Its no surprise that Lois Lowry is such a prolific writer. The longtime Cambridge, Massachusetts, resident recalls spending her childhood as a voracious reader of all kinds of books, especially adult books that had young protagonists. She read and loved A Tree Grows in Brooklyn when she was 10, and fell under the spell of The Catcher in the Rye not long after.
Lowry, a chipper 77, crossed the river from Cambridge to Boston last week to talk about her young adult novel The Giver, a coming-of-age tale set in a dystopian future (written in 1993, well before the fad of The Hunger Games, etc.). Though the Newbery Medal-winning books film rights were purchased by Jeff Bridges almost two decades ago, its taken all of these years to make it to the screen. The irony is that Bridges wanted his father Lloyd to play the titular old man, but so much time has gone by, hes doing it himself.
Q: You were writing poems and short stories for adults when you started out. What got you into writing for younger readers?
A: I published a short story in a magazine. It was a story for adults, but it was seen through the eyes of a child. A childrens book editor at Houghton Mifflin read it, got in touch with me, and asked if I would consider writing a book for young people. It never occurred to me, which amazes me now because I had four kids at the time, why I never thought of witting for kids. So I sat down immediately and began doing it. They didnt promise to publish what I wrote, but to have a publisher at the other end, waiting for it, was a jump start. The book was A Summer to Die, and they did publish it and it won a big international award. It coincided with the time my marriage was ending, and I was going to have to oh, my goodness! make a living for the first time, and it occurred to me maybe thats how I could do it.
Q: Some of the themes in The Giver, such as rebelling against conformity, have caused controversy among the conservative element in our society.
A: Yeah, it was removed from the schools in the town of Holland, Michigan, and a town in Colorado. I forgot the name of that one. Its not true any longer, but when that was happening so much, most often there would be a challenge, then there would be a process, and then there would be a school board meeting, and the book would be reinstated. But in a couple of places it was withdrawn. Beats me why. I think the reason its not being challenged any longer is because now that the young adult category has become so huge, there are a lot of so-called young adult books that are sexually explicit and that have a lot of violence. If the people who challenge books want something to challenge, theres better stuff out there for their purposes.
Q: Do you find yourself surprised at insights that people get out of your books, things that you hadnt even intended?
A: Oh, yes. Recently Ive gotten questions about the theological implications of the apple, the Adam and Eve metaphor. And I go, What? I didnt put that in there, folks. Its interesting that people take out of what theyre reading what works for them.
Q: There have been many attempts at writing a script of The Giver over the years. Was the initial one very different from the one that became the film, and did you work on any of them?
A: Bob Weide wrote a screenplay in 1996. His was the earliest. There were four or five intervening ones, and Mike Mitnick wrote the last one. I didnt work with either of them, but I was privy to both of their scripts. They emailed me the final screenplay, and asked me to go through it and make any notes, so I did. They took some of my advice and ignored, as they have every right to, some of my other advice. But the director emailed me continuously during the filming and the pre-production with little questions like what do you want the boys bedroom to look like, how would it be furnished?
Q: The youngest kids in the book have stuffed animals that you term comfort objects. Did you have a comfort object?
A: Oh, I did. Pinky. [She smiles] When I was 4, we went to visit my grandparents, and when we came back home, my mother said that Pinky had gotten left behind at Grandmas house. Pinky was a doll that was very faded and disgusting.
Q: What are you reading these days?
A: I have just finished reading a biography of the Romanov sisters, the daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra. Im a history buff, but I like everything. Im reading an awful lot of Scandinavian mysteries lately. Go figure.
Q: Are you working hard on your next book?
A: No, Ive had to take the summer off from writing because Ive been so busy with the movie stuff. But Im eager to get back to it.

Ed Symkus covers movies for More Content Now.