We are super excited that Tanya Lloyd Kyi, author of the fascinating book DNA Detective, will be at the Red Cedar Gala at Vancouver Public Library on May 6. Ahead of her appearance, students from Manoah Steves Elementary interviewed her and asked her some thought-provoking questions.
MSE: Did you know any of these facts before?
TLK: Before I began this project, I knew very little about DNA. And when I started my research, the science of genes and heredity seemed really complicated. It took a long time to sort through the information overload to find great stories about the way DNA affects our daily lives. Right now, DNA research is changing the way we eat, the way governments and police forces track criminals, even the way we choose our pets! Stories about these sorts of implications and changes were really what inspired me to write the book.
MSE: How long did it take to research all of these facts?
TLK: For each of my books, I spend three or four months on research. Once I’ve gathered enough information, I begin to write… and I always, always discover that there’s a lot more to learn. The first draft of DNA Detective took six to eight months of research and writing combined, then a little MORE research once the editor started asking questions and pointing out gaps. Good thing I love research — I like hunting for the best stories and the best ways to explain tricky scientific concepts.
MSE: Why did you name the DNA Scientists Genetic rock stars?
TLK: Like contestants on The Voice, the scientists who made major DNA discoveries were completely obsessed with success. One of them studied fruit flies for a decade before he discovered one teeny, microscopic mutation. And since these scientists changed the world in ways no pop song has ever done, I think they deserve the “rock star” title.
MSE: How did you come up with all the funny names on p. 23?
TLK: Once I started searching for silly names on the internet, there were zillions. Ever since the book was published, I keep stumbling across other great pun-names and thinking, “oooh… I wish I’d included that one!”
MSE: Why did you start writing books?
TLK: I’ve been writing stories since elementary school. I still have an unfinished novel from high school sitting in my crawl space. My first published book was Canadian Girls Who Rocked the World, which came out in 2000. It was all about girls who’d accomplished amazing things before they turned 20.
MSE: Did you get to choose who did the drawings for your book?
TLK: The publisher always chooses the illustrators for my books, but I’ve never complained — they make amazing choices. Seeing the illustration sketches is one of my favourite parts of book-creation. By that time, most of my work on the project is finished, and I get to sit back and relax while someone else interprets my stories and facts in ways I might never expect. My favourite illustrations in DNA Detective are the genetic rock stars and the detective dog.
MSE: Where did you get the idea to write a non-fiction story combined with a fiction story?
TLK: The entire subject of DNA seems to lend itself to mystery solving. And when I read the story of the twins in Germany who couldn’t be charged with a robbery because the police couldn’t prove which twin committed the crime (that story’s at the back of the book)… well, then I just HAD to include the mystery.
MSE: Did you know anything about DNA before you wrote this story?
TLK: Very little! I wrote a book a few years ago called Seeing Red, which was all about blood. In that book, there was the story of two Chicago families who’d taken their babies home from the hospital only to find the babies were labelled with different last names. So, had the babies been switched, or were the labels wrong? The hospital didn’t know, and the Chicago Commissioner of Health called in a panel of experts. No one could tell which baby belonged to which family! Finally, a pathologist who understood blood types tested the blood of the babies and of all four parents, and figured out the babies had gone home with the wrong families. It was the first time blood types had been used to figure out paternity. That story — which is really about genetics and heredity — helped me get excited about the idea of a DNA book.
MSE: Is it possible to mix DNA eg. frog and snake – Can I make a froggy-snake?
TLK: Probably not… yet. But if scientists get that far, I’d like a pet cabbit. (You know: half cat, half rabbit.)
-Lauren Craze, Teacher-Librarian at Manoah Steves Elementary and friends
If you want to see Tanya Lloyd Kyi at the Red Cedar Gala on May 6 please RSVP to email@example.com Hope to see you there!