Susan Patron: I was eight and our teacher had just finished reading Charlotte's Web aloud to the class. It left me consumed with a longing to write stories that would have a powerful effect on readers; I hadn't known it was possible to do that and I wanted to try.
CKR: What did your experiences as a librarian teach you about the children’s genre?
SP: That children live in the same world we do; they want reliable information, they want to escape, they want entertainment, and many want books that will help them figure out questions of mortality, morality, shades of meaning: life.
CKR: Who are your favorite authors to read, past and present?
SP: This is off the top of my head: Anne Tyler, John Updike, Anne Lamott, Stewart O'Nan, Elmore Leonard, Nancy Farmer, Theresa Nelson, James Marshall, Beverly Cleary, E.B. White, Beatrix Potter, William Steig, John Green, Geraldine McCaughrean…
CKR: What inspired the idea for The Higher Power of Lucky?
SP: It took over ten years to write the book, and a lot of my own life experiences played into it. For instance, my mother died in 2003 which made me realize—I hadn't known this before—that Lucky had lost her mother and was longing for her. Also, my husband and I spend a lot of time in California's Eastern Sierra area, which became the setting for the story and strongly affected its events.
CKR: What affect did winning the Newbery have on your writing?
SP: I feel, every single day, overwhelmingly grateful. At the same time, as I explain to children in presentations, you would think that winning a major award would be the highest validation of your work, and would free you from self-doubt and writer's block. Well, yes, of course it's hugely validating, but paradoxically the self-doubt and fear were magnified rather than banished. Writing the next book (Lucky Breaks) was enormously difficult because it felt as if a giant critical spotlight was shining on every page.
CKR: Do you have one particular character you enjoy writing more than the others?
SP: I love writing about Miles, who is loosely modeled on my little sister, Georgia.
CKR: Lucky Breaks continues your story, and I understand you are working on the third in the series. Did you always plan this to be a trilogy?
SP: No; I envisioned the first book as an entity but when I finished it I couldn't bear to leave Hard Pan. Then the same thing happened when I finished Lucky Breaks; I wanted to continue to explore the characters' stories. Writing this final book of the trilogy is satisfying because I get to tie up all loose ends (which I hadn't been aware were loose ends as I wrote them). I'm the kind of writer that discovers how it works as I go groping along, taking stabs and making a lot of mistakes, trying to figure out how best to tell the story.
CKR: Any hints you’d like to drop about what happens in the third book?
SP: Miles gets caught in a difficult, untenable situation; Brigitte faces an enormous challenge; the town of Hard Pan changes; and Lucky makes some discoveries that shift her understanding of the world.
CKR: The Higher Power of Lucky has been optioned – any news on when the film will be made?
SP: No news yet; stay tuned!
CKR: Anything else you'd like to share?
SP: Here are a couple of excerpts of letters from kids. They give the writer in me the courage to face the blank page and get on with the work.
"The first book was really good. It really got my attention. It made me want to read more and more. I also can't waite until it's time for the next book of Lucky."
"It is good that you used a lot of incredible vocab. I thought the book had a good meaning it was funny to. I just wanted to take this time to thank you very much."
"The book that I am reading is the very first book I have read by you. I think it is good because I can relate to all the characters. Have you ever been to Harrisburg? You should go sometime it is a good place and you can do a lot of other interesting things. I can connect to Lucky because my mom also died and I felt just like her."
It just doesn't get any better than that.