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May 20, 2010

Meet Judy Harper, Mother of Author Molly Harper

Posted by Anonymous

Did you read to your daughter as a child? What did you read?   

I read to Molly from the very beginning. We read the usual Dr. Seuss and classic fairy tales, of course. And she loved these boxed sets of Sesame Street and Golden Books. We collected the Serendipity books for her, which she now reads to her own kids. She liked the sitting on my lap and hearing about Captain Smudge and Bangalee.

harper.JPGHow old was your daughter when she started reading?  

Molly was reading at a very early age. She knew several sight words before she began kindergarten and she would "help me" read road signs, billboards and cereal boxes, whether I wanted that help or not. She carried books around like most little girls carried baby dolls.  Molly was not one to play with dolls and stuffed animals --- books were her constant companion. And when she wasn't reading, she was telling stories. She never just played, there was always a pirate attack, or a ghost chasing her, or aliens invading. There were warning signs that this was going to lead to a potential career. We asked what she wanted to be when she grew up and she said, "Mad Scientist." Not just a scientist. AMAD scientist.
Did your child have a favorite series/author growing up?

I remember getting calls from her teacher because she was reading a Babysitters Club books instead of her textbooks in class. She eventually moved on to Stephen King, Christopher Pike and some of my own romance novels. She would sneak a book out of the house and then hide it behind the open textbook while pretending to listen to the day's lessons.  For some reason, the middle school instructors found this ability to "multitask" insulting and I would be the recipient of phone calls from exasperated teachers.  
Molly is now married to one of those teachers' nephews, so now she is reminded of the incidents at every major family gathering. It would have been easier on her if she'd just paid attention in English. So now she's a cautionary tale.

Did you have any book or reading rituals in your house? (Examples would be: Going to the library or bookstore together, talking about the books you have read, sharing books, story time)  

I remember going to the book store to buy Molly a couple of books in her favorite series --- I think it was The Babysitters Club --- and she finished one of them before we got home. The decision to get her a library card was more economically based than us trying to creating a family ritual of shopping for books. Her dad and I couldn't afford to buy books for Molly at the rate she read them! We did spend lots of hot summer days in the library exploring the bookshelves bring home books by the armload. It was a nice problem to have, but still sort of frustrating. How do you tell your daughter, "DON'T READ SO FAST!"
When did you know your daughter was going to be a writer?

Book-smuggling incidents aside, she'd always enjoyed English. She had a really great teacher her freshman year of high school. Mr. Werner read Molly’s introductory personal essay and told her she sounded like Erma Bombeck. Molly asked who that was and we assured her it was a good thing. She became interested in columns and journalism and she started looking at colleges with good journalism departments. At 14, she decided she was going to Western Kentucky University, majoring in print journalism. And that's what she did. Was she flighty and creative? Yes. But we never said she wasn’t goal-oriented.  

Her grandma called her Brenda Starr. And again, we assured Molly that was a good thing.

Can you remember your daughter writing as a child?

Her dad is a huge computer person --- he brought home a computer back in the late 1970s and set it up in our dining room. Molly would spend as much time as she could writing her stories on his computer. Her brother and sister were running wild in the house but Molly would spend all her time creating her stories. When she couldn't get on the computer, she used the typewriter I used in college. She set up her little writing office on the couch. And she still writes her stories from her couch.

Do you read advance copies of your daughter’s work?

I read the Jane books from the very beginning, when the first book was just a few pages. I read a lot of romance novels, so Molly says she uses me as a “barometer” to tell if a story is working or not. I loved the Jane books --- they are so funny and so very Molly. I love to read but hate to write (which probably isn't a good thing to admit since I am a Communication Arts teacher) and I am always amazed by what she is able to produce with the hectic work and family schedule she maintains.  
Do you have a favorite of your daughters books?

NICE GIRLS DON’T HAVE FANGS will always be my favorite because it was the first.  But I like AND ONE LAST THING… too, because I like to think of Molly lying on her couch, nine months pregnant, waiting to go into labor with my grandson, reading me passages from a slightly bawdy divorce revenge fantasy. Some mothers and daughters play cards or board games while they’re waiting for a baby to arrive. This is what we do.
What kinds of books do you enjoy reading?

I like romance and historical novels. I like the Karen White books: THE GIRL ON LEGARE STREET, THE HOUSE ON TRADD STREET…There is something about reading stories that are based in the south. The characters and the setting can be really quirky but you know there is someone or someplace in the south that matches those books' characters or places.  

What authors, besides your daughter’s books, do you read?

Fern Michaels, Nora Roberts, Kristin Hannah, Barbara Delinsky, Mary Kay Andrews, Daphne DuMaurier are some of my old faithfuls.  I am open to reading other authors --- I just tend to go back to those because I am familiar with them.

Molly Harper is the author of the Jane Jameson series. Her latest novel, AND ONE LAST THING…will be available July 27th wherever books are sold.