Louise Fitzhugh is the author of Harriet the Spy, the classic 1964 young reader’s novel about a spunky 11 year old who writes about the people in her life based on the things she overhears while eavesdropping. A poignant story about how far is too far when pursuing one’s dreams, Harriet the Spy is an inspiring story about achieving one’s dreams, and the lengths one girl goes to achieve them.
Young Adult Mag: What prompted you to write Harriet the Spy?
Louise Fitzhugh: I felt that there weren’t enough truly honest portrayals of young female characters in books of that time period. I wanted to write characters who were painfully human.
YA: What was the major criticism of your novel?
LF: Some critics thought that the truth of the characters Harriet observes were too unlikeable.
YA: But wasn’t that the point of the story?
LF: Yes, I wanted to write about the consequences of sticking your nose where it doesn’t belong. So many young people are dying to know the truth, what’s under the surface, and so on, and I wanted to create a story that showed that knowledge is powerful, secrets can be hurtful, and sometimes, ignorance is bliss.
YA: Who are some other young female characters you enjoy?
LF: Lucy Pevensie from C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia. There’s such a sweet innocence to her, but also real strength. I love her honest curiosity. I think she and Harriet would have been friends.
YA: What advice would you give young writers like Harriet?
LF: Be tenacious, but also be cautious. You never know how your writing will affect your subjects and the people who read about them.