N.E. Bode is an amazing and mysterious author, the creator of the Anybodies, as well as many other superawesome titles. He graduated from the prestigious Alton School for the Remarkably Giftless and has been fired, with only a tiny bit of warrant, from every job he’s ever had. He is alone in the world, and having offended the fine tastes of his writing professor – an extremely well-honored writer – he now lives in fear of being chased down and harmed by the crazed man.
But even more amazing than all of that is the simple fact that N.E. Bode is actually Julianna Baggott, a woman every bit as incredible as Mr. Bode. Today, we’re sitting down with Ms. Baggott, to pick her enormous (and wildly prolific) mind.
Mixed Up Files: Julianna, we’re curious about your decision to juggle personalities. Can we ask why you’ve chosen that path?
JB: I didn’t set out to be a personality juggler. I had one personality, my own, which seemed plenty. But then I was writing a bit too much — novels for adults at that point — and my agent asked me if I wanted to hide under a pen name for a while and write thrillers. The problem was that I’m easily terrified. I don’t like playing the board game Clue — I developed a fear of candlestick holders from that game! Anyway, I started out loving magical realism so why not go back to that. N.E. Bode was born. I liked being someone else so much that I decided to be Bridget Asher too. But at a certain point, you have to stop. So I’m trying to be Baggott again.
Mixed Up Files: Well, we like Baggott plenty! Your most recent middle grade book is under your own name. Why the shift?
JB: It was my editor’s idea. The Prince of Fenway Park is my voice — Baggott-esque — not Bode-ish. And so it worked for me too!
Mixed Up Files: So, can we ask–why is Bode a man?
JB: This is odd, but when I was writing in Bode’s voice for the first book, it was simply Bode — not Bode the man or Bode the woman. Just Bode. Then marketing came along and said, “How are you going to write this bio? He or she?” And I had to answer. Neither seemed right and so I said the one that seemed the least wrong, “He.” And that was that. It’s been a little challenging ever since. I kind of regret having to have to decide.
Mixed Up Files: How does writing for adults differ from writing for children?
JB: Well, kids are smarter readers. They don’t need as much hand-holding. If something wild happens, they go with it. Adult readers need a lot of preparation. They have to kind of see it coming without knowing they’re seeing it, which is trying, frankly. But kids don’t need to see it coming. They go along for the wild ride. So I get to be wilder.
Mixed Up Files: You run an amazing non-profit for this age group. Can you tell us about that?
JB: Kids in Need – Books in Deed gets free books to underprivileged kids in the state of Florida. We mostly do book drives. One group of kids unloads the books they’ve already read and we get them to kids who need books in their houses. We move books around. The site is: www.booksindeed.org. (We also take cash donations.)
Mixed Up Files: As a teacher, do you teach writing for children? Is it different from teaching adult fiction or poetry?
JB: I teach fiction for adults mostly. But if a students writes for a younger audience, that’s fine as well. I teach a little poetry, but not much. A story for adults told through a child’s eyes is very different from a story for kids told through a child’s eyes. Basically, what ever age you are, you’re drawn to stories in which the person close to you in age has a real shot at making a difference. We’re just kind of like that. And it makes a difference in the way you approach a story and the way you approach teaching how to write a story.
Mixed Up Files: You’ve recently become very involved as an Op-Ed writer, addressing political issues that often touch on children’s literature. Why do you do that?
JB: I used to simply get frustrated and fuss around the house at the people around me. This wasn’t really helping anyone, and it was a burden to the people around me — even the dogs. So I started writing down my thoughts and notions and sent them out into the world. Some are about real things that have happened to me — like the time a Zombie and a Zombie-slayer both showed up in my workshop on the same day — to my opinions of larger matters that affect us all.
Mixed Up Files: Can you share some of your own favorite books?
JB: Can I shout to some Laurel Snyder? (at which point the interviewer blushes) Hoot, hoot and shout! I like the very terrifying Mr. Punch stuff done by Gaiman. I just read My Life with the Lincolns, middle grade realism set during the Civil Rights Movement.
Mixed Up Files: One last thing– how do you do it all? You have 4 kids, a full time teaching job, and a publishing career that seems nearly impossible.