Five Questions For: Jennifer Trafton, Author of The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic

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I am delighted to present to you this short interview with the very talented and funny Jennifer Trafton. Jennifer is the author of The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic, a novel for young readers and old readers (see Question 1).

Idea: Why not spend some of that Christmas cash you got on a fine, beautifully illustrated story? Or you can spend it on illegal drugs? I think the choice is clear.

Jennifer is personally autographing every edition purchased from The Rabbit Room bookstore. I assume that other people are autographing the copies sold in other locations. (Bad form. Not very British of them.)

My 7 year old daughter has The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic sitting beneath our tree, awaiting her discovery on one of these 12 days of Christmas. We’re all very excited to get our hands on it after she reads it in one day.

Some dude named Andrew Petersomething reviewed this book here at the RR. He said, like, it was good. And stuff.

1. What are your thoughts on what makes a story “for children” and, conversely, “for adults?” Any thoughts on what makes “children’s lit” unique/worthwhile?

I’ve never been very concerned about putting things into categories. Good stories are good stories. In my view “children’s literature” is any literature children like to read – which can, of course, differ from child to child. When I think of the stories that have tickled my funny bone the most, that have stretched my imagination in myriad directions, that have dealt with profound issues of life and death in ways that are searing in their simplicity, I usually end up in the “children’s section” of the bookstore. If such stories are not “for adults” as well, I pity the adults.

There is nothing wrong, of course, with a book having a specific intended audience. A story has two participants, the writer and the reader, and they make a kind of magic together. Whether or not that relational magic works has less to do with formulas than with empathy. When I picture the readers with whom I want to be in that relationship as a storyteller, I picture kids (often particular kids I know) because I love their imaginative scope, their freedom from many “adult” concerns and hang-ups, their lack of cynicism, their embrace of silliness as well as mystery. So I write “for children” because I feel like, at the level of the imagination, and in the stories I love to read and love to write, I’m one of them.

2. What is your favorite color and what do you want to be when you grow up?

My favorite color is joyful and I want to be red when I grow up.

Wait. Stop. Reverse that.

Okay, continue.

3. Is there a deeper reason why you believe you are called to write novels other than for the billions of dollars you make?

No, the billions are enough. Occasionally I wake up in the morning and say to myself, “Jennifer, you have all those imaginary dollars lying in your imaginary bank account, doing nothing but gathering imaginary dust. Isn’t there more to life than this? Making art is a treacherous and beautiful adventure. It requires great courage and creative playfulness and a healthy sense of self-mockery. A story can change someone’s life; it can wiggle its way into a child’s heart and plant a seed there that will grow and blossom as the years go by, until one day that grown-up child (who has never fully grown up, thankfully) will look back and say, ‘That story was one of the things that shaped who I am as a person.’ What a terrifying privilege for a storyteller! What a responsibility! What a calling!”

This line of reasoning convinces me until my rent is due. Then I pray everyone rushes to the store and buys my book.

4. On a scale of 1-3, how irritating do you find scales?

Seven, at least. Seriously, they are the bane of my existence these days. I’ve tried everything—soap, rubbing alcohol, scouring pads, pliers . . . They will not come off. And believe me, they itch.

I think my next book should be about a dragon.

5. What’s next for Jennifer Trafton, author? A new novel? A line of knitted green berets for the “army stuff” section at Wal-Mart? A run for Governor of Puerto Rico? Spill the beans!

In 2011 I’ll be diving back into a third novel I’m in the middle of writing, which I am very excited about, because I will get to think about giraffes and ridiculous inventions and call it “work.” (How many of you can say that about your jobs? Other than the zookeepers and mad inventors reading this, of course.) I will also be rearranging my closet, editing things that need to be edited, washing dishes occasionally, warning people about giants, and eating way too much ice cream. Beyond that, I’ve given up on “planning ahead” in life. The best (and worst) things come unexpectedly. I hope there will be many new friends to meet, great books to read, travels to new places, much to laugh about, a lot of Oreos, and very few beans, spilled or unspilled. Like the heroine of MOUNT MAJESTIC, Persimmony Smudge, I am craving a new adventure right now. But as Bilbo Baggins once wisely said, sometimes all you have to do to start having an adventure is to go out your own door: “You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no telling where you might be swept off to.”

Thanks, Jennifer.

Find Jennifer at her website. (You can read the first chapter of her book here.)

Jennifer on Twitter.

Jennifer at The Rabbit Room Store. (Autographed copies.)

Note: Originally posted at my website. In Klingon. Not really. -Sam


22 Comments

  1. Eric Tippin

    I finished reading this interview, and now I am going to buy the book. As rabbit-room posts go–and they tend to ‘go’ pretty well–this is a quality one; yes, this is a quality one. A good man is hard to find, and so is a great book. I’ll soon find out if this one fits that description (the book not the man).

  2. luaphacim

    An excellent interview. But I’m surprised that it wasn’t first published in the Times Literary Supplement or some other suitably highbrow publication.

  3. Ben

    Just started the book a few nights ago with my three oldest, ages 11, 7, and 4. All are equally wide-eyed and did NOT want me to stop reading. I didn’t know how my 4-year-old daughter (think A.D.D.) would react, but she never made a peep and couldn’t keep her eyes off me. When, in the first chapter, a certain creature was approaching a certain character, I saw her pulling the covers up over her nose. . . but not over her eyes. Perfect. 🙂

  4. Andrew Peterson

    @andrew

    Jamie just told me that tonight she’s going to start reading this to our younger two. I can’t wait. Thanks for doing the interview, Jennifer and S.D.

  5. kelli

    We started this a few days ago. I’m reading it aloud to my 2 daughters – ages 9 & 7 – who absolutely love it! I am one of those readers who does voices for each character, and I’ve had so much fun coming up with voices for these unique characters!

    This book grabs you immediately, and boy do you jump right into a lively adventure!

    Last night we read a very certain part, and my younger daughter immediately said, “Mama! That’s why the book has its name!” Just shows how much attention they are paying to the little details.

    They remark about King Lucas every time we use pepper, and the further we get into it, the more their curiosity is piqued about the various mysteries taking place within. And I constantly hear, “No, Mama! Don’t stop!” We read some yesterday afternoon, and before I read again last night, my girls had to fill Dad in on what he had missed. They did so with such detail and exuberance!

    The other thing I’ve noticed…my girls typically sketch, watercolor, sculpt, knit, etc. when I’m reading to them. The pictures they have created while I’ve been reading Mt. Majestic are so fantastical! I love it!! (Good art begets good art!)

    Brett Helquist’s illustrations are just the icing on the cake! We love to study them and get lost in the details…even if some of them are different than what are minds have sketched.

    Our whole family is thoroughly enjoying this book! Can’t wait for the next one, Jennifer!

  6. JenniferT

    Ben and Kelli, it is so gratifying to hear children’s reactions to the story. It makes all the work and the wait of publication worthwhile. Thank you for sharing these things with me. Kelli, I wish I could see your girls’ artwork!

  7. Patrick

    After reading Andrew’s review I let someone (who was digging for gift ideas) know that this is a book I would like to read. I received it as a Christmas present, and I Love this story! Very rich and powerful, and every time I suspected I knew what would happen next, I was pleasantly surprised. My 7 year old daughter picked it up after I finished and has a hard time putting it down to do anything else. This is a terrific story for all ages. Thanks, Jennifer! And to Andrew Peterson, S.D. Smith, and The Rabbit Room for promoting this story!

  8. BuckBuck the Nordic Wonderduck

    Oh my goodness. I love everything about this interview. How many imaginary dollars would you two charge to just rewrite my whole world?

    P.S. JT, my daughter was giddy she loved your book so much. I’ve already told you that, but here’s a ‘go girl’ part deux!

    🙂 Becca

  9. Greg Pyne

    So I just learned of the Rabbit Room not too long ago, and now have a pile of books to get through, of which Mount Majestic is on the list (currently working my way through On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness).

    I liked when Jennifer said:

    “I write “for children” because I feel like, at the level of the imagination, and in the stories I love to read and love to write, I’m one of them.”

    I think getting back that child-like state of enjoying story is important as well. CS Lewis once wrote to someone saying “At fifty, I can finally start enjoying fairy tales again,” meaning he felt he could finally forego the sense of having to “act the adult,” in exchange for feeling that sense of wonder in a story. And I get that sense from Jennifer’s quote as well.

    I find myself diving back into literature like this for many reasons, but on the forefront of those is a sense of “preparing a library” for my as-yet-born-boy. I wonder if any parents out there can relate to this: are there books like Jennifer’s which you feel you HAD to have around the house for your kids to enjoy reading (or being read to) as they grew? Which urged you, say, to replace that copy of The BFG by Roald Dahl that you lost so long ago?

  10. Danielle

    I read this after reading Andrew’s review and I LOVE THIS BOOK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! To be honest, one of the things that convinced me was the name “Guafnoggle”. 😀 I read it in two days. Why, oh why, can’t there be more books like this?

  11. RG

    I got this book for my 10 year old daughter for Christmas, but I couldn’t resist the temptation to read it first. MOUNT MAJESTIC swept me into the story with ease with its irresistible characters and bright and lovely spirit. The dubiously unstable setting of the breathing isle makes a perfect counterpoint to the permanence and passionate fortitude of these fantastical characters. I just loved it. And my daughter is almost done with it. I can’t wait to talk with her about it.

    Thanks for this great work, Jennifer!!

  12. Sondorik

    This is a book that also defies tired clichés–you can actually judge it by its cover. Colorful, fantastical, and endearing were my first impressions when I picked up TR&FOMM. Once I delved into the story, it delivered all this and more. A must-have for any home library, especially one frequented by youngsters or the young at heart. Don’t miss this chance to own an autographed first-edition copy. I figure mine will be worth not-so-imaginary billions someday as Miss Trafton’s first star in a constellation of beautiful titles. 🙂

  13. SarahN

    I am an adult who just finished reading this book, and I thought it was positively brilliant–funny and moving, with every little detail meaningful. Thanks to the Rabbit Room for the recommendation!

  14. Pete Peterson

    @pete

    For those of you that loved the book, don’t forget to let people know both on Amazon and in the user review section of the Rabbit Room store. Believe it or not, user reviews are a BIG help to an author.

    Here’s the link to the book on Amazon:

    http://www.amazon.com/Rise-Fall-Mount-Majestic/dp/0803733755/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1294356273&sr=8-1

    Here’s the link to the book in the Rabbit Room store:

    https://store.rabbitroom.com/books/the-rise-and-fall-of-mount-majestic

  15. Ashley Elizabeth

    I just finished it last night (I’m always late to the party) and man oh man, Jennifer, it was fantastic. The story snuggled with me all night and lingers still today.

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