Have you read the Quinnie Boyd middle-grade mysteries? The Maypop Kidnapping, Vampires on the Run, and A Side of Sabotage? I discovered them this spring and I stayed up several nights to read them. The author of those books, C.M. Surrisi, is just as interesting as you’d think the writer who dreamed up Quinnie, her friends, and her village in Maine would be. When I realized she had a picture book out, The Best Mother, I wondered if she could carry that sense of humor over to a shorter storytelling form. Yes, indeed. That book’s delightful, too. We know you’ll want to learn more about this intriguing author.
What’s the weirdest place you’ve ever read a book?
In a tent in the Ranthambore Tiger Preserve in Sawai Madhopur Rajasthan, India
Do you keep your bookshelves in a particular order?
By subject matter. Not quite Dewey Decimal Classification.
How many bookcases do you have in your house?
An embarrassingly large number.
What’s the predominant color in your wardrobe?
Jeans. Is that a color? So, blue, I guess. I spent so many years in a world where jeans were not acceptable dress that when I left that world, I embraced jeans again in a big way. I have several forms of denim again now. Light, dark, patched, ripped, cropped, boyfriend, skinny, jacket, cutoff. Sorry. I’m all about comfort now.
Which library springs to your mind when someone says that word? What do you remember most about it?
When I think library I think of the middle grade fiction shelves, with their chunky novels, in plastic covers, with colorful jackets, swollen pages from wear, the delicious smell of paper, and scent of glue and ink. That’s where I go first in every library I visit.
Which book you read as a child has most influenced your life?
The Children of Primrose Lane by Noël Streatfield.
When I was in fourth grade, I picked this book off the shelf for its size, weight, jacket image, and all around library book smell. I didn’t know who Noël Streatfield was, and I hadn’t read any of the ballet books. I fell into this story about a group of kids living in England during WWII who took over an abandoned house on their dead end street as a clubhouse. Soon they realize they were sharing the house with a man they suspected was a shot-down German pilot pretending to be British. They played along with him until he accidentally overheard one of the children say something about the war effort that the child should not have shared. Their mission became keeping the pilot from transmitting the information to his base.
This was my first experience with children being involved with high stakes. The kids were all different, the circumstances were searing, the drama intense. I have never forgotten it. I found a copy of the book as an adult and reread it, only to find some culturally inappropriate aspects that were associated with war propaganda. I realized those aspects of the book didn’t go over my head. I had been indoctrinated by them. The book would have been just as powerful from a story perspective without them. I continue to hold it in high regard because it opened my world and transported me to a place where children did something noble.
What’s your food weakness?
If the item is edible, and attractively prepared, I will generally give it a go.
What’s your favorite form of exercise?
Dancing. I wish that ballroom dancing could be easily accomplished alone. Drat, it’s so pairs oriented. Yes, Fred Astaire pulled it off much of the time, but I’m no Fred. I love the feeling of pairs dancing, but I don’t have a dance partner and don’t really want one. So I dance around the house by myself and make do.
What’s your favorite flower?
Blue Hyacinth. The color is important. It adds to the already spectacularly cloying smell. I love the spikes with their crowds of bells and the fleshy, glossy, green leaves. When I was a child, my mother had a ceramic flower pot that was an eight-inch cube that looked like a white woven basket. She filled it with blue hyacinths every spring. They sat in the center of the kitchen table. A close second would be old-fashioned roses. We had a big, unruly old-fashioned rose bush next to the back door, and every time we banged the screen door open when we ran out to play, it shook the bush and released the fragrance.
Who’s at the top of your list of Most Admired People?
My husband, Chuck. He had a stroke nine years ago, and the full range of emotion, energy, determination, and humor he’s summoned to cope with it has made him my hero.
What foreign language would you like to learn?
All of them.
Do you read the end of a book first?
Oh, no. Never.
If you had a choice, would you live under the ocean or in outer space, and why?
The very thought of either of these makes my head explode. I’m claustrophobic.
If you could write any book and know that it would be published and tens of thousands of people would read it, which book would you write?
If I knew this, I would have already written it, but then again knowing it and being able to write it are two different things, aren’t they? So the answer I guess would have to be “the biggest-hearted book.”
If you could be granted one wish, what would you wish for?
That children would be safe. Safe from adults and safe from each other.