Full of Questions!

Talk about an interested, enthusiastic group of readers!  I spent a terrific day with the 4th, 5th, and 6th graders at Ogdensburg’s Madill Elementary School last week.  They had great questions during my visit and sent me even more questions & comments today, and I promised them a blog post.  Curious minds want to know…

How old were you when you wrote Spitfire?
What was your favorite book when you were in school?
When you wrote your first book, were you nervous about what people would think of it?
Have you made those horns into powder horns yet?

If you were Pascal, what would you do in the middle of battle?

I’d probably feel scared and try my best to follow orders, just like Pascal did.  I’d like to hope I’d have some of the same courage that Abigail showed, too.

Spitfire is a really good book.I liked the part when Pascal discovered that Adam was a girl. I still wonder why they couldn’t just buy canned food instead of eating hard tack.

There was no “canned food” like we’d buy at the grocery store.  Hardtack and dried peas and beans were the best options they had at the time when it came to food that would last a long time on a ship.

I thought the stuff you researched was really cool like the ship that was at the bottom of the Lake Champlain.

Thanks!  I love learning about shipwrecks!

I really liked you spoke loudly and and didn’t act as nervous as you really were.

Hey!  How did you know I was nervous?!

My favorite thing in Spitfire was when Pascal found out that Adam was actually Abigail and he didn’t tell anyone she was a girl. When you wrote your first book were you nervous about what people were going to think of it?

Yes – and I’ll feel that way about the second book, and the third book, and probably all the rest.  When you write a book, you put lots of yourself into it — lots of pieces of your heart — and hope that readers connect with the story you had to tell.  It’s very, very exciting when they do, which is why I so loved visiting your school.

How old were you when you wrote Spitfire?

When I started or when it was published?  (It’s a big difference!)  I started researching Spitfire seven years ago, so I was 31 then.  I’m 37 now.

Why did you choose to write a book about the Revolution?

Remember when I told you I used to daydream a lot in school?  I still daydream, and now that I live on Lake Champlain, I think a lot about what happened out on the lake before I was around to see it.  I was fascinated by the Battle of Valcour Island, especially.

What was it like being on the ship during the reenactment?

It was really fun and really interesting.  I had to listen carefully, too, to understand the orders I was being given.  Most of the people there had much more experience reenacting than I did, so I had to work extra hard to follow directions.

How did you come up with all the different characters?

Many of the characters in Spitfire are based on real historical figures.  That’s one of the great things about writing historical fiction; you don’t have to make everything up.  Others, like Abigail and her Uncle Jeb and Aunt Mary, were fictional.  I spent time writing about them — their lives and what they were like — before I wrote the book so I’d know that they were acting in a realistic way for their characters.

You said some characters are like you and the people you know. Who is Philip based on?

Philip wasn’t based on anyone in particular.  He’s really a character I invented to try to capture the fear that all of these men must have felt, being thrown into a naval battle when few of them even had experience sailing.

I liked your book Spitfire because it has a lot of facts and details. What does it feel like to be an author?

It’s wonderful.  Especially after working so hard  to have a book published.  And especially when I get to meet real live kids who have read my book – so thank you!

Do you like writing children’s books or would you rather write books for adults?

No offense to your teachers…but I’d much rather write for kids.  I believe the books we read as kids are books that help shape us, in a way that adult books can’t quite do, no matter how beautifully they’re written. 

I’m really interested in Spitfire. it was cool in the book when they had to cut Phillip’s,then put his arm in tar and when they tried to sneak around the British ships. How lond did it take you to write Spitfire?

It took me about a year to do the research, a year and a half to write, another few years to send out the manuscript and get feedback with rejection letters, and then another year to do final revisions and edits after I found a publisher.

Why did you put Pascal in the book?

Because I was amazed by the idea that a real boy who was just twelve years old fought in that battle.

Did you make those horns into powder horns yet?

Er….umm….well, no.  Not yet.  The truth is, it turns out they’re kind of small for real powder horns.  And I’ve discovered that I like taking them around to schools to show kids like you.

I think you are really brave to do all the stuff that you did for us all the Madill kid students.

Well, gee… thanks!  You were all so friendly that I wasn’t all that nervous, even though there were a lot of you!

I love the pictures you showed us because you gave us a lot of details of what you do for a living. I like you because you gives us a lot of details about your life.  Not everybody does that so we are so lucky we found and met you.  I love your personality because you’re really nice, nicer than anybody I’ve ever seen or heard from.I like the hard tack you gave us because you took time to let us try those so thank you for everything.

Wow!  Thank you!  You were all very nice, too!

Kate Messner, thank you for coming. I really like your book. Is the Josh person a real person?

No.  Josh was a fictional character I invented for that early draft of the book that I told you about.  Poor Josh never even made it into the final draft.

What was your favorite book when you were in school? How old were you when you read it?

When I was in elementary school, I loved ALL the books I could find by Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume.  As I got a little older, I discovered The Chronicles of  Narnia by C.S. Lewis and loved those books, especially The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.  And I loved Harriet the Spy.  That’s one of the books that made me start writing. I had a notebook that I carried around when I spied on people, and I took notes on them like Harriet.

My favorite book was Harry Potter and the Sorcerer`s Stone. I was 9 years old when I read it.

Sadly, Harry Potter wasn’t around when I was a kid. But that’s okay because I read the whole series as an adult and loved them just as much. The fourth one, Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire, is my favorite.

Thank you, Ogdensburg students, for your fantastic questions!  

I loved visiting your school, and I hope you have a fantastic spring!

12 Replies on “Full of Questions!

  1. This is my favorite bit, Kate:

    “I love your personality because you’re really nice, nicer than anybody I’ve ever seen or heard from.”

    And it is so true!

  2. My favorite books were by Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume as well. You realy can’t go wrong with those girls…er…women. There books truly made me who I am.

  3. Do you think your next book will be about the revolutionary war like Spitfire?

    do u know if you have had a family member in the revolutionary war?

    did u ever finish the powder horns yet?

    how old were you when you became interested in the revolutionary war?

    would you mind it if people say bad things about your books b.c it must have took alot of work to write that b.c u said u had to do the book over a couple of times?

    alisha,6th Grade

  4. What is ur favorite thing to do in your spare time? Also do you like to spend time with your family?Also are you a vegitarian=D?Also do you like any sports and if you do what?Do u like to be outdoors?Also what were some of your favorite parts in the book?But my opinoin was that the book was pretty interesting and I really liked it!=)
    Do you think it is fun making powder horns?And if i had to eat hard tac I prolly wouldn’t eat at all=/!Other than that ur prestintation was awsome!!!!!!!=DD and i really liked it it was so fun and seeing all of the pictures of ships and all of the pics of the water and the grave of pastel was really nice and i really liked it!!!=d
    Well if i have anymore questions that i forgot i will leave you more comments=PP!
    Taylor=DD grade 6

  5. Hi, Alisha! Thanks for your great questions.

    My next book isn’t about the Revolution. It’s about a Native American boy who travels with Samuel de Champlain on his 1609 voyage to encounter the Iroquois. It’s called Champlain & the Silent One, and it will be out in September. I’m very excited!

    As far as I know, none of my relatives served in the Revolution. Most of them came here from Great Britain, Ireland, and Germany in the 1800s – after America was already America.

    I became most interested in the Revolutionary War as an adult – after I moved to Lake Champlain and started hearing stories about the interesting battles that happened here.

    And your last question…. Would I mind if people say bad things about my books. Well, yes and no. A good friend of mine, author Linda Urban wrote a book called A CROOKED KIND OF PERFECT (you’d love that one, too!), and it’s all about how the things we do, the books we write, and the life we live will never be absolutely perfect. When she speaks to schools, she reminds her audiences that not everyone will love what you write, and that happens to all authors.

    When you write a book, people write reviews of that book. Some of them say really nice things, and once in a while, someone says something that’s not so nice. I got one review like that about Spitfire, and I’d be lying if I told you it didn’t hurt my feelings. But I try to put it in perspective, with all the people, especially kids, who have written to tell me how much they loved the book. That helps. I hope when you write, you’ll remember that not everyone has to love your writing. It’s enough to know that you’ve done the very best job you can do and that the writing came from your heart.

    Thanks for the great questions!

  6. What an interesting mix of questions, Taylor!

    Most of my spare time, after my kids go to bed at night, is spent writing. I also love reading, biking, kayaking, and traveling. And yes, I love doing all of those things with my husband and my two kids.

    I’m not quite a vegetarian, though I eat mostly vegetables and fish.

    I love spending time outdoors, especially hiking and kayaking. For sports, I like running, downhill and cross country skiing, and tennis. I played volleyball in high school, and I had fun even though I wasn’t very good at it.

    I think one of my favorite parts of Spitfire is when Abigail and Pascal are carving their powder horns together. I like the letters at the end, too.

    I think it’s fun making powder horns — or doing anything that helps me learn about history in a unique way.

    I’m so happy you enjoyed the book and the presentation (except the hardtack!). Thanks for your great questions!

  7. It looks as if you had a wonderful day, Kate! I would have loved to have been there for Roger’s talk. That shield is beautiful! I’m a sucker for Native American art!

  8. Quinton Denner

    Are you fond of Louis Sahcar.
    Did I take good pictures for you at Madill School?