meet katie the books about nancy news and reviews activities print print

What's your favorite thing about Katie Kazoo?
I love the fact that Katie and her friends are just like real kids. Sometimes they're nice, sometimes they're mean, and often they get into trouble. Katie and her friends are not perfect, but they are all good kids. Katie especially finds herself in a lot of messy situations when the magic wind blows. Luckily, she's always able to solve her problems once she's back in her own body. When Katie gets one of her great ideas it shows what a smart, quick-thinking girl she is.

How did you come up with the name Katie Kazoo?
I adore the word kazoo. It sounds funny when you hear it, and it feels funny on your tongue when you say it. It sort of buzzes like an actual kazoo does. Try it, you'll see!

Back when I was first thinking about this series, Katie's name was going to be Abby Kazoo. But it didn't sound funny enough. In the end, I changed her name to Katie because I liked the way Katie sounded with Kazoo. And of course kazoo rhymes with Switcheroo, which is what the series is all about!

Did you always want to be an author?
I didn't always want to be an author. When I was a teenager I had the lead in my camp's production of Grease, and for a long time I wanted to act on Broadway. But when I got to college, I joined my college newspaper and discovered that I was a much better writer than I was an actress (I'm actually a pretty terrible actress!). I liked writing a whole lot more than anything else I had ever done. I still do. In fact, the only thing I like better than being a writer is being a mom.

If you could have any other job, what would it be?
I write a lot of biographies of movie and music stars and sometimes I go on TV to talk about the stars I write about. It would be kind of fun to be one of the people who talks about the stars all the time on the entertainment shows. I would love to know what it feels like to be all dressed up on the red carpet talking to the performers before the Oscars or the Emmys or the Grammys.

When did you first start writing?
The first thing I remember writing was a story in first grade. It was all about how I wanted to be Mary Poppins because she got to dance in the park with Bert and the penguins. Of course now I know better than to wish I was somebody else. Look what that wish has done to Katie!

How long does it take you to write a book?
In the beginning, it took almost four weeks to write a single first draft of a Katie Kazoo Switcheroo book. But now, I know Katie and her friends much better. I can figure out what they'll say or do almost without thinking. The hardest part of writing the books is coming up with who Katie will become when the magic wind comes and what will happen to her. After I figure that out, the actual writing of the first draft takes two weeks to create. Then I send the book to my editor, Bonnie Bader, who makes all of her suggestions. It takes another week or so to polish up the story so that it is in its final form.

Which of your books do you like the best?
I have three favorite books in the Katie Kazoo Switcheroo series. The first one, Anyone But Me, will always have a special place in my heart because that started the whole series.

I love Who's Afraid of Fourth Grade, because Katie goes through so many changes in that book (and not just the ones that the magic wind brings!) and yet she remains the same funny, nice, sweet friend she has always been. It's pretty funny when the twins run away from her when she's been turned into Emma W. And I love the scene when she becomes her school music teacher, and the whole band becomes a big, noisy mess!

Here's a special fun fact for Katie's biggest fans. I named her music teacher Mr. Starkey to honor Ringo Starr, the drummer for the Beatles. His real name is Richard Starkey.

I also love Girls Don't Have Cooties, because I think it's hysterical to have Katie in a boy's body. She doesn't know which bathroom to go to, or how to act like a boy at all. I like this one a lot because I remember how it felt when the boys in third grade suddenly decided girls had cooties and wouldn't play with them. I always wondered what it would be like to be one of them and find out why they hated girls so much.I still haven't completely figured it out. I don't think Katie has either.

Who is your favorite fictional character?
My favorite fictional character is a woman named Scarlett O'Hara in a grown-up book called Gone With the Wind. She's very beautiful, and also very spoiled. She's even more spoiled than Suzanne Locke, and that's saying something. Scarlett has to face a lot of difficulties, mostly due to the fact that she lives in the South during the Civil War. But in the end, the way Scarlett deals with her troubles make her grow into an incredibly strong person. I like the fact that she's a main character that's not perfect. She's very real.

Who was your favorite teacher?
My favorite teacher was one I had in both 4th and 6th grades. Her name was Miss Zuczek. We read all sorts of amazing books in her class, like The Hobbit and Call of the Wild. We had a reading corner with beanbag chairs to sit on so we could be comfortable, and there were always cool things hanging from the ceiling and on the walls of our classroom. Sounds a lot like Mr. G's room, huh? In sixth grade Miss Zuczek took our class on a one-week camping trip so we could learn all about science. That gave me the idea for the Katie Kazoo Switcheroo book Get Lost, which is about class 3A going on a three-day field trip to science camp.

Where did you grow up?
I was born in Brooklyn, NY and lived there until I was 9. Then my family moved to Cherry Hill, NJ. I stayed there until I was 18 and went to college.

Where do you get your inspiration?
A lot of the inspiration for my books comes from my own kids, Ian and Amanda. The characters in the books are definitely like them. Amanda has modeled and acted, so some of Suzanne's passions are similar to hers. Of course in real life, Amanda is much nicer than Suzanne. She's actually a lot like Emma W., very sweet and good with little kids. Ian is in fourth grade, just like Katie. Like Kevin, he loves tomatoes, and like Jeremy, he plays a lot of sports. A lot of the things that happen in Cherrydale Elementary School happen in Ian's school, too (Although the magic wind has never shown up there. I made that part up!).

Katie's beloved chocolate and white cocker spaniel, Pepper, is actually based on my dog, whose name is Pepper too. My Pepper is a mixed breed though--part cocker spaniel and part springer spaniel. I would have made Katie's Pepper that kind of dog too, but it's too much to write all that in every book.

What's it like being an adult and writing for kids?
Writing for kids is what keeps me from ever really growing up. Most of my friends say I'm really just a 12-year-old in a grown-up's body. I like that idea. Who wants to act like an adult? Adults are boring. Kids are much more fun!

What do you like to do when you are not writing books?
I love to swim—I try to put in one hour in the pool at the local gym every day. I also love going to the theater. I'm lucky because I live in New York so I get to see Broadway shows. And of course, I love to read!

Why is Katie always turning into someone else?
I think sometimes everyone wishes he or she could be somebody else—a movie star, a sports hero, or just the most popular kid in the class. I guess I wanted kids to see that no one's life is ever as perfect as it seems. You should be happy with who you are. Of course, that doesn't mean you can't keep striving to be the very best person you can be.

Where does the magic wind come from?
Believe it or not, I actually dreamed about the magic wind once. That was where the whole idea for the Katie Kazoo books a dream. It's a good thing I keep a notebook near my bed to write my dreams down. Otherwise I might have forgotten all about the magic wind, and Katie her friends might never have existed.

Do you make up all of George's jokes by yourself?
I make up a few, some of them are told to me by the kids in my son's school, and others come from joke books. I don't really care where I get the jokes from, as long as they're funny. George could never be anything but funny!