We had the opportunity to interview Linda Oatman High, author of one of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers’ upcoming releases, Tenth Avenue Cowboy . She is also the author of One Amazing Elephant (HarperCollins), A Heart Like Ringo Starr (Saddleback Educational), Teeny Little Grief Machines (Saddleback Educational), and many other books for children and young adults.
EBYR: What made you decide to become an author?
LOH: I’ve always loved books, and I decided that I wanted to become an author in eleventh grade, when a creative writing teacher said that I should think about becoming a writer. I knew at that moment that she was right. My first writing job was for a newspaper, and I went from there to writing for magazines and ultimately broke into children’s books in the early 1990s.
EBYR: What are you most passionate about in your work?
LOH: I love connecting with readers and bringing a world to life for them. I still recall the feeling of having pictures painted in my mind with the words in books that I read as a child. I’m passionate about helping children to understand that we human beings are all the same on the inside: just people with wishes and fears and hopes and dreams and obstacles to overcome.
EBYR: Where do the ideas for your books come from?
LOH: Ideas are everywhere, and they come to me from memories, dreams, and real life. I often get ideas while driving, or washing the dishes, or cleaning the bathroom. I’ve gotten ideas on trains and planes and in automobiles.
EBYR: How much research do you do before you begin a book?
LOH: I love research, so I do quite a bit of it.
EBYR: Where do you find your inspiration for new stories and characters?
LOH: Inspiration often starts as an image or a line of dialogue, and the characters and story grow from there.
EBYR: What is the process of writing a book; how does it go from an idea to a finished work on sale in bookstores?
LOH: The process is this: Idea, Think/Ponder/Dwell, Write, Write, Write, Revise, Revise, Revise, Submit, Submit, Submit. Once a publisher accepts the manuscript, they do most of the work to get it into bookstores.
EBYR: What has been the highlight of your career so far?
LOH: I’ve had so many highlights: holding my first published book in my hands (and every one after that one), teaching creative writing in schools, speaking at writing events, earning an MFA in Writing at Vermont College. As far as awards go, being shortlisted on the EFG Short Story award shortlist in England was a highlight. I was the only American on the shortlist of six authors, and as a result of that award I got to visit England and stay in Oxford University.
EBYR: What do you wish you’d have known starting out as an author?
LOH: That publishing the first book doesn’t make life automatically easy and problem-free. Writers have to work just as hard for each and every book that follows.
EBYR: What advice would you give to your younger self?
LOH: I’d say “Don’t worry; your dream of becoming a writer will come true. Just keep on reading and soaking in what you learn.”
EBYR: What do you hope kids learn from Tenth Avenue Cowboy?
LOH: That heroes may be found everywhere.
EBYR: Can you tell us one thing people may not know about you?
LOH: I’ve played bass guitar in a rock band.
Ben has always dreamed of becoming a cowboy. But when his family moves from the West to New York City, they have to give up their ranch. Ben hates his new home: he can’t imagine staying in a place without wide plains or galloping horses. But one day, he learns that the city has its own kind of cowboys…
Featuring a new endnote about the real twentieth-century riders of New York, this adventurous story reveals how one boy’s dream helps him accept his new home.