Louis Sachar is an author of children’s books, and one who had a big stamp on my childhood with his perhaps best known book, Holes. I remember it being one of the first proper books I read on my own as a child. Louis Sachar actually won the U.S. National Book Award for Young People’s Literature in 1998 for Holes, among many other awards. The book also was ranked at number six in a list of all-time children’s novels in a survey published by School Library Journal. Louis is also known for his Wayside School series. Louis Sachar could have just as easily become a lawyer, but luckily for children all over the globe, his first book was accepted for publication during his first year of law school. Please enjoy my interview with the wonderful Louis Sachar…
When someone asks you ‘what do you do for a living?’ – How do you respond?
I write childrens’ books.
At the moment, I’m reading Single and Single by John Le Carre.
When you think about your childhood, what book comes to mind?
The book that comes to mind is Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White.
Can you remember the first story you ever wrote?
No, I can’t. But I do remember that it was in high school when I started to love reading, and then writing. That was when I was introduced to the works of Salinger, Vonnegut, Steinbeck, Dostoevsky and others. My favorite authors became my heroes.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
An author. I read Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger when I was in 9th grade. It was not an assignment. My best friend was reading it at the same time, and every day we would discuss these enigmatic stories. “Why did he have a chicken sandwich in his pocket?” and that sort of thing.
What do you think your school aged self would think of the present day you?
I think I’d be very glad — can’t wait to grow up and be that guy!
Does your reading have routine? Is there a particular time or place that you like to read?
Which book has had the biggest impact on your career so far?
I suppose you are asking about a book I wrote? It would be my first one, Sideways Stories From Wayside School. If it wasn’t for that one, I never would have written the others.
What two pieces of advice would you give a young aspiring writer?
1. Don’t try to do too much too quickly. Writing takes a lot of patience. For me, that means writing at most a couple of hours a day, and not worrying too much if what I write is terrible, because I know I’ll return to it sometime in the future when I’ll have a better idea about what is needed.
2. But in the end, don’t settle for mediocrity and expect an editor to find the genius buried within. You have to rewrite and rewrite until it’s the best you can possibly make it.
The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro. It is the most original work I have ever read. It is so carefully written, realistically presenting every detail of a world that in fact is very much unreal. I can’t imagine how Ishiguro was able to write it.
Do you prefer fiction or non-fiction?
I prefer fiction. Non fiction is limited by what can be actually known. Fiction allows the author to create his own facts, and use to that to reveal more universal truths.
Do you think reading is important?
I think reading is very important. There’s a real connection between author and reader. In many ways it’s a deeper connection than I have with people I see regularly.
What’s the best book you’ve read in the last 6 months?
The best books I’ve read in the last 6 months are The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro and Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America by Jill Leovy.
Ghettoside is nonfiction, but reads like fiction. It deals with the relationship between the police and an inner city community, but it does so in a way that is quite different from the usual things we hear on the subject. Reading Ghettoside opened my eyes, and my heart. The Buried Giant could be called a “fantasy” novel, with ogres and giants, and such, but it is nothing like that. Those aspects seem like metaphors, in a thought-provoking novel about life, love, mortality, and death.
Do you prefer real books or digital books?
I prefer real books.
Name a book that you feel every human should have to read by law.
I think most books help humanity by stimulating critical thinking and empathy. Obviously, I prefer some to others, but it is mostly a question of taste.
What is the book that you feel has had the single biggest impact on your life?
Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger. It’s the book that made me love reading, and writing.