Twig Stories by Jo Marshall
Interviewed by Cheri & Peter Lucking
Cheri and Peter: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Jo: Well, I love puzzles, mysteries, and big band era music. I spend way too much time watching science, history, and discovery channels. I also love NPR radio – Diana Rehm and Ira Flatow are my favorites. My husband and kids are the center of my world, I’m afraid. They’re wonderful and fun. My son, John, is 24 and lives at home. My daughter, Ali Jo, is 12. I’m a clueless mom in a tech-savy world, so they help me out a lot. We live in Snohomish, Washington, and the country here is so beautiful, yet climate change is incredibly visible everywhere. So I’m constantly learning more and more about it.
Cheri and Peter: Do you remember the first story you wrote?
Jo: When I was very young I made tiny books with folded notebook paper, and colored their book covers. One was about little people living in huge, old trees. Guess that idea stuck with me for a while.
Cheri and Peter: Were you inspired by someone or something?
Jo: Oh, yes. A.A. Milne (Winnie the Pooh) and Mary Norton (The Borrowers) are authors who base their stories on children’s good qualities, and how they find clever and unusual ways of solving their problems. I think Christopher Robin was especially caring, and Arietty was very brave – good role models.
Cheri and Peter: Can you tell us a bit about your children’s books.
Jo: The stories are about Twigs – very small, stick creatures that live in the old growth forests of the Pacific Northwest. Twigs had a comfortable, carefree life, but now they are confronted with changes caused by a warmer world; for example, bark beetle infestations that are destroying their ancient trees.
Cheri and Peter: Can you tell us a bit about your illustrator D.W. Murray and how you work together.
Jo: Oh, yes. David is a wonderful person and artist. He’s been a Disney artist forever, it seems. Some of his screen credits include Mulan, Tarzan, Curious George, Lilo & Stitch, Brother Bear, and many others. We met when I asked him about a particular publisher (whose offerI turned down). David liked the idea of Twigs, and offered to illustrate the books for me – inside art and full cover jackets, too. He generously gave me the rights to the art, also, so now my daughter has fun mangling his illustrations for her online puzzles and games. We’re on our third book together, so now David only needs an idea of the scene, and he takes it from there. It’s always exciting to receive one of his illustrations for another chapter.
Cheri and Peter: Are you planning to write for a mature audience in time?
Jo: I’ve often considered researching and writing a nonfiction book about Lake Tahoe and Virginia City in the late 1800’s. I read Mark Twain’s Roughing It when I was a teen, and since then the Wild West characters and the beautiful Sierras have fascinated me. I plan to write it sometime before I’m 70.
Cheri and Peter: What made you decide to bring attention to climate change and endangered species?
Jo: A few years ago we took a family vacation to Canada, and it was heartbreaking to see the dying forests – I’m talking about millions of acres devastated by pine beetle infestations – and the terrible impact on the ecosystems because of it, especially the wildlife. Even though my daughter studied about climate change in school, the scope was so broad, it was difficult for a child to understand. She and her friends felt overwhelmed. So we made up stories about Twigs fighting to save their forests, and suddenly climate change events were easier to grasp. The stories are mostly adventures, but each centers on actual climate change impacts. Mostly they are about adaptation to change, not conquering global warming.
Cheri and Peter: Where do you see yourself in a couple of years in relation to writing?
Jo: I will probably be writing the next four books of Twig Stories– the Fern series. These will be about Leaf’s sister, Fern, and vanishing wildlife. Mostly, they’ll take place in Northern California, but we’ll have some stories about her Twig cousins in other places, and how they battle climate change impacts in their region. If any Twig fans want me to write about Twigs in forests where they live, just let me know, and I’ll track down those Twigs, and get their story, too. Twigs live in trees all over the world, you know.
Cheri and Peter: Are you working on something new at the moment?
Jo: We’re finishing up Leaf & the Long Ice, and hope to have Leaf & Echo Peak underway by early 2013.
Cheri and Peter: Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
Jo: I think a new writer needs to decide why they are writing a book, and why they feel it should be published. Is it for fortune or fame? Or some altruistic reason? I think it’s important to not kid yourself about your motivation, and also to remind yourself every day why you write, otherwise it’s very easy to get side-tracked trying to please others. Remember, it’s your story, your book, and your fans.
Cheri and Peter: Which author inspires you?
Jo: David Quammen. I would not have any understanding at all of ecosystems or adaptation without his works, The Song of the Dodo and The Flight of the Iguana. His books are just a kick to read, too!
Cheri and Peter: What is the last book you read?
Jo: Timothy Egan’s The Big Burn. It’s very important, especially now, to have a grasp of issues confronting firefighters and forestry, and his book is a very scary description of those.
Cheri and Peter: Favorite Children’s Movies?
Jo: Spencer’s Mountain, Swiss Family Robinson, and all the Jules Verne movies – as bad as they all were.
Cheri and Peter : Where can people go and read your work?
Jo:Nearly any online store has my books, such as Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble. They are available in paperback and Kindle versions, worldwide.
On my website, if you go to the ‘Twig Store’ page, there are discount codes and direct links to the publisher for books via their E-store. That’s a less expensive, quick, and easy way to get them, too.
My books have a ‘look inside’ feature on Amazon.com, so you can get a better idea of the writing style, and if your child might enjoy reading the book. Many parents tell me the books are fun to read aloud, too.
Cheri and Peter: Where can people find you on internet?
The Twig Stories website is www.twigstories.com
Cheri and Peter Lucking: Is there anything else you want to share with the readers?
Jo: It’s good to know the royalties are shared with environmental nonprofits involved with climate change research, protection of endangered wildlife, and nature conservancy.
Jo: Thank you so much, Peter and Cheri, for your time and effort to post this interview. You’re great!