Author Spotlight: Kirsten Larson
November 12, 2021
We are excited to feature author Kirsten Larson and her most recent picture book, A TRUE WONDER: THE COMIC BOOK HERO WHO CHANGED EVERYTHING, illustrated by Katy Wu (Clarion Books) out now!
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Tell us about yourself and how you came to write for children.
I turned to children’s writing after several years in PR at NASA, where I promoted NASA’s aeronautics programs as well as the Space Shuttle and International Space Station. I went to so many Space Shuttle launches! Years later, when my boys were preschoolers, we spent hours in the kids nonfiction section at our library. As I read many of those books with them, I thought, “I could write these, and it would be a blast!” And then I figured it out with the help of our fabulous kidlit community.
Congrats on your newest picture book, A True Wonder: The Comic Book Hero Who Changed Everything! Tell us about it and what inspired you.
A True Wonder, illustrated by Katy Wu, is a nonfiction biography of the fictional comic book character, Wonder Woman, including how she was created and how she’s evolved to mean so much to so many people. I was initially inspired by the blockbuster 2017 movie starring Gal Godot, and observing how women responded to seeing their childhood hero on the big screen. Of course, I was a Wonder Woman fan myself as a kid. There is a picture of my sister and me dressed in our Wonder Woman Underoos with homemade tiaras and bracelets in the book’s back matter.
Was your road to publication long and winding, short and sweet, or something in between?
This was my third picture book sale, but my second book to be released. Everything about this book came very quickly. We had an offer from editor Jennifer Greene at Clarion Books in less than two months, and Jennifer got Katy on board to illustrate soon after contract signing. From initial offer to book on the shelf was just shy of three years. I’ve never had a book move that fast!
What are some of your favorite classic PBs? How about recent ones?
One of my all-time favorites is the Little Golden Book, The Monster at the End of this Book, by Jon Stone. I still have my own copy. I also loved all the Richard Scarry books, especially books like What Do People Do All Day? Though the book is fiction, there’s so much information about jobs and what they entail. Perhaps it inspired my interest in nonfiction.
As for current picture books, I truly feel we’re living in a golden age of children’s nonfiction, so it’s hard to choose a favorite, but some recent titles I’ve loved are Survivor Tree, by Marcie Colleen, illus. Aaron Becker, Penguin Journey, by Angela Burke Kunkel, illus. Catherine Odell, No Voice Too Small, edited by Lindsay Metcalf, Keila Dawson, and Jeanette Bradley (who also illustrated it), and In My Mosque, by M. O. Yuksel, illustrated by Hatem Aly.
What projects are you working on now?
I’m drafting another middle grade, graphic nonfiction I’m super excited about, while polishing a lyrical, STEM picture book. Oh, and I have notes from my agent on my middle grade mystery. I’m itching to get back to that too.
What advice would you give to your younger self? Is this the same as you'd give to aspiring authors?
Growing up I wanted to be a nurse, an actress, a foreign service officer, a journalist. And I came to writing for children after jobs in journalism, PR, a nonprofit fundraising, and a mom. Being “an author” was never a job I imagined for myself until my 30s. It’s never too late to start. I think that’ great advice for all of us.
What is one thing most people don't know about you?
I spent several years living overseas in Germany and Saudi Arabia, and I still have friends all over the world. I really miss international travel right now!
Where can people find you online?
I’m at Kirsten-w-larson.com and on social media @kirstenwlarson
Kirsten used to work with rocket scientists at NASA. Now she writes books for curious kids. Kirsten is the author of the picture books WOOD, WIRE, WINGS: EMMA LILIAN TODD INVENTS AN AIRPLANE, illustrated by Tracy Subisak(Calkins Creek, 2020), A TRUE WONDER: The Comic Book Hero Who Changed Everything, illustrated by Katy Wu (Clarion, 2021), and THE FIRE OF STARS: The Life and Brilliance of the Woman Who Discovered What Stars Are Made Of, illustrated by Katherine Roy (Chronicle, 2022), and the middle grade, graphic nonfiction, THE LIGHT OF RESISTANCE, illustrated by Barbara McClintock, (Roaring Brook, 2023), as well as 25 nonfiction books for the school and library market. Kirsten lives with her family near Los Angeles.