Fall 2014 Publishers’ Preview: Five Questions for Christopher Paul Curtis

Publishers' Previews
This interview originally appeared in the September/October 2014 Horn Book Magazine as part of the Fall 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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Newbery Medalist Christopher Paul Curtis’s The Madman of Piney Woods is published this month by Scholastic Press.

8/09/06 Christopher Curtis, an award winning Children's book writer in the Windsor Public Library Photo: UMPhotoServices, Lin Jones.

1. What drew you back to Buxton for a second story?

CPC: When I was doing research for Elijah of Buxton, I immediately sensed I had hit the jackpot. The whole idea of what Buxton represented, the first kiss of tangible freedom for a group of people who up to that point had nothing, is a mother lode of everything an author could ask for. Once I’d finished Elijah I knew Buxton and I weren’t done with each other.

2. The direct connection to Elijah of Buxton is sprung as a late surprise. Worried about spoilers?

CPC: There’s always the fear that something will be given away. While it would be nice for everyone to be surprised by the reveals of who is who in The Madman of Piney Woods, I like to think of it as more of a bonus for those who have already read Elijah. The story doesn’t completely rely on the surprise.

curtis_madman of piney woods3. Which of the two main narrators, Benji and Red, came to you first?

CPC: I knew from day one that the story would be narrated by two boys; since I have more experience with writing characters similar to Benji, I started with him. I must say, though, that there were times when I felt Red began to dominate the story.

4. Can you still find much of historic Buxton in the town today?

CPC: Since Buxton was largely a farming community, there aren’t many tangible remnants of its history left. There is, however, the land. Seeing the acreage that had been cleared by Buxton’s original residents had an almost spiritual impact on me from day one.

5. Benji and Red and Anne of Green Gables are Canadian contemporaries. What might they have to say to each other?

CPC: What a scene it would be to have Benji and Red meet Anne! I imagine there’d be a tremendous clash as these three strong-willed characters try to figure out a pecking order. Would the redheads band together? Would the boys join up against Anne? Would Anne and Benji, the more adventurous of the two, have more in common? It would be a riot to write.

Sponsored byScholastic

Roger Sutton
Roger Sutton

Editor Emeritus Roger Sutton was editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc., from 1996-2021. 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 MA in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a BA from Pitzer College in 1978.

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