I first met Ammi-Joan Paquette at an SCBWI conference. She was friendly and approachable and I’ve loved reading her Princess Juniper books. In Two Truths and a Lie, Joan and Laurie A. Thompson create a serious, yet silly book for kids and parents. The learning and discerning between what is fact and what is fiction makes Two Truths and a Lie incredible fun. I’m thrilled to interview them for Writers’ Rumpus!
Kirsti Call: Two Truths and a Lie was a wonderful read aloud. My kids and I loved guessing what was true and what wasn’t. The mystery of the book, along with the non-fiction elements made this a really fun read. What was your inspiration?
AJP: This is so great to hear! The inspiration actually came as a direct result of stumbling across so many cool and unbelievable stories all across the web. Some of the stories sounded like they couldn’t possibly be true–and yet they were! It got me thinking about the line between what was real and what wasn’t, and how that could be played with to a literary advantage. The specifics came together gradually, and I’m so thrilled with how it’s all come about. (I had originally imagined the title as “Six Truths and a Lie”–so many amazing true stories out there! But of course, our current title is much more catchy;))
LAT: I’m so glad you and your kids enjoyed it! To give credit where credit is due, it was initially Joan’s idea. And I’m so glad I got to come along for the ride! Most people assume the idea came from the popular”two truths and a lie” icebreaker game, but we didn’t actually stumble onto that as the title or the structure until we were fairly far along in the process.
KC: What was your process in co-authoring this book?
AJP: Divide and conquer! On a basic level, Laurie and I divided up the stories. We maintain a spreadsheet where we jot down story topics and ideas as we go along. When it comes time to creating a new book, we pick a balance of ideas that we are each excited about, and those are the ones we work on. Then we swap pages and add comments or input on the other’s work. (Plus, unlike me, Laurie is a legitimate nonfiction author; when it come to bibliography, resources, and research tactics, she keeps me honest!!)
LAT: Don’t let Joan fool you…she is a fabulous nonfiction author! We had initially planned to divide up the stories according to our expertise, with Joan focusing on the fiction stories and me handling more of the nonfiction ones. That devolved fairly quickly, however, as Joan found true stories that captivated her and I found hoaxes that I just had to share! Now it’s roughly half and half for both. I’ve loved every minute of working with Joan. In many ways, we think a lot alike, so that makes the practical aspects of the process work pretty seamlessly. In other ways, I think we perfectly complement each other’s relative weaknesses. it’s been great knowing that Joan has my back in the areas I’m less confident in, like humor and that sometimes-tricky middle-grade voice.
KC: What kind of research did you do for this book?
LAT: With a book like this, you can imagine we did a LOT of research. Even the fake stories are based on a hoax or partial truth, after all, so those required research, too! We relied on a lot of credible webpages, as well as journals, magazines, and newspapers accessed mostly through our library systems’s online databases, and occasionally books and interview.
KC: Are you working on other projects together?
LAT: We’re currently working on the next Two Truth’s and a Lie volume , and there is at least one more in the pipeline after that, so these will be keeping us busy for a while. That is great news because we’ve loved every minute we’ve spent working on these books together. Aside from that, there’s nothing in the works right now, but who knows what the future might hold? I would certainly jump at the chance!
KC: What advice would you give to aspiring kidlit authors?
AJP: I would encourage everyone to pay attention to that voice that pulls off to the side and whispers wild ideas in your ear. You really never know which is that idea that is going to turn out to be larger-than-life, the one you’re willing to follow clear to the end of the rainbow. And sometimes the best ideas are the ones that sound the most unbelievable to begin with (much like many of our true tales in this book! ). Of course, it’s easy for Shiny New Ideas to temps us away from current WIPs–but on the flip-side, being open to the new and the unexpected and the unusual, I think, is the best way to keep your creative energies high, and to keep producing your best work. Push yourself!–You never know what might be around the corner 🙂
LAT: Ha! Here’s where you’ll see our different personalities come through a bit. While Joan goes for wild idea and rainbows (which I so love! Why didn’t I think of that?), the answers that pop into my head are more pragmatic. First, READ: everything you can get your hands on, award winners, outside of your genre and in, for all ages, poetry nonfiction, genre fiction, literary. Study it, analyze it, absorb what you love from each. Second, get a good critique group. My group has been together for almost ten years now, and we’ve gone from being newbies to being published authors. I learn as much from critiquing their work as I do from getting their feedback on my own. I wouldn’t be an author without them.
Thank You Ammi-Joan and Laurie! I can’t wait to read the next volumes in the TWO TRUTHS AND A LIE series!
Ammi-Joan Paquette has traveled to twenty-four countries, has the ability to wake herself up at a given time without an alarm clock, and once climbed Mt. Everest. (Not all of these are true!) Joan is the author of the novels Rules for Ghosting, Paradox, and Nowhere Girl, as well as the picture books Petey and Pru and the Hullabaloo, Ghost in the House, The Tiptoe Guide to Tracking Mermaids, and The Tiptoe Guide to Tracking Fairies. She lives outside Boston, Massachusetts, where she balances her own writing and her day job as a literary agent. You can visit her online at www.ajpaquette.com.
Laurie Ann Thompson has ridden a pig, gotten stuck in an elevator overnight, and jumped out of a perfectly good airplane. (One of these facts is not true; can you guess which?) She is the author of Be a Changemaker: How to Start Something That Matters, My Dog Is the Best, and Emmanuel’s Dream, a picture book biography about Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah, which was the recipient of the Schneider Family Book Award and was named an ALA Notable Book, a CCBC Choice, and a Bank Street College Best Book of the Year, among dozens of other accolades. She lives outside Seattle with her family. You can visit her online at www.lauriethompson.com.