How did you get into writing?
One of my grandmothers was an English teacher and after my fifth birthday, she made a book with me about my party. I told her what to write, she scribed it, and I “illustrated” it with my crayons. It was pretty awesome to my five-year-old self. After that, I wrote all the time. I had notebooks, I played out stories in my dollhouse, and in high school, I started a novel that is pretty bad until you get to the parts of it that I finished in college. Also, I read a lot as a kid. I think reading leads to writing a lot of the time.
What other jobs have you had as you made your way to becoming a writer?
I also really liked school and I enjoyed playing school, so I got a teaching degree in college. In my mind, I was a writer, so I didn’t bother to pursue an English major or take creative writing classes. I just assumed I would write in my spare time like I’d always done. After college, I spent two years teaching overseas (1 year in the jungle) in Bolivia. When I came home, I had already started The Cinderella Theorem and was ready to be more proactive with writing. I took part-time work such as substitute teaching, giving piano lessons, and being a part-time social worker, so that I would have time to write. Currently, I homeschool my nine-year-old daughter, run our home, and write, write, write.
Where did the idea to combine math and magic come from?
On my recommendation, my sister stayed up all night reading Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine. (I recommended that she read it, not that she stay up all night.) The next morning, at breakfast she said, “You should write a book like that. Something with Cinderella.” My sister loves Cinderella. So the idea of a Cinderella book was turning around in my head. A few weeks after that, my college roommate confused two really well known fairy tales in a casual conversation. My roommate also happened to be a math major. Then the story stared clicking. What if someone who was clueless about fairy tales and loved order and logic found herself the future ruler of a magical (illogical) fairy tale kingdom?
Who or what inspired Lily's character?
That college roommate was a big influence on Lily’s character. In fact, when Lily tells her guidance counselor in the first chapter that she wants “to do pure mathematics research at a major university or be a code-breaker for the National Security Agency,” that is exactly what my roommate would say she wanted to do with her math degree.
What are some of your own favorite books/writers?
I like a lot of books, but I love all of the Anne of Green Gables series by L. M. Montgomery. Every time I read an Anne book, I feel sad that Anne is fictional and I can never be her friend in real life. I also love Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody books. I laugh out loud every time and almost never correctly guess who the villain is. Also anything by Carolyn Meyer is a big hit with me. I usually clear an entire day in my calendar for one of her books, so I can read it all up at once. (If I don’t clear the day, I still read it all at once and then I’m just behind on everything.) Patience, Princess Catherine is my favorite. Other favorites are the Harry Potter books, the Artemis Fowl books, Dead End in Norvelt, The Hobbit, and Watersmeet.
Something readers should particularly know about your novel?
There are footnotes in it. The story stands alone without the footnotes. They just add extra color, information or explanations to the story. Sort of like pop-ups on a music video.
Also, you do not have to be good at math to enjoy the book. Anything that isn’t commonly known, Lily explains in the footnotes. Nor do you have to know a lot about fairy tales. Lily knows practically nothing about them and chances are, you know more than her.
What are you working on now?
The sequel to The Cinderella Theorem, called Calculating Christmas. Lily and company have another adventure and must save Christmas. Also there is origami, a Halloween dance, and of course, math and fairy tales.
Favorite math course?
Interestingly, while I do like math, I don’t LOVE it as much as Lily does. I research a lot while writing her math bits. I remember feeling lost in Algebra 1 and Geometry. My Algebra 2 teacher helped me to understand things better (Thanks, Mr. Herring!), and the next year I loved Pre-Calculus and almost took Calculus for fun in college (okay, that does sound a little bit like Lily), but I couldn’t justify the VERY expensive textbook for an elective course.
Thank you Ms. Hernandez, for your time and interest!
Thank you very much for such a lovely interview! Ella Enchanted is still one of my most reread favorite books ever! Calculus was kind of fun though I wouldn't have taken it if not required for my major, but Statistics is where it's at!
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