Author Spotlight: Kirsten W. Larson

It’s time for another Author Spotlight, and today I’m excited to be chatting with Kirsten W. Larson about her most recent picture book, A True Wonder: The Comic Book Hero Who Changed Everything.

Hi Kirsten, Thank you so much for joining us today! I’m so excited to chat with you about A True Wonder, but before we dive in would you mind telling us a bit about yourself, and your path to becoming an author?

Hi Devyn! Thank you so much for having me. 

I started my writing career in journalism before moving to public relations for NASA. When my little ones gobbled up children’s nonfiction at our public library, I realized that I could write those books and would have a blast doing it. I studied the craft of nonfiction writing, wrote pieces for children’s magazines and books for nonfiction for publishers like Capstone. All the while, I worked on my own stories and searched for a literary agent.

A True Wonder is your second picture book, I believe. Can you tell us a little bit about it?

I like to think of A TRUE WONDER as a biography of the comic book character, Wonder Woman – how she was created, her trials and tribulations over 80 years, and how she’s come to mean so much to her many fans around the world.

What was the research process like for this book? How did you prepare to write a picture book biography of a fictional character?

It was really fun, actually. I got to read a lot of early Wonder Woman comic books as well as comic book histories. I also visited the archives of her creator, William Moulton Marston, at Harvard. And of course, I had to watch the Wonder Woman movie and Lynda Carter TV series again.

Title: A True Wonder: The Comic Book Kero Who Changed Everything
Author: Kirsten W. Larson
Illustrator: Katy Wu
Publisher: Clarion Books
Published: August 25, 2021
Format: Picture Book

What inspired you to write about Wonder Woman? 

My sister and I were big fans as kids. There’s a picture of us in the back matter in our Wonder Woman Underoos with homemade paper tiaras and bracelets. When the first Wonder Woman movie came out, I was stuck by how watching the movie together with sisters and gal pals was so important. And then I thought about that phrase – Wonder Woman – and how we use it in everyday life to signal female strength and power. I thought there was an important book there.

I have to admit, I found comics and graphic novels later in life (as I think plenty of women my age did) but I found Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman so incredibly inspiring. And it’s equally inspiring to learn about the women who paved the way for Wonder Woman to exist, and created space in the industry for women who are creating today. Do you have any favorite current comic books or graphic novels by female creators?

On the superhero side, G. Willow Wilson’s Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel comics and Vita Ayala and Stephanie Williams’s Nubia (from the Wonder Woman universe) rock. I’m also drawn to real-life superheroes like Ruth Bader Ginsburg. You can read about her in the graphic novel, BECOMING RBG by Debbie Levy, illustrated by Whitney Gardner. Also Vera Brosgol’s BE PREPARED, a memoir of her childhood, is so fun.

Katy Wu’s panel illustrations are fantastic, and they capture the comic book atmosphere perfectly. Was this part of your original vision for this book, or Did the two of you get to collaborate much during the process?

I suggested a comic book-style illustration for the book, and fortunately, my editor, Jennifer Greene, had the same vision and had the foresight to get Katy on board. Katy and I didn’t really collaborate, which is very typical in picture books. I reviewed some early sketches for historical accuracy, but when I first saw the full-color illustrations, they took my breath away! I always love the moment when a book truly comes together.

If young readers only take one thing away from A True Wonder, what do you want them to learn?

I want them to realize that heroes come in many forms, and that kids have the power to be heroes and create positive change in the world.

Would you say that your previous career at NASA impacts your writing today?

Working at NASA, I learned how to research and write about complicated topics for everyday people, which was helpful experience. With almost every book, I’m researching something new to me and trying to figure out how to make it accessible and understandable for young people. 

What’s next for you? Do you have any releases coming up this year?

I have two books to look forward to in 2023, both about real-live heroes. THE FIRE OF STARS: The Life and Brilliance of the Woman Who Discovered What Stars Are Made Of, illustrated by Katherine Roy (Chronicle Books) is a picture book about astrophysicist Cecilia Payne. And the graphic novel, THE LIGHT OF RESISTANCE, illustrated by Barbara McClintock (Roaring Brook), is the story of French curator Rose Valland who spied on the Nazis during World War II and helped save more than 60,000 art treasures seized from French Jews.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with Mutually Inclusive’s readers?

Parents and educators will find educational resources for my books on my website: kirsten-w-larson.com, and I love to interact with readers on Instagram and Twitter @kirstenwlarson.

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