M.D. Spenser and I met in an unusual way. My editor, Sara Dean, mentioned in her interview on Gittle that her son’s favorite series was Shivers. Just for giggles, I emailed M.D. to tell him he would be mentioned on my site and asked if he would consider being a featured author on Gittle. He graciously agreed. Then offered to give away a signed, personally inscribed Shivers book, The Enchanted Attic. (How to enter).
Where were you born and raised? Where do you live now?
I was born in Connecticut, but I grew up in Putney, Vermont. My father was a teacher at the Putney School, a progressive boarding school. It was an idyllic place for a kid to grow up. The campus was 200 acres of fields and woods in a rural area. I was able to let my beagle, Doodle, out in the morning to run free all day and return home in the evening when he felt it was time for supper. Sometimes, though, he would go into the school kitchen, steal a piece of meat, and emerge running at top speed with the school cook in hot pursuit.
I live in London now. I like Europe – it’s so international, such a rich blend of cultures. Besides, you can get on a plane and be in Rome or Athens or Amsterdam in short order. Paris is just a comfortable train ride away.
What’s your earliest memory of writing?
When I was 7 or 8, the children’s magazine Jack and Jill ran a contest to see who could write the best ending to a story that started in the magazine. I think it was about two kids trying to think up the best birthday present for their father. I wrote an ending in which the kids chose a kit to make moccasins, so they could make the moccasins themselves and present them as a gift. My ending was one of the ones the magazine chose to publish. I walked around with my chest puffed out for a week.
What children’s books did you read when you were growing up?
Well, Dr. Seuss, of course. He was brilliant. It wasn’t just that he had an imagination and realized that children, even those just starting to read, could enjoy something more fun than, “Run, Spot, run.” His books had rhyme and rhythm and, while very entertaining, also were about something. Every now and then, even as an adult, I’ll pick up a book like “Horton Hears a Who!” and realize all over again how wonderful it is. “A person’s a person, no matter how small.” How true that is.
Equally important, I think, is that my father read many books to me at bedtime. I particularly enjoyed “The Hobbit” and “The Yearling.” And I still think “The 13 Clocks,” by James Thurber, is one of the best books ever written for people of any age. I reread it recently and loved it every much as I did when I was 10 or 12.
What year was your first book published? Have children’s reading habits and tastes changed since then? If so, in what way(s)?
My first book was published in 1996. In some ways, I think children’s habits are similar to what they’ve always been. A good story, well told, will always hold a kid’s attention. I do think that, due to the wonderful work of J.K. Rowling, there is probably a greater emphasis on magic and wizardry and the battle between good and evil. But let’s not forget that there was magic in “The Wizard of Oz,” in “Peter Pan,” in “The Hobbit” and a host of other books, as well.