In a recent interview with the East Tennessean, world-renowned children’s author Margaret Peterson Haddix opened up about her writing process and her opinion on what makes a good story while on the book tour for her newly released novel, “Under Their Skin.”

Best known for her award-winning books in the “Shadow Children” series and the “Missing” series, Haddix graduated from Miami University of Ohio with bachelor degrees in journalism, creative writing and history. Spending most of her time visiting schools, book stores or public libraries all over the country to meet with her readers for presentations or to sign autographs, Haddix is lucky to still find time to write. When push comes to shove, however, she has been known to meet rush deadlines against all odds.

“My ideal schedule is to write all morning and deal with other things in the afternoon,” Haddix said, “but if I am on a tight deadline — or really excited about what I am writing — sometimes I just write all day. Or, if the writing isn’t going well, sometimes I go take a walk or swim laps, and that usually recharges my brain. It varies a great deal.”

Haddix has now published over 30 novels for children and young adults. She is widely known for her tendency to jump genres, going from writing mystery/thrillers like “Double Identity” and the 10th book in the “39 Clues” series, to funny standalone books for beginning readers like “Say What?” and “The Girl with 500 Middle Names.”

While nearly all her fans have a personal favorite Haddix book and genre, the author herself refuses to choose one.

“It is too much like trying to pick a favorite child,” Haddix said. “I don’t have a favorite between my kids, either.”

When attempting to make the tough decision of which ideas are worthy of being expanded into full-length novels, Haddix has a list of criteria she uses to determine if a story is really good.

“I think what makes a good story is a believable plot, relatable characters, something at stake that readers will care deeply about, a sense of urgency and deep meaning — and of course, good writing,” she said.

Haddix said she knows she definitely has to write a story if it keeps her up at night, teasing at the back of her brain and refusing to let her go.

Haddix’s most recent book, “Under Their Skin,” was released on Jan. 5 and features a brother and sister, Nick and Eryn, who become part of a blended family when their mother remarries. Not only will they have a new step-father but also two step-siblings. Their mom, however, says they will never meet their step-brother and step-sister. Why? That is what Nick and Eryn set out to discover, but what they find out is something neither of them would have ever guessed.

While aimed primarily at teenagers, “Under Their Skin,” like many books from Haddix, is an entertainment for all ages.


Published on Jan. 5, "Under Their Skin" is available for purchase at Walmart and Barnes and Nobel in Johnson City. (Photograph Courtesy of

Published on Jan. 5, “Under Their Skin” is available for purchase at Walmart and Barnes and Nobel in Johnson City. (Photograph Courtesy of