• How many books have you written?
My Harry Book is the 31st book I've written, but if you add in all of
the books I've illustrated over the years, I've done 44.
• How long have you been doing books?
Almost 25 years now.
• Of all your books, which is your favorite?
My next book, whatever it is. I do have different favorites, too, for
different reasons. Three Young PIlgrims because it was my first
historical picture book. Remember the Ladies because it's about women &
girls and that's what I am & have been. Just For You to Know, my first
novel, my most personal book, my heart's darling. I adored doing those
"Cheryl Harness Histories" for the Nat'l
Geographic, with those pen & ink drawings, you know. The Queen With Bees
in her Hair has my all-time favorite illustrations.
• What's your favorite book by other authors?
I'm a big fan of Laurie R. King's Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series
and of that smartypants, Kate DiCamillo. Time and Again, by Jack Finney.
A Peculiar Treasure, by Edna Ferber, a wonderful author memoir.
• Which do you like better, writing or illustrating?
Illustrating is more comfortable as I've had more experience there, but
writing, while much more challenging, is terrific once I get going -
that's the hard part. And I love revising.
• Why do you do history books?
My favorite books when I was a kid were all of those by Laura Ingalls
Wilder. Maud Hart Lovelace's Betsy-Tacy books, too. Both series were
wonderfully told stories set in the past. And my kind of realistic
illustration kind of goes with long-ago tales. I'm much better at
drawing horses than cars! And how I'd love to be able to really SEE the
past - can't in real life, so I'm a mental time-traveler, book-wise.
• How did you get started?
I went to college to be an art teacher, but I bombed as a student
teacher and wound up as a commercial artist. I joined the Soc. of
Children's Book Writers & Illustrators. www.scbwi.org And I went to Uri
Shulevitz's children's book workshop in the summer of 1984. I started
illustrating books nights & weekends, greeting cards by day. As time
went by, I began writing, just to see if I could. It's a
little-by-little determination-operation. A tortoise I've been, not a
• What do you paint with?
Watercolor + colored pencil + pastel, sometimes. Mostly watercolor and
very pointy paintbrushes and my bony fingers.
• Do you have any pets?
Mimi the Shih-Tsu and Merrie Emma the Cat.
• Of all the people you've written about , who would you like to
Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Abigail Adams, but I'd be too bashful to talk
to them. I'd totally get a bang out of listening to them talk to each
• Would you want to live in another time?
Not unless it was a time with airconditioning and painless dentistry!
I'd totally, completely LOVE to visit other times though, to see what
people really looked like and hear their voices.
• Do you have any hobbies?
I like sculpting, going to the movies, and sewing old-fashioned clothes
such as the 1860s outfit or the early-19th century gown I used to wear
to school visits until I realized how dorky I looked in them.
• What's the best part of your job? And do you like it?
Even when I don't, I do. I love meeting and getting to know other
authors: Vicki Grove, Veda Boyd Jones, for instance, and Natalie Kinsey
Warnock. Best of all is getting to visit with school kids and librarians
and seeing other parts of the country. I hate GOing places, but I sure
love BEing places.