Today's guest is Pamela Todd -- author of the award-winning novel The Blind Faith Hotel (Simon and Schuster, 2008), described by reviewers as "a deeply felt novel about coming to understand what home really means" . . . "a wrenching, funny, heartwarming story" . . . "a careful exploration of relationships and the emotional dynamics of a family in transition." Pam also wrote Pig and the Shrink (Delacorte, 1999), a "funny middle-grade novel about a boy who tries to turn his overweight friend into a science fair project, only to find that his friend has his own ideas about how to live his life."
For more information about Pamela Todd, visit her web site: http://www.pamelatodd.com/.
Q: How old were you when you first realized that you wanted to be a writer?
Pam: I can’t remember not wanting to be a writer. It’s the only thing I know how to do.
Q: Describe one of your earliest works. Who or what inspired you to write it?
Pam: When I was in third grade, I wrote a poem about commercials and how they made you want to read a book instead of watch TV. Apparently the Chicago Public Schools liked the topic because they published it in a district-wide collection of kids’ poetry.
Q: Can you name someone whose encouragement made a significant difference as you developed into a writer?
Pam: My family is my cheering section. I have a great husband who loves books, loves authors, and loves to read. My children – some of whom are writers themselves – are also delightfully encouraging. My Mom is an artist who is in her eighties and still painting – very inspiring. And my sister gives me all my good ideas.
Q: Please tell us a little about your ties to Chicago.
Pam: I was born on the streets of Chicago – literally. I made my entrance a little prematurely – in the car on the way to the hospital. I grew up on the west side in a neighborhood of two-flats, with an unending supply of interesting characters. And I’ve lived the rest of my life about two miles away from where I started out. Chicago is the best city in the world, for my money. We have a beautiful lake and natural areas, a vibrant arts community, an unending supply of free summer entertainment…we’re green, we’re friendly, we’re real…we gave the U.S. a great president…and we totally should have gotten the Olympics.
Q: What was easy about writing The Blind Faith Hotel? What was difficult?
Pam: Writing about nature comes easily. And characters grow in my head like weeds. But plotting is more work.
Q: Of the characters mentioned in The Blind Faith Hotel, choose one you would like to meet and tell us why.
Pam: Ivy. I want to know what happened to him after the book ended.
Q: You mention on your web site that The Blind Faith Hotel was inspired in many ways by your own life. What about your novel Pig and the Shrink? Did that arise out of personal experience as well?
Pam: Weirdly, yes, although I had forgotten the incident entirely until long after the book was published. Pig and the Shrink is about a boy who turns his friend into a science fair project. I was a psychology major in college, and one of my experiments was trying to get my roommates to quit smoking using the power of suggestion. It worked about as well as Tucker Harrison’s project did.
Q: You are currently working on a novel called Escaping Gravity. For the other writers out there, what "stage" are you at with this new novel? What has been the biggest challenge so far?
Pam: My biggest challenge is staying focused. I’ve written two essays and two picture books recently, and now I’m off on another adventure – starting an interactive wildlife corridor project. Fortunately, Escaping Gravity has continued to write itself. I am keeping notes and it seems to be developing with or without me.
Q: Anything else you'd like to share?
Pam: If not now…when? Just thought I’d throw that in.