Author Interview: Pat Schmatz

Posted: August 23, 2011 in author interview, middle school, new books, new release, pat schmatz, reading groups, teacher favorite, Uncategorized, young adult
I have the honor of interviewing Pat Schmatz! She is the author of multiple Young Adult novels including BLUEFISH, Mousetraps, and Circle the Truth.
BLUEFISH will be coming out September 13th of this year and as this date draws near, I wanted to introduce you to this incredibly talented author.
1. To start, please give us a summary of Bluefish and its incredible characters.
Bluefish follows Travis Roberts as he starts eighth grade in a new school.  He lives with his grandpa, and until recently, with their dog Rosco.  He’s just been torn away from the place he’s lived his whole life – a house in the woods, with a swamp out back – and they’re now living in town.  He’s miserable and resentful, and he’s starting school, the worst place in the world with its closed-in walls and demands that he do things he cannot possibly do.
Meanwhile, Velveeta has recently lost her best friend Calvin, the elderly neighbor in the next trailer.  With him she lost the tiny hold she had on structure and direction and security.  
The first day of school, an act of kindness on Travis’s part captures Velveeta’s attention.  Her attention – no small thing – creates some new air and breathing space for Travis.  In that fresh light, he finds a small doorway through Velveeta’s crispy hard cover, and he eases it open.  Velveeta in turn knocks on Travis’s closed-up-tight shell, and so a revolving door to the world of possibilities swings into motion.

2. Illiteracy is an interesting theme to choose for a middle-school novel. What made you choose this?
I can’t say I consciously chose the theme of illiteracy, nor did I choose to make it a middle school novel.  I started off writing a picture book about a kid who loved the swamp, and that kid was Travis.  After spending some time with him, his real story began to take place not in third grade, as I originally thought, but in eighth grade.    
Both of my parents were reading teachers, and I have several friends who struggled to learn to read.  I suppose this was working beneath the surface from the start, but I didn’t set out to write a book about illiteracy.  Travis led me there.

3. Just because I love the name and the book, what made you choose the title of a Dr. Seuss book for the reading groups?
Again, I don’t recall actually choosing the title.  Travis was in the Bluefish reading group at school.  That concept, and way of thinking of himself, carried with it layers of literacy and wordplay (nobody does it better than Dr. Seuss), and grief and the fishiness of the swamp, so the book called itself that and I went along.

4. What audience (age, group, etc.) did you intend on writing this for and why?
I don’t consciously write for an audience.  I tell the story I need to tell myself.  I needed a story about a swamp and scarves, about kindness and connection, and a dog, and about the riches that come through the written word, and how that print on the page can drastically alter our understanding and experience.  To write a book for my own pleasure and have it connect with an audience – well, that’s a thrill I can barely comprehend, much less express.

5. Will there be other Travis and Velveeta adventures in the future? Possibly.  I wrote one entire draft of Bluefish in Velveeta’s voice, and I have a sense of what’s coming for her after eighth grade.  I’d like to take that journey with her, and I hope to after I finish the book I’m working on now.

6. Do you recall the first book you read?
I don’t remember learning to read, or the first book I read.  I only remember clinging to them like life preservers.  When I was six, or maybe seven, I’d been reading under the covers late at night with a flashlight.  My parents took every book out of my room for a week.  Worst punishment EVER.

7. What was your favorite book growing up and what is your favorite book now?
I had several favorites in early childhood, and Jim Kjelgaard was my favorite author until I stumbled on The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton.  That locked in at the top of the list, and has been my favorite ever since.  I love many books, but no other has reached into my heart and soul in the same way.

8. Outside of writing, how do you spend your time?
I work at my day job.  I read a lot.  I spend time outdoors – walking, cross-country skiing, swimming.  I love to travel and do so whenever I can.  

9. What is number one on your bucket list?
I don’t have a bucket list.  I try to stay open to possibility and if I see a good idea, I jump on it.  I’ve already has the good fortune to do most of the things I felt I must do, and anything else that rolls my way is bonus.

10. Any final thoughts to share with your readers?

Bluefish is about the power of kindness and the power of story.  I didn’t know that when I started – it’s what the book has taught me in the process.  When kindness and story intersect and weave together, I believe they can change a person’s world.  That person’s world changes another world.  And so it goes.

  1. Dana says:

    Great interview. I thought your questions were very insightful and I loved the answers. The Outsiders by S E Hinton has been my number one for over 20 years. There's just something about it. Now I need to go and find Bluefish!

  2. Glad you liked it, Dana! I hope you enjoy Bluefish as much as I did. I never read The Outsiders, so I think we'll trade on recommendations.

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