1) Do you ever write under a different name?
No, I don't write under any other names--and Hilari Bell is my real name, too. Mostly writers choose to write under another name when they're writing in very different genres and don't want to confuse their audience. Or when they've had a couple of books that didn't sell well, and have been forced to start their career over. So far (knock on wood for the second possibility) neither of those applies to me.
2) What are the benefits of being a published writer?
The first benefit is that even when it's work, it's work that's fun and fascinating and exhilarating. You're doing something you love, and every novel is challenging, and different, and you love them all. The second benefit, is that you can set your own schedule, go camping a ridiculous amount of the year (even if I often have to take work camping with me) sleep late...and did I mention set your own schedule? The third benefit is that when you're a writer you get to do way cool things for "research." The Tesala Roadster is a car that sells for over a hundred thousand dollars, and ordinarily someone in my income bracket would never get to take a test ride in one. But when I called the dealership and told them that I was a writer, and that the main character in my next book drove a Tesla, they invited me in and took me out for a test ride! It's the most amazingly cool car, and having ridden in one I had to change a couple of things in the early chapters of Traitor's Son, but now all the scenes that involve the Tesla (and there are lots of them) are a lot more convincing.
3) Who was your favorite author when you were young?
My favorite author when I was young was LLoyd Alexander--the Prydain books. They were the first non-picture books I ever read, and after I read them I spent the next couple of years with my body going to school in Denver but my heart living in Prydain. I wrote stories about the characters, drew pictures of them, and generally fell totally in love with reading and with fantasy. For life.
4) How important is it for writers to raise social, racial, and political issues in youth literature?
You know, I don't think it is important for writers to raise issues in what they write--or try to teach anyone anything. Writers are entertainers, first and foremost. But that said, you put a lot of time, effort and love into books, and if you don't write about something you care about they're likely to fall pretty flat. And if you do write about something you really care about, sometimes they catch fire.
5) What is a word of advice for students who do not like reading novels?
First, you don't have to be a reader to have a full and wonderful and productive life. You're not a bad person, just because you don't like to read. That said, reading, like pretty much anything else in life, is a matter of practice. The reason people who love reading love it so much is that they don't have to work at it--when they run their eyes over the words they actually hear a voice in their head, saying them. When you start hearing the author's voice talking in your head when you read, you've made it. And that's when books come alive for you.