Q. When did you know you wanted to be a writer and what inspired you?
A. This may sound a bit strange, but I never really wanted to be a writer, at least not professionally. I wanted to be an astronomer, and got my degree in physics with that in mind. After a year of grad school, I discovered I didn't need to be an astronomer to get my dream job at NASA: as a Flight Activities Officer in Mission Control. It wasn't until I left NASA to raise my family that I began writing, at first just for fun, and then for publication.
Q. How do you get ideas for stories?
A. For nonfiction, my ideas come from my own curiosity. I am always asking, "Who, what, where, when, how, and why?" The answers to these questions are the ideas for my stories. For example, I wondered how the space station could get rid of its heat without being able to roll down a window? Once I got this "idea," then I started interviewing people and gathering information on the cooling system. The text, experiment, photos, and diagram all focused on answering this key question. For fiction, my ideas usually begin as an exaggerated personal experience. The cover story I wrote for the upcoming Girls to the Rescue #7 Anthology (Meadowbrook Press, November, 2000) is a good example. I based the airplane's problems on real life failures I have had, but made it even more challenging by imagining myself a young handicapped girl with a terrified passenger to deal with. For poetry, ideas are what I call emotional "Kodak" moments. These "snapshots" are scenes that are intensely cute, or laughable, or sad, or otherwise stay with me long enough that when I think of them, I still feel the emotion. I then jot down the words that remind me of the scene, gradually molding them into verse.
Q. How long does it take you to complete a book?
A. The time varies according to the length, research requirements, and publishing plans for the book. I wrote Space Station Science in spurts (as interview opportunities and hardware developed) over a two-year period, though most of the original writing (as opposed to rewriting) was done in 9 months. Homework Help on the Internet required me to put the rest of my life on hold so I could get it done in just 6 weeks. It's amazing how motivating a deadline can be!
Q. Did you have any role models as a child and who were they?
A. I didn't know any women scientists as a child (there were no women astronauts back then), so my role models were fictional characters such as Lt. Uhura on Star Trek, and April Dancer of the Girl from U.N.C.L.E. (A popular spy show and book series.) My heroes were the Apollo astronauts, such as Buzz Aldrin who wrote the Foreword for my first book.
Q. Do you have any advice for kids who want to write or illustrate?
A. I believe the key to success is to identify what appeals to you personally and emotionally: what excites, angers, or otherwise causes you to react intensely. Your personal interest will give you the patience required to research the facts, interview the experts, and spend the extra time to make your work sell. Also, I recommend taking advantage of opportunities to meet new people and travel to new places - even if those places are just different parts of your home town such as the police station or city dump. When you experience something for the first time, you're more likely to notice the colors, smells, sounds, and "characters" more intensely. You can then use these to add details to your stories. You might want to keep a diary, sketchbook, or annotated photo album of your impressions. If you want to write for publication, check your local library for information on writers groups in your area. Many of them hold contests and conferences which are open to all ages. There are also online resources for young writers. I have some of these listed on my website Links page: http://www.geocities.com/mariannedyson/links.html. Whatever you do, don't pay someone to publish your work - they should pay you!
Q. Do you have any pets or a favorite animal?
A. I have 5 fish that I enjoy watching swim back and forth and accomplish even less than I do in a day. My youngest son has a hamster named Nibbles who is now almost too fat to perform her best trick which is to hang upside down by her little feet to earn a sunflower seed. Our orange and white cat, named Charming, has a psychic link with my older son. Whenever he sits down to eat, Charming meows to be let in to also eat. He often then barfs all over the floor, and our dog Floppy happily licks up the mess! Floppy is half cocker spaniel and half mutt, and softer and more squeezable than any stuffed toy I've ever had (and I've had a lot!). No one can beat him at tug-o-war, especially when he walks me around the block!
Q. What are your hobbies?
A. I filksing, which is a science fiction fandom name for folksinging where we change the lyrics of a popular song to a science fiction, fantasy, or space theme. I accompany my singing with guitar and sometimes banjo. My other hobby is my physical fitness program: I am slowly working my way towards a black belt (up to red so far) in a Korean martial art called Kuk Sool. To stretch my imagination, I read science fiction and work puzzles.
Click here to visit Marianne Dyson's website
Below is a list of Marianne Dyson books:
Homework Help on the Internet
Space Station Science : Life in Free Fall
All of these books can be purchased at amazon.com