If you were a preteen girl in the '80s or '90s, you know exactly who Ann M. Martin is. As the author and creator of "The Baby-Sitters Club" series, her name is on well over 131 books. Martin is now releasing a new book for preteens, "Rain Reign" (out Oct. 4) about a young girl with autism who is obsessed with homonyms. The book marks a darker turn for Martin, tackling weighty topics such as alcoholism and class conflict. We asked Martin about how her writing has changed over the years as well as her "other" book series.
Was writing from Rose's perspective, a character with autism, a greater challenge than writing from the perspective of a character who doesn't have autism?
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Yes, but it was absolutely the way I wanted to tell the story. I had been waiting to write a character with autism for a long time. Actually, back in the '70s, I spent the summers between my semesters at college teaching at a school for autistic children. Obviously, a lot has changed since then. My friend teaches at a school for autistic children, so I was able to visit the school and observe the kids and teachers.
People tend to remember "The Baby-Sitters Club" as lighthearted, but you did touch upon serious topics in the series.
Absolutely. I used to get thousands of letters from kids and they would tell me things they would like to see in future books — and a lot of them were weightier topics. So in many cases, the serious topics were included because readers had asked for them.
If you were to start "The Baby-Sitters Club" series today, would you integrate social media and modern technology?
Yes, absolutely. I would put all of those things in there to make the girls seem more contemporary. We actually reissued the first eight books a few years ago and slightly updated them, but we decided incorporating social media and cellphones would involve way too much rewriting.
Have you had to change the way you write for preteens over the years?
I think more of what has changed about my writing has been personal growth. I write much slower, and I consider every single word more carefully than I did before.
You also just released the fourth book in your "The Doll People" series. What is the series about?
"The Doll People" is a series I co-write with my friend, Laura Godwin. It's about a modern plastic doll family and a Victorian china doll family who both live in the same household. It's very different for me. That's one of the fun things about collaborating: You try things as a writer you wouldn't normally attempt on your own.
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