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Capture the Flag
by
Kate Messner


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Check out the Sweet on Books Interview with

Marissa Moss

Author of Mira's Diary: Lost in Paris, Amelia's Notebook
and many other exceptional children's books!


What kind of research did you do for Mira’s Diary: Lost in Paris? Did you spend time in Paris?
I lived in Paris for a year when I was first married and I've been back many times since then, so I know the city well, but I still felt I needed to go there again with Mira in mind.

In writing Mira’s Diary, was the story driven by the historical elements or the fictional characters?
That's an interesting question. The history provided a framework, but the specific moments I chose were driven by Mira and her family, the search for her mother, and the bigger issue that sent both Mira and her mom into the past in the first place. It's a balance, but the characters always lead the story. They tell me what needs to happen next, where they want to go, how they're going to respond to a situation.

You’ve written a lot of books in journal format. Why is that style appealing to you, and why do you think it appeals to readers?
I love the journal format, especially for history, because it makes the past vividly present. I love the feeling of looking over the writer's shoulder onto the page, the immediate intimacy that journals offer.

Can you tell us about your next book?
I'm working on the second Mira's Diary, out next spring. This time she's going to 17th century Rome to meet another of my favorite painters, Caravaggio, and try to stop the Roman Inquisition from burning a man at the stake. Rome is another city I know well, having lived there, and I want the reader to feel like they're walking the maze of Roman streets with me.

What made you want to be a writer?
I've always loved telling stories and drawing pictures to go with them. There's something so elemental and powerful about story-telling, it's deep in my bones. It's how I see the world, as many, many, many stories.

How do you get your ideas? Many of your books are historical in nature. Is there something in particular that draws you to history?
I get my ideas from all kinds of things. Amelia's Notebooks are based on me when I was a kid. But history has a particular draw for me, maybe because it's made up of amazing but true stories. I love to imagine what it would be like to be alive in a completely different time and place. What kind of person would I be in colonial America? In 19th century Russia?

Where do you prefer to do your writing? What time of day?
I've written in the dining room, in doctor's waiting rooms, in the park while my kids play, but now I have a studio, a room of my own as Virginia Woolf says, which is a wonderful luxury. I write best in the mornings when I'm freshest and revise in the afternoons.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Keep at it! It takes a lot of determination to make it in this difficult field. It took me five years of rejection slips before I got my first book.

What would you be if you weren't a writer?
I'd probably still be waiting tables and sending out stories. This is the only thing I've ever wanted to do, the only thing I'm good at, though I'm a pretty good waitress.

If you could have lunch with any writer whom would you choose? Why?
J.K.Rowling! I'm in awe of her ability to construct such real worlds, her careful plotting, her vivid characters. Plus she seems like a nice person, despite all the fame or riches.

WOULD YOU RATHER...

Read or write?    Write, though I can't imagine writing without reading. One feeds the other.

Call or text?    Call! I'm terrible at texting and I want a real conversation.

Fly or drive?    Depends where you're going. There are amazing places to drive through and you see the landscape in a different way than when you jet over it.

Beach or ski?    Definitely beach. I have no idea how to ski.

Time travel back or time travel forward?    Obviously back into the past, the way Mira does!

E-book or traditional book?    I handwrite my journal-type books, so you can guess I'm traditional that way. I think you read differently on a screen than from a paper page.

We are Sweet on Books, so we have to ask – what is your favorite sweet treat?

Chocolate chip cookies!

Bio:
Marissa Moss grew up telling stories and drawing pictures to go with them. She sent her first picture book to publishers when she was nine, but mysteriously enough, never heard back from them. She didn’t try again until she was a grown-up, and then it took five years of sending out stories, getting them rejected, revising them, and sending them out again until she got her first book. While waiting to get published, Moss went to college, graduated with a degree in Art History, and waited tables.

Now she’s written and illustrated over fifty books. Twenty-six of them are from her best known series, Amelia’s Notebook. When she wrote the first book fifteen years ago, the format of a handwritten notebook with art on every page was so novel, editors didn’t know what to make of it. It took a small, new publisher, Tricycle Press, to take a chance on the innovative format. Amelia is based on the notebook Moss kept when she was a kid and the things that happen to Amelia really happened to her (mostly). She just changes some details to make better stories.

Along with the Amelia books, Moss has written successful historical journals that are currently used in elementary and middle school curricula, and picture books biographies such as Jackie Mitchell, the Strike-Out Queen and Nurse, Soldier, Spy.

Moss combines her love of history and art in her newest books, out in fall 2012, one a middle-grade novel, Mira’s Diary: Lost in Paris and her first Young Adult novel, A Soldier’s Secret.