Mary Ann Fraser

A recipient of many awards for her books — including Junior Library Guild Selection, School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, Book Links Book of the Year, IRA Young Readers Choice Award, and American Booksellers “Pick of the List” — Ms. Fraser has written and/or illustrated over seventy fiction and nonfiction books for children.

Her most recent title is her young adult (YA) debut, Mortal Remains.

Do you have a writing routine? Where and when do you write?

 I am definitely a morning person, so I do my best to get an early start on my writing. In the case of my last novel, that meant as early as four in the morning sometimes. If I’m on a roll, I will continue working late into the night.

Do you have any patterns or rituals associated with your writing time?

I like total silence when I write, a bright window nearby, and easy access to tea. I know some people can write in cafes and other places, but I tend to stick to my studio. If I’m really lucky, I like to escape to a cabin. There’s just something about being surrounded by nature that gets the creative juices flowing.

What do you do when you hit a wall with your writing?

I go for a long walk, preferably near water. 

The eternal question: Are you a “pantser”, a “plotter”, or something else entirely?

At heart I’m a pantser. I love to be surprised by the twists and turns as the story unfolds. More and more, though, I find I can save myself a lot of floundering if I at least have the bare bones of an outline before I get too far along.

What’s the last book you read that made you go “wow!”?

It would have to be SWEEP: the Story of A Girl and Her Monster by Jonathan Auxier completely blew me away. So much heart in that book. For me, that is what makes a story stay with you long after the covers have closed.

What book or author do you often find yourself recommending and why?

Without hesitation I can say it would be Save the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody which is based on the books by Blake Snyder. Another must-read for authors is Story Genius by Lisa Cron. Both changed the way I thought about writing.

What’s on your To Be Read pile?

Right now I have:

  • The Magician’s Elephant by Kate DiCamillo
  • A Darker Side of Magic by V.E. Schwab
  • A Heart So Fierce by Brigid Kemmerer
  • The Jade Bones by Lani Forbes

What’s the first book you can remember reading on your own?

One of the first books I remember reading on my own was Kenny and His Animal Friends by Joan Talmage Weiss. I was crazy about the natural world and animals in particular when I was a kid. Truthfully, I still am.

What books and/or authors have most influenced you as an author?

S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders and Walter Farley’s The Black Stallion made me fall in love with the idea of becoming an author.

What do you most enjoy about being a writer?

I love the escapism, the puzzle-like challenge of it all, and the freedom to create characters and their worlds.

What do you least enjoy about being a writer?

The first draft. It’s always a struggle to get those first words on the page. But writing for me is like being a sculptor; first you have to gather the clay before you can shape it into something recognizable. And gathering clay is a very messy business indeed!

What would you tell a new writer?

Commit to learning your craft and join a critique group. The more open you are to input from a trusted source, the faster your work will improve.

What might people be surprised to know about you?

I think they would be surprised by the number of interests I have. I play the hammered dulcimer, have a black belt in Okinawa-te, am passionate about gardening, crafting, cooking, painting, hiking, and skiing—just to mention a few.

Thanks to author Mary Ann Fraser for participating in our Idaho Author Interview series. If you’re interested, or would like to recommend someone, please contact the IWU website editor.

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