Today I have the privilege of interviewing OneFourKidLit author Meredith McCardle, whose young adult novel, THE EIGHTH GUARDIAN (ANNUM GUARD, Book 1), released yesterday!
Here’s a little bit about her spectacular story:
It’s Testing Day. The day that comes without warning, the day when all juniors and seniors at The Peel Academy undergo a series of intense physical and psychological tests to see if they’re ready to graduate and become government operatives. Amanda and her boyfriend Abe are top students, and they’ve just endured thirty-six hours of testing. But they’re juniors and don’t expect to graduate. That’ll happen next year, when they plan to join the CIA—together.
But when the graduates are announced, the results are shocking. Amanda has been chosen—the first junior in decades. And she receives the opportunity of a lifetime: to join a secret government organization called the Annum Guard and travel through time to change the course of history. But in order to become the Eighth Guardian in this exclusive group, Amanda must say good-bye to everything—her name, her family, and even Abe—forever.
Who is really behind the Annum Guard? And can she trust them with her life?
So flipping cool, right? Okay, confession: Meredith and I are critique partners so I got to see this book go from idea to an actual hold-it-in-my-hands-and-love-it-book, which has been incredibly fun. And, let me tell you, Meredith’s writing is brilliant. It’s page-turning. And, it’s twist-y in the best of ways. So, yeah, as a member of the Fearless Fifteeners, I’m excited to able to interview Meredith so you can learn more about her and fall in love, too!
KOC: Hi, Meredith! As authors, we’re always told the best thing we can do to keep up with our profession is to read, read, read. So, my first question is: Do you agree with this? And if so, we’d love to hear what you’re reading now?
MM: Oh, absolutely! You can’t be a writer unless you’re a reader. I’ve learned so much about writing from reading widely—YA, MG, adult, every genre imaginable. You can’t beat that kind of education. As for what I’m currently reading, I’m knee deep in historical research, so I have a stack of books on my nightstand about Prohibition, which is really a fascinating chapter in our nation’s history.
KOC: As a former high school history teacher, you can imagine how I am envying your research right now. The 1920’s are one of my favorite time periods to immerse myself in. Previously, you worked as a lawyer. What sparked your career change to full time writing? Was there a single moment where the light bulb went off and you just thought, I’m doing the wrong thing with my life? Or was it more subtle and spread out over time?
MM: Honestly, it was having a baby four-ish years ago. Once I had my first daughter, I knew I wanted to stay at home with her, and I figured it would be a good time to get serious about writing. I’d dabbled before, but working the kind of litigation career I was working didn’t allow much time for serious writing. And while caring for a baby is certainly time intensive, I suddenly found myself with the time to devote to writing. The rest is history! And I can’t say I’ll never go back to law or that I’ll never use my law degree in some way again. Who knows what the future holds!
KOC: Your book is filled with some pretty awesome elements like time-travel, history, and governmental corruption. Does the last one tie back in to your love of law in any way? Where did the general idea of this first book come from?
MM: Well, thanks to my law degree, I at least understand that the premise of my book is completely unconstitutional, so no one can call me out for that! The actual idea for the book was actually inspired by a song title—IRIS WAS A PUPIL by Auchtre—but I definitely think my love of all things history and my upbringing on James Bond and Jack Ryan spun this book into what it is.
KOC: Unconstitutional as it may be, it would surely make a great screenplay! I can already see the cast in my head. But, back to your book….your main character, Iris, doesn’t like to ask for help, which makes her seem almost fearless at times. Additionally, trust is a constant theme throughout the book and Iris—though desperate for answers—doesn’t know who she can rely on even if she were tempted to reach out to someone. The way it all plays out is fascinating and I’d love to know if this was a theme you set out to explore when you first began writing the book? Is trust something that comes easily for you in you personal life?
MM: I wouldn’t say it’s a deliberate theme per se, but I definitely thought it made sense for Iris as a character. She’s been through a lot in her few years, so, to me, there’s be no question that she’d have trust issues with just about everyone she encounters. And while Iris is very different from me, we do share a few characteristics—not liking to ask for help being at the top of both lists.
KOC: I love to hear authors talk about how elements of themselves end up in books. It’s probably one of my favorite reasons to read interviews. Weird, but true. And speaking of characters, you have a great cast in your book—I especially love how you named the members of the Annum Guard after colors (Iris, Yellow, Indigo, Red, etc…)! Overall, which character was the easiest for you to write? Hardest? Which is your favorite?
MM: Yellow was both the easiest and my favorite to write. I understood her from page 1, and I knew going in exactly what her story arc was going to be. The hardest to write, hands down, was Iris, at least in the beginning. It’s funny that I knew so much about the supporting characters but couldn’t get my main character right at all. It took about three drafts before I finally figured her out. But now I feel like I know her in and out—almost like she’s a part of me.
KOC: I think you and I are alike in that way. Supporting characters come easy for me but main characters, not so much! Let’s talk about your cover. They say not to judge a book by its cover, but yours is pretty amazing. Readers will have to look closely because there’s a lot to see in the background. Can you tell us a little bit about it and, most importantly, do you love it?
MM: I do love it! In the book, Iris travels back in time to a number of historical events, but Skyscape’s art department focused right in on the Boston Massacre because it was the most instantly recognizable. The whole concept behind the cover was to show a little flash of what Iris would have seen the second before she traveled back in time, hence the bursts of light and all the swirling colors. The cover was illustrated by the legendary Cliff Nielsen, and I think it’s just perfect. Everything about it is perfect.
KOC: You got that right. I could never have pictured anything more perfect for your book. The artist totally nailed it! And the colors are just a huge, huge bonus. Okay, so I know you have a second book coming out in this series. When will it hit shelves? Will there be a third?
MM: The second book will be out January 2015, and I certainly hope there will be a third! Stay tuned, I guess.
KOC: You know I will. Since you’re in writing mode on the second book, I admit I’m fascinated to hear the writing rituals of authors. Do you outline first? Have to write at a certain time of day? Have to have jellybeans or some other pertinent item to produce words?
MM: I wish I had the luxury of writing rituals, but the truth of it is that I’m a full-time mom to two young daughters, so I take whatever writing time I can get!
KOC: I remember those days well. Before we end, since our 2015’ers are fearless, we’d love to know something you’re afraid of and something that doesn’t scare you at all.
MM: Ok, so this is weird, but I’m terrified of balloons. And since I have young kids, I come into contact with people who make balloon animals quite frequently, so I straight up can’t deal with a lot of birthday parties. As for what doesn’t scare me, I like that the older I get, the less afraid I am of failure. I’m realizing that the only real failure is in not trying in the first place.
KOC: Oh, I really like that part about not trying. It’s so true. As for the balloons, that’s got to be crazy-hard to avoid with the little ones. Too funny! Thanks for joining us, Meredith. If our readers would like to learn more about Meredith, check out her website. You can also find her Twitter, Goodreads, and Facebook.
Meredith McCardle is a recovered lawyer who lives in South Florida with her husband and two young daughters. Like her main character, she has a fondness for strong coffee, comfortable pants, and jumping to the wrong conclusions. Unlike her main character, she cannot travel through time. Sadly. Her debut, THE EIGHTH GUARDIAN, was published by Skyscape/Amazon Children’s May 6, 2014.
|Kerry O’Malley Cerra’s career as an author began at age five when she wrote her first story using crayons on the back wall of her family’s house. She later graduated with a Social Science Education degree from the University of South Florida—GO BULLS!—and taught high school history. After meeting her most awesome critique pals, she joined SCBWI, helped launch Whatcha’ Reading Now?, got an agent, sold a book, and the rest is history—which is her favorite subject ya’ know! Her middle grade novel, JUST A DROP OF WATER, debuts on September 2, 2014 from Sky Pony Press. You can follow her on Twitter at @kerryocerra. The book is available for pre-order at Indiebound, Powell’s Books, Amazon, Books-A-Million, and Barnes & Noble.|