SBBT Interview: Ingrid Law
When you think of superhero stories, you often don’t think of pink Bible toting buses or evil talking smiley faces. All that’s about to change. From newcomer Ingrid Law comes Savvy, a Kansas/Nebraskan take on a family where every member gets his or her power at the onset of adolescence. I enjoyed the book quite a bit myself and thought it might be a treat to talk to the author.
Fuse #8: You’ve written a story where a girl gets magic powers at the age of 13, just like every other member of her mom’s side of the family. When people think of superhero stories, they don’t usually think of Kansas. Whence the thinking behind this one?
Ingrid Law: Knowing from the very first line of chapter one that the family had to live in “the deepest part of inland,” I did a little quick research to find out where the exact center of the country is, and discovered that it’s in Kansas. I thought, what could be better? I knew I wanted to set the story in small towns and in places that people might not always associate with, as you say, ‘superhero stories.’ Small towns tend to have big heart, and take pride in things that are larger than life without feeling the need to be flashy. Throughout the country, you can find the World’s Largest things in some of the most out-of-the way places . . . the World’s Largest Porch Swing, the World’s Largest Ball of Twine, the World’s Largest Reproduction of a Van Gogh Painting . . . my daughter and I saw all of these things when we visited Kansas and Nebraska while I was writing the book, and that mix of simultaneous appreciation for things both small and large really affected me.
Fuse #8: The voice in this book is very distinctive. Very unique. Would you characterize it as your Colorado roots showing through or is this something you ascribe only to yourself?
Ingrid Law: I actually based the voice on that often found in the retelling of American tall tales, then tried to tweak it to make it my own. Stories about characters like Paul Bunyan, Pecos Bill, or Sally Ann Thunder Ann Whirlwind Crocket have a very distinctive style and a classic Americana feel. I took a little of that then hybridized it with a hefty helping of alliteration and a jingle-jangle mish-mash of reduplicatives to create a final voice specific to the main character’s own personality. I’m a bit of a semantics treasure hunter and love to play with vocabulary, so I enjoy tailoring words and speech patterns to my characters.
Fuse #8: Savvy, your debut novel for kids, actually hit the publishing world’s attention first when it sold its film rights pre-publication. How did they let you know about this? I assume much celebration must have gone down.
Ingrid Law: Oddly enough, I was sitting in a theater waiting for a movie to start when I got the call from my agent. I was completely alone in the theater, and for some reason the staff had forgotten to turn on any of the normal, inescapable music and trivia slides. I felt like I was on Candid Camera—like someone might jump out at any minute and say ‘Just kidding!’ I managed to sit through the first ten minutes of the film before I ran out of the theater—I was simply too buzzed to stay still, and had been so stunned during the call that I panicked at the thought that I might have forgotten to say ‘Thank you!’ I never did see the rest of that particular film.
Fuse #8: Are there any authors in particular you’ve enjoyed in the past and have been inspired by?
Ingrid Law: There have been many! But Diana Wynne Jones is always forefront in my mind when I am asked this question. I have enjoyed her books, especially her Chrestomanci novels, since I was young. I also love Louis Sachar, David Almond, and in the adult fiction world, I am a huge fan of Anne McCaffrey’s Dragon Riders of Pern series.
Fuse #8: Will there be a sequel? I couldn’t help but notice that Mibs had a heckuva lot of little brothers and sisters. Can we assume that they’ll be starring in future books of their own in the future?
Ingrid Law: Aha! You are very astute. Yes, this is a family tree with a past, present and future that continues to send forth new branches and deeper roots inside my imagination all the time. I am very excited to have the opportunity to create another book, one that allows me to explore a savvy 13th birthday from a whole new perspective. And, while the main character is someone readers of Savvy will not have met before, some familiar faces will join the new cast of characters in the story.
Fuse #8: One last question… I noticed a whole bunch of oblique Wizard of Oz references in this book. It’s in Kansas (sometimes). Fish makes little tornados. There’s "The great and terrible Ozzie" to contend with. I think I remember at least one green colored waitressing outfit. The bus driver has no courage (except that he really does). I take it that these were intentional details. Why the love of Oz?
Ingrid Law: I remember having a small, self-satisfied giggle fit when I plotted the route my characters would take on their journey and realized that I was going to have my main character pass through a place called Emerald, Nebraska, when her heart’s desire was to get to Kansas. The rest of the Oz references followed quite fluidly, and became further enlivened by a stop at The Wizard of Oz Museum during my trip through Kansas. However, I think that The Wizard of Oz has truly become a part of our collective unconscious over the years, and many readers of Savvy so far have pointed out some of their own Oz finds to me, including ones that I never consciously wrote in or specifically planned as parallels… like the bus driver’s courage!
For the other fabulous interviews of the day, please be so good as to check out these folks:
Delia Sherman at Chasing Ray
Polly Dunbar at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast
Tera Lynn Childs at Bildungsroman
Siena Cherson Siegel at Miss Erin
Barry Lyga at A Chair, a Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy
And, of course, Chasing Ray also has the daily round-up.
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About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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