Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Chatting with Amy Ignatow

This week, I'm so happy to be sharing an interview with Amy Ignatow, whose first book... wait while I take a breath... The Popularity Papers: Research for the Social Improvement and General Betterment of Lydia Goldblatt and Julie Graham-Chang, is out now. But I see that the title is often shortened simply to: The Popularity Papers.

I read Amy's book some time ago and was delighted that she wanted to participate in my summer author-interviewing madness. Enjoy getting to know a little more about Amy!

Q: When you were a child, what did you like to ‘pretend’ most? How much of a role did your imagination play in your life?

A: I was a very, very dreamy kid. Countless frustrated teachers called endless parent/teacher conferences to try to bring me back down to earth, but imagining alternate worlds and doodling them in the margins of my notebook was so much more interesting to me than paying attention and doing homework. My poor, long-suffering teachers. It was such a relief to get to art school where dreaming and doodling was required.

Q: Do you have a favorite word, words, or quote?

A: In the movie Footloose Kevin Bacon learns about the anti-dancing ordinance in town and exclaims, “Jump back!” I’ve been trying for years to make that my go-to expression of surprise. Otherwise I’m very fond of the words “regardless” and “noodle”.

(Ingrid here... I have, since reading Amy's answers myself, been trying to incorporate "Jump back!" as a go-to expression myself. It cracks me up every time.)

Q: When you were growing up, was there a specific book (or books) that changed you somehow—a book that you feel is responsible for a little (or big) piece of who you are today?

A: I must have checked The Brothers Lionheart by Astrid Lindgren out of the Huntington Public Library about twenty times when I was a kid. It’s this heartbreakingly thrilling tale of two brothers; Karl, the narrator, is younger and deathly ill, and his older brother Jonathan is wonderful and beautiful and brave and noble. Knowing that Karl is going to die, Jonathan tells him stories of what it will be like in the land of Nangiyala, where he will be healthy and have knightly adventures. Then there is a fire in their home, and Jonathan rushed in to save Karl and dies. Then, a few months later, Karl dies. This all happens within the first chapter or two. It’s so grim! But they reunite in Nangiyala, where everything is great for about five minutes until they’re battling an evil warlord with a nasty dragon. I loved how dark and beautiful this book was, and how Ms. Lindgren never pulled any punches just because she was writing for children. Kids love and feel respected by writing that inflames the imagination.

A few years ago I bought a copy of The Brothers Lionheart only to find out that it didn’t pack the same punch, and I was so disappointed. My husband hunted down an earlier translation with the gorgeous illustrations of J. K. Lambert that I remembered so well, and I felt all the same old thrills when I read it. While my art and writing tend to be much sillier and far less devastating than The Brothers Lionheart, I think that my characters would be as taken by that book as I was.

Q: If you could pick any book to live inside for a day, what book would it be and why?

A: Can I live inside a Mario Batali cookbook? I know I should come up with a book that takes place in a place and time and land that it would impossible to get to outside of the imagination, but I once saw Mario Batali carve a bowl out of a wheel of parmesan cheese and fill it with flaming grappa, and it just blew my mind.

Q: What do you do when you have a tough writing day? How do you get through it?

A: I am a master of putzing around the house. When I’m having a bad writing day the laundry gets done, the garden gets weeded, errands are run, friends are sent long emails, I answer questions for blogs…sometimes I’m able to turn a bad writing day into a good drawing day; for any of my friends that get paintings as presents, chances are they were created on bad writing days.

Q: How do you like to celebrate when you finish writing a book, get a good review, etc?

A: Impromptu dance party. Any time, anywhere.

Q: What’s up? Tell us about where you are in your writing process right now. What’s out? What’s coming? What are you currently working on?

A: Right now I’m finishing up my second book, which is a sequel to The Popularity Papers that will come out in 2011. It’s almost finished, and I’m really excited about how Lydia and Julie are developing. I’m also planning a late summer book tour (we’ll be driving from Philadelphia to Denver and back) and that’s really exciting. My husband has been spending a lot of time on the Roadside America website and telling tales of World's Largest Things and palaces made entirely of corn.

Thank you, Amy! And enjoy your road trip. If you are in the Nebraska area, check out the World's Largest Porch Swing in Hebron and think of Savvy.

You can find out more about The Popularity Papers and the book's official website:

I'm not sure who will be up next... or when my next author chat post will be, but check back soon! As always, if you want to read previous interviews, click on the Author Chats label at the end of this post.