We’re thrilled to share our interview with OneFourKidLit author Jen Malone, whose laugh-out-loud MG contemporary, AT YOUR SERVICE, comes out today!
About AT YOUR SERVICE:
Thirteen-year-old Chloe Turner wants nothing more than to follow in Dad’s footsteps as a respected concierge in a posh NYC hotel. After all, living at a hotel is heaven, and perks like free concert tickets and all-access passes to boutiques, restaurants, and attractions aren’t too shabby either.
When the spoiled brat child of an important guest is only placated by some quick thinking on Chloe’s part, Chloe is awarded the role of Junior Concierge. But she might be in over her head when tasked with tending to the every whim of three royal guests: a twelve-year-old princess who can’t stand Chloe, a cute fourteen year-old prince(!), and their ten-year-old sister, who has a nasty knack for getting herself lost. After the youngest princess slips Chloe’s care, Chloe and the remaining royals must embark on an event-filled hunt for her through NYC’s best tourist spots.
KV: Congratulations on the release of AT YOUR SERVICE! What inspired you to write it?
JM: I have to give credit here to my brilliant editor, Annie Berger, who envisioned the concept of a girl who worked alongside her concierge father in a hotel, until she loses a royal guest. Her idea completely captured my imagination because I used to manage a youth hostel and worked as a celebrity handler for a movie studio, so this seemed like a way to marry both of those experiences into a “write what you know” scenario. Plus, the idea of living in a hotel as a tween captivated me- I mean, the sleepovers alone would be epic!
KV: I love the idea of a junior concierge, especially because it’s not something many thirteen-year-olds want to be when they grow up. What did you want to be when you were thirteen?
JM: An Olympic horseback rider, a journalist, a grown-up with my very own apartment in New York City where I could buy whatever pets I wanted and wear makeup. Not a one of those came true besides the makeup, which I’m partly allergic to (not even the pets- my husband is allergic to those!) But this reality is even better. I wouldn’t mind a gold medal though. Or a horse. Or a pied-a-terre in NYC. Hmm…
KV: Chloe is such a sweet, engaging character. Where did her personality come from?
JM: When I worked as a publicist for a major movie studio, I had a big, fancy title but part of that job description was also checking into the hotels ahead of my celebrity guests and making sure their toilets flushed and their lamps all worked (the studio did not want their celebrities burdened by having to push one button to call the front desk; however, the majority of those stars were very down-to-earth and probably would have laughed had they known about these things we did behind-the-scenes). I think I brought a big part of wanting to be taken seriously and respected for the real work, while also having to cater to sometimes-silly demands to Chloe’s role as a kid concierge. She’s very capable, but her age is always going to precede her abilities in people’s minds and that makes her a bit, er, desperate to prove them wrong. It also makes her stubborn about asking for help, which is one of my weaknesses too. In short, there are a lot of my issues getting worked out through Chloe’s struggles (cheaper than therapy, right?) (hopefully way funnier, too.)
KV: I also loved the supporting cast, especially Chloe’s dad and her best friend. Did you have a friend like Paisley growing up?
JM: I had an amazing best friend, but she wasn’t too similar to Paisley. Paisley is all go-with-the-flow mellow and my bestie was like the devil on my shoulder. She pulled me into heaps of hijinks! But I will confess that Paisley’s Yankee fandom comes about because of my own kids, who are all rabid fans (a somewhat fearless feat in the smack middle of Red Sox Nation) and she is named after the niece of the totally fantastic Boston concierge who graciously let me pick his brain about all aspects of his job. Yikes- did I just use 1001 adjectives in that paragraph or what? Oh well. All fitting.
KV: The setting plays such a huge role in this story; I remember thinking several times that AT YOUR SERVICE reads like a love letter to New York. Why did you choose New York City, and did you ever consider any other locations?
JM: I’m so happy to hear you term it that because it was a very intentional love letter to the city, which has always held a certain mystique to me. I love the movie When Harry Met Sally so much and somehow always see NYC lit through that warm filter the movie uses, even when I visit on cold, raw days. I purposefully wanted to bring some of that magic to the story and to make NYC another character in the book. Plus, Chloe is a concierge in charge of showing the very best side of the city to her guests. She has huge hometown pride and is not happy until every last guest falls in love with her city too. Even all of her similes are attached to it (for example, she describes her hair as the color of wet sand on Rockaway Beach, something else is “as red as the TKTS booth on Broadway”, etc.)
KV: Though the book stands on its own, the open-ended ending made me hope that there might be a sequel. Do you have more adventures up your sleeve?
JM: I am 100% open to the idea and hopeful it will come about! I’ve got some ideas percolating…
KV: As this community is fearless, we’d like to know something you are afraid of and something you are not afraid of.
JM: Well, to be brutally honest, I’m a bit (a lot) afraid I’ll have fought through the slush, climbed this big mountain to “debut authordom” and then… no one will buy/read the book. So there’s that! One thing I am not afraid of is alone time. I love my family and my friends and need them like air, but I am also proud that I can spend gobs of time with just me, myself, and I and be perfectly content. It’s kind of freeing.
|Krista Van Dolzer is a stay-at-home mom by day and a children’s author by naptime. She holds degrees in Mathematics Education and Economics from Brigham Young University and lives with her husband and three kids in Mesquite, Nevada. She is the author of a forthcoming-but-as-yet-untitled debut (G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, Summer 2015) and the forthcoming DUEL/DUET (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, Summer 2015).|