A Quick Interview with The Book Scavenger author Jennifer Chambliss Bertman

Posted by: Mr. Mitch


Books are the foundation of every library and that is no exception here in the ZBKids department. We like to connect with the authors, whose works are in our library collection.

This week, I was able to speak with Jennifer Chambliss Bertman whose book The Book Scavenger was on the Bluestem List this year as an honor book for Illinois. Jennifer is so excited about the honor so, she decided to speak to me about The Book Scavenger, plans for more books in the series, and who inspired her to become a writer when she was a child. 

  1. How did you come up with the idea for The Book Scavenger?

When I began writing Book Scavenger, I lived in San Francisco and the city itself was a big part of my initial inspiration. It always struck me as a cool setting for one of my favorite types of stories when I was young. In particular I was thinking of the books From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg, The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder, The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin, and the movie Goonies. 

Walking around San Francisco one day, I imagined this scene where kids found a book in a BART station that appeared to be hidden, and then they were chased by men who wanted the book. I could see this in my mind vividly, like a movie, but I didn’t know the whys behind what was happening. Why was the book hidden, why were the kids interested in it, why did the men chase them . . . I set about brainstorming answers and writing about these characters and the things I thought might be happening in their story, and eventually my ideas evolved into the final story.

  1. What was the most fun part of writing The Book Scavenger?

Finishing it! Haha, just kidding. Although, there were a lot of moments working on Book Scavenger that I doubted myself and my ability to write the story the way I imagined it, so to have stuck with it (through eight different drafts!), and to have a publisher excited to publish it, and to see it sitting on shelves next to my favorite authors is incredibly rewarding. But as far as the writing process goes, I always love brainstorming ideas and imagining different characters and scenarios. That is so much fun for me. Finding the right words to accurately relay what I’m imagining is the hard part. :)

  1. Do you have plans to continue on The Book Scavenger story after the next book is released?

I don’t know! I have some ideas . . . But first I have a couple non-Book Scavenger stories I’d like to finish. I love Emily and James and the whole Book Scavenger crew, though, so I know I would enjoy going back to revisit them for another adventure, if readers are interested in another one.

  1. Who were some of your favorite authors as a child that inspired you to write books?

So many favorites! Lois Lowry, Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume, Ellen Raskin, E. L. Konigsburg, E. Nesbit, Ruth Chew, Ann M. Martin, Madeleine L’Engle, E.B. White–I could keep going. Perhaps the most influential, however, was James Howe who wrote the Bunnicula series, which I adored. James Howe sent me a letter when I was ten in reply to one I’d mailed him, and in his letter he encouraged me to pursue my dream of becoming a writer. I don’t think I believed I actually could be a published author like him one day, as much as I liked to daydream about it, until I read his words. I have the letter framed and hanging in my office because it meant so much to me.

  1. Tell us something unique about you that you no one really knows?

I have a dog and two cats (that’s not the unique part), and they each have distinct personalities, as all animals do, and I have “voices” for them. I sometimes talk as them and imagine what they are thinking and doing. Like right now, my cat Remy is yowling in the kitchen and I hear her saying, “Hey! Hey you! Stop that typing and come put new food in my bowl! This food you put in my bowl ten minutes ago is too old and gross to eat! I want something new!”

Remy is a sweetheart, but she can be bossy and fussy about her food. :)

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