John Troy McQueen | Conversations with SC Writers


South Carolina author of children's books, John Troy McQueen, begins with a reading from A World Full of Monsters.  Mr. McQueen says that he sometimes writes story ideas down, but sometimes he allows it to linger a while and comes back later. He states that his first attempt at A World Full of Monsters, which was called A World Full of Dinosaurs, was rejected. This taught him perseverance.

Mr. McQueen discusses his father telling stories to him as a child. The students discuss who read to them when they were younger. Mr. McQueen mentions that he attended a family reunion and learned things about his great-grandparents that he didn't know before then. He discusses where ideas for stories come from, and states that he walks a lot and once, he noticed that birds went into a tunnel up the road. The question of where birds go at night came to him. This became his book, Where Do Birds Go at Night? The students discuss this and respond to the question of where birds go at night. This illustrates where ideas for stories come from. 

Mr. McQueen says that at this time, he has not completed a novel yet, but he is working on one. They discuss how you revise a children's book. He mentions his background in science and that his book about dinosaurs did not work out too well, so he changed it to the book about monsters. 

Mr. McQueen is asked where a student can send a story. He refers them to the front of the book where the publisher's address is located and says to send it to the editor, or you can ask your librarian. He discusses growing up on a farm and refers to one of his books about animals, in which he uses chickens, pigs, cows, and there were four in all, and he says that writing about one led to the other. He is asked how long it takes to write a book like that, and responds that once he got the idea in his mind, it really flowed and took only about two hours to write, but it is a children's book.

Mr. McQueen discusses a book on the heritage of Marlboro County that took much longer, a couple of months, to write. He discusses illustrators for his book, and mentions that Marc Brown was the illustrator for Mr. McQueen's book on monsters. Marc Brown wrote and illustrated the Arthur series. Mr. McQueen trusts his publisher to choose the best person to illustrate his books. 

When asked how to choose the words to use, Mr. McQueen says you put words into your characters' minds, and the words will flow. Like telling a story, the words will come. 

Mr. McQueen answers a question about point of view. He answers that in this story, the little boy was trying to put himself to sleep, so it was from his point of view.

When asked about getting discouraged, Mr. McQueen responds that you put it aside and then go back and do it again. He references his experience with the book on monsters and says that some of the words were not quite right, and then he got the perfect little idea and then sent it away. 

The students discuss keeping a journal. Mr. McQueen says he keeps a little pad with him to write ideas down on.   

When asked if his ideas come from things he dreams, Mr. McQueen responds that several years ago, he did dream something and he put it to work.  

Mr. McQueen ends the program with a reading from A World Full of Monsters