Six Questions with Randall Platt
Randall Platt writes fiction for adults and young adults and those who aren’t sure which they are. Platt is a lifelong resident of the Upper Left Hand Corner, and many of her books are set in the Pacific Northwest. Her novels have won several awards including twice winning the Willa Literary Award and twice winning the Will Rogers Medallion for best young adult literature. Platt has also received the Keystone State Reading Award, been a finalist for the PEN Center USA award as well twice being a finalist for the Washington State Book Award. Her middle-grade novel, Professor Renoir’s Collection of Oddities, Curiosities, and Delights, was released by HarperCollins Children’s Books in 2019. Visit Randall’s website to learn more about her and her work.
1. How did you begin your journey as an author?
In the fifth grade, I so wanted to be an actress I wrote screenplays with a ripe, juicy part for ME in them. And then I sent them off to Warner Brothers studio with my letter indicating they didn’t need to worry about next week’s episode (Bonanza, Maverick, Wagon Train) and I would guest star for free. Gutsy kid, huh? Turns out I wasn’t trying to be an actress, I was trying to be writer!
2. What are your daily writing habits and practices?
I begin my writing day - every day - at four. That would be in-the-morning four. This was from the habit I developed when I was a working mom and wife. At four, I had the house to myself. Quiet and dark and cold, perhaps, but to myself. Got in a few hours before the family charged awake and I charged off to work. I have been a full time writer now for several decades and I still maintain that habit. Work. Work out. Zonk out. Edit. I’m pretty shot by 3, so that’s when bills get paid, dogs get played with, research gets done. Exciting, huh?
3. What kind of student were you?
I was holding my own until they pressed ‘story problems’ on me in the fourth grade. Susie’s Mom wants her to take five dollars to the corner store and buy milk, bread, and butter. (it was a long time ago.) If those items costs this, this, and this, how much change will Susie return to her mother? But, I’m going: WHAT IF Susie gets mugged on the way to the store? What if Susie owes her bookie, pockets the money, and lifts the goods? So, from that point on, all things in my student life lead to WHAT IF. Oddly, I still have trouble balancing my bank statement.
4. Can you tell us a little about your most recent book, Professor Renoir’s Collection of Oddities, Curiosities, and Delights?
Several years ago, I wrote The Likes Of Me - a young adult novel about a young half Asian, half Caucasian, and ALL albino girl who becomes a side show sensation in the seedy side of Seattle (say that fast three times!) in 1918. Her troubling stepmother happens to be a giant by the name of Babe. In the ensuing years, I have always wondered what it must have been like to grow up as a giant. In the 1890s, there were little options for anyone ‘different.’ So, my inspiration for this book was actually an earlier book. And I might suggest it would be interesting to see how my giant Babe fared as the first female on a college football team.
5. What was your editorial process for this book?
Wowser! Glad you asked! My agent sold that book with the title My Life As A Freak. First person and geared for young adults. The book found a great home at HarperChildrens but one little change, if I wouldn't’ mind: They wanted the book in third person and suited for middle graders. That meant every sentence, thought, and dialogue had to be changed. Every word. But dang if it wasn’t the right call on the editor’s part. Much better book. I’m glad I learned early on to listen to my editor.
6. Who should read this book?
Now that you know the story behind the story, I would say that animal lovers of all ages will enjoy the book since you can’t have a carnival without animals. Jupiter the bear, Euclid the chimp, and Egypt the elephant. Also, anyone who is attracted to characters who live and grow well outside the ‘norm’ of society would love to get to know Babe the giant, Carlotta the dwarf, and Professor Renoir who exploits all of them.
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