Q&A with author Lois Lowry

Author Lois Lowry, pictured above speaking in 2014, is a world renown author.  To get inspiration for her writing, Lowry examines small moments of her past that, while at the time seemed inconsequential, over the course of her life have proven to have changed her in some way.

KENNETH ZIRKEL/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Author Lois Lowry, pictured above speaking in 2014, is a world renown author. To get inspiration for her writing, Lowry examines small moments of her past that, while at the time seemed inconsequential, over the course of her life have proven to have changed her in some way.

The books of Lois Lowry play integral parts of English curriculum across the United States. Over the decades, her works have united all walks of life, offering people a connection through her stories that they would not have shared otherwise. Lowry is most famous for writing “The Giver” (1993) and “Number the Stars” (1989). Her newest novel, “On the Horizon” was released on April 7 of this year. Lowry was supposed to be attending a book signing at the Brookline Booksmith, but was unable to come due to the pandemic. She spoke with student journalists and eager fans alike on April 16th.

You have a book that just came out, “On the Horizon.” What is your favorite aspect of that book?
The book deals with Pearl Harbor and the bombing of Hiroshima. After World War II ended, I went to live in Tokyo. I had a bicycle and I used to ride my bike around the streets of Tokyo near where I lived. I attended an international school, but I used to stop my bike at this Japanese school and I would look through the fence at the Japanese kids on the playground. There was a boy, about my age, who would look back at me. We never spoke to each other. We would stare at each other. That stayed in my memory.
Many, many, many years later when I was 60 years old, when my book “The Giver” won the Newbery medal, I went to a big convention to receive it. At the same time the Newbery medal is given for a book, the Caldecott is given for illustration. The illustrator who won the Caldecott that year was a wonderful Japanese artist named Allen Say. He gave me a copy of his book, “Grandfather’s Journey,” and I gave him a copy of “The Giver.” He signed his for me and I signed mine for him and I wrote my name in Japanese. He laughed when he saw it and he asked, “How can you write in Japanese?” I told him I used to live in Japan when I was a kid. He asked me where I lived, I told him, and he said that’s where lived. At the end of the conversation, he suddenly asked, “Were you the girl on the green bicycle?” He and I have become great friends.
Allen appears as a little boy in the middle of the book, seeing the bomb go off. Then he appears on the other side of the school yard fence, staring at the American girl who was the “enemy” then. Within the past few days I got an email from him- he lives on the West coast, and I live in Maine – and he said, in his email, “We’re in a new war. This time we’re on the same side.” He was speaking of course about the virus. Anyway, that is my favorite part of the book. I think that’s what the book is about: the way people are connected to each other.

In your memoir, you write about small, but very profound moments. Could you give any advice to writers who are trying to find those moments to write about their own lives?
When you’re 12, you think, “Oh, my life is boring. Nothing has ever happened to me.”  My memoir focuses on moments that at the time I wouldn’t have thought of them as interesting moments or that they could have an effect on anybody else. The best advice I can give for helping kids find that moment in their own lives is to think about a time, a day, an hour, a minute when something happened that seemed ordinary but which changed you. You look at the moments that brought about some kind of change in your life and your way of looking at things. Those moments are, as we look back, so ordinary. I think that’s the important thing about them. We change in increments as we get older, and that starts when we’re born–those are the moments that you look for and that will stay in your memory. Sometimes, you’ll remember something from your past that seems so ordinary and you’ll wonder why that stayed in your memory and other things have not. I think that’s the reason. It’s because of the moment in time in which you changed in some small way.

What was your process writing your book, “Gossamer?”
There are two things that interest me greatly. One of them is memory. I dealt with that in the book, “The Giver.” The other is dreams, and that’s what “Gossamer” is about. I think the reason those two things are so interesting to me is because our memories and our dreams are the only things we have that are unique to us. If you have an identical twin and you’ve gone to the same birthday party when you were eight, your memory of that birthday party, even though your twin is identical, is going to be different from theirs. Nobody has the same memories. Nobody has the same dreams.
There’s a book I wrote called “Autumn Street,” about a young girl with an older sister. There’s a scene in that book where the two girls are in the same bedroom, in twin beds, and they’re talking and the older girl falls asleep. The younger one realizes her older sister is no longer listening to her, and in the book it says, “I realized her dreams would always be different from mine,”– that’s actually a memory I had: sharing a bedroom with my sister when we were six and nine, and my sudden realization that she and I had different perceptions of things and that our dreams were different and our memories were different. Psychiatrists will describe that as a particular stage of individualization, where a person realizes they are an individual. The book “Gossamer” was written because of my interest in that.