I’d seen buzz about The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, and knew I had to read it. After patiently waiting until I got my hands on a copy (and reading it), I knew I needed to interview the man behind this concept. Enjoy and be sure to visit Tom at his blog.
MF: Tell me how you came up with the idea to write a story about a mystical folded piece of paper that gives advice? TA: Well, after seeing Fukiami Kawahata’s famous origami Yoda I wanted to make my own. But his is for experts only and I’m actually terrible at origami.
But I messed around and came up with a super simple Yoda and by chance it fit right on your finger. It was a finger puppet, so obviously an imaginative kid would walk around and make it talk to people. And the rest of the story just came naturally from there.
MF: Obviously, Yoda is a copyrighted character; I’m assuming you didn’t just get to use that character without permission? How did you get that from Lucasfilm? TA: Lucasfilm is awesome!!! They’ve been great. They said yes to Yoda and to everything else I’ve wanted to do, like having a teacher character that looks a lot like Jabba.
MF: Since the book was a “case” file, each of the chapters were written in a different voice? Did you find it difficult switching between voices?
TA: Yes and no. Tommy really is my natural voice. Some of the others I have to work at.
MF: Why did you decide to write the book in this particular way, rather than from, say, Dwight’s perspective?
TA: If we knew what was going on inside Dwight’s head, the heart of the story would be gone.
MF: Did you set out to write a story for middle grade readers, or is that just the way the story unfolded?
TA: Yes, I love writing for mid-graders because I loved reading so much when I was one.
MF: Fess up: which character were you most like when you were a kid?
TA: Well, this is more of confession than you realize. Although I was a lot like Dwight, I also have a lot in common with Harvey! He’s my dark side!
MF: I loved the drawings in the book; they added just the right touch. I heard that you were responsible for them. True? How did you come up with the ideas for them? TA: Yes, most of the drawings inside are mine. I spent a long time looking at my old yearbook and doodling to get the different characters. For the rest of the doodles, I really tried to draw what Kellen would think was funny.
MF: Is being a writer something you’ve “always” wanted to do? Or is it just something you fell into?
TA: I started a novel in the 7h or 8th grade, but never finished it — thank goodness! Then I wrote comic books in high school and started comic strips in college. Then short stories and a failed novel. Finally I started writing for kids and found my calling.
MF: What are your five favorite books? (At least today.) TA: Newest Favorite: When the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin
Old school favorite: Lizard Music
Favorite mid-grade fantasy: Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain series
Favorite mid-grade sci-fi: Sword of the Spirits trilogy by John Christopher
Favorite mid-grade comedy: Helen Cresswell’s Bagthorpe books
MF: So, if you don’t mind telling us, what can we look forward to from you next? TA: I am just finishing up a book with a very long title: Horton Halfpott OR the Fiendish Mystery of Smugwick Manor OR the Loosening of M’Lady Luggertuck’s Corset.
MF: Sounds fascinating. Thanks for your time!