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Spring 2015 Publishers’ Preview: Five Questions for Lane Smith

Publishers' Previews

This interview originally appeared in the March/April 2015 Horn Book Magazine as part of the Spring Publishers’ Preview, a semiannual advertising supplement that allows participating publishers a chance to each highlight a book from its current list. They choose the books; we ask the questions.

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Picture-book master Lane Smith moves into fiction with Return to Augie Hobble.

smith_lane1. “Lane Smith, first-time novelist…” How does that sound to you?

LS: Much better than “Lane Smith, first-and-last-time novelist.”

2. What did your work illustrating novels for others do for your own approach to writing fiction?

LS: Perhaps just spending a lot of time with a single book — breaking down story structure, pacing, etc., in order to illustrate it — was good training for doing one’s own book. That said, Augie Hobble is nothing like the books I’ve illustrated for Roald Dahl or Jon Scieszka or George Saunders. My characters use zippy back-and-forth dialogue, like little gumshoes. But it’s not a detective story. A mystery story, maybe.

smith_returnaugiehobble3. Is it fiction? How much of middle-schooler Lane found his way into middle-schooler Augie?

LS: Not much. Augie is a creative kid, but he lacks confidence in his stories and cartoons. Okay, that was me. He basically has one friend. Well, that was me again. He’s bullied. I was. He’s a part-time janitor at an amusement park. I did that. But we’re really nothing alike.

4. Return to Augie Hobble works the same way a picture book does, with illustrations and text informing each other to tell the story. How do you decide which gets to speak when?

LS: The book has many drawings and handwritten texts from Augie’s notebook. They are fun breaks from the main story, but they serve a purpose, too: Augie might be transforming into something otherworldly, and as he changes, his handwriting also changes, leaving clues for the reader.

5. I don’t want to give anything away, but have you ever seen a ghost?

LS: I have not. My wife and I live in a 200-year-old New England house, so I am forever disappointed when that bump in the night turns out to be no Continental Army ghost but flying squirrels doing their business in my sock drawer.

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Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.

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