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Deborah Heiligman; author of mostly non-fiction. "Honestly."

What was the first book you bought with your own money?

I have no idea! I wish I did! Possibly the book I mention below, but I think that was probably a gift. I really wish I knew.

Have you ever stolen a book? Why/when/where?

No. Certainly not. But I often want to not return a book to the library. Also, I babysat a friend’s entire set of the Encyclopedia Judaica in college for a year, and I really didn’t want to give it back. What a nerdy answer, yes?

What book did you love as a kid that you realize now was “of its time” and would not be published today?

Stories to Live by: A Treasury of Fiction from the American Girl.

They tried, but it’s really a book of its time. I read the stories over and over again. So, I bought myself a copy a few years ago and cringed.

You grew up to be a non-fiction writer.

Did you read fiction or information books as a young reader?

I loved nonfiction as a little kid. Books that told me how the world works. (What is a butterfly? What is a frog? What is a Tree? That series; I read every one!) But as I grew up, I drifted mostly to fiction, with the exception of biography. I always loved biography and memoir.

What annoys you most in a book?

Oh. Well. One thing only? I would say, sticking with nonfiction, two things: One, lots of ‘probably’s and ‘maybe’s; either work around it or cut it out. I think a few in a long book is allowed, but only three at most.

Two, making things up – for example in a book I read [when writing] Torpedoed, the author said the captain thought something at a certain time. But the captain went down with the ship, and there was no attribution in the back. So, that kind of thing. Oh, one more, sorry, so three: believing previous secondary sources and perpetuating a falsehood. When an author does not do her own research, these mistakes just stay in the literature and that drives me crazy.

In which fictional house or land would you like to live?

I want to live with the children in Half-Magic. I read that book as an adult and I wanted to go move in with them. I wonder what that says about me?

Would you rather have good reviews or good sales?

('both' is not an acceptable answer) And why?

Well, I’ve had good reviews, so I think it’s time for good – or preferably great – sales. But honestly, if I had to choose one, good reviews.

What is a word you loathe?


Because I think when a person uses that word, he is not being honest in some way. I catch myself doing it sometimes, and then delete it, or wish I hadn’t said it. I don’t know if I truly loathe the word, but I am suspicious of it.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

I overuse exclamation points! I think with each project there is a particular word I overuse and then I have to do a Find & Replace. I’m not sure what word it is with my current project but I can guarantee that there are too many exclamation marks!


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