Kathleen Baldwin is an award-winning author with more than 600,000 copies of her books in the hands of readers around the globe. Publishers translated her books into several languages, and a Japanese publisher even made Lady Fiasco into a manga. Scholastic licensed her School for Unusual Girls series for school book fairs. The YA series won numerous awards, and was optioned for film by Ian Bryce, producer of Spiderman, Transformers, Saving Private Ryan, and other blockbuster films. The series is currently undergoing its third film option.
Kathleen loves adventure in books and in real life. She taught rock climbing in the Rockies, survival camped in the desert and in the snow, was stalked by a mountain lion, lost an argument with a rattlesnake, enjoyed way too many classes in college, fell in love at least a dozen times, and married her very own hero. Together they’ve raised four free-spirited adventurous children and are enjoying a dozen grandchildren.
“A School for Unusual Girls,” by Kathleen Baldwin, is enticing from the first sentence.” –The New York Times Sunday Book Review
#1 New York Times bestselling author Meg Cabot calls Kathleen’s romantic Regency adventure, “completely original and totally engrossing.”
Now for some silly stuff . . .
If you want to know about the rattlesnake, here’s a short version from the Refuge for Masterminds blog tour: https://www.jeanbooknerd.com/2017/05/kathleen-author-interview.html
I thought it might be fun if every now and then I posted a personal photo. Hey, if a picture is worth a thousand words, this is the quickest way for you to get to know me, right? If you’d rather read a more formal detailed bio info there’s an interview further down, and some serious pontificating.
So, what does this photo tell you?
Don’t you just love the chic head gear? This was taken during my rock-climbing phase. Yep, I loved balancing on a half inch lip of granite and tiptoeing up soaring rock faces. Dangling from a rope over a 500 ft precipice elated me. I craved climbing so much during my college days I hung out with the local mountain-rescue team and occasionally gave climbing lessons.
Except, wait a minute, this isn’t me on a rock face. Nope, this is deep inside a cave. Yikes! We were more than a mile underground mapping a deserted geyser pit on the far side of Lake Bonneville–one of my rare spelunking excursions. That geyser tube was so deep we had to hook our ropes onto to a giant reel of telephone cable. More than a mile of cable later we still hadn’t reached the bottom. We did, however, see some pretty cool rock formations.
In case you can’t tell, I’m not crazy about caves. Nope, I especially don’t like squishy, squeezy, skinny ones. I get a little claustrophobic. So, you’re looking at a picture of super uncomfortable Kathleen. After climbing for six hours I was covered in crusty clay and so tired I couldn’t see straight. That’s when some joker with a camera decided it was a perfect time to take my picture.
Why did you become a writer?
It was a conspiracy! I’m not kidding. Influential women in my life decided to make it so.
My mother used to read poems and books to us at night before bed: Heidi, Tom Sawyer, Black Beauty, Oliver Twist, The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax, and many others. I treasured those nights curled up in the window seat listening to her read.
She died when I was thirteen, almost fourteen. I still miss her every day. But because of her, I fell in love with reading and spent many delightful hours with wonderful authors like: Kipling, Victor Hugo, Dickens, Wodehouse, Oscar Wilde, O’Henry, Daphne De Maurier, Frank Herbert, Jane Austen…
These authors and their stories became part of my blood and bone. I have walked with them in worlds they spun out of golden words. Reading those books carried me away to places of hope and courage. On those beloved pages, I glimpsed truths I would not have otherwise seen. The reason I write is to give the gift back.
My grandmothers and great aunts were all avid storytellers. They taught me that this is something women do–they tell their stories, and those of their mothers. I was fortunate to have all four of my great grandmothers alive when I was little. What magnificent women! And, oh, how I loved hearing them tell their stories. These remarkable women and their stories live on in me–in my writing and in my heart.
My teachers — conspirators all! They kept excusing me from English class to go read in the library, or to sit in the corner and write, beginning with Mrs. Davis in first grade. This wouldn’t be so extraordinary, except it kept happening over the next twelve years, even when I changed schools. (I went to several different schools before high school.) At Madison No. 1 in Phoenix, I complained to our librarian that they didn’t have enough of Charles Dickens’s books. I suppose my English teachers, Mrs. Chamberlain and Mrs. Shakespeare (yes, she really was named Shakespeare) got wind of my reading list from the librarian and that’s why they excused me from class. All except Mrs. Merrick–she made me stay in class and memorize poetry. That’s when I fell in love with Browning and Wordsworth. Our family moved again, and this time I thought I might learn some grammar in high school, but Mrs. Auten reviewed our first writing assignment and transferred me out of English into a creative writing class. And that, as they say, was that.
Are you married? Do you have children?
Yes and yes. My husband is a true hero and has always been supportive of my writing. He is a tremendous blessing in my life. We have four untamed children who are bravely taking on the world. I’m very proud of all of them–they are all out-of-the-box thinkers. It’s exciting to watch them boldly taking on the adventures of life.
What does your family think of having an author in their midst?
The only one who was impressed was my wonderfully supportive mother-in-law. In many respects, writing was simply expected of me. I come from a long line of writers, from my great grandmother on down. She wrote for the newspaper, and was the first woman to have a daily radio program in Arizona. My step-sister is published, my brother-in-law has ten books out. My oldest son had a column in the Dallas Morning News when he was still in high school and he has authored several books. In my family, writers put their pants on the same way everyone else does. That’s good. We understand one another–we know the ups and the downs of the creative world.
Tell us something not very many people know about you.
I don’t think in words. I think in pictures, well kind of, it’s more like swirling images. Consequently, people sometimes think I’m shy. But really, there isn’t a shy bone in my body. Ironically, I’m more comfortable speaking to an audience of thousands than talking one-on-one to a new acquaintance. This is because I think in those wild images, visual impressions, colors, shapes, and graphical constructs. If I’m not prepared with the exact words, as when giving a speech, I have to translate complex mental imagery into English. Whew!
Translating takes time, time that is often misinterpreted as shyness, and makes others uncomfortable in social settings. I’ve learned a few tricks. Generally, I lure the other person into talking about themselves, that way I’m off the hook. Unfortunately, I’m extremely opinionated, so if I really want to say something, and often I do, then I must first grapple with language and struggle to interpret visual concepts into words.
Weird, huh? A writer who struggles with words.
If there was one thing in the world you could change what would it be?
Uh-oh, you want to pin me down to one issue? There are several extremely critical problems facing our modern culture. But okay, my number one burning issue is education reform.
The way we structure our schools–it isn’t even logical. I would even go so far as to say we are destroying our country’s greatest resource–the minds of our children. This is America, land of innovation, and yet we still teach using the same basic format/structure as we used two centuries ago. ARGH!!!
The solution is clear and easy to implement, but we have too many fearful hesitant people trying to protect the status quo in education. Ironically, teachers jobs wouldn’t be in danger at all if structuralists would stop being so fearful and protective, and just amend the format. Good teachers would be lauded as heroes under a correctly designed system.
Do you want to see the United States zoom to the top of global charts academically? (According to the 2021 World Population Review multiple sources rank us as 27th against the 65 industrialized nations academically.) We must stop teaching our children to bounce from one subject to another every forty-five minutes. Is it any wonder why we have to re-teach concepts year after year before we can add new ones? Focus is the missing component. Inundation is the most effective way to learn. If you want to learn a language do you only spend a few minutes a day on it? Of course not. Yet we do just that in our classrooms.
We all know inundation is the most effective way to learn. Summer school is a good example of how this works. Kids who have trouble passing a class during the year (when it’s doled out in forty-five minute increments) pass it with flying colors when they study it for four hours over a three week period. Well-run Montessori schools are another example of allowing a child to explore a subject as long as he needs.
With computers there is absolutely no reason why individualized instruction and evaluation isn’t the norm. It would foster self-motivation and competition. (Two ideas which are not mutually exclusive regardless of what you may have been told.) By the end of ninth grade students would have enough of a broad classical background to begin focusing on their strengths and talents and pursuing interest areas in more depth. It is extremely frustrating that we scarcely allow them to do that in college.
Let’s face facts, this is a specialized global economy. If a sixteen year old in high school is jazzed about chemistry, there is no reason why he isn’t taking more labs so he can explore this interest. IMO, at least half the day should be devoted to interest area exploration.
Socrates would laugh himself back into the grave if he woke up and saw the resources being dumped into education in the U.S. and the ineffectual way they are being used. I have much more to say on this. As you can see, education reform is an issue I feel passionately about.
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