Why do you have two different author names?
My official name is Phyllis Shalant and it’s the one I’ve used on most of my books. My pen name, Annabelle Fisher, was actually my mother’s name. My earliest memories are of her reading to me from a big book of Mother Goose rhymes. We used to recite them together, and to this day, I still know dozens of those rhymes by heart. When I started writing The Secret Destiny of Pixie Piper, the story of a modern fifth grader who is descended from Mother Goose, it just felt right to honor Mom by making Annabelle Fisher my author name for those books.
Where do you find your ideas?
Ideas usually find me. Sometimes it seems as if the air is thick with them! I’ll overhear something interesting in a conversation at a restaurant or when I’m waiting to check out at the grocery store that sounds like the beginning of a story. I’ll see a kid walking down the street with his or her nose in a book, not aware of anything or anyone around but the story. Or I’ll watch Dudley (who’s as tall as me when he stands on his hind legs) making friends with the smallest dog in the dog park, and it will make me think about how dogs don’t care about appearances and people shouldn’t either.
Sometimes I start writing about these ideas right away to see where they take me and whether there’s a real story in them. Or if I’m already writing something I love, I save these ideas in my writer’s notebook and come back to them another time.
What was your favorite book as a kid?
In third grade I bought the first chapter book I ever owned, The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew by Margaret Sydney. My mother had given me a quarter for my good grades, which was a lot of money for an eight-year-old in those days. Buying a book instead of borrowing one from the library was a great luxury and I re-read that story of the five desperately poor, but happy Pepper children many times. At nine, I discovered Beverly Cleary’s books. Henry Huggins, and Ramona and Beezus Quimby were my favorite characters, and their lives seemed as real as my own.
By the time I’d entered my teenage years, my reading tastes had stretched far and wide. The Diary of Anne Frank and To Kill a Mockingbird became permanent residents of my heart. But I also read lighter books about the teen years, like Seventeen by Booth Tarkington. Today, I am never not-reading at least one novel.