Author Interviews, Book Resources
Marcia Thornton Jones Interview Transcript
- Grades: 3–5
Debbie Dadey and Marcia Thornton Jones were interviewed by Scholastic students in 1997.
What is your favorite book that you've written?
It's always hard to pick a favorite book. Marcia likes Vampires Don't Wear Polka Dots. Debbie likes Skeletons Don't Play Tubas. We both like Triplet Trouble and the Runaway Reindeer.
How long have the two of you have been writing together?
We've been writing together for about ten years.
How did you get the idea to start the Bailey School Kids series? Did it begin with just one book?
Our first book was Vampires Don't Wear Polka Dots. We got the idea for it because we had a very bad day in the school where we taught. The kids just didn't feel like doing their work. So, we wrote a story about a teacher with an unusual ability to keep the kids working. It did not start as part of a series. As a matter of fact, Scholastic didn't make it a series until we had ten books!
How long does it take to write a book?
It takes us different amounts of time to write different books. We wrote Vampires Don't Wear Polka Dots in two weeks, but Ghosts Don't Eat Potato Chips took us two years! Usually, it takes about a month for us to write a book together. But it takes almost a year for it to get published!
Have you written any other books besides the Bailey School Kids?
So far, we have written 35 Bailey School Kids books and four Bailey City Monsters books. We also wrote eight Triplet Trouble books. We've written books separately, too.
What's the best way to start writing a book?
The best thing to think about when writing a book is to get your ideas on paper. Don't worry too much or you'll never get finished! Once it's done, you can go back and think about how to make the characters seem more real, how to make the dialogue sound better, and how to make the plot more interesting. But first, get the idea down on paper!
What's the process you go through when you start writing a book?
We try to write every day. We start by going to the library and reading about whatever we plan to write about. We use the interesting facts we find to make a plan, or outline, for our book. Next, we simply have fun writing. After we're finished, we go back and read the rough draft and make changes until we think the story is good enough to send to our editor. Our editor reads it, and if she likes it, our story gets made into a book.
How do you collaborate on your books? Who writes the most?
We work out an outline, or plan, for our book. It's one sentence about what we want to happen in each chapter. Then, we play hot-potato. One of us will start writing a couple of chapters. That person will e-mail those chapters to the other person. The second person will read and make suggestions for changes, write a couple more chapters, then e-mail everything back to the first person. We toss the story back and forth like that (like a hot-potato) until we've finished writing. Then we both read the story and revise it to make it the best we can. By the time we're finished playing hot-potato, we've both worked on all parts of the book. That way, neither of us ends up doing more work than the other!
Is it hard to write books together? Most books have just one author.
Sometimes writing together is easier. We brainstorm together and take turns writing chapters. We can also help each other revise and edit, so our writing is better!
How do you get the names for the Bailey School Kids books?
The titles come from brainstorming. We write down lots of names that we like and pick the one that we think is the most fun. Vampires Don't Wear Polka Dots came from something Liza said in the story. She said something like, “Mrs. Jeepers can't be a vampire, vampires don't wear polka dots.” And when we need names for our characters, we used the biggest source of names to help us — the phone book!
Why do you use monsters in your books, and how do you think up the names of the monsters?
We both like stories about folklore characters, so that's why we thought it would be fun to write stories about vampires and werewolves. We like to use funny names for the folklore characters, and we also try to think of a name that is connected to that kind of character. For instance, in Cyclops Doesn't Roller Skate, our spooky character is named Dr. Polly. The name Polly is actually a shortened version of Polyphemus, a Cyclops in a famous Greek legend.
Who is your favorite character in the Bailey School Kids series?
Debbie: I have to admit that Eddie is one of my favorite characters, even though he can be a bit of a stinker sometimes. I still think underneath it all, he's a good kid.
Marcia: Mrs. Jeepers is definitely one of our favorite characters, but we also like Mr. Jenkins a lot, too. I must admit that Eddie is a favorite as well.
Is Mrs. Jeepers really a vampire?
Yes, we think Mrs. Jeepers is a vampire, don't you? Of course, she could just be a strange teacher. What do you think?
How many more books do you plan on writing in the Bailey School Kids series?
We have a lot of fun writing the Bailey School Kids books, so we plan to keep on writing adventures for the Bailey School Kids for a long time.
Do you have any new Bailey School Kids books coming out?
Our next Bailey School Kids book in stores is called Unicorns Don't Give Sleigh Rides. The one we just finished writing is called Bogeymen Don't Play Football. Our editor tells us it's her new favorite.
Are any of the other kids in Mrs. Jeepers's class going to be main characters in your books?
Perhaps you remember a character named Ben in some of the Bailey School Kids books. He is now the star of his own series, called Bailey City Monsters. The first book came out this month. It's called The Monsters Next Door. Ben, his sister, and her friend end up having all kinds of adventures when a family of monsters moves in on their street. We hope you'll like it.
Why did you decide to write children's books instead of adult books?
With our backgrounds in elementary education, we were constantly in touch with children's books. We both enjoy reading children's books and feel comfortable with them. Reading brought us so much joy when we were kids, we wanted to write books that would bring happiness and excitement to today's readers.
How old are you?
We're both almost forty years old, but Debbie is a little younger. Marcia won't tell you how old she is, but she'll tell you she was born in 1958. You'll have to figure out how old that makes her!
How can you tell whether kids will like a book or not?
Of course, nobody can tell for sure if kids are going to like a book, but we have noticed that kids in our schools love books about monsters and sports, plus mysteries. We try to use sports as much as possible in our books, plus our BSK books always have a monster!
What do you do in your free time? Do you have any hobbies?
We both love to read (and write, of course!). We also like hiking. Debbie plays tennis and even coaches soccer. Marcia still teaches school, so her favorite thing to do when she gets extra time is take naps!
What did you do when you first heard that your book was going to be published? Whom did you tell first? How did you celebrate?
We both were very excited when we sold our first book, and Debbie actually danced on the tabletop in her library! We both called our husbands and we went out to dinner to celebrate. Debbie had a double celebration because it was her birthday.
What are the scariest and funniest books you've ever written?
We think one of the funniest books is Vampires Don't Wear Polka Dots. One of the scariest is Skeletons Don't Play Tubas.
Do you do your own illustrations?
We don't do the illustrations. The illustrator for The Adventures of the Bailey School Kids is John Steven Gurney. The illustrator for Triplet Trouble is John Speirs. We think they're great!
What authors do you read? What are your favorite genres?
We have found that it's a good idea to read as many authors and as many different genres as possible. That way, we can learn more about writing and it gives us ideas to try different things. Many times, we choose to read books by topic rather than by author or genre, but some our favorite authors include Lois Lowry, Beverly Cleary, and Paula Danziger.