We had the opportunity to chat with Erin Bow, the author of Simon Sort of Says. Read on to learn more about Erin and her writing!

Q: Where do you find the inspiration for your books?

A: Once upon a time, I studied to be a particle physicist.  Particle physicists are the people who get particles going really fast and then smash them into other particles, to learn more about how matter works. 

I bring this up because inspiration seems to work the same way for me.  I often think I have an idea for a book, and I noodle around with it for a bit, exploring the edges of the world or following the character from place to place.  But my idea doesn’t seem to come to life until I hit it with another idea at high speed.  So, I was writing a book about a boy taking care of an orphaned hawk, but it didn’t work until I made it a girl and an eagle and moved it to Mongolia.  I was writing a comedy set in a funeral home, but it didn’t work until I also set it in the National Quiet Zone, where the characters can’t access the internet because of the big radio telescopes nearby.  

I have a journal where I capture ideas.  I write in it for three solid pages every morning, and then I jot down ideas and things I learned throughout the day—things like the National Quiet Zone and the Mongolian Eagle Hunters first landed in my life as that part of my notebook.   

The most recent three things in the notebook are a description of a rehabilitation hospital at night, a theory that the concept of “zero” might have originated as a musical rest; and some things I recently learned about a kind of bird whose hanging nests are traditionally harvested to be used as children’s slippers.  Will any of these go into a book?  I don’t know.  But even if they don’t, my journal is useful to me the way keeping a compost heap is useful to gardeners.  It feeds the soil in which stories grow. 

Q: What were your favourite books when you were a kid? As a young reader, did you see yourself in the books you read?

A: I have always loved books, and I went through layers and layers of favorites, from Thidwick the Bighearted Moose by Doctor Seuss as a picture book reader, to Trumpet of the Swan by EB White as an early novel reader, to the Sherlock Holmes stories by Arthur Conan Doyle, when the librarian in my little town told me I could use the adult side of the library too.  In high school read a lot of Star Trek novels.  I loved science fiction and fantasy, generally.  The books I imprinted on as the world’s most perfect books were The Wizard of Earthsea, The Lord of the Rings, and The Last Unicorn

I didn’t see myself in books, exactly—you will notice that there are very few women and girls in any of the books I just listed.  But that was such a pervasive lack when I was a kid in the 1970s and 1980s that I didn’t even notice. 

It wasn’t until I became a writer myself that I began to think:  you know what my high-school self needed?  A smart, queer girl hero. 

Q: What’s the most surprising thing you have learned when creating your books?

A: The most surprising thing I’ve learned is that writing the last book doesn’t prepare you to write the next book.  You’d think you think that after writing ten books I’d know how to start a new one, right?  Nope.  Every time, I have to figure it out all over again. 

Q: What is a challenge you have faced as a writer?


My biggest challenge right now is keeping the various parts of my life in balance so that there’s time and energy to write.  I do science writing as a consultant to keep the bills paid, and I tend to take on very challenging projects.  I have two fantastic teenaged kids with autism who aren’t in the usual school system and need various extra supports and interventions.  I do some care for my elderly parents and in-laws.  I have various bits of things that I do as a writer that aren’t writing—interviews and school visits and festivals and finances.  And I have fatigue and other things related to Long Covid—bad enough that I spent a lot of 2023 in a wheelchair—which mean I can no longer keep these things in balance by working hard at all of them.

I try to find balance by putting the most joyful things—which generally tend to be writing things—at the start of every day. 

Q: What advice do you have for kids who are interested in writing?

A: First of all, I think you should go for it!  There are so many sensible reasons not to—writing is hard; publishing is worse; the money is terrible—but if you feel called to create things you will be so much happier if you create them, and the world will be so much richer for it.  It’s a dumb way to make a living but a fantastic way to make a life. 

Second, you should start now.  Maybe you feel like don’t have the right skills or enough time.  Maybe you feel something else is happening in your life that’s in the way. Maybe all of that is even true.  But another truth is there is never a perfect time to start – you will never feel ready.  So start now. 

Third, something practical.  Commit to finishing at least, say, a third of your stuff.   Most new writers have a pile of half-done, abandoned stories (or poems or essays or whatever).  That’s because the middle is always the hardest part.  Everyone always gets lost there.  But the only way to learn to finish a story is to finish a few stories.  The only way to find the path is to keep breaking it. 

As Ray Bradbury said, throw yourself off a cliff —you’ll get your wings on the way down.