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My Interview with Renowned Author Valerie Tripp

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I've researched and written songs for children about American heroes for 21 years. Sometimes, my work has been compared to the American Girl series of books. Whereas I write about real heroes, the American Girls are fictitious, yet we seem to have similar goals of bringing out the best in children while promoting good citizenship. One of the company’s most successful authors, Valerie Tripp, has authored an amazing 31 American Girl books featuring Felicity, Josephina, Samantha, Kit, and Molly. She graciously agreed to an interview with me.

My interview of Valerie first appeared as a guest blog post at In Bed With Books, a blog site that reviews books (http://inbedwithbooks.blogspot.com/)

Interview with Valerie Tripp 

Valerie Tripp

 

 
You can click on any of the book covers to go to their Amazon page.

Jonathan Sprout: You write about fictional heroes. What qualities do you look for
when creating your fictional characters?

Valerie Tripp: I don't have to look far for heroic qualities because my characters are inspired by my readers, and my readers are heroic to me because they face their daily challenges with humor, empathy, curiosity, generosity, and kindness. All of my books have the same message: Yes, disappointments and troubles will come your way, but you’ll be okay. You are the hero of your own life story.

“I don't have to look far for heroic qualities because my characters are inspired by my readers, and my readers are heroic to me.” - Valerie Tripp


Jonathan Sprout
Jonathan: Your books essentially take us back in time and bring history to the present. You must do a lot of research. What is your process?

Valerie: I love to do research. It is not a process; it is a way of life. When you become interested in a time period, it is as if the universe is full of the information you need – you just have to start to pay attention! Research for me is travel, reading, talking to people who are experts and people who lived when my character did, looking at movies, and listening to music. It is also observing and being delighted and inspired by girls of today. Research can also be looking back at my own experiences as a child. Research is active: it can be taking cooking lessons, going for a horseback ride, swimming in the Rio Grande river, and trying to knit a sock (unsuccessfully, by the way!)

Jonathan: When you are creating a character, do you think about the parents, caregivers or teachers of these girls and boys and how your
characters will inspire dialogue between them? Can you elaborate?

Second Chances
Josephina
Valerie: I always hope that my stories will spark conversations among generations. Molly, who is my WW2 character, has led girls to ask their families about their great-grandparents’ experiences during the war. More than one Army uniform has been lifted out of a trunk in the attic! And the emotional content of a story can spark conversations as well. Josefina’s aunt comes to live with her family, and many girls tell me they have spoken to their parents and step-parents inspired by Josefina’s dilemma: can she be loyal to her Mama and still love her new step-mother? One of the loveliest purposes literature can serve is to connect us by being a vehicle for conversation.

Jonathan: Your books encourage boys and girls to understand that they too can be “heroes” in their everyday lives (i.e. you don’t have to be famous to be a hero). What are your thoughts on this?

Lost and Found
Samantha
Valerie: I deliberately chose to write about history from a familiar and familial point of view, so that my readers might see what a regular kid’s life was like. I’m hoping that my readers will say, “Hey! That could be me. I would have been heroic just as Kit is, facing the Depression. Or I would have stood up for my friend just as Samantha does at the turn of the last century.” I am hoping my readers will see that THEY are what American History is. They are shaping our world. The decisions they make will determine what life is like for us all in the future. They are already heroes.

Jonathan: Are there differences between what girls find heroic and what boys find heroic? How has an awareness of this this helped you to
craft your stories?

Valerie: No, I don’t think there are differences between what boys and girls find heroic. Heroism is facing your own specific challenges, and no matter what those challenges are, we all have to find the inner courage to do so.

Jonathan: Tell us about your latest writing venture - writing for boys.

“I felt as though books were short-changing boys. The boys I know are funny and nurturing, passionate, goofy, adventurous, brave, and have rich inner lives.” - Valerie Tripp


Valerie: I felt as though books were short-changing boys. The boys I know are funny and nurturing, passionate, goofy, adventurous, brave, and have rich inner lives but the boys I saw in books had to solve problems with magic or bathroom jokes. The Boys Camp books show boys facing landslides, fires, near-drowning, friendship troubles, skunks, bears, snakes, shyness, and dives off cliffs! They’re jokesters and bird-watchers, tennis stars and singers – and they are ALL heroes!
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