Photo Credit: Katherine Warde

Born and raised in New York City, Avi was educated in local schools before going to the Midwest to complete his education. He is part of a family of writers extending back into the nineteenth century. It was his twin sister—also a writer—who gave him the name Avi, because she was unable or unwilling to use the name his parents had given him—Edward.

Avi flunked out of the first high school he attended and was sent to a private school. At the end of his second year, the English teacher informed his parents that he was “the worst student he’d ever had.” Tutoring was required. It was that tutor who got him interested in writing.

At first, Avi chose to write for the theater. Not until he had children of his own did he turn to writing for young people. Avi’s first book, Things That Sometimes Happen, was published in 1970. Since then Avi has published seventy-four books, the latest being Catch you Later, Traitor.

Avi lives in Clark, Colorado, in a log house high in the Rocky Mountains, with his wife, Linda, who is an inventor. No cell phones. No mail delivery. Just a beautiful, quiet place.

Author Q&A

1. Favorite books/authors who inspired you?

I’ve always had great pleasure reading 18th century English writers Defoe (Robinson Crusoe) Sterne (The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman), Swift (Gulliver's Travels) and in particular Fielding (Tom Jones) and Austin (Pride and Prejudice).

2. What’s your writing routine?

I write every day and become restless if I do not. I am usually at my desk at seven thirty in the morning. I take breaks of course, walks, work outs, meals, but I will stop at about four p.m.  Quite often, I work at night, too. Nevertheless, reading is vital to my work. I read every night.

3. Which part of your book was the most fun to write?

The Unexpected life of Oliver Cromwell Pitts is beyond all else a page-turning adventure and it was fun for me to create the energy and events that carried it forward.  The section of the book in which Oliver is locked up in a children’s poorhouse, while seemingly bizarre, is all based on fact,  and was most entertaining to write.

4. Which part was the most difficult?

The 18th century legal system and ways of punishment seem terribly cruel and inhumane.  Yet, the more I researched, the more similarities I found with our own ways of justice and imprisonment. Money and social position in 18th century society greatly influenced the outcome of justice.  I was struck by how much it resembled our own 21st century ways of justice.   It was painful to learn this, and difficult to write about.

5. Is there one character you most relate to?

It is hard to write a first person narrative without feeling strong kinship with your main character.  Oliver is often too trusting, but he is equally resourceful, with much to say about the world in which he lives. His forthright addresses to the reader are his way of eliciting sympathy as well as engagement in the adventure. And that adventure still has far to go.

6. What advice would you give aspiring writers?

Read, read, read, read . . . The more you read the better the writer you will become, especially if you write what you like to read.

7. Cats or dogs?

Our much-loved Alaskan malamute, McKinley, died of old age about a year ago. You can read about him in my novel, The Good Dog.

8. If writing weren’t part of your daily work, what career would you like to have?

I have always admired photography, and the way a good photographer uses light and shadow to reveal ideas, design, and emotion. I have tried, but am only an amateur.  

9. Which author would you most like to spend the day with?

One of the people I have most admired is Charles Dickens, the British writer of Victorian days. By all accounts he was an extraordinary man, with, apparently, boundless energy. I would like to spend a day with him, if I could keep up.


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