For her newest novel, “Lalani of the Distant Sea,” Erin Entrada Kelly turned to her Filipino ancestry to craft a mythic tale of a young girl on an epic journey. The best-selling author won the Newbery Medal for “Hello Universe,” which is being adapted by Netflix for a movie. She will speak at noon Sunday, Oct. 20 at the Dewitt Center Gym as part of the annual Boston Book Festival.
BOOKS: What are you reading currently?
KELLY: I have been going through a historical true crime phase. I was just on a plane and listened to “An Unspeakable Crime: The Prosecution and Persecution of Leo Frank” by Elaine Marie Alphin. He was a Jewish man who ran a pencil factory in Atlanta and was accused of a murdering a 13-year-old who worked for him. Before that I was listening to “The Trial of Lizzie Borden” by Cara Robertson. For some reason my audio books are very, very dark, and I fall asleep listening to them.
BOOKS: Do they ever give you bad dreams?
KELLY: For a while I was into the Russian Revolution so was lulled to sleep by sounds of that. One night I had the worst nightmare. So I decided to change gears. I started listening to Michelle Obama’s “Becoming.” Then I fell asleep and dreamt that she and I were great friends.
BOOKS: Do you have a favorite from your Russian Revolution reading phase?
KELLY: “The Family Romanov,” by Candace Fleming. I didn’t realize it at the time but it’s intended as YA. It was so accessible. What turns a lot of people away from historical nonfiction is that it can be so dense. I will learn more if I read books with specific angles into history. A book on World War II would be difficult for me to get through, but I just read “Blitzed” by Norman Ohler, which is about drug abuse in the Nazi regime. Through that one slice I learned about the war overall.
BOOKS: How long have you read true crime?
KELLY: From early on. I went to the now defunct Waldenbooks with my dad, and I wandered into the true crime area. My dad explained what true crime was. I saw “Helter Skelter” by Vincent Bugliosi, which is about Charles Manson. My parents always gave me free rein on reading so my dad let me buy it. Keep in mind I was 12. I couldn’t read it, not because I was scared but because it was so dense, but I did flip through it.
BOOKS: What kind of fiction do you like?
KELLY: I read everything from children’s picture books to adult fiction. The only genre I haven’t been able to sink into is romance. It’s just not my cup of tea. I love gothic fiction. Kate Morton is one of my favorite authors.
BOOKS: What was your last best read for a novel?
KELLY: I just yesterday finished “The List of Things That Will Not Change” by Rebecca Stead, a Newbery Medal winner. She has a gift for expressing the inner life of young people. It felt like Judy Blume. I still worship at the altar of Judy Blume.
BOOKS: Were you reading YA and middle grade fiction before you started writing it?
‘I will also hug a book. I’ll finish reading one, hold it close and just sit there.’
KELLY: Not that much. When I was a younger reader you went from Judy Blume to Stephen King. I started to read books for that age group as an adult, and a whole world of literature opened to me. A key book for me was “Notes from a Liar and her Dog,” by Gennifer Choldenko about a sweet girl who is overshadowed by her sisters. When I read that it was honestly the first time I felt a book was about me.
BOOKS: Do you ever cry over books?
KELLY: I’m not a big crier generally but there are some books that have made me cry. The most recent one was Anthony Doerr’s “All the Light We Cannot See.” I will also hug a book. I’ll finish reading one, hold it close and just sit there. I definitely hugged Doerr’s book. I also had a strong reaction to “An Ocean of Minutes” by Thea Lim. I didn’t hug it because the book was very troubling. I just stared at the wall and thought. Sometimes when you finish a book you need a second.Follow us on Facebook or Twitter @GlobeBiblio. Amy Sutherland is the author, most recently, of “Rescuing Penny Jane’’ and she can be reached at [email protected]