All Four Kids: An Interview with Kate A. Boorman, author of Winterkill


Hey folks, and happy Wednesday. Feeling a bit of a chill in the air? Yep, summer is starting to fade (at least in some parts of the world!) and there’s a hint of cold in the distance. So what better time to have a bit of a chat with Kate Boorman, debut author of the atmospheric YA novel, Winterkill.


Cover of Winterkill, by Kate Boorman

Emmeline knows she’s not supposed to explore the woods outside her settlement. The enemy that wiped out half her people lurks there, attacking at night and keeping them isolated in an unfamiliar land with merciless winters. Living with the shame of her grandmother’s insubordination, Emmeline has learned to keep her head down and her quick tongue silent.

When the settlement leader asks for her hand in marriage, it’s an opportunity for Emmeline to wash the family slate clean—even if she has eyes for another. But before she’s forced into an impossible decision, her dreams urge her into the woods, where she uncovers a path she can’t help but follow. The trail leads to a secret that someone in the village will kill to protect. Her grandmother followed the same path and paid the price. If Emmeline isn’t careful, she will be next.

WINTERKILL was published on September 9, 2014 by Amulet Books.

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1. Hi Kate. Congratulations on your publication of Winterkill. I remember when you revealed your amazing cover and I went “Wow!”, and then I read the description and went “Double wow!” and headed straight for the Fifteeners board to ask if I could be the one to read it and interview you. So, can you tell us a little bit about where the idea of Winterkill came from?

Thanks so much, Patrick — and thanks for having me on the Fearless Fifteeners! The idea for Winterkill was born of my penchant for creepy things, my love affair with the Canadian wilderness, and my desire to work through the concept of fear—how it motivates and inhibits us. The opening scene with my main character Emmeline was the story seed and it grew from there as I figured out who she was, what she was afraid of, and what she desired most.

2. Your heroine, Emmeline, is an extremely believable teenager. She’s rebelling against the claustrophobic strictures of her very closed society, which considers her ‘stained’ by the sins of her grandmother, while coping with both unwanted and wanted romantic attention, and showing a hint of teenage self-absorption. That conflict of the how you are perceived with romantic feelings and frustration with the world is something that most teenagers will be able to identify with. So, is Emmeline based on anyone in particular you know, and if you say ‘no’, is that actually true…?

No! Actually true! Though I think Emmeline embodies what, for me, is so interesting about being a young adult. It’s a time that is really complex and rife for dramatic tension because when at that age you are brimming with ideas and energy and passion, but you often lack the agency to act on these things, for a variety of reasons. In Em’s case, those reasons are a little extreme—it’s not just parental surveillance; it’s societal surveillance. But her distorted perception of herself, her frustration with authority, her desire— all of that, I think, is pretty universal to the teen experience.

3. I could really feel the last heat of the summer and the terrifying cold of approaching winter. Is this based on personal experience?

Totally. The winter described in the book is a heightened version of the winter we experience on the Canadian prairies. And it was certainly inspired by what winter might be like a hundred years ago, with no fossil fuel-created luxuries. Each year, where I live, there is a palpable sense of foreboding as autumn graduates to winter (although with central heating and hot water, it’s far less terrifying than in the book).

4. Winterkill is an extremely atmospheric and tense book. What was your favorite part to write?

I think Emmeline’s adventures into the woods were my favourite parts, because there is an element of wonder and excitement there, undercut by fear. Also, I have a thing for trees.

5. What cool facts can you tell us about you that readers might not know?

Cool facts, hmmm. I was born in Nepal. And… I taught myself to play accordion (though, disclaimer: I play piano). And… I’ve been to many places on the earth, including Easter Island— that was pretty cool.

6. You’re stranded on a desert island (no, no, you really are…). What books would you choose to have washed up with you. I’ll give you six. Or maybe a different number. Depending.

Is there a book that teaches you to build a working plane from coconut trees to take you back home? Because that one. I have no desire to be stranded in water; I’m a prairies girl, through and through. But then, while I’m building the plane: The Lord of the Rings (that’s technically three right there— oh whelp!), 1984 (Orwell), Oryx and Crake (Atwood), Different Seasons (novellas by Stephen King), and…..The Magic Faraway Tree (Enid Blyton— yes, it’s for small children).

7. There are two sequels to Winterkill due out in 2015 and 2016. Without giving away too many spoilers for Winterkill, what can you tell us about these books?

I can tell you that they will be rife with grand and rollicking adventures out in the wilderness with creepy things and wondrous things and good guys and bad guys. There is dying, there is kissing. More secrets, more mysteries… Geez, that’s vague. But it’s actually really hard to talk about them without spoiling the first book!

8. As you’re doing this interview for the Fearless Fifteeners, we want to know one thing you’re afraid of and one thing you’re not afraid of.

My worst-kept secret is that I am very afraid of birds. I am not afraid of navigating foreign, busy cities (except for those pigeon-filled town squares GAH!).

Thanks, Kate! It was a pleasure having you stop by!

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Photo of Kate A. Boorman

Kate Boorman is a writer from the Canadian prairies. She has a Master of Arts in Dramatic Critical Theory, and a work resume full of the usual, whacky assortment of jobs.

Kate spent much of her childhood reading books instead of being useful around the house, and now she writes them, which means she is still not very useful. She is fond of beautiful-creepy things, good chocolate, and cozy slippers (all three are an essential part of her writing process).

She also loves to dig in the dirt, and sit under starry skies with her friends, and travel to far off lands with her husband and two children.

The Winterkill trilogy is her YA fiction debut.

You can also find her YA short story “The Memory Junkies” in the Canadian speculative fiction anthology Tesseracts 15: A Case of Quite Curious Tales. It’s about nostalgia-terrorists.

You can find Kate on Twitter or on her website.

Photo of Patrick SamphireDinosaur hunter. Accidental archeologist. Armchair adventurer. Some of these things may not be true about Patrick Samphire. What is true is that Patrick is the author of the extremely thrilling and sometimes funny middle grade adventure, Secrets of the Dragon Tomb (Christy Ottaviano Books / Henry Holt / Macmillan), coming your way in Spring 2015. He lives in Wales, U.K., where it occasionally doesn’t rain.

Introducing Patrick Samphire


Today we’re going to introduce you to Patrick Samphire, whose thrilling middle grade adventure, SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB, is due to be published in August 2015 by Christy Ottaviano Books / Henry Holt / Macmillan. With no further ado:

Well, hello. You seem familiar.

Why, thank you. You may have seen me on television. Although, to be honest, that’s unlikely, as I don’t think I’ve ever actually been on television.

More likely it’s because, originally, my incredibly awesome, impossible-to-miss, thrilling, hilarious novel, SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB, was going to be published in 2014, and then it wasn’t, and now it’s going to come out in 2015 (probably August 18th, but, you know…) Anyway, so, and all that, I introduced myself last year, and now I’m doing it again. Hello.

So what’s changed since then?

Well, for one thing, SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB is now shorter, sleeker, and faster (rather like me, except for the shorter, sleeker, and faster parts), and my super-brave hero is now twelve years old instead of fourteen.

Are you going to tell us about the book?

Yes I am. Just here. Look:

Secrets of the Dragon Tomb

Not actually the book cover…

Mars in 1816 is a world of high Society, deadly danger, and strange clockwork machines. Pterodactyls glide through the sky, automatic servants hand out sandwiches at elegant garden parties, and in the north, the great dragon tombs hide marvels of Ancient Martian technology.

Twelve-year-old Edward Sullivan has always dreamed of becoming a spy like the ones he reads about in his favorite magazine, Thrilling Martian Tales. Instead, he spends his days keeping his eccentric family from complete disaster … that is, until the villainous archaeologist, Sir Titus Dane, kidnaps Edward’s parents as part of a scheme to loot an undiscovered dragon tomb.

Edward sets off in pursuit across the Martian wilderness. With him are his brilliant and outrageous little sister, Putty, his impossibly starchy older sister, Olivia, and his secretive cousin, Freddie. Together they must evade Sir Titus’s minions, battle mechanical nasties, and escape deadly Martian hunting machines. If they can’t, they’ll never uncover the secrets of the dragon tomb and rescue Edward’s family.

SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB is an exciting, funny middle grade adventure full of fantastic inventions, terrible danger, exotic creatures, and larger-than-life characters.

You can add SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB on goodreads. I’ll wait.

That picture up there? That’s not the cover. I couldn’t stand not having a cover yet, so I did this instead.

That book sounds utterly awesome. Can I pre-order it?

As it happens, you can! Here’s a few places:

Book Depository | Books-a-Million | Powell’s Books

It’s also listed on Indiebound, but whether you can preorder it there yet will depend on your local indie bookstore.

Do you have a photo of you with a dinosaur?

Of course! Who doesn’t?

In which the author attempts suicide by T. Rex.

Somehow, I don’t think that fence is going to be enough…

Want to tell us about yourself?

Sure. Why not?

I’ve been a teacher, physicist, editor, web designer, explorer, and consultant idler. I’ve lived in Africa, South America, Europe, the U.K., and on several small asteroids part way between Mars and Jupiter. You can often find me on twitter at @patricksamphire.

I’m married to another writer, Stephanie Burgis, who also writes middle grade novels. Her first book, Kat, Incorrigible, was published in 2011. She has two other full length novels out, Renegade Magic and Stolen magic, as well as a novella in the same series, Courting Magic, which has just been published. Because I am multi-talented (as well as painfully modest) I designed the cover for the novella.

When I’m not writing, I design author websites and ebook covers.

Sometimes I like to make things up for my biography. Then I can’t remember what was true and what wasn’t. It’s all a bit confusing, really.

Last chance to say something interesting.

As well as writing middle grade novels, I also write fantasy short stories for teenagers and adults. You can find them on my website. Some of them are available as ebooks, and some are free online.

I’m so excited that I’m going to get the chance to share SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB with you in 2015. I loved writing this book, and I really hope you enjoy it!

The sequel to SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB, which may or may not end up being called THE EMPEROR OF MARS, will come out in 2016.

Photo of Patrick SamphireDinosaur hunter. Accidental archeologist. Armchair adventurer. Some of these things may not be true about Patrick Samphire. What is true is that Patrick is the author of the extremely thrilling and sometimes funny middle grade adventure, SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB (Christy Ottaviano Books / Henry Holt / Macmillan), coming your way in August 2015. He lives in Wales, U.K., where it occasionally doesn’t rain.

All Four Kids: An Interview With Lauren Magaziner, Author of The Only Thing Worse Than Witches


Today we’re chatting with Lauren Magaziner, author of the wonderful middle-grade novel, The Only Thing Worse Than Witches.


The Only Thing Worse Than Witches Roald Dahl meets Eva Ibbotson in this hilarious middle grade debut perfect for reading aloud.

Rupert Campbell is fascinated by the witches who live nearby. He dreams of broomstick tours and souvenir potions, but Rupert’s mother forbids him from even looking at that part of town. The closest he can get to a witchy experience is sitting in class with his awful teacher Mrs. Frabbleknacker, who smells like bellybutton lint and forbids Rupert’s classmates from talking to each other before, during, and after class. So when he sees an ad to become a witch’s apprentice, Rupert simply can’t resist applying.

But Witchling Two isn’t exactly what Rupert expected. With a hankering for lollipops and the magical aptitude of a toad, she needs all the help she can get to pass her exams and become a full-fledged witch. She’s determined to help Rupert stand up to dreadful Mrs. Frabbleknacker too, but the witchling’s magic will be as useful as a clump of seaweed unless Rupert can figure out a way to help her improve her spellcasting—and fast!

The Only Thing Worse Than Witches will be published on August 14, 2014 by Dial.

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1. Hi Lauren. Congratulations on your publication of The Only Thing Worse Than Witches. It was a book I was looking forward to from the first moment I heard of it. You studied creative writing, and actually wrote The Only Thing Worse Than Witches while at college. When did you figure out you wanted to be writer, and what inspired you to become one?

Thanks, Patrick!! And I can’t wait for your book, too! NEXT YEAR!

I actually started writing books when I was 13. Here’s how it happened: I was hanging around my 8th grade English teacher’s classroom library, looking for a book to read but not really finding anything I was in the mood for. My teacher said to me, “Why don’t you try writing one?”

I loved reading. I loved writing short stories and essays. But I had never really considered writing a novel before! But that very night, I started writing my first book, crouched over my computer in the basement. When I finished the draft six months later, I knew that my writing wasn’t nearly ready for publication. But I enjoyed the process so much that I kept writing books all throughout high school and college–until my writing was ready! I think I have about 10ish (I’ve lost count!) shelved manuscripts before I wrote The Only Thing Worse Than Witches while I was a Junior in college.

It took a lot of time, a lot of practice, a lot of persistence, and a LOT of hard work!

All worth it, of course!!!! 🙂

2. If you were going to fantasy-cast the movie of The Only Thing Worse Than Witches, who would you have in it?

I never had actors or actresses in mind when writing, and this is especially tough because I’m not sure I’m very well-versed in 11-year-old actors, but I’m going to try.

Rupert: Art Parkinson. You know… Rickon Stark on Game of Thrones. He may not say much on GoT, but I think he’s positively adorable!

Witchling Two: Kyla Kenedy. She plays Mika on The Walking Dead. She’s got the most adorable smile and infectious energy in her interviews! Wrangle her hair into a high ponytail, and she’d do marvelously!

Mrs. Frabbleknacker: I know this is the one everyone wants to know…. but I don’t even know. It would take a heck of a lot of make-up and some serious acting chops to play such a horrible meanie. I’ll leave this one to the imagination.

Also, TINA FEY for president. I don’t know where, and I don’t know how, but I WANT her in it because she’s the best.

Actually, final answer: I would pay big bucks to see Tina Fey play every single part in The Only Thing Worse Than Witches.

3. Mrs. Frabbleknacker must be one of the most repulsive teachers I’ve ever come across in a book. Admit it! Which of your teachers was she based on? You can tell us. She’ll never find out.

You caught me! She’s based on my high school teacher named Mrs. Pabblesnacker. (JUST KIDDING.)

4. The Only Thing Worse Than Witches is full of wild, fun, and fantastic ideas. What was your favorite bit of the book to write?

Any scene that includes the line, “BUNNYYYYYYYYY AHHHHHHHHHHHH!” was probably my favorite scene to write.

Same goes for any scene that includes the line, “Children,” she said, as though she was saying something truly awful, like _______ or _______.”

I love writing scenes with Witchling Two because she’s so animated and fun. I love writing the school scenes because Mrs. Frabbleknacker is so evilly delicious; you never know what she’s going to do next.

5. Almost every writer ends up having to cut bits of their book to make it better, and sometimes cutting those bits is worse than cutting off your own feet (yes I am revising right now…). Can you tell us the thing you most regretted having to cut?

I had to cut some jokes that were pretty near and dear to my heart. For example, the scene in which Rupert bumps into Mrs. Gummyyum in the beginning, and she’s rattling off ideas for ice cream flavors? Well, that scene used to be much longer and included:

“Ooooh, shepherd’s ice cream,” Mrs. Gummyyum said. “That’s a good idea!”

“You mean shepherd’s pie ice cream?” Rupert asked.

“Goodness, no! I’m talking about genuine sheep shepherds! I wonder if one would let me nibble on his arm . . . ”

That used to make me giggle. There were other jokes, too, that I rather enjoyed but didn’t necessarily advance the plot. I agreed with my genius editors that cutting the excess jokes made for faster pacing. (And, hey, now I can save some material for later! Dibs on that Shepherd’s joke!)

6. If you had to be a witch, which of the witches in your book would you be (you don’t get to be Witchling 2; that would be too easy)? And whose toes would you boil?

Of the adult witches, I feel very partial to the Storm Witch. Storm is an unpredictably-emotional, highly-enthusiastic nutter. Why I’d like to be her: she seems to have a good time. She is high-ranking in the Witches Council, has a great little family unit, and is just kooky enough to get away with screaming wildly in public for no apparent reason.

And I’d boil whoever’s toes look tastiest. *cackles*

7. As you’re doing this interview for the Fearless Fifteeners, we want to know one thing you’re afraid of (other than bunnies) and one thing you’re not afraid of.

I’m afraid of spiders. So much so that I can’t even look at a picture of one. I guess it didn’t really help that I grew up in a wooded area with hundreds of big, fat, hairy spiders. (The biggest one I ever saw was legitimately the size of my head. I named it Aragog. Then I shrieked so loud that they probably heard me in Australia.)

However, I’m not afraid of the only thing worse than witches. 😉

Thanks, Lauren! Your book is really fun, and I know middle grade readers are going to love it!

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Lauren MagazinerLauren Magaziner grew up in New Hope, Pennsylvania, where she spent her childhood with her nose in a book and her fingers curled over a keyboard.

She currently lives in Brooklyn where she writes humorous, whimsical, wonky children’s books. She also now works for two delightful Scholastic classroom magazines, and her coworkers still think her last name is a hoax. She loves writing short stories, plays, and articles for the magazine and creating online teaching resources.

You can find Lauren on her website, facebook, or twitter.

Photo of Patrick SamphireDinosaur hunter. Accidental archeologist. Armchair adventurer. Some of these things may not be true about Patrick Samphire. What is true is that Patrick is the author of the extremely thrilling and sometimes funny middle grade adventure, Secrets of the Dragon Tomb (Christy Ottaviano Books / Henry Holt / Macmillan), coming your way in Spring 2015. He lives in Wales, U.K., where it occasionally doesn’t rain.

All Four Kids: An Interview with Jen Swann Downey, Author of The Ninja Librarians: The Accidental Keyhand


Today we’re talking with Jen Swann Downey, author of the madcap middle grade adventure, The Ninja Librarians: The Accidental Keyhand.


Cover of 'The Ninja Librarians: The Accidental Keyhand'When Dorrie and her brother Marcus chase Moe—an unusually foul-tempered mongoose—into the janitor’s closet of their local library, they make an astonishing discovery: the headquarters of a secret society of ninja librarians.

Their mission: protect those whose words get them into trouble, anywhere in the world and at any time in history.

Petrarch’s Library is an amazing, jumbled, time-traveling secret base that can dock anywhere there’s trouble, like the Spanish Inquisition, or ancient Greece, or…Passaic, New Jersey. Dorrie would love nothing more than to join the society, fighting injustice with a real sword! But when a traitor surfaces, she and Marcus are prime suspects. Can they clear their names before the only passage back to the twenty-first century closes forever?

The Ninja Librarians will be published on April 15th 2014 by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky.

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Hi Jen. Congratulations on the publication of The Ninja Librarians: The Accidental Keyhand! Can you start by telling us what or who inspired you to become a writer in the first place?

I explicitly said “I want to be a ____” MANY times in my young life. Often I shouted it. For instance, after watching a mini-documentary on Zoom (old PBS kids show for those not quite as ancient as I am.) about a kid who jogged regularly, I absolutely instantaneously wanted to become a “jogger”. (I did get a “jogging suit” for my birthday but sadly, after two very demanding “jogs” around the block, I gave up on the Zoom “kid-jogger” dream.

I’m not sure, however, that I ever said (or shouted) “I want to be a writer”. I just wrote. From the time I was eight, when I got my first diary. (Blue with gold lines inside. “Today, Alexis and I bothered her next door neighbor…” Riveting stuff!).

Before anyone despairs about ever publishing a book because of how you didn’t start writing when you were eight, let me assure you that I was almost entirely disinterested in writing stories. I wrote journal entries, to do lists, rules for neighborhood clubs, letters to George McGovern (He sent back a pin!), notes home from camp, more diary entries detailing all the ways in which I had fallen madly in love with Steve Dent, and then his friend Norby Bryzinsky, and then his friend Lyle Dalton, and neighborhood newsletters, and then articles in grubby neighborhood newspapers, and then not so grubby publications, and then one day I did feel inspired to say: I want to write a book. A kid’s book. For the not so young, not so old kids. A book about a kid and a library.

Petrarch’s Library, the headquarters of the Lybrarians, into which Dorrie falls is a chaotic collision of libraries from throughout history. If you found yourself in accidentally dropped into Petrarch’s library, what would you go looking for first?

You’re with me, right? Well, first we’d strap on some roller-skates since Petrarch’s Library is such a sprawling place, and roller-skating across marble floors is just undeniable fun. Mind the priceless urns! Hard to choose, but I’d probably plead that we check out the visual feast of the Admont Abbey Library.

Admont Abbey Library, Austria

Admont Abbey Library, Austria

Once there, we’d take off our skates and have a contest to find the secret doors that lead to the galleries above the main floor. Up in the galleries, we’d pull out random white leather-bound books from the shelves, sit in one of the sunny window alcoves that overlooks the sea that surrounds Petrarch’s Library, and take turns reading passages out loud, hoping to stumble on a long-lost secret. Don’t tell Mistress Wu, but we may eat some PB and J sandwiches up there, too.

Reading The Ninja Librarians, I can tell you had a fantastic time writing it. What’s your personal favorite bit of the book?

Wow, it would sound pretty vainglorious to say I’m having a hard time choosing but I’m easily overwhelmed, and I never thought about how I’d answer if some roughs put me up against a building and said, “Your Favorite Part, or Your Life”! Um…sweating it out here. Okay. Favorite emotional moment? Probably when Dorrie, near the end of the story reminds Savi about the question he asked her earlier in the story, and then gives her answer. Favorite goofball moment? Probably when Dorrie and Marcus, after chasing Moe the Mongoose into the library, have to confront one very unhappy librarian.

Personally, I single-handedly fund my local library with my overdue fines. Tell the truth. What’s the most overdue library book you’ve ever had out, and how did you escape the wrath of the librarians?

I am the WORST patron! Like you, I play a huge inadvertent fundraising role for my own beloved local library. Over the years there have been books that were unearthed from behind car seats and under beds months and even a year after they were checked out and promptly misplaced. Once we rented a beach house that we had rented five years previously, and discovered one of our missing library books there! I’m ashamed to say that I still own a copy of Henry Huggins that was checked out decades ago from my childhood library…

Cutlass or foil?

One in each hand, but totally made of cardboard for everyone’s safety, but mostly my own.

Rollerskates or bicycle?

Both at once probably wouldn’t be such a good idea, but I might be tempted to try!

As this community is ‘fearless’, we’d like to know something you’re afraid of and something you’re not afraid of.

I am afraid of people with cold eyes, the idea and reality of snake venom, Scotchguard, the banality of evil, and raw wiggly things that come out of shells and pose as food.

I am not afraid of spending time alone, mice, or chipped nails.

Thanks, Jen! Everyone should go out and pre-order The Ninja Librarians right away! It’s an enormous amount of fun.


Photo of Jen Swann Downey.Jen Swann Downey’s non-fiction pieces have appeared in New York Magazine, the Washington Post, Women’s Day, and other publications. Jen divides her time between libraries and other places, and will never stop looking for lickable wallpaper.

You can find Jen on her website, on Twitter, or on Goodreads.

Photo of Patrick SamphireDinosaur hunter. Accidental archeologist. Armchair adventurer. Some of these things may not be true about Patrick Samphire. What is true is that Patrick is the author of the extremely thrilling and sometimes funny middle grade adventure, Secrets of the Dragon Tomb (Christy Ottaviano Books / Henry Holt / Macmillan), coming your way in Spring 2015. He lives in Wales, U.K., where it occasionally doesn’t rain.