11 October 2012

Let Me Tell You About Lois Lowry, Author of The Giver

I saw her last night at the library. She’s an old grey-haired lady, kind of slightly built, with blue eyes and a nice smile.

She told us how she randomly came up with the concept for The Giver: She went to visit her father in the hospital. He was deteriorating mentally, but somehow he always remembered who she was. However, he didn’t remember much about one of her sisters, so he asked Lois about her, and Lois said, “She’s dead, Dad.” And when he realized that again, it was like she had died a second time—he cried and had to go through the pain and grief all over again. All because of a malfunction in memory. (Why did she tell him then? She felt she needed to be truthful with her father.) That sparked in her imagination the story of a community that could control memory. (It’s funny, I’d have taken that in a sci-fi direction, but she takes it in a magical direction, and the actually hiding and controlling of memories seems like a very small and understated part.)

So how does she go about the writing process? She starts with an idea for the ending of a book and then makes up the middle—winging it, not outlining. Otherwise, she says the fun is all already gone. (I disagree though—outlining has the same creative thrill, it just saves you time in revision—so you’re not weeding down all the “great stuff” that you wrote that doesn’t fit in with how it ended up. Of course there are pros and cons to both.)

Here’s another interesting thing: She’s published 40 books. Forty! And yet she spends the whole time (almost) talking about The Giver—her ONE SUPER-POPULAR BOOK (in fact, I don’t think even the library has more than 10 or so of her books). And now she has to speak about it EVERY TIME. I wonder if she gets tired of that. “Hey! You act like you’re a fan, and yet you only know a very small part of me!” I hear you, Lois.

Anyways, she’s touring for the launch of Son, which is the 4th book in the Giver series, which sounds awesome based on the teasers she gave (but I have some catching up to do).

Now here’s the funny part: I keep forgetting to do this—they always give away free stuff at these events by taping tickets to the bottom of the chairs—so I should check beneath the chairs before I sit down. Of course, this could be kind of awkward since it’s always so crowded before the event starts. Anyways, so this time they announce it and all around the room people with lit-up faces were pulling stuff from under their chairs. Well, it turns out the library had just gotten new chairs and many of them still had stickers on the bottom. It was pretty funny. Only five or six people actually got the golden tickets, but many, many more were pulling up the stickers off their seat bottoms. : )

— j

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— J