ALL FOUR KIDS: An Interview with Rebecca Behrens, Author of WHEN AUDREY MET ALICE

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Today we’re interviewing OneFourKidLit author Rebecca Behrens, whose middle-grade historical WHEN AUDREY MET ALICE comes out today!

About WHEN AUDREY MET ALICE:

WhenAudreyMetAliceCover

When frustrated First Daughter Audrey Rhodes discovers Alice Roosevelt’s secret diary hidden beneath the White House floorboards, she’s inspired to ask herself, “What would Alice do?” Audrey’s Alice-like antics are a lot of fun—but will they bring her happiness, or a host of new problems?

It is ridiculously difficult to get a pizza delivered to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

First Daughter Audrey Rhodes can’t wait for the party she has planned. The decorations are all set, and the pizza is on its way. But the Secret Service must be out to ruin her life, because they cancel at the last minute for a “security breach,” squashing Audrey’s chances for making any new friends. What good is having your own bowling alley if you don’t have anyone to play with?

Audrey is ready to give up and spend the next four years totally friendless—until she discovers Alice Roosevelt’s hidden diary. The former first daughter’s outrageous antics give Audrey a ton of ideas for having fun . . . and get her into more trouble than she can handle.

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MKC: I love the “What Would Alice Do?” Slogan! What sparked the idea for WHEN AUDREY MET ALICE?
RB: Thanks! I’ve always been fascinated by children living in the White House, and when President Obama was elected in 2008, I wondered how the lives of his daughters would change as they headed to Washington. Would it be hard for them to make new friends? How much privacy do they have when they’re at home on Pennsylvania Avenue? The idea of a First Daughter feeling a little isolated and constrained stuck with me, and that developed into Audrey’s character.

At the same time, I was kind of obsessed with Alice Roosevelt’s wild life. The more I read about her, the more I was surprised by her turn-of-the-century antics. It’s kind of shocking that she got away with so much at a time when women in general had much less freedom. I started to wonder if there was a way to combine those two First Daughter ideas into one story.

One day when I was out for a walk in New York, I suddenly had the initial spark of how to combine Alice’s story with that of a contemporary First Daughter: via a long-lost diary. As I kept walking, I outlined the whole book and scribbled everything down once I got home. Weird fact: I found out later on that Alice’s aunt had lived at 62nd and Madison, the very intersection where the idea hit me, and Alice spent plenty of time there as a young person.

MKC: You weave so many fascinating tidbits about the real Alice Roosevelt into your book! What was your favorite and/or most surprising thing you learned about her in your research?
RB: It’s really hard to pick one detail about Alice; she was such an interesting person. But I love the image of her practicing yoga. By her accounts, she could put her leg behind her head, which she called “relaxing.” This was at a time when women still wore corsets and full-body bathing costumes, so that seems really weird to me.

But in a larger sense, I was surprised to uncover Alice’s vulnerability. Having first heard about all of her exploits and her goal to shock people, I thought she had probably been a supremely confident person. In reading interviews and published accounts of her diaries and private papers, however, it became clear that she dealt with a lot of insecurity and in some ways was rather shy—for example, she was terrified of public speaking. The more I learned about her, the more she became wonderfully complex.

MKC: Do you have a favorite scene you can tell us a little about?
RB: I’m going to pick one from the beginning of the book, so as to not give away too much. Right after Audrey finds Alice’s diary and reads the first batch of entries, she’s inspired to sneak out of her bedroom and roam the White House at night, in search of her own “Inauguration of Fun.” She runs the halls, goes bowling alone, and contemplates sneaking out onto the roof. By the time she heads back to bed, she’s giddy and invigorated and is set out on a path to find more fun in her White House life . . . and more trouble, of course.

MKC: Tell us three fun facts about you.
RB: My favorite food is the doughnut, my favorite place is the beach, and my favorite punctuation is the em-dash.

MKC: Do you have any writing rituals or habits?
RB: Is procrastinating with Twitter a ritual? Because I definitely do that!
I tend to play musical chairs when I’m working—I can only sit in one for so long before I start to feel blocked. On a good writing day, I’ll cycle from my desk chair to the couch to an armchair to the kitchen table and wind up cross-legged on the floor.

MKC: And finally, as this community is fearless, we’d like to know something you’re afraid of and something you’re not afraid of.
RB: Despite the fact that I do it regularly, I am terrified of flying. I continue to hope that someone makes teleportation a thing, and soon. But I am not afraid of snakes. I think they’re cute!

Thanks so much for the interview, Rebecca, and congratulations on your debut! 

About Rebecca:
RebeccaBehrensGrowing up in Wisconsin, Rebecca Behrens dreamed of becoming the following: a zoologist, an Olympic swimmer, or an author. One out of three isn’t bad! Today she lives in New York City, where she works as a production editor for children’s books. Some of her favorite things are: the beach, bright shoes, running, doughnuts, and laughing.

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MarcyKate Connolly is an author and arts administrator who lives in New England with her husband and pugs and writes weird little books. She’s also a coffee addict, voracious reader, and recurring commuter. She blogs about all those things and more at MarcyKate.com, and can often be found on Twitter. Her debut upper MG/Tween fantasy novel, MONSTROUS, will be out from HarperCollins Children’s Books in Winter 2015.
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