Sunday, January 23, 2011
An Interview with Author Ann Ingalls
Read how THE LITTLE PIANO GIRL was created:
In the process of doing the research for the first book, I came across loads of information about the first lady of jazz and learned that she was the most prolific composer/arranger of all time! That seemed to warrant a book.
PT: THE LITTLE PIANO GIRL was a collaboration. How did this collaboration come about?
AI: I was so enthusiastic about this project and told Maryann, my sister, about what I had learned about Mary Lou Williams, a really remarkable human being. I wrote the first draft and sent it to her. She wanted in on this. We have written a number of other things together and sold about half of them. After that, we sent it back and forth via email and discussed it on the phone. We each handled different parts of the research, interviews, writing, seeking an agent and promoting. It's been a very successful collaboration because we really understand each other and have the same sensibilities about what a manuscript should look like and sound like.
PT: What was your process? How did you work together?
AI: We have always been very close. We're from a large family and shared a bedroom when we were growing up. We sing together, off key. We just click. We make very sure we understand what the other is saying and we defer if one person feels strongly about a word or phrase. It seems to work.
PT: Where did you find most of your sources? Were there difficulties in locating materials? What was your greatest coup?
AI: We both read everything we could get our hands on beginning with Linda Dahl's and Tammy Kernoodle's books. We interviewed Peter O'Brien, Mary Lou's agent. We read liner notes, old Melody Maker and Down Beat magazines, really anything we could find. Living in Kansas City where she lived and played for about a dozen years, I have been lucky to meet several musicians with whom she played. I got some interesting bits of information that we've been able to use in school, library and museum presentations. For instance, her pet name was "Pussycat" and her favorite food was sweet potatoes with toasted marshmallows. Fun things.
I suppose our greatest coup was to be invited to the Kennedy Center to sign books. When there, a toast was offered in our honor and we met two of Mary Lou's sisters and her niece. They were so touched by our work that they had tears in their eyes. Quite a memory.
PT: Did your research lead you to other ideas you might consider writing about in the future?
AI: I prefer to write nonfiction while Maryann prefers fiction. We both love the research that goes into our work. Maryann is beginning a new novel that will take place in NYC where she lives and I'm working on a book about Will Rogers. I write and sell lots of poetry and am always (!) on the prowl for new ideas for that.
Learn more about Ann and her writing at: http://www.anningallswrites.com/