Jeanne DuPrau | Author of The Books of Ember

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Awards for The City of Ember

  • American Library Association Notable Book
  • Kirkus 2003 Editor’s Choice
  • Publisher’s Weekly Flying Start
  • Several weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List (Children’s Paperback Fiction)

... and many more!

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Answers to Your Questions

Here are some answers to frequently asked questions. Please check to see if your question is answered here before you send Jeanne an e-mail question.

Questions about Jeanne’s books

Image of a light bulb
Where did you get the idea for The City of Ember?

I grew up in the 1950s, when many people were worried that there might be a nuclear war. Some of them were building bomb shelters in their back yards. I think this influenced my idea for Ember—a city built to protect the human race from a terrible threat. But I was also just interested in the idea of a city that had no light other than electricity. What would it be like to live in such darkness, and to know that light and food and supplies were all running out? And not to know about weather or trees or animals (except for a few rats and insects) or any other places? All this grabbed my imagination. And once I'd written The City of Ember, I hoped it would make people think about our world—about the sun and the moon, the forests and the ocean, the wind and the rain—and how precious it all is.

Why was the city of Ember built?

You'll find out if you read the sequel, The People of Sparks.

How long did it take to write The City of Ember?

A long time. I wrote the first version many years ago. It wasn't very good, so I put it away. I got it out again later and rewrote it, and then I rewrote it two or three times more. Altogether, it probably took me about two years of actual writing to finish it.

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When do The City of Ember and The People of Sparks take place—in the past or the future?

They take place in the future—a far future, which I hope we never get to.

The Prophet of Yonwood is a prequel. Why isn’t it the first book in the series?

When I wrote The City of Ember, I didn't expect to be writing a sequel, much less a prequel. The idea of telling a story that led up to the building of the city didn't occur to me until quite a bit later.

What’s the title of the fourth Book of Ember, and what’s it about?

The fourth and final book is called The Diamond of Darkhold. It begins where The People of Sparks left off and concludes the story of Lina and Doon. They go on an emergency journey and find something they hadn’t expected.

There’s a movie of The City of Ember. Are there going to be movies of the other books?

I don’t know yet. If so, I’ll announce it on this website.

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Questions about Jeanne

Image of a girl reading on a grassy hillside
Did you always want to be a writer?

I didn't really set out to “be a writer.” I just wrote. Reading and writing have always been my favorite things, though for a while I wanted to be a writer and an illustrator. I still have my very first book, which I wrote when I was about five years old. It's called Frosty the Snowman, has six pages, and is illustrated with red and green crayon. You can read more about my history as a writer by visiting the Random House webpage on the Books of Ember.

What are some of your favorite books?

There are so many it's hard to say, but I'll list a few. As a young reader, I loved the Narnia books by C.S. Lewis, Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain; The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett; the Doctor Dolittle books by Hugh Lofting; Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll; and hundreds of others. Later I loved mystery and science fiction, especially books by Agatha Christie and Ray Bradbury. Some of my favorite writers are Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, and the Brontë sisters. Among today's writers for young people, I admire Lois Lowry, Richard Peck, Hilary McKay, David Almond, and many more.

What other books have you written?

I've written several non-fiction books. Some of them are for classroom use—you don't find them in bookstores. Others are out of print. My current books are The City of Ember, The People of Sparks, The Prophet of Yonwood, The Diamond of Darkhold, and Car Trouble. I also wrote Escape the Vortex, which is Book 5 of the Voyagers series from Random House.

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Tell us more about yourself.

I was born in San Francisco in 1944. I've almost always lived in California, except for a brief time in New York. I went to Scripps College in Claremont, California, where I got a BA in English Literature. I've had many different jobs—teacher, editor, technical writer—but they've all involved writing in some way. Outside my work life, I've been an ice skater, a bird watcher, a meditator, a house builder, a gardener, a piano player, and a gourmet vegetarian cook.

You can find more information about me at these websites:

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Tell us more about your dog, Jockey.

He's a Norfolk terrier, born in 2009. He has fold-over ears, brown hair, sparkling bright eyes, and a very sweet nature.

Are you going to write more books?

Yes. I'm a slow writer, so it will take a while. But I plan to keep writing as long as I have good ideas and eager readers.

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Questions about becoming a writer

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What advice do you have for people who would like to be writers?
  • Read a lot. Read all kinds of things.
  • Be interested in lots of things. Be curious about people and about the world around you.
  • Write a lot. Write all kinds of things—stories, poems, reports, journals, letters, plays, comics, whatever you like. Don't worry if you don't finish everything you start. That happens to all writers.
  • Learn to be good at spelling, grammar, punctuation, and organization. These are important for making sure your readers understand what you want to say.
I’m writing a book. How can I get it published?

There’s just one way: write something very, very good and send it to a publisher. It’s that first part that’s hard. Work on your writing a long time before you try sending it out.

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Questions about corresponding with Jeanne

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Is it you answering my e-mail or just an assistant?

It’s me. I used to answer every e-mail I received, but I can no longer promise to do that. I might reply to a few now and then, though, so do keep writing!

Will you be my penpal?

I’m sorry, I can’t. I just don’t have time.

I’m writing a report about you. Will you help me?

I’m sorry, but no. I have a lot of homework of my own! You can find information at the websites listed in the “Questions about Jeanne” section.

Will you read my story and tell me what you think of it?

I’m afraid not. Working on my own writing takes all my time.

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