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Author Talk: May 2006

May 2006

Lois Lowry is a prolific figure in children's and young adult fiction, having written such classic novels as THE GIVER, GATHERING BLUE, MESSENGER and NUMBER THE STARS.

In this interview, Lowry describes the inspirations behind her latest book,GOSSAMER, and its diminutive character, Littlest. Read on to learn more about Lowry's dreams, her fascination with how young people see themselves, and what she has in store for her readers.

Question: What were your inspirations for GOSSAMER?

Lois Lowry: I'm so interested, always, in how the bits and pieces of our lives go together, how they form a narrative, and how important they are to us. My son died when his little girl was not yet two. She's twelve now, and she asks me often, "Tell me stories about my dad when he was little." She giggles at the when-your-dad-was-naughty stories. But she knows intuitively that the narrative of his life is also a valuable part of her own.

Of course, I dealt with that, the importance of our memories, in a book called THE GIVER, and in the personal memoir called LOOKING BACK, as well. But thoughts about memory were haunting me, still, when I sat down to write the book that would be called GOSSAMER.

Q: Do you remember your dreams?

LL: Some. Especially those that recur. I even have a favorite, in fact: so much so that when it recurs I actually think --- while deep asleep --- "Oh, great, this dream again! I love it!" But at the same time, I suppose that, like most people, most of what I dream disappears on waking. If that weren't true, the whole concept of dreams would not be so endlessly fascinating and mysterious.

I'd tell you what that favorite dream is, but actually it intrigues me enough that it might find its way into a book. So I don't want to talk about it!

Q: Names are significant in many of your books: THE GIVER, MESSENGER, GATHERING BLUE. In GOSSAMER, you choose descriptive words (Littlest, Thin Elderly, Fastidious) instead of traditional names. Can you talk a little about why you did this?

LL: In the first draft of GOSSAMER, Littlest actually had a "real" name. Along the way, it disappeared: it no longer felt right, it felt too human. I began to perceive that the creatures (for lack of a better term) --- the dream-givers --- would be more ethereal, would lack some of the more prosaic human elements: names, houses, pets, and hobbies. Clothing, too, I suppose! They are really unencumbered except for spirit. I suppose they could be described as pure spirit.

Q: Is there a particular character from GOSSAMER that you identify with the most?

LL: Well, in writing GOSSAMER, I created a number of different characters, and being a woman about the same age --- and one who lives with a dog! --- I suppose I identify most closely with the character called, simply, the woman. But although I like "the woman" --- and although I rooted for the boy, John, to become whole and happy --- the character who most interested me was the one called Littlest.

I've always been fascinated by the concept of the very young child's perception of self. I remember a time eight years ago when my granddaughter, then four, explained to me very politely and solemnly, because she suspected I had forgotten, "I'm only little."

More recently, a younger grandson, also four, said to me with a sense of wonder, "My head is just so full of thoughts."

Littlest, in GOSSAMER, reminds me of my own small grandchildren, and of all little ones whose heads are so full of thoughts, and who are so curious and intent on figuring out their place in the world.

Q: Do you think you'll write more books featuring Littlest?

LL: Every time I finish a book I feel as if I have said goodbye to it, to its characters and their lives. Right now I feel that way about GOSSAMER, and about Littlest. I left her content, increasing in wisdom and maturity. Why revisit her? But even as I say that --- and believe it to be true --- I recall that I said that of earlier books, earlier characters, and then after time passed, began to yearn to be with them again. So I've learned not to be overly certain. About anything!

Q: What are you working on now?

LL: Well, right now I'm working on some more Gooney Bird. She has become quite popular in the early grades: younger readers than my usual. And it's such fun, moving back into her classroom with its merriment and confusion.

Copyright © 2006 Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.