Laurie Graves is the author of Maya and the Book of Everything and the sequel, Library Lost, fantasy novels for teens and tweens. We love her books for their amazing worlds and great characters. We were so excited to interview her about her books, particularly Maya and the Book of Everything, this month.
RapunzelReads: What books inspired you when you were growing up?
Laurie Graves: The books that inspired me were Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time and Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. When I read A Wrinkle in Time, in the late 1960s, I had never encountered such a wild, thrilling story that incorporated science, time travel, and fantasy with vivid characters. It almost felt as though an electrical charge was coming to me from the book. Then there was The Lord of the Rings, which pulled me right into Middle Earth. I was there with Frodo and Sam as they made their way to Mordor, and there seemed to be no veil between me, the reader, and Tolkien’s story. Last but certainly not least is Shakespeare. I fell in love with him when I was in seventh grade, and that love continues to this day. When I first started reading Shakespeare, there was a lot I didn’t understand, but it didn’t matter. I was completely dazzled by the way he used language, and I could hardly believe that anyone could write so brilliantly. Even now, I am still in awe.
RR: What was your inspiration for Maya and the Book of Everything?
LG: Years ago, my husband and I published a magazine called Wolf Moon Journal. To help with editing, I used a book called The Chicago Manual of Style. It’s like a giant
What if there were a book of everything. What would it be like? Where would the book come from? What kind of danger would it be in? Because of course a Book of Everything would be in danger. One thing led to another, and Maya and the Book of Everything came from my own wish for a book of everything.
RR: Do you have any tips for an aspiring writer?
LG: Read, read, read and write, write, write. It takes many hours of practice to be a good writer, just as it does to be a good musician or athlete. And here’s some excellent advice from Stephen King. He thinks the question “What If?” should come first to be followed by characters, plot, and setting. Even though I was unaware of King’s advice at the time, this is exactly how I wrote Maya and the Book of Everything. I started with the question: What if there were a book of everything? Maya, Andy, Chet, and the Great Library all came after that question.
RR: The characters in Maya and the Book of Everything are interesting and complex. What went into creating them, and who are some of your favorites?
LG: Maya is my favorite character, a fiery girl who is not afraid to face danger and the unknown. A close second is Andy, who comes from a poor family and loves Shakespeare as much as I do. I also have sympathy for Sir John, who does terrible things yet has the courage to press on and to try to rectify his mistakes. Then there is Mémère, who is a lot like Maya. Some of my characters are made of bits and pieces of actual people; others appear whole cloth based on no one in particular. But even when they are based on real people, characters take on a life of their own with unique virtues and vices. By the end of book, the characters feel real in a dreamlike way, and I can actually hear them talk.