Magic spells, witches, dragons and more inhabit the fantastical worlds created by Edgar Award winning author, Vivian Vande Velde. She is the author of over 19 books and lives with her family in Rochester, NY.
I can't remember when I didn't want to be a writer. I would read a story, or I would see a story on TV or the movies, and I would say to myself, "That was good. But they should have ended it this way..." Or: "Why did she do that? Why didn't she try...?" Or I might think up (in my head only--just for my own amusement) the further adventures of the characters. Those times that I loved a story (as with T.H. White's THE ONCE AND FUTURE KING, which I read in 8th grade), I would think how incredible it was that the author had me so totally in the story that I would forget everything else, and I thought, "That's what I want to do. I want to make other people feel like that."
Some writers have whole drawersful of story ideas. I'm not like that. So when I get an idea, I have to run with it. ALISON WHO WENT AWAY came from a bunch of mini ideas that were rattling around in my brain all at the same time, including:
All of this could have been done in the context of fantasy, but that's just not the way it developed. Will I ever write another non-fantasy novel? Who knows?
Thanks so much for your sweet comments. I've written quite a few books that have caused people to write to me to ask when I'm going to do a sequel. (Which is nice. Which I know is a compliment.) But absolutely nobody ever asked for a sequel to USER UNFRIENDLY. (It was like being a mother, and seeing one child never get asked out on a date.) Perhaps it comes from being a product of the '60's, but that was why USER UNFRIENDLY was the one story I was most inclined to write a sequel to. (Besides, when I mentioned this to my editor, he didn't say anything but he gave me such a well-have-you-ever-wondered-WHY-no-one-has-asked-for-a-sequel-to-USER-UNFRIENDLY? look that I pretty much *had* to do one.)
I have had reviewers speculate that I must have misspent a lot of time playing computer games, but I refuse to comment on this.
I believe children should be protected. I just don't believe they need to be protected by censoring books—especially a whole class of books such as fantasy, or gritty young adult novels, or historical novels where characters behave in ways that offend our modern sensibilities. Reading the same book your kids are reading gives you a wonderful opportunity to discuss things with them: How do you feel about the way that character acted? What do you think happens after death? Has society changed for the better or worse since those times—or, for a futuristic story, do you think society is really headed in that direction?
The worst thing a parent can do is to declare certain topics or issues unmentionable. Talk about making something irresistible.
One of the troubles is: Once you start banning books, where do you stop? Today people are complaining about (among many other things) books that include references to witches and ghosts. What about these potentially dangerous topics:
So should we start banning those books, too?
But there is good news. When people hear that a book has been banned, it's natural if their first impression is to assume that the book must be bad—like when a product is recalled for being defective or dangerous. So it's no surprise to learn that many people think that books that have been banned or challenged must be somehow dangerous and that kids need to be protected from them—not realizing that anyone can challenge a book, and that many famous and award-winning books have been challenged by those who have their own agenda. Enter J.K Rowling. People trying to get fantasy books taken out of school and public libraries is nothing new. What's different about the Harry Potter books being challenged is that in this case, millions of readers are familiar with the books being questioned. They can see for themselves that the books are not evil, that they do not promote hate or Satanism or violence. People can see that here are some perfectly innocent stories that are riling the anti-fantasy groups, and people are saying to themselves, "What's the big deal against this book?" And, "If this book is being challenged and it shouldn't, maybe some of the other books that are being challenged are OK, too."
OK, I'll get off my soapbox now.
Well, I knew I wouldn't really let her brain get fried. I don't work from an outline, so for me writing is full of surprises. As I'm filling in details, writing dialogue, having the characters move through the story, things develop that I would never have been able to plan for in a theoretical outline. One quick example: the magic ring. (There's always a magic ring in fantasy quests). I knew from the start that Giannine was supposed to pick it up almost at the very beginning of her quest (because that was more ironic), but that—because of her feelings toward her own, real father—she wouldn't hang around to talk to her game personna's foster father. Once I'd written up to the point where Giannine realizes her mistake (several deaths in), I had to determine for myself where that ring had been. Obviously her foster parents weren't likely to have a magical ring rattling around the home Giannine's game character was supposed to have grown up in, so I decided that Giannine's nurse still had it. OK, then, where was the nurse? I decided to make her a hermit at a shrine. Hmmm, well then, I guess I need a shrine. A name came to me, simply because it was a silly name: Saint Bruce the Warrior Poet. I didn't know any of this until I got to that point in the story.
I know this is not the most efficient way to write, but I am not good at planning. It's only by seeing my characters in action, hearing their words, listening in on their thoughts, that I can figure out what should happen next.
This particular story came from watching TV. I was watching the Orson Welles version of Othello. The movie starts at the end before backflashing to show how we came to end at this sad state of affairs: Othello is dead and his men are carrying him away for burial. They are also carrying away the villainous Iago, the cause of all the heartache. As I watched, I thought the guards' intent was to throw Iago into the grave with Othello, and I thought 'Yuck!' But I also thought, 'Cool!' It turned out that wasn't what the men planned (they ended up locking Iago in a cage they hung from the battlements); but that image stayed with me: the murderer and the victim buried together.
Who could have guessed that would be the start of a comedy?
If the worlds feel real, that's because the characters are acting believably. I try not to have characters do something just because it would make things simpler for me. I also try to avoid using coincidence to get my characters out of trouble. (I'm much more inclined to use coincidence to get my characters *into* trouble.)
UNDER THE SAME SKY, by Cynthia DeFelice. It's about a sort of spoiled, kind of oblivious, but basically good kid whose dad puts him to work on the family farm, along with the migrant workers. Well written, and lots of thought-provoking ideas.
Obviously misspending my time playing computer games. Also, I knit, crochet, do needlepoint. Reading *does* exert a very strong pull on me. I love to be lured into someone else's world.
The feeling of accomplishment—seeing the story take shape, revising, improving something that was OK to begin with but making it better.
It's frustrating that there's absolutely no relationship between how hard you work and how successful you are. (And by "successful," I'm not referring solely to becoming financially successful.) A writer can spend a whole day writing, and the next day decide that the scene is irrelevant and needs to be tossed out. Some of my stories have come fast and easily; others I've really sweated over. I can't predict which will get accepted for publication, which will get the good reviews, which will be picked for state reading lists, which will get kids writing to me saying, "That's me you were writing about--how did you know?"
When I read a good book, I want to be part of that book-creating culture.
Just out in April is WIZARD AT WORK, a collection of adventures in the summer of one young wizard. WITCH'S WISHES is a Halloween story due out from Holiday House in October. It's about a witch who tries to repay a little girl's kindness by granting that all her wishes will come true for that night. Unfortunately, she fails to tell the girl, so things go more and more awry.
Two pieces of advice: