a conversation with Kathryn Lasky in Lexington

Kathryn Lasky is one of today’s busiest and most successful children’s book authors. The Cambridge resident is a Newbery Honor Medalist and a two-time winner of the National Jewish Book Award. She is perhaps best known for ‘The Guardians of Ga’Hoole’, a fantasy series about a world of owls that was made into a movie in 2010. She has released adult crime series, memoirs, epic fantasy , historical fiction, etc. Currently, Lasky is hard at work on “Faceless,” which centers on a young British spy during World War II. Lasky will speak as part of the Cary Lecture Series at a virtual event on Nov. 7. We caught up with Lasky to ask him about avoiding writer’s block, building a fantasy world, and more.

The following interview has been edited and condensed for publication.

You have written over 100 books. How do you stay so productive and what does your writing process look like?

I have an idea and it’s been swirling around in my head for quite a while. If he disappears, I know it’s not worthy of attention. If it sticks, I start taking notes and trying to piece together the central narrative. Then I have to make an elaborate proposal, which requires writing a few chapters. If something is accepted, I make these very detailed outlines. They are in progress. I could easily have 15 plans for a book as it progresses. I start with a rough sentence, just a few sentences for the beginning, the middle and the end. As I go along, I will describe the next chapters and so on. And I never get writer’s block or anything. I think it’s because I choose my subjects so carefully. This way, I maintain a passion for the book throughout.

I’m not slowing down either. I’ve been writing since my kids were little, and I didn’t have that much time back then. Now they’ve all grown up and I have grandkids and I would say my production has increased. I have more time to work now.

You’ve written in many different genres and styles, from memoir to historical fiction to epic fantasy. Which type is the most difficult?

I’ve done adult books, mysteries, and found those to be the hardest. You have to drop clues and red herrings, and to tell you the truth, I don’t think I’m that good at it. People who are great mystery writers, it’s almost like a crossword for them. They like to solve it.

Many of your books are told in the form of fictional journal entries for real historical figures. Was it difficult trying to make these people’s thoughts relevant to modern readers?

I started with a ton of research and found that emotions don’t change much over the years. Queen Elizabeth experienced loneliness and anger like anyone else. Feelings don’t change. I’ve read many of his letters, and you get something out of his voice. It’s more formal, but his feelings are timeless.

When building a fantasy world from scratch, where do you start?

My fantasy books are mostly about animals, so I start with the natural world. I live very close to the Harvard Museum of Natural History and one day, while working on a book with owl characters, I heard a knock on my door and it was someone from the museum who came. is shown with a pair of binoculars on my doorstep. . He said there was a sighting of a Eastern Screech Owl in a tree in your garden and he wanted to take a look. I also got excited, because one of my characters is this type of bird, and I was just writing about him. This owl stayed in my garden for about two years and I made friends with the guy from the museum. He was curator of the bird exhibits there. It has become a wonderful resource for me. They have a massive collection.

For my wolf books, I went to a wolf sanctuary in Ipswich. For my series on polar bears, I even took a research trip to the Arctic. We went on the ice on these rovers and saw the bears up close.

What are your thoughts on the future? Do you have any upcoming projects you would like to talk about?

I try not to talk about new projects because it’s very easy to talk about a book, if that makes sense. It’s interesting to look at trends in young adult writing. For example, dystopian novels are huge now. I love the older ones like “The Giver” by Louis Lowry. But then they got too weird for me, personally. But I realize that the genre has a powerful appeal for young readers.

I’ll tease my next book a bit, though. My fourth WWII book is coming out next year and I will be talking about it during the event.

This is probably a question you’ve been asked many times, but I think it’s important. What advice do you have for budding writers?

Read. Read all you can. That’s how I got interested in animals, World War II, everything. You must read very widely, all genres, fiction and non-fiction. This way you find something that inspires you and go from there. Plus, there’s not just one way to write. I do all of these outlines, but you have to find the process that works for you.

The public can register for Lasky’s speech at www.carylectureseries.org.

Scott R. Banks