In your real life: When you had the midnight party
with your friends, was it the running water from the
sink that alerted the adults? Wouldn't talking and
other party noises be louder than running water?

I don't know: I only know that that was when she came in. I would have thought that talking and other party noises would be louder, but maybe the pipes and the sound of the water running through them were closer to her bedroom? Or maybe we were laughing more loudly? My guess is that it was the pipes, though.

Did you love Henry when you were a kid and what
happened to the friendship when you returned from

I DID love Henry when I was a kid - I think people sometimes forget how intense those feelings can be. He moved away shortly after we came back from England - which I think means that if I write a sequel, I'll have to make up parts of the story, and I'm not sure this would work. Isn't part of the fun of BLOW OUT THE MOON the fact that it's true and people can tell? I think if I do write a sequel, I will say at the beginning that unlike the first book, some events really happened, some did not, and that on my Web site I will tell which is which. Question for all of you: what would you think of that idea?

What are the steps in your writing process? When do you think about spelling, punctuation, and grammar?

This may be a boring answer, but I ALWAYS think about grammar. I'm kind of passionate about the English language. Spelling (as you know!) I am not good at. I correct that at the end. Punctuation I do as I go along and, when the copy-editor gets hold of the book, sometimes we argue. I use parentheses way too much, I know, and am trying to cure myself of this habit. It's annoying. I also think that how much I capitalized things in BOTM annoyed some people.

How did you learn Morse code?
I did not. That was made up. In real life, Henry and I just signaled across the room - but when I grew up, I had a boyfriend who knew Morse code and he and his best friend used it in class as kids. I thought this was very cool so I put it in the book. As a child, I don't think I would have had the patience to learn and do anything as methodical as Morse code.

Why did you call your book Blow Out the Moon?

(please see Rhiannon's cover for the answer to this: she drew a really cool picture!)

In real life, did you climb into the barrel with
china? Is it true that the tea set didn't break?

Yes, I did, and it's true that it didn't break. To this day I am very impressed with my mother's china-packing skills!

Can you give an example of something in the book that you exaggerated from your real life, something you totally made-up, and something that happened in the book exactly as it did in real life?
Exaggerated: we didn't really bring the lawnmower into the living-room (but we did do everything else in the chapter called "The Adventure of the Very Loud Living Room"). I mention this chapter because when I visit schools, I read this chapter, which was taken out of the published book by the editor, and MANY children have told me they like it the best! It's on my Web site.
Totally made up: the character Neil..
Happened exactly: the butter incident, falling off the horse, falling out of the tree (I have the scar still!)….lots of stuff!

Did you really toss your boot and break the window? If so, did you expect to get into more trouble than
you did in the story?

I DID really toss the boot and break the window. Actually, I expected to get in LESS trouble….in stories when someone admitted what they had done ("owned up" )they got praised. I was surprised at how annoyed Marza was and felt ashamed of myself: being talked to in that way was much worse than a punishment.

Did you really go boarding school at 8 years-old?
That is so young!

Yes. But in those days, in England, it wasn't as unsual as it would be now. I have seen Mo since we've been grown up (he emailed me!!!!!) and he was FOUR when he first went to Sibton Park. He also says he was not homesick,
"I wasn't homesick, you were homesick."
I am pretty sure he really was crying that night Brioney and I went in, but it may not have been because he was homesick.

In the book, you don't cry when you hurt your knee.
Did you cry in real life?

No. I was not a cryer. I cry more now than I did as a child. In those days people really believed in having a stiff upper lip. One did not cry ("blub").

In your first school in England, even your teacher
laughed at your American ways. That is so mean!

It was pretty mean, I think - thank you for saying that. A lot of English people then really hated Americans (probably still do!).

What is your little sister's real name?
Lillian. Another sister, who was born after we came back to America and took the picture on the back flap, is named Sandra.

Did you really save the letters, photos, and things
from your childhood that you used in the book, or, did
you re-create them?

Most of them are the real things - I am lucky to have saved so much. Though now I wish I had saved more! The recreations were:
* the fortune-catcher (made by a boy at a school across the street. The Art Director at Little, Brown kind of ruined these illustrations by putting them in the wrong place - the wrong one is first - and writing in his OWN handwriting instead of tracing the child's).
*the drawing of the boat. This was done by a child I know. He spent a lot of time on it and I think it's really good.
* the girls hands playing cat's cradle. These were two girls at the school across the street who let me photograph their hands all afternoon so I could put the cat's cradle moves up on my Web site and the picture in the book. We had a lot of fun doing this, actually!
* the riding hat, the Wellington, and the pen pictures were all photographs from other people.
*The dolls and teaset are the real ones (but the letters were recreations-I wish I had saved the real letters and more of the dolls' stuff. When I was last in England I went to the toy store where we got it all and the dolls and furniture they have now are completely different. But I remember the way the mothers talked quite vividly and I think I got the letter pretty much right.

You didn't mail your letter to your class back home
(assumed because you still have it). Why?

That's an interesting question! I've always been really bad about mailing letters (one of the many things I love about email!) but am not sure why I didn't mail this one other than that. I'm glad I saved it, though! My mother saved all the letters I wrote, and mailed from Sibton Park and those really helped me remember.

Did your time to England and boarding school make
lasting changes in your life?

HUGE and lasting. If I write a sequel this will become more apparent.

Are you working on something new?
Yes, but I think it's bad luck to talk about something before it's finished: otherwise the energy that should go into writing goes into talking. I will just say that it is not about me and completely made up (what a relief!). I also wrote a short, lively true book about Thomas Edison's childhood: he was really funny and had lots of great ideas. HE knew Morse code! He wrote quite a lot about his childhood when he grew up and I used a lot of his own words and told about the naughty things he did. This is finished so I can talk about it.





The paperback will be out in May.

The hardcover of Blow Out the Moon is in many libraries and some bookstores. If your library or bookstore doesn't have it, they can
probably order it for you.

If you see it on a shelf with only its spine showing, would you turn it face out for me? (To anyone who does that: thank you!)


It's also online at amazon

Go back to the list of chapters and stories