Born in Rochester, Minnesota, Alison Behnke had the good fortune to live in Rome, Italy, for three years while in grade school. Not only did this move expand her horizons enormously and introduce her to one of the world’s best and most beautiful cities, but it provided her with a wealth of writing material. Even before her Roman holiday, however, Alison knew that she wanted to be an author—a desire which, according to her parents, she first voiced around age six. Good teachers, avid reading, and a children’s librarian for a mother all fed the fire. Alison went on to take a degree in English with a focus on Creative Writing, and at present count she has written more than thirty books. Alison lives in Minneapolis, and when she’s neither reading nor writing, she spends her time on pursuits including photography, travel, and striving to make the perfect espresso.
What was your favorite book when you were a child?
There were many, but an enduring favorite is From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg. I read it several times as a child, and upon revisiting it as an adult I was pleased to find it just as wonderful as I’d remembered.
What’s your favorite line from a book?
The answer to this question undergoes nearly constant revision and evolution, but I’m currently enjoying The Last Gentleman by Walker Percy, and one of its many lovely and startling passages follows.
“At the end of summer his father died. Though his death was sudden, people were less surprised than they might have been, since it was well known that in this particular family the men died young, after short tense honorable lives, and the women lived another fifty years, lived a brand new life complete with a second girlhood, outings with other girls, 35,000 hearty meals, and a long quarrelsome senescence.”
Who are your top three favorite authors or illustrators?
It’s impossible for me to pick just three, but some of the usual old suspects (spanning several genres) are J. D. Salinger, Allen Ginsberg, and David Sedaris.
Why did you want to become an author or illustrator?
It was simply what I always wanted to do, without any doubt in my mind. I honestly can’t ever remember a “why.”
Do you have any advice for future authors or illustrators?
The usual, I suppose: keep at it, study the work of the authors you admire, learn to take rejection—and always be nice to your editor! Some of it can be hard work, but it becomes worth the trouble (and the wait) once you hold one of your books in your hands.