In Mountains of the Moon, Sammy follows her cat up a moonbeam. What made you think of that?

Haven’t you ever watched the moonlight streaming through a window, and wondered what it would be like if you could touch it? It looks so warm and soft and mysterious. I couldn’t figure out a way to walk up a moonbeam myself, so I let Sammy do it.

Sammy has lost her father and now must deal with the loss of a beloved pet. Aren’t these rather heavy issues for young readers?

Not at all. Adults tend to gloss over children’s feelings of grief and loss, because young children are often unable, or afraid, to express their emotions in a way that adults can understand. Children are ego-centric, and inclined to blame themselves when things go wrong. If Daddy left, the reasoning goes, it must be because I wasn’t good enough or lovable enough. What if Mommy leaves, too? What if I’m left alone? Who will take care of me?

When Sammy impetuously runs through one of Selina’s magic doors, she finds herself lost in a dark, scary place. What was that all about?

Sammy is learning some lessons that many adults haven’t quite grasped. One is that your actions have consequences. Another is that to solve a problem, you need to calm yourself and think about it a bit. To quote the Hitchhiker’s Guide, “Don’t panic.” This is a common theme in my stories: the hero may get himself into a jam by rash actions, but he generally gets out of it by taking stock of his assets and working out a rational plan, then taking action, in spite of fear.

So we’re dealing with grief and loss, fear, problem-solving: is this really a survival manual for kids disguised as a story?

No, it’s really a fun adventure story in an Oz-like magical world. Sammy, like Dorothy, is just an ordinary little girl who finds herself in a strange place and has to use her wits, and her heart, to deal with her problems in the new world and get back home. An adventure wouldn’t be very exciting if there weren’t problems to overcome. The primary purpose of a story is to entertain. If it also encourages the reader to think, that’s a bonus.

Sammy only opens of few of the magic doors. What’s behind the others? Do they all lead to other worlds?

As Selina says, “They can open to almost anywhere.” Even Selina doesn’t know what’s behind them. Wouldn’t it be fun to open them and find out?

Sammy’s mother had followed BB once, but didn’t remember. Will Sammy be able to go back again, or will she be to old to find her way?

Some children never completely grow up. They may take on adult responsibilities, but they always retain a childlike sense of wonder, that tells them the world is a magical place and anything can happen. I like to think I’m one of those adult children. I’m sure Sammy is, too. So yes, she’ll go back. There are wonderful adventures waiting.