Monday, September 14, 2009

The Monday Muse: Interview with Wendy Lichtman

Today's Muse: Wendy Lichtman
Author of: Secrets, Lies, and Algebra (review here) and The Writing on the Wall (review here)
Bookworm: Welcome Wendy! To start off, how about you tell us what the inspiration was behind the Do the Math books?
Wendy: At the heart of the first book, Secrets, Lies, and Algebra, is a murder mystery, based on an actual story from my childhood of an acquaintance of my mother's who appeared to have committed suicide. Mom, and many other adults in my community believed that the woman's husband may have been involved and in fact the apparent suicide was a murder. They didn't go to the police with their suspicions, though, and for me, THAT was the mystery: why didn't these grown-ups report their suspicions? I always wanted to write this story, but not until I listened to a lecture by Dr. Robert Moses, the director of the Algebra Project and author of Radical Equations, did I think of telling it though algebraic metaphors. When I got that idea, I called a friend who was the principal of a school in Oakland [California], and asked if I could observe an 8th grade math class for a while. I wanted to see both authentic algebra and authentic kids of that age, and my friend said yes, as long as I would stay at least 3 months. I stayed for two years and found it so satisfying to work with the kids that I continue to volunteer in the public schools in my area.
In the second book, The Writing on the Wall, I became fascinated by those moments when teenagers--and all of us--have to decide whether we want to do something wrong (perhaps illegal or dangerous), because there is a greater good. Tess has to think about that when she sees a mathematical code on the church wall, and must decide of she's going to break the rule and add to the vandalism by writing graffiti.

Bookworm: Has math always been your favorite subject?
Wendy: As a student, I loved it. For many years (decades, actually!) I did nothing with my math background. So returning to it for the writing of my Do the Math series was a pleasure.

Bookworm: How did the covers of the books come to be?
Wendy: That's entirely the publisher's decision.

Bookworm: Why math?
Wendy: I thought that algebra, with its "unknowns" and "variables" was the perfect metaphor for the stage of life when young people first realize that not all answers are permanent. Nor do all questions have answers. Also, it was important to me to help break stereotypes and show a girl who loves math--and also has a full, complicated social life.

Bookworm: Are you writing anymore books for teens in the future?
Wendy: I am. But right now I'm in the midst of figuring out which direction I'm going to take for the next book. Not algebra this time.
[Me: Aw!!! I'm still really hoping there's more Tess in the future!!]

Bookworm: Next question is...What do you like to do when not writing?
Wendy: I swim, bike, teach writing, and love hanging out with my adult children and friends. Lately I'm a bit of a Scrabble addict.

Bookworm: Do you have a special talent?
Wendy: I like to think I must have a few, but nothing comes to mind at this moment.

Bookworm: What is something unique about you?
Wendy: Writing mathematical fiction seems pretty unique, don't you think?
[Me: I'd say so! Keep up the great work!]
Thanks so much, Wendy!
Visit Wendy's awesome website here


Casey said...

Great interview! I haven't heard too much about her books before, but I think I'll have to check them out.

Pam said...

I've always hated math but interesting motivation for the book! Very clever and unique.

holdenj said...

What a good interview. I like the idea of how math, with it's variables etc play into a murder mystery type book. This is a new to me series and it looks great. Definitely worth checking out.

Carrie Harris said...

What an interesting idea for a series! I'll definitely be checking this one out.

Anonymous said...

I've always been terrible at math, but surprisingly, mathematical fiction sounds intriguing. I would love to read this.

Mandy B. said...

+Review Comment
+Interview Comment
-Rachel (Pen-Pal)

You go girl!! =)

Jenny N. said...

Nice interview. Me and math are not the best of firends but I liked how Wendy incorporated it into the book.

Nancye said...

Great interview! I can tell the author is dedicated to her craft because she spent 2 years in a middle school math class. As a retired middles school teacher, this sounds like a book they would enjoy!

nancyecdavis AT bellsouth DOT net

Paradox said...

I've never seen books combining math and mysteries like this before! I'll have to check them out!

Alexa said...

I love the title of this book, It's very clever. I really need to get my hands on a copy.