The Five Questions: Kekla Magoon

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“‘Write what you know’ is the worst advice.”

Fortunately, Kekla Magoon has better advice. She is the author of many novels, including the recently published How it Went Down, and will be one of the excellent authors featured at the Boston Teen Author Festival at the Cambridge Public Library on Saturday, September 26.

1. What’s the surprising inspiration behind one (your choice) of the characters or stories you’ve created?

I wrote about the Black Panthers and Malcolm X, and my stories help to show that these guys were really quite different than what is stereotypically thought about radical black activists. I portray them in a way that is true to the real life inspiration, but may be surprising to some readers, which I love, because it helps broaden people’s understandings of civil rights activism.

2. If you could rescue one obscure book and make it more widely known to the world, which book would you choose and why?

In high school I loved a book called Being of Two Minds, by Pamela F. Service. It’s about two best friends, Connie and Rudy, who share a unique telepathic link. As a lonely teen, I really liked the friendship story there, and the fantasy of being very connected to one special friend who would travel across the world to save you.

3. You can ask one question to any author, living or dead. What would you ask and why?

I would want to talk to Audre Lorde. I’ve always loved her quote: “Your silence will not protect you.” I’d ask her if there was anything about which she remained silent that she regrets.

4. What’s the best (or your favorite) feedback you’ve received from a reader?

A seventh-grader once told me, “I was reading your book and it was time to go to bed, but I didn’t want to stop reading, so I took it into the bathroom, propped it on the mirror, and read it while I brushed my teeth.”

5. What’s the worst writing advice you’ve received from a teacher?

“Write what you know” is the worst advice. If you worry too much about writing based on your experience, you cut off your imagination, and what you write can come out sounding stilted. Your experiences, history, and knowledge are going to inform your writing whether you mean them to or not. Just as fantasy can be the most effective allegory for society, any piece of fiction inherently reflects the thoughts and hopes of its author. The intersection between your imagination and your real self is where the magic of storytelling happens.

For more information about Kekla Magoon and her books:

Visit her online at: keklamagoon.com
Follow her on Twitter: @KeklaMagoon

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