Today we have the privilege of hearing from award-winning author Tanya Lee Stone who has written over 100 books for young readers. Her Courage Has No Color won an NAACP Award, and she was a finalist for the prestigious YALSA Award.
Her writing mantra is to research until exhaustion sets in, find all the primary sources that she can, and then take all the pieces of the puzzle
to tell the most accurate story that she can.
SR: What are some of your "go-to" research resources?
Tanya: My research is always book specific, so my go-to approach is to basically find everything possible on the topic. I use both my local university library and online resources to uncover as many books, journal articles, newspaper articles, documentaries, photographs, diaries, etc., as humanly possible. I also search for people related to the story to interview, sometimes flying to where they are to conduct in-person interviews.
SR: What advice do you have for those entering this exciting world of nonfiction?
Tanya: My advice for anyone writing nonfiction is to take your responsibility extremely seriously. You are the only thing between a reader learning an accurate story vs. learning one that has half-truths or inconsistencies. Growing up, I used to love those old Childhood of Famous Americans biographies that read very much like novels. They were engaging and a great way to learn about a person. Except when I later found out they were fictionalized. That experience definitely influenced my desire to make sure that I did the best possible job to make sure I never led anyone astray with my writing on true topics.
Be sure you can corroborate information, and not taking it as face value just because it's in someone else's book. Go to great lengths to make sure you can stand behind your sources. Don't try to make a piece of information fit if it doesn't. When that happens, something is out of place, so ask the hard questions and put the puzzle together for yourself and you will end up with something you can be really proud of.
SR: From the many possible projects you could be working on, how do you select which one to focus on, and what factors play into that decision?
Tanya: Honestly, deadlines are often deciding factors. I am always juggling projects in
different stages of the process, and I work on them in order of when they are due. I also tend to switch things up regardless of deadlines if I need a fresh perspective---for example, after I've been working on one thing for several hours, I might need a break, so I will change to another project that is in a different stage----perhaps I need to check illustrator sketches against the last pass manuscript, or do some fact checking. Keeps me fresh!
Thank you, Tanya, for you time and your expertise in the area of nonfiction. We wish you well on your future projects.