Margaret Willey

Margaret Willey has been writing for many years in many different genres. All of her books and stories come from a personal place, either something that happened to her or something she witnessed at close range. Like her previous novel from Carolrhoda Lab, Four Secrets (2012), Beetle Boy is about bullying, but a different kind of bullying—the kind inflicted on children by their parents. Beetle Boy was inspired by a real boy who was completely under his father’s control and trying to make the best of it until he could escape. Margaret lives in Grand Haven with her husband, Richard Joanisse, and she is currently working on a new novel and a collection of essays about her childhood in Michigan.


What was your favorite book when you were a child?

I loved the old Grimm fairytales and folktales, and also Hans Christian Andersen’s stories and Greek mythology. These tales scared and moved and inspired me. Elements from classic fairytales and mythology still find their way into everything I write.

What’s your favorite line from a book?

This is from the great P. L. Traverse, author of the Mary Poppins series: “If we’re completely honest, not sentimental or nostalgic, we have no idea where childhood ends and maturity begins. It is one unending thread, not a life chopped into sections, out of touch with one another.”

Who are your top three favorite authors or illustrators?

Maurice Sendak, Paul O. Zelinsky, and David Small are my favorite illustrators. My favorite author is Alice Munro, who writes so beautifully about women of all ages.

Why did you want to become an author or illustrator?

As a child and a teenager, I loved certain books so passionately, and once I learned that I myself had a gift for writing, I took great joy in this discovery. Writing for children is the work I was born to do.

Do you have any advice for future authors or illustrators?

Pay attention to trends and shifting markets, don’t be blind to them, but never forget that what is more important than passing trends is finding the stories that only you can write and writing them with heart and a clear vision.