|Photo by Tim Kinvig|
LEC: Welcome, Claire! Please describe your typical working day.
CE: My working days are highly variable! Besides writing non-fiction books for kids, I also write science articles for kids and adults, fiction, and a lot of contract writing and editing, so my day really depends on what project I'm working on. Most days, however, start with lots of coffee and a prolonged browse through email, Facebook, news sites, Twitter, and an assortment of newsgroups. Since I work from a home office in a relatively remote corner of the country, all those things keep me in touch with colleagues and issues that interest me. Love the Internet!
After that, I might work on research, writing, editing a report, or tracking down an interview subject. Or I might meet with a client. Or I might have coffee or lunch with a writer friend and have a writerly conversation (always very invigorating). Or, I'm ashamed to say, I might goof off and read something purely for fun. There really is no typical day, which is a major reason why I like my job.
I tend to move around the house when I'm working, too. I'll start the day reading emails on my iPod and progress, later in the morning, to the treadmill desk I've set up with my main computer. When I get tired of that job or that room, I'll curl up on a couch with a smaller computer or a notepad and, possibly, research materials. And coffee. Coffee is important!
LEC: As a non-fiction writer, research is a big part of your job. How do you know when it's time to stop researching and start writing?
CE: I stop researching and start writing when the deadline looms close enough to send waves of panic my way. I love doing the research and I always think I can dig up just one or two more lovely facts to add to the story, so deadlines are my friends.
CE: So many!!!
Medieval banquets, the kind a king or great noble might arrange: In movies and books, great platters of food arrive at the table, steaming hot and delicious. In reality, the kitchen was in a separate building from great hall, because of the risk of fire, so the food would probably have arrived already cooling and possibly even rain-soaked after being carried across an open courtyard.
The eyes of whirligig beetles, which live at the surface of ponds, are divided in two, with one pair of eyes designed to see in air and one pair in water.
Pikas, the little rabbit-relatives that live above treeline on mountains, can store up to 20 kilograms of plant material each in holes and "haystacks" to tide them over the winter.
Lots of animals rely on getting water from their food -- partly because the digestive process itself actually creates small amounts of water through the oxidization of protein and fat. (The chemistry was too hard to explain in the short space available, so it didn't make the final cut of Lizards in the
LEC: Most of your books for kids share a common thread - the weird and wonderful and extreme of the animal kingdom. Traitor's Gate is something entirely different. How did this book about doorways come to be?
CE: I have actually done a fair bit of writing about history for adults, and it's one of my interests. The idea for Traitors' Gate and Other Doorways to the Past -- looking at the history of a place by focussing on the people who passed through its doors -- came from Colleen MacMillan, the associate publisher I work with at Annick Press. She knew I was interested in history and travel (as she is), so she mentioned the idea and we tossed it around a bit. I then went off to think about candidate doorways and came back with a proposal involving a number of doorways around the world. We tinkered a bit with the mix of places, times, and continents before settling on the eight doorways in the book. So it was a combination of the publisher's idea and my interpretation of that idea.
CE: Oh, I never feel like giving it all up. I love learning new things and then telling other people how amazing and fascinating they are.
That being said, I remember fondly my first book signing for Super Crocs and Monster Wings. It was at Mac's Fireweed Books, Whitehorse's excellent and very supportive indie bookstore. The first people to bring a book for signing were a young mother -- First Nation, as it happens -- and her very shy seven-year-old son. She told me they had borrowed the book from the library and he loved it so much that she had to read it every night at bedtime. Finally, she bought him his own copy so that the library could have its book back. That was awesome and amazing and very pleasing for an author!
LEC: What question have you always wanted to be asked about your work, but no one ever has? What is the answer?
CE: I can't think of anything. I don't actually like talking about my writing much. I prefer to do it. Also, if I talk about a story too much (fiction or non-fiction), it feels as if I've written it already and I lose my enthusiasm.
LEC: Well, thank you for making an exception for us!
For more information on Claire and her books, visit her website. She is also the inspiration behind Sci/Why, the Canadian science blog.
And don't forget to comment - Claire has donated a copy of Traitor's Gate for this week's giveaway!