Interview with Ammi-Joan Paquette and Laurie Thompson

This book is all about solid researching techniques. Where did you start digging once you had the idea for the book? Or did plans for a series come partway through the research phase?
Joan: The idea for this book first sprang out of the abundance of exciting and unbelievable true stories that we saw around us in the news and on social media every day. As these stories crossed our screens, we made note of them in a spreadsheet. So when it came time to compile the actual book material, we had a wealth of options to choose from. Of course, the story that first caught our attention was not always the most accurate or factual account—in fact, in some cases, as we learned, it was not factual at all, which led us to drop it or revise our delivery. We found ourselves learning a whole lot about research and sources and accuracy as we went along. (I know I did for sure!)

Laurie: As you can see from the bibliography, we used a variety of sources to verify the stories we ended up including, including the internet, books, newspapers, academic journals, archives, and even some personal interviews. Even our false stories have some elements of truth in them, so those had to be researched, too, but we did have fun bending the truth a bit for those ones.

How did you get hooked on non-fiction? Were you the kind of kid who read the encyclopedia for fun?

Joan: I have to bow to Laurie on this particular front; she is a bonafide non-fiction author from way back. I’ve always been more of a fiction gal myself—which is why, I think, we make such an excellent team. I’ve got an eye out for the jazzy voice and story elements, and Laurie keeps me honest on the fact-based side.

Laurie: Yes, I actually did read the encyclopedia for fun! My family had a whole set, on the bottom shelf of a huge built-in bookcase. Some of my happiest childhood memories involved laying on the carpet, flipping through pages, and seeing what random facts I could learn. Of course, I read everything I could get my hands on back then, including my mom’s romance novels, my dad’s hunting magazines, and my brother’s Dungeons & Dragons manuals, in addition to more age-appropriate fiction, but nonfiction was–and still is–one of my favorite genres.

Do you have any particular memories of how you were encouraged to find the facts? And do you have any tips for parents and teachers who want to convince young readers to explore non-fiction books?
Joan: I think we are living in a golden age of bookish non-fiction! Each year the NF offerings seem to grow in richness, quantity, and complexity, covering just about every subject in the Dewey decimal system 😉 I think the best way to encourage kids to explore non-fiction is to make tons of it available. Find out what subjects your young readers are interested in, then fill their arms with some of the amazing books on the subject. I have a feeling you won’t have to work very hard from that point on…

Laurie: Kids are naturally curious and always want to learn more about the world around them, so I don’t think they need to be convinced to explore nonfiction as much as they simply need to be offered the opportunity to enjoy it. I have heard librarians put down kids’ nonfiction reading choices and tell them to read “real” books (meaning novels) instead. If we don’t put that idea into kids’ heads in the first place, then I believe they will gravitate to nonfiction books as a natural source of answers to their real-world questions.

What did this book teach you about yourself as a writer?
Joan: This book taught me that I can be a non-fiction writer! I never thought that I would venture to that side of the writing post, but now that I have, I truly love it.

Laurie: This book (and Joan!) helped me get much more in touch with my middle-grade voice. I also learned a lot about doing photo research–a task that I was initially dreading but have come to love!

What categories and topics can we look forward to in future installments?
Joan: Our forthcoming book in the series is titled Two Truths and a Lie: Histories and Mysteries, and it takes a social studies approach, with stories from history, tales from around the world, and amazing people and cultures from the past and present. Some of our favorite stories are in this volume, which releases this June!

Laurie: And we’re working on the third book now, which will have a physical science angle, including stories about chemistry, physics, geology, astronomy, and other science topics. Or, perhaps that’s a lie… 😉

Thank you so much for your time!

Be sure to catch Joan and Laurie on Twitter (Joan/Laurie) and on their websites (Joan/Laurie).  You can also catch Laurie on Facebook and Instagram as well.