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Connecting Readers with Finger Lakes Authors

Spotlight on Vivian Vande Velde

How long have you been writing?

Your question has made me feel very, very old. I have always written, but I started writing professionally 42 years ago.

When you write, do you prefer pen and paper or the computer?

Mostly I create at the computer (unless I get an idea when sitting at the computer isn’t handy). I like to do first-round revisions on a hard copy. (Pencil, not pen–I change my mind too often. And I’m likely to change again as I type the corrections into the document. And multiple times after that on each re-read, right up until the time the book is sent off to the printer.)

Of the books you’ve written, which one is your favorite and why?

A Hidden Magic is my first book. It’s the one that proved to me that I could sit down, write an entire story, and keep submitting it (32 rejections) until an editor finally said yes. That said, I have learned a lot about writing since then, so there are things I would do differently, meaning it is certainly not the best-written of my books. (It starts slowly, the funny parts could have been funnier; the tense parts could have been tenser.) But it was a start, and it has great illustrations by Trina Schart Hyman. Probably my favorite of my own books is Heir Apparent. Because it’s set in a game (think one step beyond virtual reality), I could throw all sorts of things at the reader: tiny dragons (as well as full-sized ones), a love-sick barbarian king, an army of ghosts, magic gone awry, the statue of St. Bruce the Warrior Poet to whom the player must recite an original poem–or else!)

What’s your favorite book by another author?

I read To Kill a Mockingbird when I was in 7th or 8th grade, when I focused on the mysterious neighbor aspect; read it again in high school, when I was nearly overwhelmed by the racial injustice it portrayed; read it again as a young mother, where I took special note of Atticus’s parenting style. And several times in between. When a book can speak to a reader at different ages, that’s the sign of a great book. I looked forward to Harper Lee’s 2nd book, Go Set a Watchman, and wish I had never read it as it cast a long shadow on the earlier book. Let’s say your favorite TV show ever was Friends. And let’s say that in the last episode, it was suddenly revealed that Phoebe was a serial killer, and before the closing credits, she killed all the others. Once you’d seen this, could you ever watch reruns of the previous episodes without that unwanted knowledge coming back to haunt you? And while, no, Atticus does not turn out to be a serial killer, neither is he the man I thought he was.

What was your favorite childhood book?

The Wizard of Oz. I loved that magical land. Besides, my dad read it to me, and that made the book even more precious to me.

What’s your secret guilty pleasure?

Chocolate. Oh, wait! Anyone who knows me knows I love chocolate, so I guess it’s not a secret.

If life gave you a chance for one do-over, what would you choose?

I would try to be more patient with my parents. Today-self would tell teenager-self: They aren’t going to be around forever.

Favorite thing to binge watch?

Star Trek. (The original. Next Generation. Voyager. Deep Space Nine. In that order.)

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What is something that you wish people would ask you?

Would you like some chocolate?

What was your first job?

Office help in a supermarket.

What’s your favorite piece of music?

“Ode to Joy.” Close second is “Unchained Melody.” Any version of either of these.

What’s the most dominant color in your wardrobe?

Blue-green.