Publishers’ Preview: Debut Authors: Five Questions for Gillian McDunn

Publishers' Previews: Special advertising supplement in The Horn Book Magazine

This interview originally appeared in the July/August 2019 Horn Book Magazine as part of the Publishers’ Previews: Debut Authors, an 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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Cat’s mother was supposed to stay with her and little brother Chicken on their summer visit to heretofore unacquainted grandparents, but no. What will these kids learn in their Caterpillar Summer?

Photo: Laura Case.

1. Do you fish?

My first experience with fishing was as an adult, after moving to North Carolina. Fishing is big here — many neighborhoods stock ponds with fish, and even tiny kids ride around with fishing gear strapped to their bikes. On a camping trip, we took our kids to the park rangers’ learn-to-fish program and we all had a blast. My kids would probably say their favorite part is reeling in fish, but I love the quietness, the hopeful waiting, and the conversations that happen while looking out at the water together. 

2. Where did you usually go for the summer?

I grew up in Southern California. My family didn’t vacation much, and I was the only one of us who loved the beach. I was lucky that my godmother did too. She and I would take day trips to different beaches, always with a cooler packed full of cold barbecued chicken, bread-and-butter sandwiches, and soda pop. We spent time looking for shells, building sandcastles, and swimming — and were always sunburned to a crisp by the end of the day. (It was worth it.) 

3. Where did you wish you could go for the summer?

The beach. When I wrote Caterpillar Summer, I made the setting Gingerbread Island — based on a real North Carolina island, but with some key additions. It’s a place I would have loved to visit as a child. (And, actually, would love to visit today!)

4. What do you do when you get lost?

I really dislike the feeling of being lost — just the thought of it makes my heart beat faster. I try to remind myself to stay calm and that I will find where I am going eventually. That usually works as long as I’m not running late for something. I’m also not afraid to use technology or ask someone for help.

5. What’s the best thing about being a big sister?

The best part is being present for the entire lives of your younger siblings. I vividly remember my brothers as babies — holding them, caring for them, the way their little faces looked when they laughed and cried. When I had my own babies, I was surprised by the way the memories of my brothers came rushing back. It fills my heart with love, and I’m absolutely dazzled by it every time it happens.

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