Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Skinny Dip with Janet Taylor Lisle

Janet Taylor LisleFor this inter­view, we chat with Janet Tay­lor Lisle, New­bery Hon­or-win­ning author of After­noon of the Elves, the Scott O’Dell Award-win­ning The Art of Keep­ing Cool, and the thriller Black Duck, along with many oth­er read­er favorites.

Which celebri­ty, liv­ing or not, do you wish would invite you to a cof­fee shop?

I’m quite sure Emi­ly Dick­in­son, shy and secre­tive as she was, would nev­er invite me to a cof­fee shop, but per­haps I could slip a note under her door in Amherst, Mass­a­chu­setts and beg for a vis­it. I’d like to ask her why she made her poems, what some of them mean, and if it mat­tered to her that her work was unpub­lished dur­ing her life.

The LeopardWhich book do you find your­self rec­om­mend­ing pas­sion­ate­ly?

My all-time favorite book is The Leop­ard (Il Gat­topar­do) by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampe­dusa. Every time I read it, the nov­el changes what I see around me. Lampe­dusa wrote only this one work but it’s enough to put the uni­verse at your fin­ger­tips.

What’s your favorite late-night snack?

I am not noc­tur­nal but my cat Nel­lie would like to men­tion here that she will take straight canned tuna fish and milk any­time after mid­night. After 3 a.m., too, if it comes to that.

Most cher­ished child­hood mem­o­ry?

So, we three chil­dren are sail­ing off Martha’s Vine­yard with my dad when a sud­den storm hits. Vio­lent sea! Howl­ing wind! My dad is on deck reef­ing the sails when a huge wave rolls into the cock­pit. It lifts my lit­tle broth­er up and is sweep­ing him over­board when I grab him by the arm and hold on with all my strength. Hugh is saved! (That was close.) I cry. He grows up to become a loved doc­tor who cares deeply for his patients.

Janet Tay­lor Lisle with one of Bar­ry Flana­gan’s “hare” sculp­tures, at the Nation­al Gallery of Art Sculp­ture Gar­den, in Wash­ing­ton, DC

Illustrator’s work you most admire?

I guess the illus­tra­tors I loved as a child still speak to me most direct­ly. Beat­rix Pot­ter for her hedge­hogs and rab­bits; John Ten­niel for his Mad Hat­ter and March Hare; N.C. Wyeth for his mur­der­ous, one-legged pirates and mys­te­ri­ous islands. So many oth­ers. Today, it’s any­thing by William Steig or Arnold Lobel for me and my grand­chil­dren. (Nel­lie cozies up to these guys too.)

Favorite sea­son of the year? Why?

Win­ter in New Eng­land. Stark. Qui­et. When the leaves fall off the trees the land  opens to show its real face. The moon looks big­ger.

Janet Taylor Lisle

Win­ter, Janet’s favorite time of year

What gives you shiv­ers?

A recent arrival in my Rhode Island neigh­bor­hood is an otter-like ani­mal known as a Fish­er Cat. It hunts near the pond and screams most hor­ri­bly at night. I pull the blan­kets over my head and Nellie’s. We don’t like even think­ing about this crea­ture.

Morn­ing per­son? Night per­son?

I’m a morn­ing per­son. I like to rise with the sun. Rosy-fin­gered dawn for me, and a walk on the beach. (My nov­el The Lamp­fish of Twill came from this dai­ly  habit.)

Janet Taylor Lisle

Janet Tay­lor Lisle in front of the pond in Lit­tle Comp­ton, the inspi­ra­tion for my fic­tion­al Quick­sand Pond.

What’s your hid­den tal­ent?

I love to sing and have sung in choral groups all my life. Mozart, Beethoven, Han­del, Bach. I’m not a reli­gious per­son but the big requiems and mass­es some­times bring me to tears even as I sing them. I’m a suck­er for pop­u­lar music too: a big croon­er in the car. Radio always on.

Best tip for liv­ing a con­tent­ed life?

For a con­tent­ed life, keep it sim­ple and keep out of the lime­light. Fame nev­er did any­one any good.

2 Responses to Skinny Dip with Janet Taylor Lisle

  1. Marney December 8, 2016 at 4:12 am #

    Won­der­ful inter­view !!!

  2. Joyce Sidman December 10, 2016 at 7:59 am #

    Loved this inter­view of one of my favorite nov­el­ists!

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