Kyra: Interview with Ann Dee Ellis (it truly is February)

When I first read Ann Dee Ellis’ published novel This Is What I Did: I nearly died. “My gosh,” I thought. “How in the world did Ann Dee do this? SO much here.
And not so much. It’s all over the page. And there are hardly any words.”
When I read her second novel Everything is Fine, I cried several times (in public), and was not ashamed.

Ann Dee has a gift. Ann Dee can take only ahundredandfifty words and make a novel that will cut your guts up.
Every time she posts I think, why am I doing this blog with her? She is so good.
I write 10,000 useless words. She comes in behind me and makes the point.

This past January, there were some sad mistakes made in the book world.
One is that Ann Dee’s Everything is Fine was not acknowledged as one of the best middle grades written.
Watch this girl (who is waaay older than me), everyone, and see if I am not right.
She is going to get the accolades.
She is going to get famous.
And then she and I will run down to my favie restaurant
(well, I will drive next to her and chat as she runs)
and she is buying me dinner because I will have told her so.

1. You write the kind of books that I wish I could write. How did you
find your style? Your blog is a similar voice. Is this a voice you
always go to?

Thanks Kyra. Such a compliment.
My voice.
Chris Crowe always teases me about not being able to write a
paragraph. It’s sort of funny. Sort of.
The truth is it took me awhile to find my voice. I was overwriting for
the longest time. I’d write and write and write and it always felt
heavy and flat.
When I stopped worrying about how it sounded or if I got the teenspeak
or not, when I just let myself go, the voice found me.
I have tried to shake it now and then. I even wrote in paragraphs for
awhile. But it didn’t stick.

2. What was your inspiration for Everything is Fine? Did you cry when
you wrote it–when you finally knew what was going to happen?

My inspiration for EVERYTHING IS FINE was Mazzy, the main character. I
love to play around, especially when I’m trying on a new character. At
the time that I started working on EVERYTHING IS FINE, I was toiling
on what was supposed to be my second novel. This so-called second
novel was becoming a chore. It wasn’t doing what I wanted it to be
doing and I just didn’t love the characters. As a break from the agony
that was that book, I came up with Mazzy. I wrote the first page and
thought, I like her. She’s weird, she’s awkward, she’s sort of mean
but I like her.

As for crying, I knew that Mazzy’s mom was depressed from the first
page but I didn’t know why. I was surprised at how heavy it got. I’m
not sure if I cried but I know it was hard to write those scenes.

3. You are so young and hip. How old are you? My mom says you are
waaay older than she is.

I am waaaaay younger than your mom. It’s weird. And I’m super super hip.
See how I used the word super? Hip to the max.

4. If you didn’t write, what would you do?

Be a mom. I’m a mom now. I would be a better mom.
Maybe?
I wonder about that.
Would I be a better mom?
Or would I be a depressed mom. I already am a sometimes depressed mom
but isn’t that normal? I hope that’s normal. Like when they keep
stripping down to their diapers when I am trying to get them out the
door and then they dump the raisins all over the floor and then smash
them into the rug and then the neighbor drops by and makes a comment
about the stickiness that is my countertop and then I want to lie (is
it lay?) on the floor and let the boys jump  from the couches onto my
head and act like my life is so hard.
Does this make you want to have lots and lots of kids, Kyra? I bet it does.
But really, if I wasn’t a writer, I’d be a mom.
Or  a cruise boat speaker.

5. What are your three favorite books that came out in 2009? That came out ever?

Yeah, ummmmm, I will admit now that I am not up in the now with my
reading. I loved THE CHOSEN ONE and not because Carol wrote it but
because it was beautiful. Haunting and beautiful. One of my favorite books. Right now I’m reading FEED which didn’t come out in 2009 but still counts because I
started it in 2009.  I’m in awe of MT Anderson’s
ability to create such an authentic world with a fresh voice. I
normally don’t do sci-fi.  The other one I will mention is LOOKS by
Madeline George. I was completely taken with the story and the
writing. It’s a fascinating book.

Of all time? You’re talking YA? Or of all time? Too hard. But here’s a
short list:  THE HOUSE ON MANGO STREET by Sandra Cisneros, THE BELL
JAR by Sylvia Plath (warning–it’s a hard read and not for everyone.
Sorry Lucinda). I AM THE CHEESE by Robert Cormier. RAMONA by Beverly
Cleary. All those John Bellairs books that I read in third and fourth
grade. JANE EYRE (In high school, I used to  have the romantic parts
marked and I’d just flip to those when I needed them). And sorry but I
love NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN by Cormac McCarthy (it is bloody and hard but the prose is breathtaking. Don’t read it.).

6. What do you like to do in your spare time?

Sleep. Eat. Bake. Run (not really but I tell myself I like to). Watch
bad reality TV (Okay, some bad, some good. Project Runway is not bad). Sleep.

7. What’s the hardest part of writing? What’s the easiest part?

The hardest part is sitting down and doing it. Just doing it. I don’t
know why but it seems like such a struggle to get myself going. Once I
do start, however, I love it. I don’t know why I avoid things that
make me feel better.

The best part is the playing. The creating. When I finally know my
character  and I can’t let him or her go until I find out the end.

8. How did you get your start in publishing?

The Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Conference.
(www.foryoungreaders.com)

9.What’s you best advice for writers?

Do what you love. And play. I can’t say that enough. Have fun.
Surprise yourself.

10. What are you working on riKght now? Will you please send me your
manuscript so I can read it?

I could send it to you but you would have no idea what was going on. I
am trying to write the worst draft in history.

It’s an idea that I had six years ago right after I got married.  I
wrote the first thirty pages and was proud of myself. It was
complicated, weird, and sort of creepy. I  gave the pages to my
husband to read.
He said, Wow, what happens next.
I said, Uhhhhh.
I never wrote another page.
Until . . . now.
I’m trying. It’s hard but I’m trying. And the only way it is sort of
working is because I’m letting myself write crap. It looks nothing
NOTHING i say, like those first thirty pages. Hmmm. I could send it,
but you’d be lost lost lost.

The end. Thanks Kyra.

And Happy Valentines!

7 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

7 responses to “Kyra: Interview with Ann Dee Ellis (it truly is February)

  1. Carol

    You are so funny, Ann Dee.

  2. Carol

    And also a wonderful writer.
    And today I am back to hating the 2,000,000.
    The Idiots.

  3. Ann Dee, I’m making a list of all the people I want in my neighborhood in heaven. You are SO on that list. Was that hip? When I said, SO? But for real, you are. Cuz I like you so much.

    I’m still reading the Bell Jar. The hardest part is that its upstairs in my bedroom. And mom’s don’t spend that much time in their bedrooms. And it’s all the way upstairs. And so is the laundry room. So you can see it’s not the only thing that is lacking attention. I haven’t actually not liked it. Just hasn’t taken me yet. But I don’t think I’ve hit the hard parts yet.

    I love Mazzy. And do you know what? When I read it, I envisioned Carol as the young girl. Because you know why, Carol? I think you’re the karate chopping, oranges in the bra-wearing, melted marshmallow eating type. (This is actually a compliment.)

    Thanks for the interview. Ann Dee, I really think you should update us every day on what’s going on inside your head. I love it.

  4. Ann Dee creates character voice like no one else can. Her characters are authentic people, people you are certain you would know if you saw them on the street.

    It is such fun to read one of Ann Dee’s books because she makes it so easy to step into that world she created and make yourself at home.

  5. Martine

    Fab post. Kyra, I think YOU would be a great writer. And I can say that because I am waaay older than you and Ann Dee and your mom put together.

  6. AJ Finnegan

    Oh, Ann Dee, Jane Eyre!! One of my all time favs too!! I read an interesting fact about that book a while ago: it was apparently the first book ever to tell a story from a child’s first person POV. Pretty cool, huh? It’s just the beginning of the book, but still . . . the birth of children’s lit as we now know it.

    I agree that THE CHOSEN ONE was of course breathtaking (literally in some places.) And LOOKS was also fantastic. My friend Joy Peskin was the editor on that book. I wish more people knew about it – really, really well done.

ThrowingUpComments

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s