No, the tortoise didn't do the interview. A journalist friend did.
Here's what Faith had to say about working as a writer.
A: I won an essay contest in the third grade, and I was hooked. I've been writing
things ever since.
Q: Why do you write?
A: It's in me. It's what I do. I've always felt driven to understand things. When
I write, I read complex scientific research and try to translate it into terms that
people who aren't scientists (and I) can understand. Writing fulfills my need to
learn, grow, and share what I learn with others who may feel just as driven to understand
as I do.
Q: Who or what influences your work?
A: Scientific research and the people who do it influence everything I do. I've read
that knowledge doubles every three to five years. Much of that growth in knowledge
comes out of scientific research. I always want to know what's new and what implications
new knowledge has for how we live.
Q: What is your writing process?
A: I once took a learning styles test and discovered that I’m a "concrete random."
I latch onto a fact or idea from some source and then find that I am thinking about
it, asking questions about it. Then I go looking in other places for related ideas
and answers to my questions. Gradually, I weave one strand in with another until
I have what feels like a piece of "whole cloth."
As for how I manage my writing, when I get up in the morning, I go to work just like
everybody else. Never mind that my office is just down the hall. I think 90 percent
of writing is sitting down and doing it. I work every day including weekends and
holidays. I start early in the morning and usually quit midafternoon when I begin
to feel "brain dead." I follow Hemingway's advice. I know where I will begin the
next day before I stop. I can't imagine a day without writing, although I accomplish
more some days than others.
Q: What has inspired you to write on the subjects you have chosen?
A: When I went to college, they asked me to declare a major. I had no idea what to
choose, but I had liked English and biology in high school. English seemed too easy,
though, so I chose biology. I have never regretted that decision. I find the study
of life infinitely fascinating, and my writing career has allowed me to combine my
love of writing with science.
Q: When did you start writing about the brain?
A: The first book in my 101 Questions... series was about the brain. I wrote it in
the mid-1990s. I chose the topic because I thought there could not possibly be anything
more exciting than a brain trying to understand itself. I wrote the manuscript and
gave it to an agent who seemed eager to represent me. She kept it for a year and
returned it to me as "unpublishable." I wrote query letters on my own and ended up
selling that manuscript to Millbrook. It subsequently earned a “Best of the Year”
designation from the American Association for the Advancement of Science. That series
now includes ten titles, and the brain book is in its second edition. I think there
is a lesson here for other writers: perseverance.
Q: What prompted you to write the ten books in the 101 Questions... series?
A: Textbooks make science seem so static, so dull. I wanted to help young people
participate in the excitement of science as it grows and changes with each new research
effort. I wanted to show that science works to answer questions we encounter in daily
life; and I wanted to show that answers are always open and tentative. They are invitations
to still more questions. I have always defined science as a way of asking questions
and looking for answers. I hope this series captured the essence of that definition.
Q: How has your writing process changed since you "quit your day job"?
A: The Internet has changed so much for me. All the research material that was inaccessible
or difficult to find fifteen years ago now lies at my fingertips. I can get in touch
with scientists in minutes, not weeks. And no more telephone tag! I hear people criticize
the Internet because of all the trash that is on it. But it is full of treasures,
too. You just have to know how to find them.
Other than the research angle, I think I become a better writer the more I write.
I think we all do. Also, I've broadened my interests and I do quite a bit of freelance
editing. I've learned mountains from that--including a lot of what's in The Chicago
Manual of Style. Seeing things from an editorial point of view makes me a better
self-critic, I think. I also do a fair bit of ghostwriting. There's nothing like
trying to write in someone else's style to make you more aware of your own.
Q: What do you hope to achieve through the books and articles you write?
A: If even one person reads something I wrote and says, "Oh, yeah. I get it!" then
I have achieved something worthwhile in my career.
Q: What advice do you give aspiring writers?
A: Don't write in generalities. It's the specific details that will make your writing
engaging and memorable. Oh, and one other thing: Don't keep your rejection letters.
You need the file space to store the research materials for your next project.
Q: How did your newest book, Brain Sense, come about?
A: When my 101 Questions... series went to a new publishing company after eight books,
the game changed. The friendly and productive relationship I had enjoyed with the
Millbrook staff was gone. The new staff of editors didn't like me or much of anything
that I wrote, and when I suggested that the next 101... title should be on the senses,
they flatly refused, saying that the topic was too juvenile, too elementary school.
I had been reading a lot of very exciting research about how the brain handles sensory
input, and none of it struck me as juvenile, but the publisher was adamant. Soon
after that, the publisher terminated the company’s relationship with me. I think
they thought I was difficult. The feeling was mutual, so I was more relieved than
disappointed. I then wrote a proposal for an adult book about the brain and the senses--mostly
just to prove to myself that there was nothing childish about the topic. My agent
soon sold the proposal to an enthusiastic publisher, and the rest is history. Brain
Sense is the book I'm most proud of, and it never would have happened if I had stayed
with my former publisher. As for the new publisher, it's the best company I have
ever worked with. When one door closes, another opens.
Q: How did you begin writing?
Interested readers will find an expanded interview