"Monika Schröder grew up in Germany. She has worked as elementary school teacher and librarian in international schools in Egypt, Chile, the Sultanate of Oman, and India. She currently lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina with her husband and dog."
(KBR= Kid Book Reviewer, MS=Monika Shröder)
MS: I only became an author when I was already forty years old. As a child I always loved to read, but I didn't like to write. Then later, I was already a teacher, I took a class for which I had to write a story. That's when I wrote a story about something that happened to my father when he was a child at the end of World War II in Germany. And the instructor of my class liked my story and encouraged me to continue writing. Out of that grew, over many years, my first book, THE DOG IN THE WOOD.
KBR: What was your favorite activity to do as a child? Did you have a favorite book?
MS: I used to be a swimmer when I was younger. I also loved horseback riding. And I always loved to read. I grew up in Germany and my favorite books were by Astrid Lindgren, the author of the Pippi Longstocking novels.
KBR: What’s your favorite part about writing? What’s an average day for you when you write?
MS: I try to spend about four hours a day at my desk. But I don't always put words on paper, some days I only change a comma or stare out of the window. My favorite part is revising. I enjoy making a draft better and better through the process of revision.
KBR: Are there any obstacles you overcame as a writer, and if so, how did you overcome them?
MS: The biggest obstacle for a writer is rejection. My first book was rejected and BE LIGHT LIKE A BIRD also was rejected before we found a publisher. It is important not to loose faith and to have stamina. You cannot give up if you want to be a writer.
KBR: Be Light Like a Bird, your latest novel, is about a girl who's father passes away in a plane crash. Her mother, angry, decides to pack up their things and go on the road. Eventually, they come to stop in a place called Pyramid. What was your inspiration for this story?
[MS: (I am combing these two questions in my answer.)]
KBR: Wren, the main character of Be Light Like a Bird, is a very interesting character. Is she based on any living/historical person? If not, how did you conceive of her?
MS: I often start a book with setting. The seed idea for Be Light Like a Bird came to me the first time I saw a landfill. My husband and I had cleaned out the cabin my husband inherited from his father in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. I couldn't believe it when he drove all the stuff to a landfill nearby, a big hole where people bury unwanted items. In Germany we recycle or incinerate most of our garbage, so it left an impression on me when I saw a guy dropping a vacuum cleaner, a book shelf and an entire carpet into the landfill...a cemetery for junk.
I learned more about this landfill and read about the people in the community who had fought its expansion. Then I asked myself a "What if...?" question: What if there were a girl who loved birds and whose bird watching was threatened by the expansion of the landfill? Once I had that girl in my mind, I found myself asking more and more about her life. How did she get to Michigan's Upper Peninsula? And why was birding so important to her? I learned that her father had recently died and that her mother had more or less dragged her up north. She was grieving and lonely and once she arrived in Upper Michigan she came up with a plan to make her mother stay. From there the story of Wren developed.
KBR: What is your favorite genre to write in, and why?
MS: I love history. I actually studied history and I read a lot of historical fiction. I love reading and thinking about the way people lived in the past. When I travel I always imagine what it was like in a place in earlier times.
KBR: If you could go back in time and give yourself advice as a young writer, what would it be, and why?
MS: Don't give up! You will become a better writer with more practice. It takes time and you also need luck. You will get lucky!
KBR: Do you have any new children's books in the making? If so, could you share a few hints?
MS: I am working on two projects, a middle-grade mystery novel set in Calcutta, India in 1832, and I have recently submitted a manuscript for a picture book about my dog, Frank, whom we adopted from the streets of India. In it Frank exchanges a series of letters with a dog-friend back in Delhi, describing his new, spoiled life in the US.