The Trixie Belden Questionnaire
Kathryn Reiss is a prolific author of children's and young adult books. Her works include Time Windows, PaperQuake, The Glass House People, Paint By Magic, Sweet Miss Honeywell's Revenge: A Ghost Story, and volumes in the American Girl History Mystery line. Ms. Reiss teaches creative writing for children and young adults at Mills College in Oakland, CA. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. (Note: remove the -nospam from the address; this is to keep the address from being harvested by spammers.)
Q:AS A CHILD, WHAT DID YOU LIKE ABOUT THE TRIXIE BELDEN SERIES? WHAT DID YOU THINK ABOUT TRIXIE, THE HEROINE?
KR: I started reading the series when I found #1 (a lovely hardback with illustrations by Paul Frame, whose pictures I like so much better than those by Mary Stevens) while traveling on a family vacation the summer between 3rd and 4th grade. I read it in one sitting, and then was hooked. These mysteries were so much better than Nancy Drew tales. I never BELIEVED in Nancy, somehow. She never felt real (too perfect and boring), but Trixie and her crowd really came alive for me. Trixie had spats with her siblings and so did I; she did chores and so did I. I admired how she never felt particularly pretty--but didn't worry about it. I also thought it was great that though she had monied friends and horses to ride and amazing vacations, all of which made her someone to envy, yet she was never stuck up!
Q: NANCY DREW'S RIVER HEIGHTS SEEMS TO BE LOCATED IN ANYWHERE, MIDDLE-AMERICA, BUT TRIXIE BELDEN CLEARLY LIVES IN A SPECIFIC PLACE, THE HUDSON RIVER VALLEY. CAN YOU COMMENT ON HOW THE USE OF A SPECIFIC LOCALE HELPS TO ENRICH THE BOOKS?
KR: She lived in Sleepyside on Hudson, and I appreciated the sense of place (as opposed to no sense of place in Nancy Drew's River Heights)--and I learned some Hudson River Valley folklore and history from the books.
Q: CAN YOU COMMENT SPECIFICALLY ON ONE OR MORE VOLUMES THAT YOU THINK IS WELL-DONE AND THAT MIGHT HAVE INFLUENCED YOU.
KR: I thought books 3 and 4 were especially suspenseful. I was truly scared when Trixie, in #3 (The Gatehouse Mystery), realizes that the diamond thieves might have lured Jim into a trap. And I was on the edge of my seat when, in #4 (The Mysterious Visitor), Trixie sneaks downstairs in the Lynch Mansion to check whether the portraits of Diana's parents had blue eyes. As for the creepiest mystery over all, it's a tie between #12 (The Mystery of the Blinking Eye) and #15 (The Mystery on the Mississippi).
Q: JULIE CAMPBELL CREATED THE SERIES AND WROTE THE FIRST SIX BOOKS. VARIOUS WRITERS USING THE PEN NAME, KATHRYN KENNY, WROTE ALL OF THE OTHER VOLUMES. DID YOU NOTICE A DIFFERENCE AS A CHILD? DID IT MATTER TO YOU? IF YOU DIDN'T NOTICE AS A CHILD, DO YOU NOTICE NOW, EITHER IN RE-READING OR RECALLING?
KR: In my childhood collection there were only 16 books. I never saw the others--all in paperback--until I was in college and stumbled upon them at a mall bookstore one day. I couldn't believe it! And though I was an impoverished student, I spent all my laundry money and snack money buying as many as the store had.
Thereafter I'd go back and check every month or so to see if new ones had come out. I read them eagerly (to the amusement of my roommate) but I must say, I found them NOTHING like the first 16. Trixie wasn't even nearly-16 anymore; she'd been put back to 14. The budding romance with Jim (and possibly even Dan!) was nowhere in evidence. The books were totally plot driven with little emotional development of characters. Later, when I was an author myself and learned how series books become syndicated, I realized that Kathryn Kenny and Julie Campbell had NOT written these new Trixies. They had been farmed out to many writers... which also explained the discrepancies AND the various writing abilities from book to book.
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