Feb 28, 2012

Ellen Potter Interview: The Humming Room Tour

I was so excited to be asked to participate in the blog tour for The Humming Room by Ellen Potter.  She was the first author to ever comment on my blog.  I was so excited that she had found her way to my blog and felt moved enough to comment.  You can read that post here.  Plus, I really love her books!  Olivia Kidney and The Kneebone Boy both made me laugh and cry.  Her writing has that Roald Dahl touch of whimsy, but also with quite a bit of emotion.  I have already read and reviewed The Humming Room which I adored and below is my interview with Ellen Potter!

*Why did you pick The Secret Garden as a book to "reinvent"?
 I’ve always been obsessed with The Secret Garden. It’s one of those rare books that seem to mature with each reading. I have a battered old copy on my book shelf that I reread every year, and each time I find something new and extraordinary in it. I was drawn to the idea of re-imagining it because the book deals with certain issues that I’ve often written about before—magic that is hidden in the everydayness of things, ghosts, secrets, and tough little girls. A sad postscript: A week ago my dog urinated on my bookshelf and one of the casualties was that beloved edition of The Secret Garden. I gave it a proper funeral that involved Celtic music and Febreeze. 

*What is your favorite movie version of The Secret Garden?
I’ve seen them all, but my favorite is the one from 1993, with Maggie Smith. The girl who played Mary had wonderfully disheveled hair and a great snarl. And then, of course, there’s Maggie Smith. I’d pay good money to watch that woman bite her cuticles, she’s that mesmerizing. 

*What other childhood books/authors have influenced your writing?
I’m a huge fan of Roald Dahl. I also love E. Nesbit, Ellen Raskin, and Madeleine L’Engle. All those oldies but goodies. 

*Did you always intend to write for children or was that a happy "accident"?
I always knew I wanted to be a writer. Always, always. I started off writing for grownups. But, you know, adult readers ask too many tough questions at book signings. They want to know about literary allusions and dramatic structure. When I sign books for kids, they ask me things like, “Do you have a hamster?” 

*Because I am a middle school librarian as well, do you have any wonderful library/librarian memories to share?
Yes! I had my literary epiphany in my elementary school library. We had this great school librarian who knew the sort of books I loved. When I asked her for something new to read, she directed me to Harriet the Spy, by Louise Fitzhugh. I started reading it right then and there, and suddenly I KNEW that the best books in the world were written for 11-year-olds. I l also knew I wouldn’t be eleven forever, and I had this fear of forgetting how great kids books were, like so many adults. So at that moment I decided that I would simply have to write books for 11-year-olds when I grew up. 

 *I cried so hard when I read the first Olivia Kidney and then again with The Kneebone Boy. One of the things I like about your books is that they have a touch of humor and whimsy, then, bam, strong emotion. How do you write that so well?
It’s a gift. Nah, I’m just kidding. Honestly, I’m always a little nervous about writing very emotional things. I’m afraid of seeming sappy or overly dramatic, so I tend to keep things light to cushion the heavy stuff. 

*Do you have a favorite character from your books or one you relate to?
I have a soft spot for so many of them, but I really love my “tough customers,” like Roo from The Humming Room and Olivia Kidney. There is just something about these sharp-eyed, sharp-tongued girls that is so appealing to me. I guess they’re the kind of people I would have wanted to be friends with when I was a kid, but would have been too scared to approach. 

*I feel like you have been so lucky with your book covers! I like the one for Slob because it is clean yet still eye catching and The KneeBone Boy and The Humming Room ones are amazing. Is it a really anxious moment when you get the email with the cover attachment?
Don’t even get me started about my book covers! They’re incredible. Jason Chan did the covers for both The Kneebone Boy and The Humming Room. The guy is a genius. He knew what my characters looked like better than I did. I’d like to live inside his brain for a day. It must be paradise in there. 

*What are you working on now?
I just finished a book for younger kids called Otis Dooda. It’s a silly, ridiculous romp. I hope it makes little boys everywhere laugh like mad. 
I was just delighted when I read her answers.  I believe Ellen Potter to be a true kindred spirit!   I loved, loved her answer about her memorable librarian.  One reason I became a librarian is because I didn't want to forget that those books existed either!  If you haven't read any Ellen Potter books I strongly encourage you to pick one up today.

(The covers above are only a sampling of the books written by Ellen!  Check out the other ones here.)


  1. I bet you had so much fun coming up with questions for her! I felt like I was thoroughly entertained, plus learned a few things, through this interview. Thank you both! Now if I could actually READ something by Ellen Potter my life would be complete...

    1. She was one author where I did not have trouble making up the questions for her. She is just so cool! You must read one of her books soon!

  2. Oh, wow, Jana . . . you always manage to score the BEST author interviews! I just reviewed The Humming Room on Monday--LOVED it!! Ellen is amazing. :-)

    1. She is just awesome. A kindred spirit for sure!

  3. That was awesome. I had no idea this was a Secret Garden of sorts. I can't wait to check it out.