The Silver Sisters

Author Leila Howland and Ava
Author Leila Howland and Ava

Author Leila Howland with Anais in Los Angeles

Leila Howland was a teacher in an after-school program when she started hearing voices. She wasn’t going crazy. She was writing a book in her head and didn’t even know it! The voices were coming from three fictional sisters in Los Angeles who had spent their childhood summers in a small town on the Atlantic Ocean.

Out of those voices came the Silver Sisters middle grade series, including The Silver Moon of Summer, which was published this year by HarperCollins. Howland’s most recent book, Rapunzel and the Lost Lagoon, was published on September 5 by Disney Press. 

I recently asked Howland, a former actress, about her writing career and her advice for aspiring authors. Here are highlights from our conversation:

When did you first decide to write books for kids? 
I was on a bus from New York City to my hometown, Providence, Rhode Island, and I was watching You Got Mail with Meg Ryan. At the end of the movie, she decides to be a children’s author. That idea echoed in my head. That was the moment I decided to write children’s books. 

Where do you get inspiration for your ideas?
I start to ask myself questions in my writing: What does it mean to be a sister? To be a grownup? A good friend? I write as a way of answering those questions. 

Books by author Leila Howland

The Silver Sisters middle grade series by author Leila Howland chronicles the childhood adventures of three siblings.

Have you ever had experiences similar to the ones in your books? 
I have definitely experienced family conflict. Books need a lot of conflict, and having siblings brings conflict. I had an older brother and sister. Like the Silver Sisters, I know what it means to have fights with your siblings and still be a family.

Did your acting career help you create characters and stories? 
I use my acting skills a lot in my writing. From acting, I know that a good role for an actor means that she has to want something. Otherwise, acting the part can be boring. Knowing that helps me write interesting stories. A character has to want something or the story risks being boring.

What’s your advice to kids who want to write their own books? 
Kids shouldn’t worry about getting published. They should focus on being curious about human interactions, as opposed to their cell phones. You can gain so much as a writer from being present in the moment and observing people.

Keep a journal, write poems, and do whatever it is you want to do to process your observations. This is so much more important than getting published at this point. Just spend your time “being.” Think about how to translate your experiences into the written word.



Photos courtesy of the author