A Teen Reader Interviews David Fulk About RAISING RUFUS

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Delnaz is a 7th grader at King Philip Middle School in West Hartford, CT. She recently read David Fulk’s RAISING RUFUS and had a few questions for the author.

Displaying RaisingRufus.jpgFirst, here’s the book’s description:

Martin Tinker may be the smartest kid in the sixth grade, but who cares? His classmates just think he’s weird. To the good folks of Menominee Springs, Wis., he’s practically invisible. Even his dad has a hard time relating to his bug-collecting, woods-exploring, maddeningly oddball ways. But when Martin accidentally unearths an ancient, frozen egg in a local quarry, he’s in for whole new dimensions of oddness.

When the egg thaws and hatches, he finds himself surrogate mom to a bright-eyed little lizard with a voracious appetite for meat and a tendency to GROW at an alarming rate. Pretty soon Martin figures it out: What he’s got is a living, breathing, honest-to-carnivorous baby T. rex! Martin bonds with his prehistoric pet, but knows this outlandish creature must be kept a secret.

Teaming up with Audrey Blanchard, another misfit from school, Martin struggles to keep “Rufus” fed, entertained, and hidden from the world. But when Rufus grows to 7 feet tall—and starts getting in touch with his inner primeval predator—the secret is blown, and all of Martin’s worst fears come to pass.

Somehow he will have to find the strength and self-confidence he’s never had to save Rufus (or the town?) from an unthinkable fate—and finally, maybe, win a little acceptance from his peers and his dad.

Delnaz: Where did you get the idea to have a boy find a dinosaur egg?

David: In answer to this question, let’s do a multiple-choice quiz. Choose the correct answer from the following:

A. I got it at Walmart. Book ideas were on sale.

B. I was going to have him find an Easter egg, but a dinosaur egg was much more interesting.

C. I saw a boy walking his T. rex on the street one day, and I thought, hey, I could do a book about that!

D. It was originally going to be a girl finding the egg, but I thought, “Wait, I’m a boy,” so I did it that way.

E. I was basically sitting around trying to think up good story ideas.

If you answered “E,” you are correct! I know it’s kind of boring and disappointing compared to the others, but it’s true.

Delnaz: How long did it take you to complete this book?

David: Well, if you’re counting from the first germ of the idea to the final book―and I know it’s a bit shocking and I know I’m seriously dating myself by saying this―it was over 20 years! But I kind of have an excuse, because it was originally written as a screenplay (I used to be a screenwriter type). I shopped it around Hollywood, and even almost got a movie deal at one point, but not quite. So I decided to try it as a book, and that part of it took “only” about 8 years. But that was because I kept putting it aside, and didn’t get serious about finishing it until the last 3 years or so. So there’s your answer: 20 years, 8 years, and 3 years.

Delnaz: What was the hardest part about writing this book?

David: The hardest part was turning it from a screenplay into a book! In the screenplay, there were all kinds of scenes with just the other characters―Martin’s mom and dad, Ben Fairfield, the sheriff. Which is fine in a movie, but in a book, the rule is you have to tell the whole story from one character’s point of view. So I had to figure out how to do it all through Martin’s eyes. And, in spite of all my teeth-gnashing, I have to admit it works better that way!

Delnaz: What is your favorite scene and why?

David: You might be surprised by this, but it’s a scene that has nothing to do with Rufus. It’s when Audrey follows Martin and they go to his house and they first become friends. For some reason I got a little choked up writing that―probably because there’s just something special about that time when you first realize you like somebody and you can see yourself hanging out together. Especially if, like Martin, you’ve never really had a friend! So there, I said it: I’m a secret softie.

Delnaz: Who in this book do you relate to most?

David: Well, I could say Ben Fairfield, the greedy carnival guy, but then a) you’d probably hate me, and b) I’d be lying. Or I could say Rufus, but then you’d probably think I was slightly soft in the head. So I’ll fess up to what you probably expect: Martin. No, it’s not an autobiography (for one thing, my pet dinosaur was a stegosaurus, not a T. rex), and I didn’t grow up lonely in a small town. But I’ll have to admit a few of his characteristics probably came from yours truly. I’ll leave it to you to figure out which ones.

RAISING RUFUS releases Tuesday, June 9 and is available at:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound

David_Fulk_505K

David Fulk is an award-winning playwright, screenwriter/director, and novelist. He grew up near Chicago and has lived in Missouri, Louisiana, Michigan, California, Pennsylvania, New York, Texas, Belgium, India, and Wisconsin. He currently lives near Boston with his pet T. rex, Rosie.

He can be found here:

Web: www.davidfulk.com

Twitter: @davidfulkwrites

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/davefulkthewriter

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/361905.David_Fulk

Fearless Fridays – Alison DeCamp Faces Her Fear of Aliens (They’re Real!)

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Walton(reconstitution)

I used to be afraid of aliens. Oh, who am I kidding. I’m still afraid of aliens.

Once my brother and his girlfriend saw strange lights in the sky while driving a portion of deserted highway. I was probably eleven years old at the time. It was my first almost-UFO sighting. It was also in a section of the state where there was an Air Force base located nearby. I’m sure that had nothing to do with anything.

Years later, after I was married (I’ll admit, I was in my late twenties), a couple came over for dinner and brought a movie with them. FIRE IN THE SKY. A movie so frightening I squeezed my eyes shut and plugged my ears whenever the trailer was shown on TV.

Based on a true story (I know!), FIRE IN THE SKY (in case you are too young to remember) is about a man who is abducted by aliens while his logging coworkers look on. He disappears for five days and resurfaces with no memory and no clothes. Later he has flashbacks about the experiments the aliens performed on him.

There was NO way I was watching that movie. So after dinner my husband and guests slid the movie into the VCR, and I retreated to our bedroom where I turned on the radio and covered my head with a pillow. For two hours.

That was a fun night.

The next morning I called my mother and relayed the entire story. She listened without interrupting me or telling me I was ridiculous. All she said at the end was, “Alison, what makes you think any aliens would want you?”

From then on I haven’t been nearly as freaked out by aliens. Because out of 7 billion people in the world, why WOULD a bunch of aliens want me?

But I’m still not watching that movie. And what I just said isn’t true either. Because I just googled all this information about UFOs and alien sitings and Travis Walton to write this post and I might not sleep tonight.

Alison DeCamp grew up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where she heard many stories about lumber camps, scary grandmothers, and outhouses. She taught middle school for eight years, stayed home with her two adorable children (now adorable teenagers) and works at a bookstore in Harbor Springs, Michigan. MY NEAR-DEATH ADVENTURES (99% True!) is available Feb. 24. You can find Alison on Twitter and Facebook where she loves to posts old pictures and kids’ art.

ALL FOUR KIDS: An Interview with Ami Polonsky, author of Gracefully Grayson

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Mike Grosso at the blog wheel today, thrilled to be interviewing Ami Polonsky, author of the wonderful 2014 debut GRACEFULLY GRAYSON, a book that will speak to any middle grade reader with a secret that threatens to crush their soul.

Here’s the specifics on GRACEFULLY GRAYSON:

gracefullygrayson

What if who you are on the outside doesn’t match who you are on the inside?

Grayson Sender has been holding onto a secret for what seems like forever: “he” is a girl on the inside, stuck in the wrong gender’s body. The weight of this secret is crushing, but sharing it would mean facing ridicule, scorn, rejection, or worse. Despite the risks, Grayson’s true self itches to break free. Will new strength from an unexpected friendship and a caring teacher’s wisdom be enough to help Grayson step into the spotlight she was born to inhabit?

GRACEFULLY GRAYSON is available today at Indiebound | Barnes & Noble | Books-A-MillionAmazon | Powells | Book Depository

MG: Thank you for taking the time to do this interview! GRACEFULLY GRAYSON is a particularly brave angle for a middle grade book. I imagine it would require a special agent/editor. Did it have any trouble finding a home?

AMI: Thank you, Mike. And thanks so much for interviewing me! Gracefully Grayson actually found a home fairly easily. I attribute this good fortune to a) the fact that times are finally changing and the world seems ready for a middle school-aged, transgender protagonist and b) the fact that my agent and editors recognized this. I queried my agent, Wendy Schmalz, in August of 2012 and by early October, we had a book deal. Of course, this was fabulous for me on a personal level, but on a larger scale I think it’s a clear sign that transgender children are finally starting to get the positive attention that they deserve. So yes, Gracefully Grayson does have a very special agent, and it also has two very special editors—Lisa Yoskowitz and Stephanie Lurie at Disney-Hyperion. I am forever indebted to all three of them for standing behind me and my book.

MG: There are many readers out there who will identify – both openly and secretly – with Grayson. What is the most important message you’d like them to hear?

AMI: I think that the middle school and high school years can be really difficult times to remain true to who you are. I was a total conformist during those years and I really regret that. I think our world would be a better place if we all had the courage to let our unique qualities shine. My message to others would be to get to know who you are, love who you are, and let others see the real you.

MG: On the other side of that coin, some readers may have trouble accepting someone like Grayson.  The book has many great examples of characters that either bully or are afraid to speak up against those who bully. What message are you hoping they will get from the book?

AMI: While this may sound simplistic, I’m really hoping that people who read Gracefully Grayson will come to like Grayson. I want them to view her as someone they’d want to get to know further. I think that we often stay away from people who we view as very different from us because we’re afraid of differences. I tend to focus on similarities between people rather than differences. There are so many common threads between all of our experiences as human beings, and we can find a common ground with almost anybody. I hope that people who might be inclined to bully or shun a transgender person will get to know Grayson well enough to recognize that her struggles are universal struggles—she wants to be true to herself, and she wants her community to know her for who she really is.

MG: I really loved the way GRACEFULLY GRAYSON confronts gender and sexual orientation as two separate things. Other than the taunts of a few bullies, Grayson’s sexuality is kept largely ambiguous while his gender identity is quite clear. How would you respond to a reader who is curious about Grayson’s sexual orientation?

AMI: That’s an interesting question, and I’m usually reluctant to answer the unanswered questions in Gracefully Grayson. Now that I’ve sent the book out into the world, I really feel that it’s not mine anymore. But…I’ll answer just this one unanswered question! I’ve always viewed Grayson as a straight female. 

MG: As a fellow educator, I was intrigued by your background as a former language arts teacher and literacy coach. How did your teaching experience help form Grayson’s story?

AMI: It helped form it in so many ways! I never would have become an author if I weren’t a teacher first. During the six years that I taught, I never once dreamed of becoming an author. It literally never crossed my mind. But during those years I read so many middle grade novels, and I read each one so many times. First off, I was completely blown away by how good the books were. I love coming of age stories in general, and middle grade books of all genres almost always contain a coming of age component. I didn’t realize it at the time, but those six years of reading and discussing middle grade novels with my students had imprinted a map of the middle grade novel in my mind. Five years after leaving the classroom, I sat down to write Gracefully Grayson. I was able to activate this map and it led me through the writing process.

MG: I have to mention the excellent blurb from James Howe (author of BUNNICULA, and, more recently, THE MISFITS). How did that come about?

AMI: I was blown away by that blurb. It literally left me speechless. I didn’t know James was reading Gracefully Grayson until I got a call from one of my editors, Lisa Yoskowitz. She read the blurb to me over the phone. Hyperion had contacted him, unbeknownst to me, so it was an utter surprise. I have a vivid memory of sitting with my little brother on his bed—I was probably ten—and reading Bunnicula to him. My brother was, at that time, what you might call a “reluctant reader,” but he was completely entranced by the vampire bunny. James Howe was such a fixture during my childhood, and the fact that he blurbed my book is just incredible. I hope to meet him in person someday and give him a big hug.

MG: And because this community is fearless, what’s something you’re afraid of and something you’re not afraid of?

AMI: Oh, how I would love to be fearless! Okay—I’m petrified of sharks for absolutely no good reason. I’m not afraid of anything that lives in or near a lake, though—bugs, slugs, leeches—I can handle them all. On a larger scale, I’m terrified of dying, kidnappers, cancer, heart disease, dogs getting lost, car accidents, fires…(how many pages can I use?!) but I’m not afraid to stand up for myself or the people I love.

MG: Thanks again for agreeing to this interview, and for sharing Grayson’s story with the world. I can’t wait to see what you write next!

 authorphotoAmi Polonsky (www.amipolonsky.com) is a reading and writing tutor, mother to two young children, and author, among other things. A former Language Arts teacher and literacy coach, Ami remains passionate about guiding children towards a love of books and helping create lifetime readers. Ami lives outside of Chicago with her family. This is her first novel.

Visit Ami Polonsky’s website at http://amipolonsky.com.

Mike GrossoMike Grosso writes, teaches, parents, and plays a variety of instruments at all hours of the day for all possible reasons in Oak Park, Illinois, where he lives with his wife and two-year-old son. He loves coffee, teaching, writing, reading, and making lots of noise with whatever objects he can find nearby. His debut contemporary middle grade novel, I AM DRUMS, will be released by Egmont USA in September 2015. Until then, you can follow his journey to publication at mikegrossoauthor.com or by following him on Twitter.

ALL FOUR KIDS: INTERVIEW WITH DANA ALISON LEVY, AUTHOR OF THE MISADVENTURES OF THE FAMILY FLETCHER

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18769869Hi, all, Fearless 15er Cindy L. Rodriguez here. Today, we celebrate the release of THE MISADVENTURES OF THE FAMILY FLETCHER by Dana Alison Levy. This funny, heart-warming, middle grade novel about two dads and their four adopted sons has received great reviews, including starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal. Here’s the synopisis:

Perfect for fans of The Penderwicks and James Patterson’s Middle School series, this seriously funny, modern family adventure features two dads, four adopted boys, and a variety of pets.

Meet the Fletchers. Their year will be filled with new schools, old friends, a grouchy neighbor, hungry skunks, leaking ice rinks, school plays, wet cats, and scary tales told in the dark!

There’s Sam, age twelve, who’s mostly interested in soccer, food, and his phone; Jax, age ten, who’s psyched for fourth grade and thinks the new neighbor stinks, and not just because of the skunk; Eli, age ten (but younger than Jax), who’s thrilled to be starting this year at the Pinnacle School, where everyone’s the smart kid; and Frog (not his real name), age six, who wants everyone in kindergarten to save a seat for his invisible cheetah. Also Dad and Papa. 

WARNING: This book contains cat barf, turtle pee, and some really annoying homework assignments.

From the Kirkus review: “This book is notable for its matter-of-fact depiction of an atypical family, the same-sex couple and their ethnically diverse children—two white, one African-American, one adopted from India. The boys are very different from one another but closely tied with warm family bonds. Their banter is realistic, and the disorder of their everyday lives, convincing. The Fletcher family rules!

Sounds fun, right? Well, it is, and here is where you can buy it:

Indiebound | Barnes & Noble | BAM | Amazon | Powell’s | Book Depository | Random House

CR: The Fletchers are awesome and there are so many laugh out loud moments. Please tell us where you got the idea for this modern family and whether any of the characters and/or moments were inspired by real people or experiences.

DAL: This is the kind of book I loved reading as a kid, the kind of book that my editor calls comfort food books, because they are familiar and reassuring and wonderful to go back to again and again. I wanted to write a book like that, but I wanted to make it more reflective of the world we live in, and of the kind of families that are all around us. I also wanted to write a book where there was no question of the trope of “mother knows best.” You know, the kind where the dad is just another big goofy kid, and the mother, (wearing an apron of course), frowns disapprovingly and folds laundry. I hate that.

While my own family doesn’t have the same details as the Fletchers, honesty compels me to share that many of the most ridiculous moments of the book are fact, not fiction.

CR: You have had some interesting jobs so far! When did you know you wanted to be a writer? What were some of the things you wrote before your debut novel?

DAL: I always wanted to be a writer, (except for a rogue year in third grade when I wanted to be a marine biologist). But that seemed too daunting, so I worked in business and nonprofits and let the writing fall into the “someday” category. Not surprisingly, the best part of every job I had was the writing part — that was what I did best and enjoyed the most. As for what else I’ve written, well, I’ve written about feminist mermaids, an outdoor school, and teenagers climbing Mount Everest, to mention a few. Some of these stories might never make it out of the proverbial trunk, while others are works in progress. The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher was the third full book that I wrote, and the second one that I tried to get published. The race is not always to the swift…

CR: Tell us a little about your publishing journey, and any advice for pre-published writers?

DAL: As I mentioned, The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher was not my first attempt to get published. My journey was pretty typical, I think. I wrote and rewrote and queried and got rejected and rewrote and got nicer rejections and so on. My agent, Marietta Zacker of the Nancy Gallt Literary Agency, plucked me out of the slush and has been an incredible guide and advocate on this journey.

As for advice…I guess I would just say that writers have to think hard about what their goals are. If their goals are to be in print, there are more options than ever to get there. If the goal is to be published by a major traditional publisher, then they need to be willing to work within those rules. Because at the end of the day, publishing is a business. It’s an interaction of art and commerce, and a writer who wants to be traditionally published needs to balance both those realities. But I love that there seems to be a resurgence of small presses, not to mention the self-publishing option. People can tell their stories in many different ways. And that’s awesome.

CR: What can you tell us about the next Fletcher Family novel? Do you have any other future projects in the works?

DAL: The next Fletcher book — and WOW is it fun to say that!! — anyway, the sequel is a summer story, and takes place during the month of August on a fictitious island that the family has been going to forever. There are loads of shenanigans and family misadventures, of course, but there’s also more of a plot, because a nefarious developer is planning to try and tear down an old beloved lighthouse, and the Fletchers have to figure out what his story is, and how to stop him.

Beyond that, I am working on another middle grade book, which is actually about Anna Bean, the girl on the farm that the Fletchers go visit, as well as a young adult novel. But who knows when, or if, those will ever see daylight!

CR: Lastly, as this community is fearless, we’d like to know something you are afraid of and something you are not afraid of.

DAL: Ooh! Those are good questions. Well, I’m not afraid of skiing double black diamond trails, no matter how steep and gruesome, or bodysurfing big waves. I might not look pretty doing it, but I know I can hold my own. And something I’m afraid of? Um…rats. Honestly, every nightmare I can remember since childhood has involved rats. Though there are several fictional rats who have breached my prejudice, in real life I want nothing to do with them.

Dana LevyDana Alison Levy was raised by pirates but escaped at a young age and went on to earn a degree in aeronautics and puppetry. Actually, that’s not true–she just likes to make things up. That’s why she always wanted to write books. She was born and raised in New England and studied English literature before going to graduate school for business. While there is value in all learning, had she known she would end up writing for a living, she might not have struggled through all those statistics and finance classes. Dana was last seen romping with her family in Massachusetts.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

CindyRodriguezCindy L. Rodriguez is a former journalist turned teacher and fiction writer. She is a middle school reading specialist and an adjunct professor. She previously worked for The Hartford Courant and The Boston Globe. She lives in Connecticut with her young daughter and their rescue mutt. Her contemporary YA debut, WHEN REASON BREAKS, will be published by Bloomsbury USA Children’s Books on February 10, 2015. You can find her on Twitter and Facebook.

ALL FOUR KIDS: An Interview with Dahlia Adler, Author of BEHIND THE SCENES

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Today we’re interviewing OneFourKidLit author Dahlia Adler, whose YA contemporary BEHIND THE SCENES comes out today!

About BEHIND THE SCENES:

behindthescenes

High school senior Ally Duncan’s best friend may be the Vanessa Park – star of TV’s hottest new teen drama – but Ally’s not interested in following in her BFF’s Hollywood footsteps. In fact, the only thing Ally’s ever really wanted is to go to Columbia and study abroad in Paris. But when her father’s mounting medical bills threaten to stop her dream in its tracks, Ally nabs a position as Van’s on-set assistant to get the cash she needs.

Spending the extra time with Van turns out to be fun, and getting to know her sexy co-star Liam is an added bonus. But when the actors’ publicist arranges for Van and Liam to “date” for the tabloids just after he and Ally share their first kiss, Ally will have to decide exactly what role she’s capable of playing in their world of make believe. If she can’t play by Hollywood’s rules, she may lose her best friend, her dream future, and her first shot at love.

AMAZON | B&NBAM |INDIEBOUND | !NDIGO | POWELL’S | THE BOOK DEPOSITORYGOODREADS

BA: So, of course, I have to ask: what inspired this east coast girl to write a book about Hollywood?

DA: I wish I could remember! I know I was coming off of having shelved a book that was really character driven, and feeling like that had really hurt me in the query process, so I was determined to write something more plot driven. I know I originally thought I’d do a celebrity POV, but then thought it’d be so much more interesting to do her best friend’s instead (there are more of these now, but it was a rarity back then, I swear!), but…that’s where the memories end!

BA: BtS is such an addictive read that the complexity of the story almost takes you by surprise. How much of this story was planned or outlined prior to drafting? Were there any characters who took on a life of their own?

DA: This book was outlined to death far more than any other book of mine, because it was my first time doing NaNoWriMo. We’re talking eleven pages, single-spaced. And from the material that was produced during the first draft, there actually haven’t been tons of revisions. However, I added a ton during each of two rounds, so while I outlined tightly for the original 67K, another 21K came out of revisions that were completely out of nowhere.

As for characters, yes—Josh. Josh was supposed to be in the book for, like, five seconds. But as soon as he got the mic, he was just…on. Could not shut him up. And of course, he ended up being most early readers’ favorite.

BA: One of my favorite things about BtS was the focus on Ally and Vanessa’s efforts to navigate a complicated friendship, even as romantic and career developments threaten to come between them. Did you find that any of your own experiences with friends were reflected in their relationship?

DA: There’s definitely nothing in BtS that was pulled from any of my personal friendships, but the general concept of being overshadowed by your best friend is something I can relate to. Waaaay more than I’d like to admit.

BA: Another thing I adored about this book: your thoughtful, careful attention to diversity issues. Most notably, Ally often speaks candidly about Vanessa’s experiences finding work as an Asian-American actress. What inspired you to give this issue extra attention?

DA: So, Vanessa Park was actually originally Vanessa Parker, back when I was just starting to draft. I always sort of fish around in my brain to see if I can mentally fancast any of my characters, and as I was doing it this time, I realized that my whole book was super white. So I thought about fancasting with an Asian-American actress, and realized I couldn’t think of a single one for Vanessa. I promptly turned her into Vanessa Park and then unleashed my feelings on the utter ridiculousness of that throughout BtS, because seriously? How is that even possible? It shouldn’t be.

BA: I know I’m not the first person to mention this, but Ally’s love interest, Liam, is down-to-earth, smart, and ABSURDLY hot. (Wait. Wait. Interview will resume after the interviewer stops swooning.) Any thoughts about how Liam has managed to cause such a sensation among your adult readers?

DA: Ha, my CPs just might be willing to fight you for him! It was actually really strange for me to write a love interest who’s kind of a physically perfect specimen; that’s really not my preference. But Liam really had to be, and it’s hard to argue with flawlessness. And good abs. Good abs are really key.

BA: And in your interview with One Four Kid Lit, you mentioned that Liam is physically based on Matt Lanter. (Pause for additional swooning). Who, if anyone, do you picture in your head when you think of Ally and Vanessa?

DA: No one really. I have a weird thing against strongly picturing my main characters, and for some reason this was particularly true for Ally. If you said I had to choose one on pain of death, I’d probably say Lyndsay Fonseca (circa How I Met Your Mother) for Ally and Jamie Chung (circa her season of The Real World) for Vanessa.

BA: You’ve written several books, including two more scheduled to release from Spencer Hill in 2015! In what ways has your writing process stayed fairly consistent over time? How does it tend to change from book to book?

DA: I’ve done really different things with my books in terms of POV since BtS, and that will throw consistency right out the window. For every part of my process I could tell you remains the same, it’ll be a lie for one of my books. BtS was really heavily outlined, and I never did that again, because the next time I tried, I ended up deviating from it every five seconds. I try to be consistent in not editing while I write, but I’ve had a couple of manuscripts throw me early on, and then with the help of my CPs acting as alpha readers, I’ve made exceptions there too. I have a rule about not writing out of order…and then I went ahead and did it. My feeling is that you just have to do what’s begging to be done. It makes a world of difference when you just go with your gut.

BA: Without giving away any spoilers, what was your favorite scene in BtS to write? What scene gave you the most trouble?

DA: Hmm, good question…I wrote some of them so much more recently than others that it’s hard to be sure! My favorite scenes to write are always either kissing or fighting (and a lot of my scenes include both), so I’d say probably either the first kiss between Ally and Liam, or the first time he comes over, or the night before he goes to Berlin…yeeeeah, there was a lot to enjoy writing in this book!

As for the most trouble, I’d say probably the scenes with Lucy. I’d never written a younger sibling before, and have no experience with them, so those were a struggle for me.

BA: I know you’re a voracious reader and a huge contemporary YA fangirl. What has it been like having fans and supporters of your own? And what would be the ultimate author fantasy moment for you?

DA: You know what’s terrible? I’ve had people be utterly wonderful about my book, and my reaction is always, “(S)he’s just being nice because (s)he’s a nice person,” or something along those lines. Supporters’ capacity for kindness is pretty amazing. So for me, the ultimate author fantasy is anything that’s really incontrovertible proof that someone who didn’t have to love my book for any reason just…did. Especially a reluctant reader. I think having a book that appeals to reluctant readers is an amazing thing.

BA: Your fans know that you juggle multiple professional identities – you’re an editor, a prolific blogger, and – OFFICIALLY – a published young adult author. Beyond your exceptional time management skills, what keeps you sane during the crazy parts of this process?

DA: Deadlines, to-do lists, and close friends. The first two help me organize my brain and are tremendously helpful to me, but it’s really the close friends that make me function. I have the world’s most incredible CPs, who manage to make me feel like all my stuff is worth reading, and who are always willing to alpha, beta, talk things out, and cheerlead. I also have a couple of friends who are just tremendous at letting me talk about my emotional crazy. And I have to give the world’s biggest shoutout here to Fearless Fifteener Maggie Hall, because she is in both of those categories, and is there for me literally every single day, even when traveling the world. I have no idea where I’d be without her.

And my husband. Not to be a cliché, but my husband is pretty much the greatest rock I could ask for.

BA: Since this is an official Fearless Fifteeners interview, my last question is, as always: what is one thing you’re afraid of? What is one thing you’re not afraid of?

DA: I’m afraid of driving—I don’t have a license, and I honestly don’t know when I’ll get one, even though I clearly need one.

I’m not afraid of being myself. I don’t always love what I do or how I feel, but I’m very grateful to be someone who can comfortably tell you everything I am. Or, you know, tweet it.

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

About Dahlia:
DahliaAdler (533x640)Dahlia Adler is an Assistant Editor of Mathematics by day, a Copy Editor by night, and a YA author and blogger at every spare moment in between. You can find her on Twitter at @MissDahlELama, and blogging at The Daily Dahlia, YA Misfits, and Barnes & Noble. She lives in New York City with her husband and their overstuffed bookshelves. Behind the Scenes is her debut novel.

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Becky AlbertalliBecky Albertalli is a clinical psychologist who has had the privilege of conducting therapy with dozens of smart, weird, irresistible teenagers. She also served for seven years as co-leader of a support group for gender nonconforming children in Washington, D.C. She now lives outside of Atlanta, Georgia with her husband and son. Her debut novel, SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA, will be released from Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins in April of 2015. Follow Becky on Twitter at @beckyalbertalli.

ONE FOUR KIDS: Interview with Kate Hannigan, Author of CUPCAKE COUSINS

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I had the great pleasure of interviewing OneFourKidLit author Kate Hannigan, whose middle grade novel, CUPCAKE COUSINS, debuts today! About the book:

Cupcake Cousins Cover medium file“Meet Willow Sweeney and Delia Dees, cousins who are embarking on their annual summer vacation together to the sleepy beach town of Saugatuck, Michigan, and the old Victorian house called Whispering Pines. Willow and Delia love gathering with the aunts and uncles, grandparents and kids all together for one fantastic week every August. But this year is special. Aunt Rosie is getting married, and she’s asked Willow and Delia to be her flower girls.

“But who ever heard of fourth-grade flower girls? Willow and Delia want to avoid those babyish pink dresses at all costs. They’d much rather beflour girls instead and prove themselves to the whole family – and to the intimidating new caterer at Whispering Pines – by whipping up some amazing dishes in the kitchen. But their cooking plans have a tendency to go awry, and culinary chaos ensues.”

Order Cupcake Cousins now from your local independent bookseller. Or visit Amazon or Barnes & Noble to get your copy today!

CH: When did you first decide to pursue writing? How did you decide on middle grade books? What do you find most appealing about them? Do you write in other genres as well?

KH: I’ve identified myself as a writer since I was in grade school. I think I first became hooked on storytelling and creating my own worlds in Mrs. Tucker’s third-grade class, when we wrote our own Encyclopedia Brown stories complete with surprise endings. I was obsessed!

I write for the reader I was then, attracted to wacky characters and adventures. I think middle-grade is where the truths are. It’s full of heart and honesty and searching. I’ve tried my hand at picture books, but they are so difficult! I find it hard to distill my thoughts down to a few hundred words! I like how we can stretch out in middle-grade and have a bit more room to say what we want.

Dune staircase

Down the bluff staircase to the dunes and Lake Michigan near Saugatuck, Michigan, where the story is set.

CH: The setting of the story really comes alive—I would say it earns a place as honorary character. How did your own childhood vacations/experiences contribute to the story?

KH: It’s funny, there are many really important things in my day-to-day functioning that I should be able to remember but cannot. But I can recall the way our Volare station wagon smelled when I was a kid, and what the green plastic seats felt like in the summertime. I can remember what it was like to run barefoot on crabgrass when we played outside in the evenings in my neighborhood. So many things about summer vacations and being a kid are right there in the front of my mind. These memories do seem to make it into my stories.

I spent a great deal of time outside when I was growing up in Oklahoma. When I think of today’s kids, who spend much of their days indoors and experience the world via screen instead of their five senses, I feel like something is being lost. So when I wrote Cupcake Cousins, I wanted to conjure up those sensations. I want readers to think about watching a sunset or sunrise and maybe feel compelled to go do it themselves. By including a lot of tactile things – picking blueberries, playing on the sand, getting up before the sun rises – I wanted to remind kids that it’s all still out there for them to explore and experience.

malted milkball cake

Kate’s malted milk ball cake at Christmas

CH: Do you cook? If so, what’s your specialty? Are the recipes your own creations? Do you have a favorite dish/type of cuisine? Tell us about your worst kitchen disaster.

KH: I do love to cook! It’s the best time for letting my mind wander and sort of plot out my next project. I am not a big meat-eater, so I tend to cook a lot of Thai, Chinese, and Indian fare. My kids call my various pots “Mom’s veggie concoctions.” I’m more like the Willow character in the book, throwing things into the mix and winging it, rather than like her more precise cousin, Delia, who measures things and plans out.

For Cupcake Cousins, I messed around with recipes and tested them out on my kids, who were willing guinea pigs! They patiently endured having to eat multiple batches of cupcakes and whoopee pies and peach pancakes.

And like the cousins in the book, I’ve had my share of kitchen disasters. So many, in fact, that I don’t even know which to share here. Fires on the stovetop, explosions in the microwave, adding cooking oil instead of water and making a wide hockey puck rather than a chocolate cake. My best cooking disaster is probably the time I poked a wooden spoon into the blender and wound up with woodchips in my batter. That dish was for a young man whose heart I was trying to win, and since he wound up marrying me, I guess it wasn’t a complete disaster!

CH: Do you envision any more adventures for Willow and Delia?

KH: Plenty! And Disney-Hyperion has asked for two more, so Cupcake Cousins is officially a three-book series. Willow and Delia are very clear in my mind, so I feel like I can return to them again and again.

CH: Do you have a writing routine? What’s your favorite place/time of day for writing?

 KH: I am a weirdly superstitious person, so I have a few rituals that are much too embarrassing to share. But I do tend to sit in the same spot at my kitchen table when I write, using the same mug for tea or the occasional decaf (which I put in the same spot near my laptop). I have a desk in a downstairs office that I use to, so I choose one or the other for long stretches.

As an online writer and editor, I’ve been lucky enough to be able to work from home. So I get everything done while my kids are in school, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. When I was working on Cupcake Cousins, that meant getting up sometimes at 4 a.m. to work on the manuscript before sitting down to the day job. Lately I’ve been able to shift to writing books full-time. But I still like writing in the mornings, when the whole house is asleep, even my dog. After 3 p.m., I run a chauffeur service.

CH: Any advice for aspiring writers?

KH: Read. Read everything. Read the books you want to write, and really study how the authors did it. Even take a passage that moves you, and write it down, so it flows from your head, through your fingers, and onto the page. You get a sense of how the author did it, and you can take that feeling and make it your own with your own words.

CH: What did you find most surprising about the process of getting published?

 KH: That. It. Moves. So. Slowly.

I used to work in newspapers, which was thrilling. The work you did in the newsroom was there in the next morning’s paper. You read it over breakfast! But with books, it can be a few years between an editor acquiring a book and the finished product sitting in your hands. The result is still a complete thrill! But the journey is a long one. And my personality is more like, “Are we there yet? Are we there yet?” So I wound up starting other projects along the way.

CH: Willow dreamed of becoming a chef. What would you tell a real-life 10-year-old who is having doubts or fears about pursuing a dream?

KH: Just stick with it! Sometimes it might seem that the people who are so successful got there quickly and easily. But that’s rarely the case. They were at it every day. And when you’re doing something you love and value, it doesn’t feel like work.

And do not be afraid to make mistakes. How does a baby figure out how to walk? She falls down. A lot. Babies fall down spectacularly. But before long, they get the hang of it, and they move on to skipping and jumping and galloping and running. The same will happen to you.

Kate Hannigan Head Shot smallLearn more about the fabulous and talented Kate Hannigan at katehannigan.com.

Growing up, Christine Hayes loved reading about the creatures that curl your toes, the legends that send a shiver down your spine. Now she loves writing about them, too. Christine lives near Chicago with her family, her dog, Chewie, and a house full of quirky vintage objects that she secretly hopes might be haunted. Her MG suspense novel, MOTHMAN’S CURSE, debuts spring 2015 with Roaring Brook/Macmillan. Follow her on Twitter.

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

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

About THE NINJA LIBRARIANS:

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.

Indiebound | Amazon | Barnes and Noble | BAM | Powell’s | Goodreads

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.

ABOUT JEN SWANN DOWNEY

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.

ALL FOUR KIDS: Interview with Marcia Wells, Author of EDDIE RED UNDERCOVER: MYSTERY ON MUSEUM MILE

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Today we’re talking to Marcia Wells, whose middle grade debut, EDDIE RED UNDERCOVER: MYSTERY ON MUSEUM MILE released on April 1st!

marcia-eddie-book-cover

 

About the book: Sixth-grader Edmund Xavier Lonnrot code-name “Eddie Red,” has a photographic memory and a prodigious talent for drawing anything he sees. When the NYPD is stumped by a mastermind art thief, Eddie becomes their secret weapon to solve the case, drawing Eddie deeper into New York’s famous Museum Mile and closer to a dangerous criminal group known as the Picasso Gang. Can Eddie help catch the thieves in time, or will his first big case be his last?

 

 

GN: Congratulations on your debut, Marcia! What inspired you to write Eddie Red?

MW: Thank you! During the summer of 2010, I was reading some Latin American mysteries for a high school class I was teaching that fall. I was also reading a lot of industry articles about the need for more kid mysteries and books for boys. I woke up one morning and Eddie was there. He wouldn’t leave me alone until I wrote his story.

GN: The setting in Eddie Red — New York City — seems to play a big role in the book. How did you decide where to set the book? And did you get to do any fun research trips? 

MW: I don’t remember making a conscious decision about setting it in NYC- my husband’s family is from there, and we were visiting them in the Adirondacks, so perhaps that’s when it all clicked. I did a lot of research online before visiting New York City and Museum Mile. (At the time of my visit my kids were pretty small, so I wouldn’t call it the most productive of trips- the internet has been my biggest research tool in this process.) Eddie’s next adventure takes place in Mexico, so I went with my family down to Cancun over Thanksgiving. THAT was a lot of fun!

GN: I love that Eddie Red is illustrated! Is that something you’d imagined for the book when you started writing it? How does the author-illustrator partnership work?

MW: I didn’t imagine it illustrated, although because Eddie is a police sketch artist, it certainly makes sense. I was thrilled when Houghton Mifflin told me the direction they wanted to go with the project. My illustrator Marcos Calo is perfect for the job. He did the sketches quickly, and then sent them to me for comment. There were very few adjustments to be made- he brought the characters to life perfectly! Working with him has been an amazing part of the journey.

GN: I marvel at writers who can pull off a mystery. How did you make it work?

MW: I just dove in- I didn’t realize how tricky it was until after the fact. Maybe that’s a good thing? I did A LOT of rewriting. I attended some great classes at conferences about how to write a good mystery. Those classes have come in handy while writing the second book. One writer said, “If you can plot a mystery, you can plot anything!” I have to agree- there’s a real need to examine the information given throughout the book and make sure that the pacing is where it should be. It takes some time.

GN: What are you working on now?

MW: I’m revising Eddie Red Two with my editor right now, and also waiting to hear back about a YA fantasy project (this one starring a 15-yr-old girl) Fingers crossed!

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

MW: Recently I fell while skiing and sustained a mild concussion. It has been an awful feeling, not being able to read and write. So I guess my biggest fear is not being able to create, to run dry on new ideas. I am not afraid of criticism of my work, and in fact, I welcome it. (After five years of trying to get published, I’ve developed very thick skin!) Some criticism really resonates with me, and I use it to produce something better in the end. Other criticism I confidently ignore. I’ve really gotten to know myself as a writer, and I am always open to learning new things.

 

marcia-headshotABOUT MARCIA WELLS: Marcia Wells has a Master’s degree in Spanish literature and has taught writing, Spanish and math to middle and high school students for the past fifteen years.

When she’s not visiting relatives in New York City and planning new adventures for Eddie Red, she’s at home with her kids, husband, and other farm animals in Vermont. 

Visit Marcia at her website, on Twitter, and on Facebook.

 

Gail NalGail Nalll lives in Louisville, Kentucky with her family and more cats than necessary. She spends her early mornings writing, her days practicing law, and her evenings trying to stay up past eight o’clock. She chats about writing and figure skating on her blog Writing and Stuff, and spends too much time on Twitter. Her debut contemporary MG novel, DON’T FALL DOWN, will be out from Aladdin/Simon & Schuster in Spring 2015.

ALL FOUR KIDS: An Interview with Laura Marx Fitzgerald, Author of UNDER THE EGG

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Today we’re talking with OneFourKidLit author Laura Marx Fitzgerald, whose middle grade mystery UNDER THE EGG releases today! If you are a fan of Chasing Vermeer or From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, then UNDER THE EGG is the book for you.

18060008ABOUT UNDER THE EGG:

Only two people know about the masterpiece hidden in the Tenpenny home—and one of them is dead.

The other is Theodora Tenpenny. Theo is responsible for tending the family’s two-hundred-year-old town house, caring for a flock of unwieldy chickens, and supporting her fragile mother, all on her grandfather’s legacy of $463. So, when Theo discovers a painting in the house that looks like a priceless masterpiece, she should be happy about it. But Theo’s late grandfather was a security guard at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and if the painting is as valuable as she thinks it is, then her grandfather wasn’t who she thought he was.

With the help of some unusual new friends, Theo’s search for answers takes her all over Manhattan and introduces her to a side of the city—and her grandfather—that she never knew. To solve the mystery, she’ll have to abandon her hard-won self-reliance and build a community, one serendipitous friendship at a time.

Amazon / IndieBound / Barnes and Noble / Books-a-Million / Powell’s

SPOILER ALERT: If you like to read your mysteries without any hints to what lies ahead, then bookmark this page and go read UNDER THE EGG right now, then come back to Laura’s interview when you’re done. We’ll wait for you.

JCB: Congratulations on your debut, Laura! How did you come up with the idea for UNDER THE EGG? 

LMF: I had an idea to write an art history mystery—with time travel! Fortunately an editor friend talked me out of the time travel, but gave me some middle-grade fiction to read for ideas.

Around this time I was watching Antiques Roadshow and thinking about what made it so compelling. Yes, there’s always that final moment where you see dollar signs in the owner’s eyes. But I saw too how excited people were about the path the object had taken to their living rooms. People were so proud to tell how their grandfather had met FDR, or how their aunt always hid this painting in her boudoir, or how they themselves haggled this rug down to a nickel. The story wasn’t just in the object’s creation—it was in the personal history each item held for the owner.

At the same time, I was reading a fantastic book by Edward Dolnick called The Forger’s Spell, when these three lines jumped out at me:

The easiest test of an old master—and the one test almost certain to be carried out—is to dab the surface with rubbing alcohol. In a genuinely old painting, the surface will be hard, and the alcohol will have no effect. If the painting is new, the alcohol will dissolve a bit of paint, and the tester’s cotton swab will come up smudged with color.

I wondered: what if someone intentionally painted over a valuable painting, with the plan to later remove the top layer? All those Antiques Roadshow questions came back to me—who made it, and how did it get here?—and UNDER THE EGG was born.

JCB: UNDER THE EGG incorporates so much cool history, ie. the Monuments Men, in such an interesting way. I’m assuming writing this novel involved a lot of research. How did you go about doing your research? Did the writing come first or the research?

LMF: For me, the research always comes first! If I’m interested in a topic, I start out by reading everything I can find on it. For UNDER THE EGG, I read books and watched documentaries on (spoiler alert!) art theft, art forgery, Raphael and the Italian Renaissance in general, looting in World War II, the Monuments Men, paint chemistry, the history of Greenwich Village, urban homesteading, pickling, and recycled art. (Thank you, Brooklyn Public Library, and your generous check-out policies!) I also made multiple trips to the Met and the Center for Jewish History to consult their archives.

Throughout the research process, I picked up bits and bobs of details I found interesting. Once I had a story in mind, the trick was weaving them together.

By the way, many sources are linked on my website for readers who want to know the true stories behind the book. Go to: http://www.lauramarxfitzgerald.com/#!resources/c14j5

JCB: Was it difficult figuring out what facts to weave into the story and what to leave out?

LMF: The writing process is a (and I cringe as I write this) chess game. With each decision you make, you gain and lose others.  So there were many, many fun ideas I had to leave aside.  For example, inspired by that great book The Forger’s Spell, I had an early idea that Jack was forging paintings with the help of his friend Sal’s brick pizza oven. (Read The Forger’s Spell to find out how it would have worked.) But once I decided Jack was a thief and not a forger, that idea got ejected. Maybe you’ll see it in another novel!

JCB: Beyond the history woven throughout UNDER THE EGG, it is rich with so much more–memorable characters, the budding friendship of Theo and Bodhi, the details of big city life, the attention to how Theo lives. Was it difficult juggling all these elements as you drafted the novel? Did you see them all as a part of the story from the beginning, or did some evolve in later drafts?

LMF: The final draft changed little from the first (except Madame Dumont was first called Miss Wickens; her path to New York changed quite a bit). I was always trying to tell a mystery-within-a-contemporary-story, like one of my favorite books, Possession by A.S.Byatt. In that book, two graduate students slowly uncover the hidden love between two Victorian poets, with clues found both in historic documents and the authors’ poems themselves. As the mystery unfolds, the grad students fall in love, and this “front story” is every bit as compelling as the historic backdrop.

In UNDER THE EGG, Theo and Bodhi are my love story, without the romantic interest. The way I see it, their relationship propels the investigation forward, even for readers who may not be terribly interested in art. And their differences, which make for a crackling, opposites-attract friendship, are also crucial to the investigation. Bodhi is the tech-savvy sleuth who gets jazzed by every new gizmo on the market, while Theo is the one who reads, reflects, and looks deeply. Both approaches are necessary to solve the mystery.

Their relationship—and their travels around the city—are what keep the story alive and moving.  Otherwise it would just be the story of a girl at the library on Google. In other words, my life.

JCB: We share two of the same favorite middle grade books: The Westing Game and From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. What other middle-grade books have influenced you as a writer?

LMF: I absolutely loved (and still love) contemporary classics like Anastasia Krupnik, Harriet the Spy, and When You Reach Me, as well as historical fiction like the Little House series, All-of-a-Kind Family, and The Borrowers.

Although I only discovered it in the last few years, and although it’s technically literary fiction, there is one other book was hugely influential in writing UNDER THE EGG. I’m talking about True Grit, long cast as a John Wayne-Western in most minds, but really a fantastic YA story with the most unique narrative voice I’ve ever encountered. Heroic, irascible Mattie Ross was an important model for Theo, and I’d love to see more middle-grade and YA readers discover her.

JCB: What are you working on now?

LMF: Another art history mystery. This one involves a group of kids working to solve an art heist and uncovering a much darker crime.

JCB: As this community is fearless, we’d like to know something you are afraid of and something you are not afraid of?

LMF: I’m proud to say that I am not at all afraid of snakes. But I am very, very, very afraid of spiders.

Thank you for the interview, Laura! And congratulations again on UNDER THE EGG!

lamafitz

ABOUT LAURA MARX FITZGERALD:

In writing UNDER THE EGGLaura Marx Fitzgerald drew on her study of art history at Harvard and Cambridge Universities. Though she grew up Down South, today she lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two kids (and a dog, if the two kids keep begging).

Jennifer BertmanJennifer Chambliss Bertman is the author of the forthcoming middle-grade mystery, BOOK SCAVENGER (Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt/Macmillan, 2015). BOOK SCAVENGER launches a contemporary mystery series that involves cipher-cracking, book-hunting, and a search for treasure through the streets of San Francisco. Jennifer earned her MFA in Creative Writing from Saint Mary’s College, Moraga, CA, and is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of EMLA.

ALL FOUR KIDS: An Interview with Louise Galveston, author of BY THE GRACE OF TODD

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I had the good fortune to interview OneFourKidLit author Louise Galveston on the occasion of the release of By the Grace of Todd, her very funny, very gross, middle grade debut novel.

About BY THE GRACE OF TODD:

by the grace of todd coverPerfect for fans of Andrew Clements and The Borrowers, By the Grace of Todd is the laugh-out-loud answer to what happens if you leave dirty laundry on the floor . . . and don’t follow your mother’s instructions to clean your room.

Twelve-year-old Todd has created life through sheer grossness.
How did he become an accidental god? 

Ingredient A: A worn athletic sock
Ingredient B: Dirt from the Great and Powerful Todd himself

Instructions: Leave under bed for months. Do not clean room.

Yields: 50 ant-sized Toddlians

BUT WATCH OUT! When school bully Max Loving puts the future of the tiny Toddlians in jeopardy, Todd will have to do everything in his power to save the race his very negligence created.

MM: Todd Butroche (Buttrock to his enemies) lives in such filth that an entire civilization springs up on his gym sock and begins to revere him as something between a god and a leader. Which came first for you: the characters or the story? What was the first little nugget of an idea that made you want to write this book?

LG: My editor actually pitched the concept of a slovenly kid who spawns a civilization to me, and I thought it was a fabulously funny concept. The characters really developed with the writing and from my own life as well: I had a son Todd’s age (much less messy), a daughter Daisy’s age, and I’m kind of a mix between Todd’s and Lucy’s mothers. And yes, I had poodles growing up, although none were as diabolical as Todd’s mom’s dog, Princess VanderPuff.

MM: In the first chapter alone, you’ve got the Toddlians munching on dandruff and eating dead skin cell and toe jam sandwiches. How did you manage to unleash so much grossness in one book?

LG: Um… I have eleven kids (five of them boys). I’ve pretty much seen it all. The only thing I can’t deal with is hair in a drain. My first school visit, I was reading that bit about the toe jam sandwiches and the entire group said, “EWWWWW!” so I knew I’d hit the mark. But truthfully, even I shuddered as I wrote some of the ickier parts.

MM: By the Grace of Todd is not only gross, it is also very, very funny. What makes you laugh the hardest, and what are some of your favorite funny books?

LG: Thank you! Well, no one can make me laugh harder than my husband, who is the funniest guy on the planet. I’m probably going to lose respect over this, but my favorite movies are Elf, What About Bob, Nacho Libre, and Napolean Dynamite (I was an 80’s child.) I also love funny stories set in England before 1900–one must have balance, after all.)

The books that have truly made me laugh out loud: Alice in Wonderland, the Wimpy Kid books, the Vordak the Incomprehensible series (Scott Seegert is a genius,) Dickens, Gaskell, and of course, Austen. I like absurd, characture-y characters and intelligent humor as well as schtick. I tried to offer both in By the Grace of Todd.

MM: As it turns out, Todd is actually a pretty terrible god/leader at first. Thankfully, he gets a lot of help from his friends, his baby sister, and the Toddlians themselves. Was there a particular character that was especially fun for you to write? Any who were tougher to get a handle on?

LG: I LOVE writing Daisy (Todd’s evil genius baby sister). I just finished drafting the sequel, and she gets even more page-time because it’s just so much fun to write a brilliant and devious one-year-old. Lucy was another favorite, simply because I was such a science geek as a kid and was (and still am) fascinated with bizarre phenomenon, like spontaneous human combustion. (Lucy’s a lot smarter than I am, so I had to do quite a bit of research for her material.) Persephone, the self-styled cowgirl Toddlian was also a blast, particularly because my dad is a huge John Wayne fan and I love to read Louis L’Amour. And I don’t know what it says about me, but Max (the bully) was very fun to unleash.

Todd was the toughest character to get right, because he’s so clueless about some things. I have a tendency to inject sarcasm into main characters, because that’s an unfortunate trait of mine. But I never wanted him to seem mean or cruel, just forgetful and thoughtless at times. I wanted to be sure the reader was always rooting for him, even though he was such a lousy leader at first.

MM: By the Grace of Todd is a self-contained story, and yet, you still managed to give the book a cliffhanger ending! Can you give us any hints about what the Toddlians will get up to next?

LG: In the next book, Todd slides back into his former neglect a bit because he gets his first crush. He’s always off to what the Toddlians call the “enchanted kingdom of The Mall” in search of the beautiful new girl at school, Charity. Problem is, Max is gaga for her as well and still hasn’t forgotten the Toddlians or forgiven Todd for humiliating him. The Toddlians are feeling so forlorn they consider pledging their loyalty to Lucy instead of Todd, and so as not to give away any surprises, I’ll just say it all goes horribly wrong.

MM: And finally, as this community is fearless, we’d like to know something you’re afraid of and something you’re not afraid of.

LG: I’m terrified of popping noises: balloons (birthdays are torture for me!), guns, fireworks… The Fourth of July made me hysterical as a child. I’m not sure where that originated, but it could be because I have really sensitive hearing. I was in a play in college where flash pots had to go off all around me. My screams were very real in that scene. 🙂 And it was children’s theater, so we had 14 performances. My nerves where shot at the end of the run!

What am I not afraid of? I’m not afraid of failure anymore. As a perfectionist, I used to worry that my best wouldn’t be good enough. But as long as I know I’ve put my heart in soul into something, the results are out of my hands, and I can be satisfied. (Well, failure isn’t nearly as satisfying as success, but I’ll know it wasn’t because I didn’t try hard enough.)

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

louise galvestonAbout Louise:

Louise grew up on horseback in the Midwest. The only thing that could pull her out of the saddle was a great book or a game of Star Wars. The lone girl in her neighborhood, she always got to play Princess Leia, thus her mad lightsaber skills. (Yes, she had the cinnamon roll side-bun hair.) Louise even cleaned her room on occasion, but never found anything but a rogue hamster under her bed.

Louise still lives in the Midwest. When she’s not writing, she directs children’s theater and dabbles in watercolor. She is proud to say that some of her eleven children have inherited her horsey genes and all of them love Sea-Monkeys. (Her first obsession with tiny creatures.)

marymccoyMary McCoy is the author of DEAD TO ME, which will be published by Disney-Hyperion in February 2015. She loves books where crime is perpetrated and/or solved, secrets are buried and/or uncovered, and vengeance is sought and/or justice is won. She lives in Los Angeles.