After a bit of a “BSC” hiatus, Ann M. Martin talks about why she decided to come back to the popular Babysitter’s Club series, as well as what her writing process is all about, her charitable organizations, and advice to teachers.
Review Fix: Why did you decide to become a writer?
Ann M. Martin: Well, it was something I had always enjoyed doing, even when I was very little I enjoyed storytelling and I would draw pictures and make up stories about them and dictate them to my mother. I would turn the pictures over and write the stories on the back. I always liked storytelling.
My parents made sure that my sister and I grew up in a house that was filled with books, and we went to the library, frequently both the public library and our school library; we read aloud to each other, so reading and storytelling were always a part of growing up and I think that when I became an adult, I wanted to be able to continue that and be able to create new stories for other kids. It’s only been children’s books that I’ve been interested in.
RF: Can you walk through your writing process? Are there any specific steps that you take when you are writing?
A.M.M: Yep. Definitely. It is usually the same for every book, but sometimes things shift a little bit. After I have the initial idea for a story, I discuss it with my editors first. I rely very heavily on my editors. By the way, editorial process is very important to me and I enjoy working with my editors. It feels more like collaboration. As soon as we agree on the initial idea, then the next thing I do is start outlining. My outlines go through various processes. First I start taking notes, and then I draw up what I call a framework outline, which is just a couple of sentences about what might happen in each chapter. Then I expand on that and make longer notes about each chapter and then eventually what I hand in to my editor is usually a fairly lengthy outline, which can be maybe fifty pages or so, and they include information on the characters the setting and then a very detailed chapter by chapter outline. I wait for my editor’s opinion before I start writing. This gives me a chance to catch things before I get derailed in the middle the process.
RF:So why did you decide to write the prequel to the BSC?
A.M.M:Well, the series came to an end in 2000, and I would say that by around 2005 I began hearing from readers and how they had read books when they were kids, and hearing that they couldn’t find The Babysitters Club books anymore and in fact, they were starting to remain out of print.
So really the beginning was a demand from readers, who were adults now, and wanted to introduce the books to their own children or to their students. I began talking with my editor about the possibility to relaunch the series, and if we could kick off the relaunch with a new book. And the reason I wrote a prequel was because my favorite age group to write for is The Babysitter’s Club audience, or younger. It became interesting to explore the lives of the characters before the beginning of the series, and so that was the beginning of the prequel.
RF: Was the idea of the prequel something you were thinking about for some time?
A.M.M: It really didn’t come up until we began talking about relaunching the series and then writing a new book and so at that point, when I decided I wanted to write a prequel, I began rereading. I think I read the first two books of each of the four original members of The Babysitter’s Club, and then maybe also the first Mallory book just to acquaint myself again with the setting and the characters because it had been a while since I visited there. From beginning to end, the idea of having to write a prequel to a finished book was probably two or three years, although it only took about year to actually write, and I am including publishing and all that sort of thing.
RF: How do you decide which characters will narrate a certain book from The Babysitter’s Club.How does that come about?
A.M.M: Well, in the beginning, when I was first introducing those original characters, I had already drawn up the characters and knew what I wanted to happen for each of them. Of course, at this point there were only going to be four books in the series. The first four that was all it was going to be.
I don’t remember why they came out in that particular order. I had already decided what I wanted to happen for each character, I knew that Kristy was going to come up with the idea, Stacey would be facing some physical challenges, and that sort of thing.
Why they came out in that order, I don’t remember now, but with the later books of the series, it was really a matter of not necessarily assigning a particular topic to a character. I think it was more that my editors and I would brainstorm and think about what we wanted to write about and then decide who might tell the story the best.
Then at a certain point, when quite a few books had come out, the characters began to generate their own plot ideas. With something that had happened with Kristy earlier on could be picked up as a scene in a later book, so some of the ideas came about that way too.
And also some of the ideas came from readers’ suggestions. One that I remember specifically was Mary Anne and the Memory Garden. That idea had come about after I had gotten, I don’t know why, but for a period of time, a whole lot of letters from kids asking for books about the death of a peer or classmate, and then also a number of requests for a book that dealt with the issue of drunk driving. So that’s where the idea came from. Why we decided to have Mary Anne tell the story, I can’t remember at this point. It may have had something that had been going on in her life at that point in the series.
RF: You mentioned the reader suggestions, the first thought that came up was the Special Edition Reader Request books. Were those something the readers really asked for regarding Shannon and Logan?
A.M.M: Oh, yeah. But some requests that I’d get couldn’t be turned into books. There were a lot of requests for huge disaster stories, you know, of course, there’s a fire, and then the flood comes, and then they are all caught in a snow storm, but for things that were a bit more serious, we definitely paid attention to.