The Author Hour: Your Guide to Fantastic Fiction hosted by Matthew Peterson


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Mary Pope Osborne
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Mary Pope Osborne   Mary Pope Osborne is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Magic Tree House series, which have been translated in over 20 languages and have sold over 53 million copies. Her books have received honors from the National Council of Teachers of English and the American Booksellers Association, and she's received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Random House sales force. Back in the mid-90's Mary Pope Osborne served as the twenty-seventh president of the Authors Guild, and sheís currently a member of the Board of Directors.

Buy Mary Pope Osborne's Books at the following locations: (downloadable audio books) (independent bookstores)
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This episode originally aired on 02/04/2010 with the following authors:
  • Speculative Fiction
    • Mary Pope Osborne (#1 NYT bestselling Magic Tree House series, former Authors Guild president, 53 million books sold)
    • Cory Doctorow (NYT bestselling Little Brother and Makers, Boing Boing blog, top 10 Forbes web celebs)
    • Mindy Klasky (bestselling and award-winning Glasswrights, Jane Madison, and As You Wish series)
    • Garth Nix (NYT bestselling Old Kingdom, The Seventh Tower, and Keys to the Kingdom series, 5 million sold)
Note: The following interview has been transcribed from The Author Hour radio show. Please excuse any typos, spelling and gramatical errors.

Interview with Mary Pope Osborne

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Matthew Peterson: Hello and welcome to the season finale of The Author Hour: Your Guide to Fantastic Fiction, which can be found at Iím your host, Matthew Peterson, bestselling author of Paraworld Zero. Last week I had Brandon Mull, Maria V. Snyder, Obert Skye, and Daniel Handler (who writes as Lemony Snicket). This week I've got a great episode lined up with Mary Pope Osborne, Cory Doctorow, Mindy Klasky, and Garth Nix.

Before we get started I wanted to make two quick announcements: I mentioned earlier that this will be the final episode of the season, so keep an eye out on my website for more details about the future of the show. Basically, I need to take a break so I can spend some time writing my third book, plus as many of you already know, my house was destroyed in a fire not too long ago and weíre just about to start on the repairs.

The second announcement is that this week I got an email informing me that my book, Paraworld Zero, received a silver award from the Momís Choice Awards in the audio book category. That brings the total to over 15 wins, placements, or honors that Paraworld Zero has received. In celebration, Iím giving away a bunch of free copies of Paraworld Zero to the listeners of the show, but youíll have to wait until the end of the show to find out how you can get a free copy, so just be patient. Alright, so thatís it for the announcements. Now, letís get to the interviews.

My first guest is Mary Pope Osborne, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Magic Tree House series, which have been translated in over 20 languages and have sold over 53 million copies. Her books have received honors from the National Council of Teachers of English and the American Booksellers Association, and Mary has received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Random House Sales Force. Back in the mid-90's Mary served as the twenty-seventh president of the Authors Guild, and sheís currently a member of the Board of Directors. Thanks for being on the show today, Mary.

Mary Pope Osborne: Oh, thank you. Iím excited!

Matthew Peterson: Now, I have to tell you that my 7-year-old son, Trent, just loves your books. Itís really cute to see how excited he gets. Just last night he came running into my room to tell me that Jack and Annie were about to be turned into skunks. [laughs]

Mary Pope Osborne: Oh! [laughs]

Matthew Peterson: In your last book.

Mary Pope Osborne: In the Leprechaun book.

Matthew Peterson: Yep. But he had a question that he wanted me to ask you, so letís start out with that.

Mary Pope Osborne: Oh, great!

Matthew Peterson: Now, I donít know where he comes up with these, but I hope youíre good with quantum physics. [laughs]

Mary Pope Osborne: Uh oh! [laughs]

Matthew Peterson: No, just kidding.

Mary Pope Osborne: Iím sure a seven year old knows more about that than I do.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah. [laughs] Well, Iím just kidding. Itís a very basic one that Iím sure youíve been asked a million times: Where did you get the idea for Jack and Annie and the Magic Tree House series?

Mary Pope Osborne: It did not come easily. I tried so many different ideas that didnít work. I wanted to do a time travel series, but I didnít know how to get my kids back in time. And I tried a magic cellar, magic whistles, a magic artist museum, a magic studio for the arts. I tried so many different ideas, and I was really going to quit. It sounds fake, but I was. I just thought, ďIím going to get back to my other stuff.Ē Because I was working a lot of different books at that time. Iíd already published about 20 different books. And this was something Random House wanted me to work on, a series, and I said, ďWell Iíd love to do time travel.Ē So I spun my wheels for a really long time.

And seriously, as I was about to give up, I took a walk with my husband, Will, in Pennsylvania in the woods where we used to have a cabin, and I saw a tree house with him. And we started thinking about tree houses and childhood. And then the next thing I knew, the idea of a magic tree house kind of took root and that night we sat up half the night. We decided maybe if itís filled with books and you make a wish and . . . . so I tell kids the simplest ideas can take the longest time to find. You have to go through lots of hoops sometimes to get to simplicity. But from then on it literally took off. You know, I had my device to get kids through time.

Matthew Peterson: And Jack and Annie, where did you get the ideas for those actual characters?

Mary Pope Osborne: Well, I always love brother and sister teams. I have a twin brother and then a brother just a year and a half younger, and Iím very close to them and to my older sister, very close. We were army brats, so we traveled all the time.

Matthew Peterson: [laughs]

Mary Pope Osborne: And we just had to be each otherís best friends, because we moved so much. But we played all the time. We often played fantasy games as kids. One whole summer we pretended a picnic table was a ship. Itís more real to me now that I sailed on a ship with my brothers than I really did what I did when I was seven.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah.

Mary Pope Osborne: But based on that kind of comradery I thought of a brother and sister. And then the names Jack and Annie just sort of created themselves. I liked both those names and they seemed friendly and warm names. So they became Jack and Annie. Sometimes I wonder if I should have made them twins, just because that is personal to me.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah.

Mary Pope Osborne: But I made them a year apart. They both have their strengths and weaknesses and sort of together theyíre a complete person, but they need each other.

Matthew Peterson: You know twins are a very important part of my life. My younger brother is 11 months younger than me and we always were just like bosom buddies. We were the terrible two. [laughs] Is what my parents called us.

Mary Pope Osborne: Yeah, yeah.

Matthew Peterson: And when my wife got pregnant the very first time I kept telling her that she was having twins, because I always wanted to be a twin.

Mary Pope Osborne: Yeah.

Matthew Peterson: And the morning that she got her first ultrasound I even made a joke, ďHey, you know, youíre eating for three.Ē

Mary Pope Osborne: [laughs]

Matthew Peterson: And lo and behold, she had twins. [laughs]

Mary Pope Osborne: Oh, thatís so cool! Did she have twin boys?

Matthew Peterson: Yeah. Twin boys, red-headed boys. Theyíre 10 years old now.

Mary Pope Osborne: Oh! Well, I love the whole thing of being a twin because, you know, youíre so close, that youíre just too close to really be at odds with each other. I found that my twin and I... they say you sometimes work it all out in the womb, you know, position themselves where, and weíre just still very, very best friends.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah.

Mary Pope Osborne: Itís great. Your sons are going to have a good life together.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah. They will. They will. And you do get a lot of support from your family. I hear your husband, Will, and your sister, Natalie, help out with the series. What involvement do they have in your books?

Mary Pope Osborne: Oh, I just couldnít do without it. I wrote the books and then I wrote, you know, a number of the fiction books and then Will and I, whoíve always worked well together. Heís always been my editor and my sounding board, and heís just a wonderful writer himself. He has a great imagination. So we were talking about what more can we do with the series to help kids learn about the places Jack and Annie go. And we came up with the idea of these non-fiction books called The Magic Tree House Research Guides, Ďcause Jack and Annie are always doing research. And what they would be is companions to each of my fiction books.

So Will launched that idea and he wrote the first 8 non-fiction books that go with my books, and then he was asked to do a whole planetarium show on the Magic Tree House, and then later he wrote a wonderful musical of Magic Tree House. But when he got side-tracked by those projects, we asked my sister, Natalie, to step in and take over the non-fiction books. And sheís just been incredible. Sheís already written probably 14 or 15 of them, and itís great for me because I have my two most trusted allies working on the series with me. I totally leave their work up to them. I know that they will deliver something fine. And then when I travel to do book signings, either one of them will go with me and weíll have a great time, and the three of us get along great. So you know, it has definitely been a family adventure. And weíre very close to our family and to our friends. Our best friends, Cole, wrote the musical with Will, did all the music. And so weíre up in sort of New England, Massachusetts, Connecticut, we just have a nice enclave of people who are thinking about Magic Tree House most of the time. [laughs]

Matthew Peterson: Yeah, yeah.

Mary Pope Osborne: Itís sad. [laughs]

Matthew Peterson: And Random House told me that you and your sister are going on tour in March for your latest book, to like New York City, Houston, Austin, Oxford, Atlanta and Raleigh.

Mary Pope Osborne: Yeah South Carolina.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah, do you like going on tour, is that something you look forward to or do you dread?

Mary Pope Osborne: Oh, sure I do. When I usually go by myself, you know, before Natalie or Will was involved, I would be so lonely.

Matthew Peterson: Mmm.

Mary Pope Osborne: And exhausted and then somehow, you know how it is, you add a friend or a loved one to your adventure and then you laugh together and you commiserate together and you complain together.

Matthew Peterson: [laughs]

Mary Pope Osborne: But youíre really having a great time. And I know the wonderful thing about going on tour, with what I do, is meeting all these little kids. So with Natalie or Will beside me, you know, I can witness something absolutely fantastic in what a kidís saying and I can hit [Natalie or Will] under the table and theyíll catch the same thing. And weíre hitting each other throughout the entire signing because thereís always these moments you just want to share with someone. Itís precious.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah, yeah.

Mary Pope Osborne: And I just canít tell you how great these little kids are, and their parents, and their teachers. And itís really what keeps the whole book tour going, is their energy keeps me going from city to city.

Matthew Peterson: Well the books . . . you know, you keep continuing with these books, and your latest one, Leprechaun in Late Winter, thatís book #43, so you have quite a few here.

Mary Pope Osborne: I know.

Matthew Peterson: Tell us a little bit about that one, the latest one.

Mary Pope Osborne: Well, I take Jack and Annie to Ireland. And I do these books in quartets of themes, and this theme is helping a person find their true talent. And they meet a little girl named Augusta. The last two books they helped Louis Armstrong, and before that they helped Mozart, who were both kids, and they helped them get on their path to give their gifts to the world. Thatís their mission.

Matthew Peterson: [laughs]

Mary Pope Osborne: So now they meet a young girl whoís very lonely and disenchanted with the world. She turns out to be an amazing woman named Lady Gregory who brought out of the cottages a lot of Irish tales that really were then written and printed and sent all around the world about 100 years ago. So I had them meet Augusta and take her to the world of fairies, basically. And they have this great adventure and itís sort of in the Irish folklore world with her. And it was so much fun. My sisterís companion book of non-fiction is on Irish folklore and leprechauns, so that if kids read the book and they get all caught up in the fantasy, then they can go to another book and find out, ďWell, where do those characters come from?Ē

Matthew Peterson: Yeah.

Mary Pope Osborne: Historically. And what are fairies? And what do people believe about fairies?

Matthew Peterson: Your next book, A Ghost Tale for Christmastime, and that oneís coming out in September. You do have another Christmas book, as well, Christmas in Camelot. And I couldnít help but realize that that was the book... Christmas in Camelot was the book that you kind of change things around just a little bit; you started, what is it, the Merlin missions?

Mary Pope Osborne: The Merlin missions, youíre right!

Matthew Peterson: Yeah, and you aged the kids a little bit?

Mary Pope Osborne: Yeah, I did.

Matthew Peterson: What was the reasoning for that?

Mary Pope Osborne: Thatís book 29. I actually decided to make longer books. They came out originally as hard backs. They were twice as long. So readers whoíd cut their teeth on the first 28 could jump in to the Merlin missions. And now Iíve done a great number of those. But Christmas in Camelot, just as a note, is the show we based our musical on.

Matthew Peterson: Ah.

Mary Pope Osborne: So we had two-story high dragons and huge puppets and all kinds of wonderful spectacle that comes from this Camelot fantasy. And then you mentioned the other Christmas book. . . .

Matthew Peterson: Yeah.

Mary Pope Osborne: The fourth person they help is Charles Dickens.

Matthew Peterson: Oh, okay.

Mary Pope Osborne: Theyíre going to get him inspired to write A Christmas Carol. So thatís the Ghost Tale for Christmastime.

Matthew Peterson: Ah. I had a feeling thatís who it was. [laughs]

Mary Pope Osborne: [laughs] Youíre right.

Matthew Peterson: Well, weíve got to go to a commercial. But I really have enjoyed our conversation.

Mary Pope Osborne: Oh, thank you!

Matthew Peterson: Iíve been speaking with Mary Pope Osborne, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Magic Tree House series. Thanks again for being on the show, Mary.

Mary Pope Osborne: Thank you so much. Say hi to your kids!

Matthew Peterson: I will, I will. Theyíll be excited to hear from you.

Mary Pope Osborne: Great.

Matthew Peterson: Okay, make sure you visit to listen to the bonus questions that didnít make it onto the live show. Iíve got Cory Doctorow coming up next, followed by Mindy Klasky and Garth Nix. Donít go away.

  Read or Listen to the extra questions that didn't make it onto the live show.  

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