1. What can your tell our readers about your new novel Call Me Drog?
I hope and believe it is not quite like anything you have read before. A boy finds a bald, green hand puppet in a trashcan and puts it on. The puppet not only talks without any apparent means of doing so, but is rude and sarcastic andfunny, sometimes intentionally. No matter what he tries, Parker can’t get Drog off his hand, and no one believes it’s not Parker doing the talking-not his mother, not his teacher or classmates, certainly not his estranged father—not even his best friend, Wren. So he’s alone with his creepy critic, and if he can’t find a way to get him off soon, he’s headed for military school. If only he could just get back to normal. . .
2. You gave up teaching American and Asian history to write, how difficult was it to make this decision?
I enjoyed my classes and students, but to teach well I had to be organized, alert, and on schedule. To write well I needed to daydream and let the rudder go. I was never able to shift back and forth between those two brains that quickly, so I finally just had to choose the one that came most naturally to me.
3. The novel is an unusual idea, so where did it arise from?
Good question. The story developed over several years, and in the beginning, I probably could have answered this easily. I can say that I have always been interested in puppet characters, and that I like stories that are realistic except for one impossible element, in this case the talking puppet. I made and wore a Drog puppet, by the way, in order to hear his voice in the story. I hope readers get to the end of the book without being sure who Drog is or how he talks!
4. What made you involve an adult subject such as divorce in a children's book?
Adults divorce by choice. The children involved have no choice but to deal with the consequences and “adjust”; so it is also a children’s subject. In Parker’s case, his parents’ divorce makes it even more difficult for his father to understand his creative nature and communicate with him, so it’s up to young Parker to repair the relationship.
5. You read a lot of fairy tales and detective stories when you were young, so who were your main influences?
Hans Christian Anderson, definitely, especially The Snow Queen (now that I think about it, the boy-girl friendship and quest in that story probably influenced this novel). Edgar Allen Poe. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Agatha Christie. The older, freer Nancy Drew. The radio series“Suspense,” “Escape,” and later “The Twilight Zone” (those involved listening, not reading, I know, but those stories gripped my imagination).
6. Who did you most like to read when you were young?
I devoured Greek myths and fairy tales, including Chinese and Japanese tales—especially anything with a magic object in it –a stone, a ring, a lamp. I loved The Secret Garden. I would have loved The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, but didn’t read it until later. Wonder Woman comics (the original version of her) captivated and surprised me, because I grew up in an era of woman –driver jokes.
7. Who will enjoy this book?
Eight- to-twelve year old readers, to begin with, because the main character is eleven. But the outrageous puppet is ageless and he has many adult fans, as does Parker, whose circumstances force him to confront questions many adults would find daunting. Anyone who likes surprise and comic relief in a book that asks serious questions will enjoy this book. Anyone who is afraid of puppets will not!
8. Do you think it is important for children to have an outlet, even if it is through a toy, if things are not going well in their life?
Yes, but let’s be careful not to call Drog a toy! Wren almost loses her best friend because she calls Drog a doll. He is in fact a force to be reckoned with and, in spite of all his wild stories, a strange kind of truth teller. Where would Parker be without him?
9.This is your debut novel, so what is next for you?
My next novel will be about two quite opposite twelve-year-old boys and a funny, talented dog named Bravo, who just may or may not be reincarnated.
10. What advice can you give to aspiring writers who wish to write for children?
Don't be in a rush to publish. Read many, many books for children, and study the ones you can’t put down. Know, respect, and love the things children love. Take your readers somewhere else.
Female First Lucy Walton