Loretta Ellsworth Interview

in search ofReaders’ note:  Mrs. Ehrensbeck’s high school reading club read Loretta Ellsworth’s In Search of Mockingbird which has been nominated for the 2010 Charlotte Award in the young adult category.  Ms. Ellsworth began…

Greetings to Mrs. Ehrensbeck’s reading club.   I’m happy to answer the questions they submitted.

Did you ever want to do what Erin did? No.  I’m not as brave as Erin.  I was the type who got homesick at Girl Scout Camp.  When I went to Monroeville to do research for my book, I drove back and forth in front of Harper Lee’s house, but I never got up the nerve to knock on her door (I’d heard that she was a very private person who didn’t like to be bothered).

How did you come up with Sedushia and Ebbs? Epp was based on someone I knew, but then I had to let that character take on his own personality in order to make him more developed and not limited by the person I based him on.  (I had an awful time trying to come up with his name, until one day when I walked out of the library and noticed that the first three letters of my license plate were EPP.  I decided that could be a name, so that’s how I named him).  Sedushia was a combination of people I’d met and my own imagination.

Why did you set your book in the ’80s? I set the book in the 80’s for several reasons.  One was that in the 80’s it wasn’t unusual for teenage girls to travel alone on a bus – many of my friends and relatives did it.  But now it’s quite different.  Another reason was cell phones – they weren’t common in the 80’s and that gave Erin fewer hassles to deal with on her trip.

Did you base Erin on yourself? Not really.  We share a love of To Kill a Mockingbird, and a love of writing and reading.  But apart from that, she’s quite different from me.  I wanted her to surprise me by what she did throughout the book, so I often had her react in ways that I wouldn’t have.  I’m sure there’s more of me in her than I’ll admit, though.

Did you ever try to find solutions to your problems by reading To Kill a Mockingbird like Erin?  Not in high school.  Now that I’m grown up I read it several times a year and I learn something new every time I read it.  And sometimes I just enjoy being with those characters for awhile, even though I know what’s going to happen.  I’ve also learned a lot about the craft of writing from reading it.

What’s next for you as a writer? I just finished a YA novel about a heart transplant told in alternating viewpoints between two girls:  one who is the heart transplant recipient, and the other girl who is the heart transplant donor.  It’s called, IN A HEARTBEAT.  In that book, the girl who dies is a very competitive figure skater with Olympic dreams.  The girl who gets her heart comes to feel that she’s gotten more than just a heart – she feels that her personality has changed in ways she can’t understand, and she intuitively knows things about her donor that she hasn’t been told.  It’s being released in Feb. 2010 – just in time for the winter Olympics:).

Loretta Ellsworth

May 28, 2009



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