Monday, November 14, 2011

Veteran Author Peg Kehret

As you are probably all well aware, my passion is for children’s books. It makes little difference whether I am reading them to my daughter, having her read them to me, or reading them for my own pleasure. Another interest of mine is interviewing children’s authors and finding out just what makes them tick. To have a well established children’s author such as Peg Kehret agree to be interviewed is icing on the cake. Thank you for taking the time to share a bit of your life and wisdom with us, Peg.

Please tell us a little bit about yourself such as where you hail from and how many children’s books you have had published.
I live on a small wildlife sanctuary near Mt. Rainier National Park, in Washington State. I’ve published fifty books for children. Early in my career I published plays, short stories, and two nonfiction adult books.

When you were young, did you imagine that you would some day be a children’s author, or did it you have other career prospects in mind?
As a child, I wanted to be either a veterinarian or a writer. Now I include animals in most of my books.

Of all of the books you have written, does any one title or series hold a special place in your heart?
Small Steps: The Year I Got Polio, is the true story of how I was paralyzed when I was twelve years old, and my year of recovery. Writing it brought back many memories and I have special feelings toward it. I’m also fond of the three books (The Stranger Next Door, Spy Cat, and Trapped) that are co-authored by Pete the Cat, because I laughed so much as I wrote the sections from Pete’s viewpoint.

Do you have any humorous stories to tell about being an author or dealing with the public?
I get a lot of funny letters from kids. One girl wanted to know if I would send her Justin Bieber’s phone number. Another said, “If you are no longer living when you get this letter, please have someone close to you respond.”

What do you find the most difficult aspect of being an author and what advice would you give perspective authors?
First drafts are the hardest part for me. I’m slow to get started and it takes awhile before I know the material is book-worthy.
The most important advice I have for beginning authors is to be persistent. Don’t give up too easily. My first two books never got published. It’s especially hard to keep going when you haven’t published yet because other people don’t take you seriously. You have to believe in yourself and your own vision.

From where does your inspiration come and has writing become easier for you through the years?
Usually an idea is sparked by an incident that I hear about, or something I read in the newspaper, or even an overheard conversation. My latest book, Ghost Dog Secrets, happened because I read a letter to the editor of a small weekly newspaper. The writer complained about a dog that was tied up day after day with no food or shelter. She had complained to an animal control agency but got no action. I thought about that situation and wondered what a twelve-year-old boy would do if he saw such a dog and couldn’t get the authorities to intervene. If he unchains the dog and takes it, is he rescuing it or is he stealing private property?

What accomplishment are you most proud of (literary or otherwise)?
My husband and I raised two children who are honorable people. In my career, I’m proud that I’ve had a part in encouraging children to enjoy reading. I have hundreds of letters from grateful parents and teachers, each telling me about a particular child who never liked to read until he/she got hooked on one of my books.

What do you think causes a book to stand the test of time?
Books that touch our feelings are most likely to last. Tricky plots are fun to read once but the books we return to are those with important themes that make us think and those that create an emotional reaction.

What hobbies or interests do you have besides writing?
Physical problems from post-polio syndrome make it difficult for me to be as active as I was in the past. I read a lot and I do foster care for rescued cats. Many of my books grew out of personal interests. The ideas for Cages, Don’t Tell Anyone, and Shelter Dogs: Amazing Stories of Adopted Strays all came from volunteer work with my local Humane Society.

Is there anything else you would like to tell us about such as awards or your website address?
All of my awards are displayed on the wall in a hallway next to my office. They encourage me and bring back happy memories. I’ve won forty-eight state young reader awards, a Golden Kite from SCBWI, the PEN Center Award in Children’s Literature, the Henry Bergh Award from the ASPCA, and an Edgar nomination from the Mystery Writers of America.
My web site is I have a Facebook author page and a blog; both have links from the web site.

Thank you for answering these questions for me and my readers Peg. I particularly enjoyed the comments you received from children. I can also understand how enjoyable it was for you to write from Pete the cat’s point of view; that is what I enjoyed most while reading Spy Cat.