Lynne Rae Perkins Interview, plus links to author biography, book summaries, excerpts and reviews

Lynne Rae Perkins
Photo: Steve Davis

Lynne Rae Perkins

How to pronounce Lynne Rae Perkins: lynn ray

An interview with Lynne Rae Perkins

Lynne Rae Perkins, author and illustrator of many novels for younger readers, including Criss Cross and As Easy as Falling Off The Face of the Earth, talks about her life and work.

I grew up in a small town not far from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. We lived on the raw frontier of a new subdivision, where eighteen small ranch houses sat bravely on eighteen lots with tiny sticks of trees and unpaved driveways. To a child, it was a paradise of uninterrupted backyards with unlimited playmates and extra mothers and fathers available if you should happen to need one. Not to mention woods and a creek right nearby.

I thought we must be the luckiest people on earth. I remember even liking my age and feeling a little sorry for those born in a year other than 1956.

As I grew older, it slowly dawned on me that there was a larger world, where there were other opinions and ideas, other ways of doing things. Some of them even seemed better than ours. To my perplexity, my parents were less impressed with this news than I was.

I was also baffled by some other mysteries: Why didn't football players like smart girls? And how could I pick one career and do it every day for forty years? I received little guidance on the first question, but my guidance counselor suggested that architecture would be a good choice for someone with abilities in art and math. So I gave the "different drummer" speech at graduation and went as far away to college as I could imagine going, to Penn State, which was three and a half hours away by car. After three days, during which I concluded that I wasn't nearly as smart as I had thought I was, I fled in terror to the art department.

What do you think you'd like to do?" asked the adviser.

I think I'd like to illustrate children's books," I improvised. He laughed heartily. "Who wouldn't?" he said. He advised me to go for a B.A. in art instead of a B.F.A, because I would probably just get married anyway.

I went for the B.F.A. and met some wonderful I teachers and friends. New worlds were opened to me. I learned to see beauty in unlikely places. My parents thought I was nuts. I was considered a promising student. My parents wondered how I was going to earn a living. So did I.

I went to graduate school in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Then I had all sorts of jobs while I waited for my real job, my "me," to pop up. I moved to Boston and worked as a graphic designer. All the while, I was reading, drawing, and sometimes writing.

My husband, Bill, introduced me to the idea of self-employment. We moved to the north woods of Michigan, where we made rustic furniture and grew Christmas trees. I began to spend a lot of time drawing and painting, and as I did, I found my voice. (Somewhere in here, we had two children, Lucy and Frank.) My ideas started to be stories and illustrations, peopled by those I have known and loved and also by those I meet briefly and whose lives I have to imagine.

I think making books is a way of having conversations with people. I have been on the reader's side for most of my life. When my first book was reviewed and I realized that a few people besides my mother were actually reading it, I felt lucky to think that I could be on this end of the conversation, too. I still do.

Unless otherwise stated, this interview was conducted at the time the book was first published, and is reproduced with permission of the publisher. This interview may not be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the copyright holder.

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