Today we’re interviewing OneFourKidLit author Michelle Schusterman, whose debut MG novels I HEART BAND! and FRIENDS, FUGUES, AND FORTUNE COOKIES hit the shelves today. Welcome, Michelle!
Here’s the blurb for I HEART BAND!
Holly Mead’s first day of seventh grade isn’t going as planned. Her brother ruins her carefully chosen outfit, she’s almost late, and her new band director has some surprisingly strict rules. Worst of all, it seems like her best friend, Julia, has replaced her with Natasha, the pretty, smart, new French horn player! Holly is determined to get first chair, but Natasha is turning out to be some pretty stiff competition—and not just in band. Band might be a competition, but friendship isn’t—and Holly needs to figure it out before she loses Julia for good.
I HEART BAND! is charming, fun, heartfelt, and filled to the brim with characters every kid can relate to (and how cute is that cover?). I had a blast reading it, and am so excited to help introduce Holly and her friends to the world. And so, without further ado:
KH: Where did the idea for the I HEART BAND! series come from? Can you tell us about your personal experience in the band world—middle school or otherwise?
MS: I was actually commissioned to write this series by my editor, Jordan Hamessley! She contacted my agent asking if she had any clients with “band geek” cred. We had a phone call in which we discovered we both went to middle and high school in Texas—and, of course, we were both in band. (I have to add here that talking to an editor in New York about who won the Texas State Marching Band Competition a decade ago was extremely surreal!) She wanted a story about a competitive French horn player (like herself!) who starts seventh grade with a new rival—a talented horn player who’s moving in on both her chances at first chair and her best friend. I loved it, we brainstormed a few ideas, and I hung up thinking I had a decent shot at getting asked to submit sample chapters. Instead, my agent called half an hour later and said they’d made an offer!
I’m a percussionist, so my high school experience also included lots of drumline competitions, as well as marching band. I got my bachelor’s in music education from the University of North Texas, which qualified me to teach music K-12, including band, choir, and orchestra (although believe me—you do NOT want me teaching a choir!). I was a band director in the Dallas area for four years, where I split my time teaching middle school in the morning (beginner classes and symphonic band) and high school in the afternoon (drumline and concert band).
KH: Which of the kids in I HEART BAND! was the most fun to write? Is there one you relate to the most? (Confession time: I definitely empathized with Holly and her type-A tendency to over-think and over-plan—and her love of color-coding!—but sci-fi geek Owen stole my heart…)
MS: I adore writing Holly, although I, sadly, am not nearly as organized. But yeah…Owen’s kind of my favorite. His series character arc was one of the most fun to work on, just because he’s a talented kid but has kind of low self-confidence. Holly plays a huge role in helping him realize his full potential, just as he does a good job of helping her understand being the best isn’t always so important.
KH: Do you have a favorite scene in the book?
MS: Absolutely—when candy-addicted Gabby discovers ants crawling out of her saxophone during rehearsal. That was a horror story we’d tell kids on the first day of sixth grade: “If you don’t clean your instrument every day, you’ll get bugs and maggots in your mouthpiece!”
KH: What drew you to write for the middle-grade audience?
MS: While I read a mix of middle grade, young adult, and adult books, I’ve found that my voice just naturally lies with middle grade. And honestly, the books I read as a child are the ones that really stuck with me and made me want to write—particularly anything by Roald Dahl.
KH: Since FRIENDS, FUGUES, AND FORTUNE COOKIES also comes out today, can you give us any hints of what to expect from that book? When does the rest of the series release?
MS: Hmm…a competitive bake sale gone awry thanks to a rogue volleyball, an embarrassing case of mistaken identity involving a crush, and a cyborg-ninja Santa!
Book three is called SLEEPOVERS, SOLOS, AND SHEET MUSIC, and it’s out May 15th, 2014. Book four, CRUSHES, CODAS, AND CORSAGES, will be out in the fall!
KH: And finally, as this community is fearless, we’d like to know something you’re afraid of and something you’re not afraid of.
MS: I’m afraid of really confined spaces, especially for long periods of time. I’m not afraid of insects or spiders—they kind of fascinate me. (Cockroaches do gross me the heck out, though!)
Thanks for stopping by, Michelle, and congratulations again on your debut!
Michelle Schusterman is a former band director and forever band geek, dating back to when she first picked up a pair of drumsticks in the sixth grade. Now Michelle writes books, screenplays, and music. She lives in New York City with her husband (and band mate) and their chocolate lab (who is more of a vocalist).
Find Michelle online: WEBSITE | TWITTER | TUMBLR
|Kathryn Holmes grew up in Maryville, Tennessee, where she was an avid reader and an aspiring writer from an early age. She now lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and piles upon piles of books. A graduate of The New School’s MFA in Creative Writing program, Kathryn works as a freelance dance journalist, among other writing gigs. Her debut YA novel, THE DISTANCE BETWEEN LOST AND FOUND, comes out in early 2015 from HarperTeen. You can find Kathryn online at www.kathrynholmes.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Kathryn_Holmes.