Friday, July 17, 2015

How Unbelievably Cool! An Interview with Phyllis Reynolds Naylor!

Hey, everyone, this is Iron Guy Carl and our blog is honored today! One of the most well-known authors in the whole realm of kid books has given us an interview. I'm talking, of course, about the one and only Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, author of 140 books (!), including Shiloh, a modern-day classic and a great book for guys, one that you'll probably read in high school. Included in that noteworthy list of books is the whole Boys vs Girls series that I wrote about over the last few months. Those books were soooo good that I had to write Ms. Naylor and ask her a few questions. And she was good enough to answer them! Let's hear what she had to say:
Ms. Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

Iron Guy Carl: I’ve heard this nasty rumor that it’s uncool for boys to read. I bet you disagree. Tell us why.

Phyllis Reynolds Naylor:  Why in the world would it be uncool for boys to read?  Guys write, don't they?  Some of our best stories and books are written by guys!  Boys often have great adventures and pretty wild imaginations, so it's not surprising that some of them write wonderful books when they grow up.
IGC:  I’ve heard the story of how you came to write the Boys vs. Girls series but most of our boys probably haven’t heard it. Would you tell it to us?

PRN: A publisher had asked me to think about writing a new series, but I wasn't sure I wanted to get involved with another one. I told them that if I could think of a universal theme, I might do it, but I'd have to think about it. Then one day I was going to speak to a huge crowd of students in an elementary school. As they entered the gym, they were laughing and shouting and having a good time, and it didn't bother me a bit, as I hadn't started my talk.  But it evidently did bother one of the teachers, because he yelled, "If you don't quiet down I'm going to seat you boy/girl/boy/girl, and instantly the whole gym was quiet. I thought this was pretty funny, and said to myself, "That's it!  The way boys and girls feel about each other at this age. I'll write a series, and the first book will be, "The Boys Start the War." The second will be, "The Girls Get Even."

IGC: I know it isn’t fair to ask this type of question of authors but I just have to know—what do you think is the funniest episode in those books? (there are so many to choose from!)

PRN: You know, it's been a long time since I wrote those books, but the first episode that comes to mind is in the very first book, after the boys have dumped some dead birds on the girls'side of the river to make them think the water is polluted.  So the girls, knowing the boys are spying on them, carry Caroline down to the water in a sheet, as though she is dead, and with a great show of tears, dump her into the water. 

IGC: There are twelve books in this series, one for each month of the year. That’s a lot!Was it hard to write that many books? Was it hard to keep coming up with so many funny incidents? And it took 13 years to write all of them. That’s a long time! Was it difficult to keep it going all that time? Did you keep writing only those books during that time or did you work on others? And did you plan out the whole series before you started or did you make it up as you went along? (Yes, these are a lot of questions under one question!)
PRN: Well, considering that I recently completed an "Alice" series, of 28 books, that took 28 years to write, twelve books didn't seem like so many.  A series book, once I know the characters and setting well, usually takes about six months to write, and then I have six months to write something else.  I kept a long list of various events  that could take place in each book, and once I got started writing, other things naturally came to mind.

   IGC: The town of Buckman, West Virginia is based on the real town of Buckhannon,        WV, where your husband is from. Did you go there very often? Have you been there         since the books were published? If so, has the town changed much? Is Oldakkers Book     Store still there?

 PRN: I've been there a number of times, both to research the series and for  college reunions. The last I heard, that bookstore is still there, with the trap door in the floor. (I climbed down the ladder to take a peek)  It's been several years since we were back, so perhaps the store has a different name now, I'm not sure. The first time my husband took me there after we were married, one of the swinging footbridges across the river was still there. When he was  growing up, there were two. The lovely college has expanded with a number of new  buildings, but the house on Island Avenue where my husband lived is much like it was.
IGC: One more thing—the first book was published in 1993 before there were smart phones or even cell phones. In the first book Caroline gets locked in a tool shed and has to wait until someone came around to let her out. Do kids ever ask you why she didn’t just use her phone to call her sisters? And there was no email. The Hartford boys actually wrote letters to the Bensons—and had to wait for letters to come back! Do any kids tell you it seems strange nowadays?
PRN: I've not heard that, but I suppose it must seem strange. Cell phones make huge problems for writers. It used to be that we had to think of clever ways to get the parents out of the picture so that when a kid was faced with a problem, he had to solve it himself.  Now, if every kid has a cell phone in his pocket, where's the conflict in that?  I think that's one reason so many writers write fantasy.  No problem about cell phones there.  Actually, I have a new book coming out in January called GOING WHERE IT'S DARK, in which a boy gets into great difficult inside a cavern. He has a cell phone, but there's no service.

IGC: The last question. I ask this of all authors. Which do you prefer—cheeseburgers or pizza?  What
do you like on them?

PRN: Hmmm. That's close. A thin-crust pizza with mushrooms and sausage, please.

Got one coming up! Thanks, Ms. Reynolds! We really appreciate it. If you guys would like to know more about Ms. Reynolds and her books, including the terrific Boys vs. Girls series, check out her new website at     

And in honor of your outstanding books and being so good to let us interview you, we're going to give you the greatest honor we could possibly bestow and make you an Honorary Guy.

That's right--you now have the right to crack all the goofy jokes you'd like, make obnoxious noises at sporting events and eat insane amounts of food with no nutritional value. Yes, I know you're stunned at the greatness of this honor but don't worry--you've earned it!
All silliness aside, we truly appreciate your coming here and talking to us. And I'm going to look for your new book! Thanks again and, boys, be sure to check out her website but, more importantly, head over to your local library and check out her books!
(PS--if you'd like to see what the Iron Guy has said about the Boys vs Girls books, click on the "Boys vs Girls" tab under this post)


Ms. Yingling said...

Very cool indeed! I marvel at how much time Naylor spent with Alice, but didn't realize that the Boys vs. Girls series was 12 books! Thanks for doing this interview, and making Ms. Naylor an honorary guy!

Iron Guy Carl said...

If anyone deserves to be an Honorary Guy, it's you and Ms. Naylor! (and all the others too, of course)