Interview with Annie
This interview is actually a series of questions asked by second and third grade kids during a class visit a few years ago.
Question: How long did it take you to write Ivy and Bean?
Annie: Which time? It didn’t take me very long to write the first version of Ivy and Bean, but then I had to rewrite it about six times.
Question: Six times? Why?
Annie: Bunch of different reasons. The first time I wrote the book, Ivy and Bean made a voodoo doll of Nancy. My editor said I absolutely COULD NOT have voodoo dolls in a kids’ book.
Question: What’s a voodoo doll?
Annie: You make a little doll that looks like your enemy, you whisper the magic words, and then you stick pins in it. Then your enemy yells, “Ow, ow, ow!” My editor thought voodoo dolls were too scary for kids. Are you scared?
Question: No. Voodoo dolls sound like fun.
Annie: That’s what I think, too. But I have to do what my editor says.
Question: Why did you have to rewrite it the other times?
Annie: It was too short. I added all the stuff that happened in Ivy’s house and Mrs. Trantz.
Question: Was your room like Ivy’s room when you were a kid?
Annie: I wasn’t allowed to draw on my floor with chalk, but I did divide my room up into little sections. I had a living room, a workroom, and a bedroom. My living room had pillows to sit on and a tiny coffee table that was really a picnic basket.
Question: Did you have lots of dolls like Ivy?
Annie: Nope. I had little animals, but not many dolls.
Question: How come you gave Ivy dolls and not animals, then?
Annie: Ivy seemed like someone who would like dolls more than animals.
Question: Are Ivy and Bean real?
Annie: No. I made them up. But they are like real people now–I know what they like and don’t like, just the way you know what your friends think. They’re fictional, but they’re still my friends.
Question: Did you ever know anyone like Bean or Ivy?
Annie: When you make up a person, it’s sort of like making a cake. You use lots of different people for ingredients. So a character might have hair like this girl, a room like that one. She might be impatient like me, and love fossils like my daughter. I take little bits from lots of people, until the character is a whole cake. Then I bake it.
Question: Who is Bean made up of?
Annie: Bean is a lot of people. She’s me; she’s my cousin Cary; she’s my best friend when I was six and seven; she’s both my daughters; she’s my daughter’s friend Claire; and she’s a bunch of kids that I’ve met over the last ten years.
Question: Who is Ivy?
Annie: Ivy is more imaginary. I took some of myself and some of my older daughter and a smidgle of her friends, and I invented the rest.
Question: What about Mrs. Trantz? Is she based on a real person?
Annie: When I was a kid, I lived down the street from an old mansion. The lady who owned it died, and the only person who lived there was May, the caretaker. She was very pale, with beady blue eyes. She scared me to death, even though she never said a word to me. I think all grown-ups who don’t like kids are scary. Mrs. Trantz is based on her, plus a few mean teachers I had.
Question: Did you like to write when you were a kid?
Annie: Not really. I wanted to like to write, but I was always disappointed in my stories. They weren’t nearly as good as the ones I read, and I didn’t see the point of writing something I didn’t want to read. Also, I was such a terrible speller, I usually couldn’t read what I wrote.
Question: Is there really a magic spell to make people dance forever?
Question: Does it really use worms?
Question: Are you a witch?
Question: Then how do you know about spells?
Annie: I have a very old spell book, just like Ivy. The invisibility spell really does require a dead frog. Two, actually.
Question: Can I see your spell book?
Annie: No. It’s a secret. And besides, it’s in French.
Question: Are you going to write more about Ivy and Bean?
Question: What’s the next book going to be about?
Annie: I think the next one I write is going to be about a bad babysitter. Do you think that’s a good idea?
Question: I think it should be about Christmas.