Friday, July 23, 2010

Interview: Kathryn Erskine, author of Mockingbird

Please join me in welcoming Kathryn Erskine, author of Mockingbird. You can read my review here. Kathryn grew up in Europe, Africa, Canada, and the United States, and was a lawyer before she figured out what she really wanted to be when she grew up--a writer! She takes her inspiration from the world around her and from her personal experiences, including her childhood attending 8 different schools. Lots of great writing material, and there's more every day!

1. Please describe Mockingbird in 50 words or less.
Ten-year-old Caitlin, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, struggles to understand emotions, show empathy, and make friends at school, especially after the death of her brother, her social link to the world. Working to find closure, she helps her family and her community come to terms with the school shooting tragedy.

2. What inspired you to write Mockingbird? What do you think the book's cover?
I was inspired to write Mockingbird because my daughter has Asperger’s. I used the school shooting event (which transpires before the book opens) because I was so affected by the Virginia Tech shootings in 2007. I thought that, maybe, if the shooter had received some help over the years, he might have felt heard and others might have understood him better. Mockingbird is all about walking in each other’s shoes and learning to understand each other better, which is why I tell it from the point of view of Caitlin, a girl with Asperger’s.

At first I wasn’t sure about the cover. People either love it or hate it. Fortunately, most people love it. I think it’s beautifully pure and simple.

3. The one book everyone should read?
To Kill a Mockingbird
. It’s no coincidence that I reference it both in my book’s title and in the story.

4. Looking at your biography, I see you've lived in numerous places. (Israel, South Africa, Scotland...) Did you enjoying living so many places? If you could chose one place to travel to, where would it be and why?
I loved travelling and experiencing other cultures. There’s so much to learn and appreciate beyond our borders. I felt very lucky. As I write this, my sister is in New Zealand, which is one place I’d love to visit, as well as Australia. I have to say, though, if I could pick just one place, I’d love to go back to southern Africa, specifically, Botswana. There’s something about Africa that gets under your skin and never leaves you—the languages, the music, the people, the sunsets, the wildlife—it’s a breathtaking world.

5. Are you working on anything at the moment? If so, please tell us a bit about it.
I’m currently working on Cornerstone, a novel about a boy who confronts the racism in his community while dealing with the death of his father. He learns that people, past and present, aren’t always what they seem, and that picking sides isn’t as easy as you think.

6. Any last words?
I just finished edits on The Absolute Value of Mike, which will be out a year from now (Philomel, Summer 2011), about a boy with a math learning disability and a genius for a father. Mike spends the summer with wacky relatives and ends up doing something pretty amazing.

Please visit me at where you can get my news, playlists, and fun photo writing prompts, or at my blog,, or on facebook or twitter.

Thanks for interviewing me, McKenzie!

Thanks so much for stopping by Kathryn!

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