMPACT ON YOUR LIFE? Oh, gosh. I'd have to credit my parents for introducing me to the love of books as a child, for supporting me educationally and letting me go to amazing schools, and for their unending support of me as a writer, especially since it seemed like such an odd choice to them!
HOW DID YOU GET PUBLISHED? My first publishing experience was pure luck--I worked at Wired magazine and they said "Yes" when I said "Why don't we publish our style guide?". The book did well, and helped me get an agent for the second book.
IF A CLOSE FRIEND OR LOVED ONE WANTED TO WRITE A BOOK, WHAT GREATEST PIECE OF ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE THEM? Carve out a LOT of time, because it is much harder than you imagine. Expect to devote a lot of money to the writing, editing, and publishing process, including for publicity. And don't get discouraged. It's a long slog, and even professional writers find it very, very hard.
CAN YOU OFFER ANY ADVICE FOR WRITERS ON HOW BEST TO PROMOTE THEIR BOOK? Hire a good publicist.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR GREATEST LITERARY ACCOMPLISHMENT? My book Sin and Syntax is the most commercially successful, but in my last two books I followed my passions and took huge risks. Both books are beautiful and I'm so proud of them, even if I went outside of traditional publishing to produce them.
WHAT ARE YOUR GREATEST LITERARY ASPIRATIONS? There are some ambitious journalistic articles I'd like to write, and I would definitely like to do more children's books.
TELL US SOMETHING PEOPLE MAY NOT KNOW ABOUT YOU THAT THEY MIGHT FIND INTERESTING: It might already be clear from what I've written here, but I was born and raised in Hawaii. That shaped me in all kinds of interesting ways, and much of my writing is about the experience of growing up there (the children's books and maybe a forthcoming memoir) or about the Native Hawaiian culture.
IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU'D LIKE TO SHARE WITH OUR READERS? I maintain a Web site about the writing life. Perhaps readers would like to visit: sinandsyntax.com
WHAT OTHER BOOKS HAVE YOU PUBLISHED?
Wired Style (out of print; I sell copies directly)
DO YOU HAVE ANY NEW BOOKS IN THE WORKS? Yes, but in the very early stages.