1998 Interview Text only.
2000 Interview Text only.
2001 Interview Audio and text.
2006 Interview Video and text.
Welcome to the sight and sound byte archive for mekerr.com! Videos from 9/06 interview are in mpeg form. Interview from 6/01 is in Real Audio. Please refer to the transcripts.
Interview from 2006
Part 1 out of 5 added 9/5/06: Your Eyes in Stars (Note: Each video will take a few minutes to load and start playing.)
Where did the title Your Eyes in Stars come from?
It came from a very popular song in the ’30’s “The Very Thought of You.” “I see your face in every flower your eyes in stars above.”
What is your draw to revisiting World War II themes like in Gentlehands, Slap Your Hands (sic) [I meant Slap Your Sides] and Your Eyes in Stars?
Yes, well Your Eyes in Stars really, I was revisiting my home town, Auburn, NY. I’ve always been intrigued by the fact we had a prison sitting in the center of town. I was there recently and I opened the blinds in the motel I was staying and there’s the prison. You can never escape it. And there was Copper John on top of the prison and the guards walking. And yet they passed around something about the town and they never mentioned the prison. It’s always the elephant in the room. It’s there but no one talks about it. And when I was young, I was intrigued with it. All the kids were and I never forgot it and so I write about the prison. One of my characters is the warden’s daughter and she has many things to tell about the prison. And I chose the ’30’s, the late ’30’s, right before World War II because that was when I became most aware of the coming, the approaching war largely through Jews that came to our town to escape what was going on in Germany. So I blended the two things in Your Eyes in Stars to tell my story about the friendship between a young upstate New York girl in her teens and a young girl from Germany.
Part 2 out of 5 added 9/13/06: Someone Like Summer
What can you tell us about your upcoming book?
My newest book which will probably come out in 2007, is called Someone Like Summer and it’s about, it’s sort of a Romeo and Juliet story about a contractor’s daughter and a young, undocumented Latino. I’ve become very aware how our town is changing with all the Latino immigration and all the workers hiring Latinos for help. Everything is changing about our little town because of it and I thought it would be interesting to have a romance between these people. And, he’s a soccer player, as so many are, and she’s just a kid going, waiting to go into her senior year of high school.
Is it set in the present day?
It’s set as occurring in 2005. I’ve tried to make it a historical book because there was no way, while I’m waiting for it to be published, to guess what’s going on with the war in Iraq or what’s going on with immigration. And it’s really about that summer. It ends with Katrina being just broadcast over the radio, warnings about Katrina’s approach to New Orleans. So it’s really about that summer.
Well we look forward to that.
Thank you. [cut off; sorry about that!]
Part 3 out of 5 added 9/13/06: Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack
So we’re very excited that your first book, Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack, which was first published in 1972, is being reissued. How did that come about?
Well, they’ve been reissuing Dinky I think it’s every seven years. They have to to, it’s part of the contract. I think it will be a story kids today will like a lot. Dinky doesn’t shoot smack of course, but her mother is very caring for these dope addicts, these youngsters who’ve gotten hooked on dope. She spends a lot of time taking care of them and not paying very much attention to the fact that Dinky is getting fatter and fatter and more and more lonesome and neglected. And she has some pals that she hangs out with in Brooklyn Heights. And they’ve reissued it but the cover is very disturbing to me because it has a black cat on the cover. And there is a cat in the book, a tiger cat, but not a black cat. And the black cat portends difficulties and troubles. And the book is really more comic than troubling. And I’m very sorry that the art department at HarperCollins decided that it was a black cat that they wanted on the cover. The other covers were really much nicer and I think many of the kids will have access to the other covers because the book is in a lot of the libraries.
Part 4 out of 5 added 9/13/06: Upcoming Books
Congratulations on your eight books coming out next year. Can you tell us more about that?
I’m going to try to remember the names of all of them. The HarperCollins book, the new one, will be called Someone Like Summer. And they’re also reissuing in paperback this time a book called Snakes Don’t Miss Their Mothers, which is also by Miss Kerr. Again, Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack will be coming out that year. And this is 2007 we’re talking about. There will be two Vin Packer books, old books, both of them matricides. And one is called Whisper His Sin and one is The Evil Friendship. These were written back in the ’50’s and The Evil Friendship is quite a famous case of two girls in New Zealand who murdered one of the mothers. And Hollywood made a movie called Heavenly Creatures out of it sometime in the ’80’s or ’90’s. I had written about the case in the ’50’s. Then my very old pen name, Ann Aldrich, two of her books are being reissued by Feminist Press. One is We Walk Alone and one is called We Too Must Love. Now, I’m trying to think how many that is. Is that eight? I hope it is. Oh, and I also have, under the name, it’s going to be called “A Book by Marijane Meaker writing as Vin Packer” and that book will be called Scott Free and it’s about a transgendered detective. Caroll and Graf is publishing that book. And I think that brings us up to eight.
Part 5 out of 5 added 9/13/06: Shockproof Sydney Skate
So what’s the update on the possibility of Shockproof Sydney Skate being a movie?
Poor Shockproof Sydney Skate has been under contract to Fox for many, many years. At one point, Cameron Crowe was writing a script and in the middle of it, Tom Cruise asked him if he would come and write Vanilla Sky and so he abandoned Shockproof. And others had before. And now, I understand that Sydney Pollack is directing it and that woman named Eloise Foner, I hope I have her name right [she meant Naomi Foner], is doing the script and so they seem to be in production again. I Googled it and found it there. Since Fox owns it now and I don’t, that’s probably the reason I haven’t very many details about it but I hope it will bring about a reissue of the novel Shockproof Sydney Skate which HarperCollins owns now.
That would be very nice.
Yes, it would be great.
Well, thank you for your time.
Well, thank you, too.
We look forward to all your new books and old books and all that.
*added 5/01 Webmaster’s Welcome (running time: 1′): This is self-explanatory. But you may read the text here.
Here’s a brief description of how I got started: The first M.E. Kerr book I read was Little Little. I read it for a class and was riveted from the get-go. I ran out and gathered up all the M.E. Kerr books I could find and read them one after another. In 1998, I got a new computer and was inspired to start up a site dedicated to the works of M.E. Kerr. While I was catching up on her books. I discovered the Mary James books. A few months later, I wrote a fan letter to M.E. Kerr who responded enthusiastically to the site. She quickly became a frequent visitor and contributor to the site. And now, we work together to keep the site up-to-date and fun to visit. We enjoy visitor feedback so we invite you to sign the guestbook, send a comment or leave a message here. Thanks for visiting!
Gentlehands (running time: 1’42”): M. E. Kerr talks about Gentlehands. Text:
The most common question about Gentlehands is did I intend at the end for Grandpa Trenker to escape and I didn’t. I wanted Buddy to turn him in because you’re supposed to learn the lesson his grandfather taught him: Once you know about something that’s evil, once you hear about it, if you don’t do something about it, you’re part of it. And that was supposed to be the lesson he’s left Buddy with so I assume that Buddy turned him in. But a lot of kids don’t think he did, and when kids put him on trial around the country most often, they let him go. So that’s the most common question. And then another statement usually made is that he’s the nicest man in the book. And why did I do that? And I did that purposely because I wanted to provoke in kids the idea that evil isn’t obvious. That some of the nicest people, people who love their families, and who have apparent goodness and kindness in them are capable of great, great evil. It’s an important lesson to know because you must know your enemy isn’t a buffoon. Your enemy is very calculating person who often feels just as you do about his family.
*added 6/01 Me Me Me Me Me: Not a Novel (running time: 27″): MEK speaks briefly about why she likes this book. Text:
You’ve said that Me Me Me Me is one of your favorite books?Yes, I like the book because it’s autobiographical. It’s my truest books in terms of writing directly about myself. HarperCollins tried and tried with that book to sell it with all sorts of different covers and approaches, but it was never a big seller and now it’s out of print.
*added 6/01 What Became of Her (running time: 46″): MEK speaks of what makes this book different from her other books. Text:
What Became of Her – how’s the response been to that? Well, I’ve gotten very good reviews on What Became of Her. It’s a little early to know about sales. What Became of Her is a very different book for me because it has no agenda. Usually I write a book about something. For instance, my new book, Slap Your Sides, is about a conscientious objector in WWII which was a really rough time to be a C.O. And there’s Linger about the Gulf War, Night Kites about AIDS, Deliver Us From Evie about lesbianism, but What Became of Her is just a story and that’s unusual for me.
*added 6/01 What Became of Her (running time: 1′): MEK tells us if the book is true or not (you might also hear an airplane flying overhead). Text:
Did any real events inspire What Became of Her? Yes, I knew a woman who had a doll and used to take it everywhere with her. It used to be very embarrassing to have dinner with her because the waiters would have bring a high chair for it and she talked to the doll and ordered for the doll. She always left big tips because she was a very rich woman. So everybody forgave her. But the whole restaurant stopped talking and just listened and looked at our table. So I was always ambivalent about the dinner invitations. Was she similar to Rosalind?Not really. She was oil-rich, and she inherited most of her money, and she didn’t have a grudge against the town. She wasn’t trying to get even. And she certainly hadn’t grown up in a funeral home and have all those horrible things happen to her. She wasn’t a mean woman either.
Writing for kids versus writing for adults (running time 1′): Text:
Do you miss writing books for adults?I’m doing one now. I’m writing a very mean-spirited biography, not biography but memoir, of the mystery writer Patricia Highsmith and I enjoy it. But I very much miss being able to turn it into what I want, to manipulate more than I am able with a true story. So I miss the surprises that I can give to a book and to myself as I am writing it because it’s pretty cut and dried to fact and that’s hard for me. No, I don’t miss it. I love writing for kids because I’m a person with an agenda usually. I should’ve been a preacher. I usually have something on my mind that I want to talk to people about, change their mind about and writing for kids, you still have that opportunity. You don’t have much opportunity when you write for adults of changing their minds.
*added 7/01 Keeping in touch (running time 30″): Text:
How do you keep your finger on the pulse on youth culture?Well, I’m a media freak and I read five newspapers day. And I read all the books that I can. I keep a lot in touch through my writers’ workshop. We have people of all ages and interests in the workshop and we meet weekly for two hours, and I very much benefit from hearing everything they have to say.
*added 7/01 Next book (running time 30″): Text:
What’s your next book as M.E. Kerr? I don’t know what the next book’s going to be. Slap Your Sides,of course, is the conscientious objector book, and that’s coming out in Fall 2001. I don’t know. You’re in a position where it’s wonderful because you know that you could choose anything to try to make that choice; and it’s not agonizing. It’s just you’re going to be very surprised at what you come up with. That I like about it.
*added 7/01 What does MEK read? (running time 1’14”): Text:
Do you read a lot? I read an awful lot. I read too much because I can’t really get everything out of it that I want to when I read that fast. And now I’ve learned that I don’t have to finish a book and it’s taken me a lifetime to learn that. I always felt that if I bought it or if someone gave it to me or I took it from the library, I would have to read it all but I don’t do that anymore. Do you read a lot of young adult books or children’s books?Not very much because I’m an adult. In the beginning I was always very interested in the competition. You have to be because to run a race, you want to know who’s running beside you and how fast they run and what they’re like when they run. So I would read Katherine Paterson, Robert Lipsyte, Robert Cormier. I would read everything they wrote. Now I am familiar with what’s out there. Occasionally a book will come out like Parrot in the Oven [by Victor Martinez] – I love it – which won the Newberry. And I read that because I knew it was a very different book. So occasionally I will read a YA.
*added 7/01 Teaching the Ashawagh Writers’ Workshop (running time 55″): Text:
What inspired you to start teaching at Ashawagh?Well, when I first moved here, I didn’t know enough people to find people who would be interested in talking about books and writing, and I missed it very much and I would invite people from New York to come out. But it was very strange to suddenly see people you would have lunch with maybe once or twice a year in their pajamas in your kitchen. And that was the only way I could ever get to talk about books was to invite them for the weekend. And I thought there must be a better way. So, I put an ad in the paper just saying “Writers’ Workshop” and there were so many answers because people were so hungry for the same thing. And many of the people that are in the workshop were people who answered that ad and have been in it all these 21 years.
*added 7/01 Advice to writers (running time 54″): Text:
What would you say are rookie writer mistakes or the most common advice that you give to aspiring writers?Well, I think that you have to rewrite. And I think not enough people will rewrite. They don’t like to do that. And then I think you have to be selective about how you’re going to begin a story. You have to realize that just because you’ve got a good story to tell doesn’t mean you’re going to have an audience that will listen. You must try to hook them into the story. You must try for an interesting opening line, opening paragraph. And then I think the biggest mistake is that many people don’t read. They don’t have any idea of what their competition is or what’s out there so they’re in the dark. That’s probably the biggest mistake.
*added 7/01 Website, part 1 (running 1′): Text:
What do you hope visitors get out of the website?There’s so much you can get out of the website. I hope that visitors can do what I do. I don’t have time to spend the whole day or really the whole month just looking at it. I treat myself to it. I go back. Of course, I go to it everyday because I’m curious to see who signed the guestbook and if there’s a message on the message board. etc. Michelle Koh, who runs the website, designs it and feeds it and everything, always has surprises, if not in the links, in some of the graphics. So I love to see those. I hope that people get an appreciation, of course, of my books, of a very skilled and talented webmaster [thank you!], of what a website can be.
*added 7/01 Website, part 2 (running 1’06”): Text:
And also I think the links are fascinating. You can go and find out so much about the whole subject of children’s literature through the links. And now I love the photos and just everything that’s been added – the sound bites. And she got an interview with a woman very few people get an interview with, Jane Mead, who wrote the chicken poem in What Became of Her [there’s a link on the poetry, etc. page]. And she’s got Nick Drake, his voice [ditto]. He’s sort of a cult figure, a composer, a young man who killed himself after he had something of a career in composing, a music career. So I think you can get everything on the website you could possibly ask for. What I like to do is keep going back and looking at things further and studying all the different things that are there.