Interview with Debbi Michiko Florence

*This was an interview conducted with me by my late awesome rat terrier Trixie. She was part of our family for almost 15 years and the perfect writing companion. I miss her every day.

First things first, how do you pronounce Michiko?

ME-chee-koh

Is Michiko your maiden name?

No. Michiko is my middle name. My parents named me after the then Princess of Japan. When I was two years old, the Princess and Prince of Japan visited San Francisco. My self-confident mom, with me in her arms, pushed past the security guards (something you’d never be able to do today) to approach the Princess and tell her I was named after her. The photo of the security guards holding onto my mom’s arm as she spoke to the Princess, who was gracious and smiling, made a local newspaper the following day. The photo and article are framed and hanging in my house.

Do you have any books published?

In October of 2016, my early reader chapter book series: Dorothy & Toto came out with Picture Window Books. There are four books in the series. Next year, the first two books in my Jasmine Toguchi chapter book series comes out from FSG. I’m very excited! Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen and Jasmine Toguchi, Super Sleuth will be available on July 11, 2017, with two more to follow. I’ll post any updates to Notes from the Word Nest

You travel a lot! Any favorite places?

I really feel lucky I get to travel and see so many amazing things. It’s hard to pick a favorite. Some recent trips stand out, though. After my daughter graduated from high school, my mother, my husband, and I took her to Japan for two weeks. It was a lot of fun! And over Christmas break in 2014, my husband, daughter, and I spent a week in Paris. We visited museums, ate the most delicious food, and went to Shakespeare and Company, a bookstore. One thing I try to do during every trip is visit a local indie bookstore.

Speaking of books, what were some of your favorite books from childhood?

Books I read over and over include: The Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, Lad: A Dog by Albert Payson Terhune, The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene, Pardon Me You’re Stepping on My Eyeball and The Pigman by Paul Zindel, and all of Judy Blume’s books.

I’d ask you who your current favorite authors are, but you already told me you wouldn’t be able to answer. Why not?

There are just too many to name. I love so many books and authors. New talented authors keep bursting on the scene, and my list of favorites keeps growing. I’ll say this much, I favor upper MG and YA contemporary fiction. Any story with an element of romance always interests me. To see what I’m reading and enjoying right now, check out my reading blog DEBtastic Reads! 

Tell us something most people don’t know about you.

I love animals and I’m a dog person, but you and most of my friends already know that. I have two pet ducks, Darcy and Lizzy. You can follow their adventures on their Tumblr. I have four tattoos – one of my family crest, one of my dad’s family crest, and one of the Japanese character for “snake” because I’m the year of the snake.  Most recently, I got a tattoo with my (college-age) daughter. She has a watercolor iris and I got jasmine flowers (in honor of Jasmine, the main character of my upcoming chapter book series). I like to collect things. I used to collect owl figurines, but that got out of hand. Now I collect teapots and teacups, elephant figurines, and, more recently, bird-related items to go into my writing studio, The Word Nest.

Tell us about The Word Nest.

For many years, we moved for my husband’s career – seven times in a little under two decades. When we moved to Connecticut, my husband had a writing studio built for me. It is my haven. It’s separate from our house, next to the detached garage. The Word Nest overlooks a small pond. From my windows, I can watch lots of birds – songbirds, waterfowl, and the occasional raptor. It’s here, away from the distractions of everyday life, I can lose myself in my writing. I’m surrounded by all the things that inspire me – my collection of elephants, art created by my daughter, books, gifts from family and friends, trinkets I picked up from my travels, photos, and an old fashioned typewriter.

Thanks for sharing! Now can I have a cookie?


The Prince and Princess of Japan visit San Francisco in 1967.

Debbi’s early attempt at writing a story.

In college, Debbi volunteered at the Davis Raptor Center.

Debbi loves to travel.

Debbi kayaking in Ha Long Bay, Vietnam.

The view of the pond from The Word Nest.

Trixie hard at work.