1. What did you want to be when you grew up?
Diane Sawyer. We only had one and then two TV channels when I was growing up, and there wasn’t much children’s programming, so I ended up watching a lot of grown-up TV. Not only was Diane Sawyer one of the only professional women I ever saw, she was smart, beautiful, got to ask interesting questions, and she lived in the big, exciting world outside of Bermuda - I decided to start work with her as soon as I could leave the island. (I never wanted to work on any local evening newscasts, mind you—I planned to go straight to 60 Minutes!)
2. When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?
Somewhere between the first and third grades.
3. What’s your first childhood memory?
One of my first memories is of the Daddy-Long-Legs spiders that gathered under the lowest shelf in my room. I was the only one small enough to look up and see them—an adult would have had to kneel in order to have the same perspective. The sense of being afraid of or aware of something that no one else can see—or that no one else believes is real—is something that I think happens to kids a lot.
4. What’s your favorite childhood memory?
Swimming in the tide pools at the beach with my siblings, or climbing trees, or playing hide-and-seek out in the yard after dark in the summer—anything that involved playing outside.
5. What was your worst subject in school?
Math, always. My seventh-grade teacher used to let me skip math class and go to the library to write stories. I like the idea of math a lot more now, though, and I think it would be cool to make friends with a mathematician.
6. What was your best subject in school?
My favorite subject was English—I loved the reading, but I hated the types of questions that they asked in tests—things like: What color were the polka dots in the protagonist’s dress in Chapter Three? or What did so-and-so’s mother have for lunch in Chapter Twelve? Silly questions! I also thought spelling and grammar were boring—I told my eighth-grade teacher that one day I’d have an editor to take care of these things for me.
7. What was your first job?
Packing groceries at my family’s grocery store when I was twelve—I had to stand on an overturned milk crate to reach the counter.
8. Where do you write/illustrate your books?
I work on a laptop. I have a desk but I don’t often work at it. I write pretty much anywhere—sometimes for a week I’ll get very attached to a certain chair or corner of the house. Right now I’m spending a lot of time writing under a big umbrella beside a fountain in a little courtyard diner in Bermuda.
9. Where do you find inspiration for your writing?
I find that if I’m writing a lot, my brain is always generating new material; it’s when I stop working that I stop coming up with ideas. Sometimes wandering around a museum or traveling somewhere new can spark ideas for new details that I then weave into what I’m working on.
10. Which of your characters is most like you?
There’s something about Maya that I feel incredibly sympathetic to—unlike Simon she’s not a natural optimist, but though she’s frequently close to despair, she always pulls herself up and keeps going. But I really admire Simon – his natural cheerfulness and resourcefulness. Isabella is a bit of a dictator—she has a vision, and in order to realize that vision, sometimes she has to force people to do what she wants them to do, no matter what. She reminds me of when I used to boss my little brothers around in games when we were little.
11. When you finish a book, who reads it first?
Four of my friends were the first people to read The Lost Island of Tamarind. Two of them are writers and two of them are lay readers (who also happen to be child psychologists!).
12. Are you a morning person or a night owl?
I hate sleeping in and missing the morning, but I also resist going to sleep at night. I used to hate having to go to bed when I was a kid and I don’t like it much more now.
13. What’s your idea of the best meal ever?
I have a friend who used to be a chef—anything he makes is amazing.
14. What do you value most in your friends?
15. Where do you go for peace and quiet?
On long walks.
16. What makes you laugh out loud?
17. Who is your favorite fictional character?
So many! But in children’s / young adult books, right now I’d have to say Anne Shirley because her desire to see beauty in the world is so great that something magical happens and she actually makes the lives of those around far richer and more beautiful than they ever would have been without her.
18. What are you most afraid of?
The dark—I don’t understand how anyone ISN’T afraid of the dark.
19. What time of year do you like best?
20. What’s your favorite TV show?
30 Rock. South Park. I’m addicted to re-runs of The Golden Girls, which I’ve liked since I was about eight years old.
21. If you were stranded on a desert island, who would you want for company?
Astronauts. I don’t know how I’ll get to meet any of them otherwise, and I’d really like to hear someone talk about what it feels like to look at the earth from very far away.
13. If you could travel in time, where would you go?
I’d go on a world tour 500 years into the future
14. What’s the best advice you have ever received about writing?
If you want to write, you just have to sit down and begin writing, even if you don’t know what it’s going to be about or where it’s going. You can start with an image or a line of dialogue, however hazy or small, and see where your mind will go with it. And of course you have to read, read, read.
15. What is your worst habit?
Checking to make sure the stove is off about ten times before I leave the house.
16. What is your best habit?
I work hard.
17. Where in the world do you feel most at home?
I’ve lived in Bermuda, Canada, London, and New York, and other places for short periods of time, and I’ve remained very connected to all of those places. But when I lived elsewhere, nothing ever compared to stepping off the plane onto the open runway in Bermuda and smelling the salt air for the first time after many months away.
18. What do you wish you could do better?
Play the piano; I’m terrible. My parents forced me to have lessons when I was kid and I hated those Wednesday afternoons more than anything, but when I was older, the first thing I did when I had an apartment big enough was to buy an old second-hand upright. I’m still terrible at it, but I love the idea of living in a home with music. One of my favorite things is to hear someone else practicing.
19. What would your readers be most surprised to learn about you?
I can say “My name is Nadia from the island of Bermuda” in Russian.