My favorite author, Robert Munsch, is one of the most successful and interesting Canadian children’s writers. He has been entertaining children, parents, grandparents, librarians and teachers with his silly, magical, and powerful stories for more than 30 years.
The author of 44 books, including The Paper Bag Princess, Thomas’ Snowsuit, and my all-time favorite Love You Forever, Munsch was born in Pittsburgh and studied for seven years to be a Jesuit priest before deciding to work with children instead. His books have been translated into 12 languages and produced on cassette, video, CD ROM, television and stage. In 1991 he won the Canadian Booksellers Association’s “Author of the Year” award.
Telling stories is what Robert Munsch does.
Rose: Where do you get your ideas for your books?
Robert: I get my ideas for books from my own kids and sometimes from other children. Often when I am telling stories I will say: I am going to make up a new story. I get a kid’s name to use in the story and I still don’t know what I am going to say. I just say whatever comes into my head and see if it’s good. Usually it isn’t. But sometimes it is very good. Lots of my books have started this way.
Rose: How do you choose which stories to use?
Robert: My publisher and I go over the stories that I think are ready and we choose one.
Rose: How many books have you written?
Robert: Fourty-four published; I have over 200 stories that I am working on that are not published.
Rose: Do you have a favorite among them?
Robert: You know that changes every day. Some days I like Love You Forever most because it sold the most copies. Other days I like David’s Father and Andrew’s Loose Tooth and Something Good and Makeup Mess because they are the books that have my own kids in them. Other days I like Mud Puddle the best because it was my very first book.
Rose: What was the book you most loved as a child?
Robert: The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins by Dr. Seuss
Rose: What would you say is the most fulfilling part about being a children’s author?
Robert: Being able to travel to many different places and meeting lots of interesting people. I especially like the kids.
Rose: What inspires you to write?
Robert: Most of my books came from when I was telling stories. I get up in front of a bunch of kids and say ‘Hey, I’m gonna tell you a new story. Who wants to be in a new story?’ Well some kid always sticks up their hand and that gives me a name, but it doesn’t give me a story. I just say whatever comes to my mind and usually it’s not that good. Every once in a while, however, I say something that turns into a really good story. Then I get the kid’s name and if it ever gets into a book, the kid whose name I used will be in the book. That’s how I get most of my story ideas. Every once in a while I just sit down at the computer and write a story and get it that way. Once, I even had a dream and I woke up and said ‘Hey, that’s a good story’, and I went downstairs and wrote the dream. So my stories come from various places.
Rose: What has been the most memorable experience in your writing career?
Robert: When my first book, Mud Puddle, came out.
Rose: I read that my all-time favorite book of yours, Love You Forever, started out as a song before it came out in 1986 as a book. Would you like to tell us a little more about that? I read that you said you didn’t know how that story would affect anyone else. I want you to know it affected me as I lost my daughter in 1992.
Robert: I wrote Love You Forever after we had two stillborn babies. For me, it was a fantasy about the life my kids would never have. I wrote it just for myself and didn’t think of it as a book. Much later I started using it at storytellings and I was surprised at the response. I decided to try to publish it. My usual publisher didn’t want to do it [It's not a kids book"]. I finally went with another publisher. Love You got terrible reviews. It didn’t get one good review in Canada. Still it sold 30,000 in 1986, which made it the bestselling Canadian kid’s book that Christmas. Then it 1987 it sold 70,000. “Wow!” said the publisher, “Don’t expect this to last”. It didn’t. In 1988 it sold 1,000,000 and has been selling about 1,000,000 a year ever since. I think the book works because it lets people think about what life is all about. I never meant this story to be for other people, but I get great satisfaction from thinking that it may have as good an effect on other people’s lives as it has had on my own.
Rose: Do you think it is important to choose a good title for your books?