Frequently Asked Questions

Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions:

Where do you get your ideas?

I take lots from my own childhood—especially names of old friends—and from the lives of the children around me. (My two granddaughters were a big help with Lydia Penderwick.) I’ve also borrowed from the books I loved when I was young. For example, the idea of the original four Penderwick sisters came from Little Women, and Batty’s adventure with the bull came from Emily of New Moon (with a hat tip to Ferdinand).

Did you grow up in a big family like the Penderwicks?

It was just me and my sister, who was four years older than me and didn’t like me much. The Penderwicks are more like the family I wish I’d had.

Is Arundel a real place? Is Cameron?

The places in my books—like the people—are a mixture of real and imagined. Arundel has bits and pieces pulled from all over, including a mysterious rundown mansion across the street from my childhood home, the castle in The Enchanted Castle, and the garden in The Secret Garden.

Cameron is loosely based on Amherst, Massachusetts, across the Connecticut River from where I live in Northampton. Here are two things I borrowed directly from Amherst for the books: Wildwood Elementary, where my niece and nephew went to school, and Antonio’s Pizza, which does indeed make the best pizza in the universe.  I’ve also borrowed real places from Northampton, including Sylvester’s, a restaurant with amazing blueberry pancakes, and Broadside Bookshop, my favorite bookstore.

Who is your favorite Penderwick sibling?

I don’t have a favorite. It’s easiest for me to write about Batty, and hardest to write about Rosalind, but that doesn’t mean I like Batty more than Rosalind. It’s sort of like parents with their children—they love each one for different reasons, but not one more than another. Or, at least, that’s how it should be.

Will there be a Penderwick movie?

No. I don't think the books would translate well onto film.

(Note: I hold the  film/television rights to the Penderwick series. For more information, please contact Eleanor Quinnell at

Do you have any advice for writers?

I’ve never been good at taking advice, so am reluctant to hand it out. But there’s one thing you can’t go wrong with if you want to write. Read. Read, read, read, read, read. Written language is different from oral language, and reading is the best (well, only) way to become proficient in it.

What will you write now that you've finished the Penderwick series? 

I’m currently working on a stand-alone middle grade novel about a girl named Gwen. Like the Penderwick books, it takes place in Massachusetts, but the backstory happened in Scotland. This gave me a wonderful excuse to visit Edinburgh, and maybe I'll have to go back.