Though Louis Sachar would probably advise not to talk about it...
Back to the Tucson Festival of Books AGAIN! I went to this panel to see Louis Sachar because I read and liked the Sideways Stories from Wayside School books when I was a little kid, and I missed the panel that was dedicated to just him. The other panelists were Candace Fleming and Grace Lin. The panel was ostensibly something about cross-genre something something, but it didn't really turn out that way, IMO.
I don't write children's books (the WIP I'm planning is Young Adult) but it was pretty interesting to go to a panel in a different genre than you're used to every so often.
I believe the first question was, why do you write "cross genre"? Louis Sachar noted that when he was younger, he remembered the world as a kid, but now that he has a 24-year-old daughter, he has trouble seeing 4th graders as anything but cute little darlings.
Candace Fleming was after my own heart. She has many interests (she mentioned that she wants to research Amelia Earhart and also bunnies). She called this her "adult ADHD." and thinks it "makes life interesting." Every day she goes to her desk and decides which topic to write about. (As an aside, I tried to take this idea to heart and have two projects going at once. Except I've got my co-authored novel, playing around with my co-author, and how many other ideas...!)
Grace Lin found that she was writing a picture book and tried to cut it down, but it wouldn't work as a picture book, so she had to write a novel.
Sachar noted that it always amazes him when someone comes up to him and says, "What happened to this character at the end?" He'd say, "I don't know. The book ended."
As for how long it takes to work, Fleming noted that it takes 3-5 years to research biographies--but she doesn't research every day. She visits big libraries and does big chunks at one time, like three weeks at a library.
Sachar said it took 6 drafts of a book and he does not talk about it until it's done. "If you talk about it, you never do it." "Not talking about it focuses me just on wanting to write it." He prefers rewriting, and says the first draft is like pulling teeth.
For motivation, he said, "I'm never going to write as good as Tolstoy; why bother?" But you're not trying to top anybody; you're trying to write the best you can write and hopefully people will read it. "The object is to try to write something that's really, really good. My belief is if you do that, you will get published."
Lin added that she realized she was never going to be a master painter, but that's OK. She said don't become an author to impress people, but because there is something in you you want to share with the world.
(Lin also some really interesting stories, noting that her mom kind of was like the Tiger Mom, and strongly discouraged her from being an artist. But, she said that actually drove her more, in that she had to be very successful to prove herself.)
For historical fiction, Fleming said to research as much as you possibly can and then hope you get it right. At the end of the day, it's about the character, and emotion stays the same throughout time. Fill it in with imagination and educated guesses.
My biggest disappointment of the panel, by far, was to find that Sachar only started liking reading in high school, when he read JD Salinger and Kurt Vonnegut. O_O
As for eBooks, picture book author/artist Lin focuses on how to make the book special so people will want to own it versus having it on a screen. It was mentioned that people may actually buy more eBooks, instead of going to the library.