Monday, August 5, 2013
Author Interview with Kirby Larson- author of The Friendship Doll
I had a chance to interview Kirby Larson, author of The Friendship Doll, at this weekends SCBWI LA conference. Kirby gave one of the keynotes and included the back story of her middle grade novel, and I just had to know more. So first let me tell you about the book and then you'll understand the interview much better.
I am Miss Kanagawa. In 1927, my 57 doll-sisters and I were sent from Japan to America as Ambassadors of Friendship. Our work wasn't all peach blossoms and tea cakes. My story will take you from New York to Oregon, during the Great Depression. Though few in this tale are as fascinating as I, their stories won't be an unpleasant diversion. You will make the acquaintance of Bunny, bent on revenge; Lois, with her head in the clouds; Willie Mae, who not only awakened my heart, but broke it; and Lucy, a friend so dear, not even war could part us. I have put this tale to paper because from those 58 Friendship Dolls only 45 remain. I know that someone who chooses this book is capable of solving the mystery of the missing sisters. Perhaps that someone is you.
Where did the idea for The Friendship Doll come from?
Kirby told me that while she was researching her Newbery Honor book, Hattie Big Sky, she found herself at the Montana Historical Museum digging through boxes. She came across a picture of a young Montana girl standing next to a Japanese doll that was almost as tall as the little girl. Questions formed in her mind and Kirby wanted to know how the picture and doll came to exist.
What did you do to solve the mystery?
Kirby said that while working on Hattie she did not have a lot of time for other projects. It was only during her downtime that she would find herself researching about the doll. A lot of her precious moments were spent at the Seattle library going through The New York Times digital archives from the 1929 era.
So when did you find time to write the book?
Though she did research in advance, Kirby said she didn't start writing the book until 2008. Her first version of the story was a mystery, which she submitted to her editor. Unfortunately, Kirby says that her editor hated the book and wanted her to completely re-do it. Kirby changed the entire story- only Lucy and the doll stayed the same. The book finally came out in 2011. It went on to win a Crystal Kite award and a Cybils nomination.
Where any of the missing dolls found?
"Yes." After Kirby's book was published, a librarian from Minnesota named Maggie went in search of one of the dolls. Her journey led her to search the old town library, and there in the basement was one of the sister dolls.