Author Lin Oliver can make anything fun.
Seriously–from SCBWI conference announcements to the crooked finger on her right hand (see #7 below), Lin’s repartee will have you chuckling. So I jumped at the chance to ask Lin about her action-packed new chapter book series,
Think MAGIC TREE HOUSE meets your favorite works of art–masterpieces by Henri Rousseau (Samantha Kallis illustration above; book 1), Georges Seurat (bk2), Edward Hopper (bk3), Georgia O’Keefe (bk4) and more to come!
Each book takes 10-year-old Tiger Brooks and his friend Luna through a magic FRAME, straight into a famous painting and an on-going quest to find a boy who disappeared decades before.
Teachers and Librarians–what a wonderful way for young readers to discover art history via intrigue, adventure–and did I mention humor? I love the non-fiction component about the featured painting and artist at the back of each book too. Which brings us to our own FANTASTIC adventure–8 Questions with Author Lin Oliver:
- Which character in THE FANTASTIC FRAME series is most like you? Tiger Brooks? Luna Lopez? Viola Dots? Chives (…the talking pig/butler)? David Dots? Maggie Brooks? Cookie Brooks?Lin Oliver: Oh, that’s easy. Tiger Brooks is a logical thinker and a scientist. I am neither. Viola Dots is a shut-in and a grouch. I am neither. Luna is a creative person, a maker, a dreamer and a hugger. I am ALL FOUR OF THOSE THINGS. Making things is my favorite activity in the world—whether it’s making a book, a pot of soup, a crazy quilt, a mosaic bird feeder, or a tower of rocks and sea shells at the beach. I think Luna and I would be very good friends.
- Which of the titles from your FANTASTIC FRAME series best describes your path as an author? (or your revision process?) Book 1: DANGER! TIGER CROSSINGBook 2: SPLAT! ANOTHER MESSY SUNDAY Book 3: BEWARE! SHADOWS IN THE NIGHT **release date Oct. 2016
Book 4: LOOK OUT! GHOST MOUNTAIN BELOW **Coming soon!
Lin Oliver: This is such a funny and clever question. It would have to be SPLAT! ANOTHER MESSY SUNDAY. Messy is a key word to describe almost everything I do. I meander through life, looking at everything, getting distracted by what interests me, collecting odd things, being overly-curious about everything. That makes for messy outcomes. Some people are planners and some, like me, just mess around until they get where they’re going. I never outline a plot, I just keep fooling around with it until it’s right. I only tidy up my writing desk when the potato chip bags get so high I can’t see over them. And don’t try to find anything in my closet unless you’re willing to go to battle with the dust bunnies.
- What is the most surprising fact or discovery you’ve made thus far while writing this series?Lin Oliver: I learned so many facts about artists and their lives. Georgia O’Keeffe never painted a person—only flowers and skulls and landscapes. And when she was painting in Santa Fe and it got hot, she would lie under her car in the shade and paint. Edward Hopper, although he was wildly successful, lived in the same tiny New York apartment his whole adult life and had to walk down the hall to use the bathroom. Henri Rousseau painted jungles but never saw one. He was a customs agent and worked in an office in Paris. I love to learn about people who lived odd and unique lives because they were pursuing their artistic dreams.
- How are your experiences of writing a series like FANTASTIC FRAME and writing for television similar?Lin Oliver: Writing a book series is a great deal like writing for television. You have to come up with a premise that suggests many different story lines. THE FANTASTIC FRAME presents as many stories as there are paintings in the world. Next, you have to come up with a cast of characters that your readers or viewers love and want to hang out with. Every successful TV comedy you can think of has that—think of Friends or The Big Bang Theory or Seinfeld. You want to be right there with those adorable folks. I hope that the readers of FANTASTIC FRAME love the characters, especially Tiger and Luna and Chives, and are happy to be with them on all their adventures.
- If you had an “Hour of Power” like Tiger and Luna, and could walk through the frame of any of the world’s greatest paintings, which one would you choose? Why?Lin Oliver: Oh, I love so many paintings that it’s hard to choose just one, but I think it would be thrilling to enter Salvador Dali’s painting, The Persistence of Memory—-you know, the crazy surreal one with the fluid looking clocks draped over weird tree branches in the desert. I assume I’d turn into a liquid creature too, and slither all over that strange world.
- What is your favorite question asked at school visits or in fan mail? Lin Oliver: Well, the most common questions from kids are: How much money do you make? (I never answer that) and What kind of car do you drive? (When I tell the kids I drive an unexciting but eco-friendly Prius, there are usually wails of disappointment.) My favorite question, which I’ve been lucky enough to hear on many occasions is, “How did you know me so well?” It is thrilling for me as an author, to have kids recognize themselves in my books. My answer to them is,
“I know you because way down deep, we are all the same.”
Why is the little finger on your right hand crooked? (I found this fact on Lin’s web site. I asked because my husband’s finger was jammed by a basketball…WHO KNEW her answer would be about MY favorite sport? GAME ON, Lin Oliver!)
Lin Oliver: I was a tether-ball fanatic as a child. I played non-stop, and was crushed when I learned there was no Gold Medal given at the Olympics for tether ball. I broke my little finger many times, either jamming it into the tether ball or getting it all bent up in the rope, or worst of all, slugging at the ball but hitting the metal joint that attached it to the rope instead. Ouch, I can still feel that.
- What question do you wish I’d asked?Lin Oliver: Why do I write for children?Answer: Because I think all kids want and need love, and by writing for them, I can reach across time and space and love them up through my books.
Bonus WRITING PROMPT for Teachers: Try question #5 with your class! Tweet snippets or even sketches of their answers to @LinOliver with the hashtags #FantasticFrame #edchat