Category Archives: Author Q&A

Exclusive Q&A with The Bridge from Me to You author Lisa Schroeder – Part 3

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Today, we bring you part 3 of our exclusive Q&A with The Bridge from Me to You author Lisa Schroeder … FLASH QUESTIONS! If you missed it, catch part 1 here and part 2 here.

lisa schroederFavorite decade?

I think I have to go with the 80s.

Must-have writing snack?

Tea.

Favorite Disney movie?

The Aristocats

The beach or the mountains?

Both!

Song that can always get you dancing?

“Let’s Go Crazy” by Prince

Name 5 things currently on your desk (or in your writing space).

  1. Mother’s Day card from my youngest son
  2. chapstick
  3. a fabric cupcake
  4. too many notebooks
  5. a turtle a fan made me.

Exclusive Q&A with The Bridge from Me to You author Lisa Schroeder – Part 2

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Today, we bring you part 2 of our exclusive Q&A with The Bridge from Me to You author Lisa Schroeder. If you missed it, catch part 1 here.

charmed life1You also have a series of middle grade books coming out this year. Tell us a bit about the CHARMED LIFE series.

The series is about four girls who meet at summer camp and think they’ve found a lucky bracelet. Before they each return home, they promise each other that they will take turns wearing the bracelet and writing each other letters and sharing about their experiences with the bracelet. Each book is from one of the girl’s point of view – the first one is about Caitlin in Connecticut, the second one is about Mia in southern California, the third one is about Libby in England, and the fourth one is about Hannah in Tennessee. There are some really unique elements in each of the books, because I wanted to write about things you don’t see often in middle grade novels. So, for example, there is bird watching in the second book and a sweet shop in the third book. They are supposed to be fun reads, and I worked really hard to make them so.

lisa schroeder2What’s it been like, switching back and forth between writing YA and writing middle grade? What are some of the challenges? What are some of the benefits?

I really like working this way. I heard another author say that switching back and forth is a nice way to cleanse your palate, and it’s true! After I’ve written and revised a YA and I’m doubting everything about writing YA, I can start in on a middle grade, and life is good again. I suppose the challenge is that if I’m trying to publish at least one of each every year, I don’t get much down time. But overall, I really like it and I feel fortunate to be able to write both.

What are you working on next?

I just finished drafting a MG fantasy and I need to revise that soon so I can send it to my agent and see what she thinks. Right now, I’m doing revisions on my next YA which will be out summer of 2015. I haven’t announced it yet, so I can’t say too much, but I can say this – it has a pretty unique premise and I think people are going to be a little bit surprised when they hear about it. And I’m really excited about it!!

Edited to add: Lisa’s new YA project has been announced. Here is the announcement from PW:

Amanda Maciel at Scholastic has acquired world rights to Lisa Schroeder‘s new YA novel, All We Have Is Now. With just 28 hours left until a giant asteroid is due to destroy the U.S., a 17-year-old runaway and her best friend make it their mission to fulfill as many people’s last wishes as they can, until she realizes there are things left undone in her own life. It’s slated for summer 2015; Sara Crowe at Harvey Klinger was the agent.

Exclusive Q&A with The Bridge from Me to You author Lisa Schroeder – Part 1

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Today, I am so pleased to be bringing you part 1 of our three-part exclusive interview with Lisa Schroeder, the author of The Bridge from Me to You (among other great titles). Thanks, Lisa, for stopping by!

bridge from me to you, the - largeI know you & I have talked before about the many things that influenced THE BRIDGE FROM ME TO YOU. Tell us a bit about the different elements that lead to this book.

It all started with some tweets by Rachel Hawkins, which goes to show that twitter is not necessarily a complete waste of time! She had just read a book featuring a small town, and she started tweeting these descriptions that instantly took me back to my teenage years, going to school in a small town in Oregon. Things like – big sky, wide open roads, driving aimlessly in the country, and field parties, to name a few. And I thought, why haven’t I written a book about small town life, since I LIVED that life? I got a notebook and started jotting down thoughts and ideas. Ever since CHASING BROOKLYN, which many teens have told me is their favorite book written by me, I’d been wanting to do another dual point of view, and I decided this book would do that. I wanted one character who was new to town and trying to figure it all out and another character looking ahead, thinking about leaving town and the mixed feelings that come along with that. And so, Lauren and Colby were born.

lisa schroederYou grew up in a small town in Oregon. How much did your own experience go into creating the town of Willow?

Willow, Oregon is a fictional town, and I actually first created it when I wrote It’s Raining Cupcakes. At the time, I wanted a small town where kids rode their bikes to places like the library, and to the diner that served awesome chocolate shakes and french fries. When I started writing THE BRIDGE FROM ME TO YOU, I decided I really liked the idea of using a fictional town, and my thoughts drifted to Willow. It seemed like it could work well to use that town here, and simply expand on what I’d already created. So that’s what I did. I’ve changed the names of the roads and the creek and the hill where the kids go to party, but all of that came from my memories of growing up in and around Lebanon, Oregon. So yeah, there are probably more of my own experiences in this book than in any other book I’ve previously written. Even the cards that Colby’s teammates carry around in their wallets came from my high school days. The football coach at the time did all of that which is described in the book, and we went all the way to the state championships two years in a row. Following that team around the state and cheering them around my sophomore year is some of the most fun I’ve ever had.

You’ve written prose before, and you’ve written in verse before. But I think this might be the first time you’ve combined the two so significantly in a single book. What was it like alternating between verse and prose for the different chapters?

With every book, it’s about doing what will serve the story the best. Lauren’s part wanted to come out in verse and Colby’s didn’t. Lauren is dealing with a lot of emotional stuff, and the verse allowed me to really get to the heart of all of that. I honestly wasn’t sure how it would work out to alternate between verse and prose when I started, but the more I went along, the more I really liked it. The nice thing is that if people aren’t huge fans of verse, it won’t get in the way of them enjoying the story. I’ve already had one reader tell me she liked the book, even though she doesn’t always like verse novels. But for teens who enjoy my verse, they’re going to be happy too. So it’s actually nice to have a combination this time around.

Thanks, Lisa! Tune in for part 2 on Wednesday!

Exclusive Q&A with Deadly Delicious author K.L. Kincy

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As part of our week-long feature on Deadly Delicious,today we bring you an exclusive Q&A with the author, K.L. Kincy!

Karen - author photo2DEADLY DELICIOUS was your first foray into middle grade. Did anything surprise you while writing MG?

Deadly Delicious was supposed to be a young adult book, actually! When I started writing it, I realized that Josephine was younger than I’d thought. Then I revised the book to make Josephine officially 12 years old. Everything started to click after that. The sweet romance, the friendship drama, and the growing pains of a witch.

I love the idea of mixing magic with cooking … I mean, a good recipe really CAN taste like magic! If you had powers like Josephine and her mom, what sort of conjure would you cook up for yourself? 

I would totally bake some DeLune DeLuxe doughnuts. Who wouldn’t want happiness, confidence, and good luck in a delicious doughnut?

The setting for DEADLY DELICIOUS is really great, and your descriptions of it are so vivid. Have you traveled to those areas? Did you research the locations? How did you bring them to life? 

My grandparents live in Sikeston, Missouri, and I know the Kincy family has lived in the area for over a hundred years. When I was a kid, I was fascinated by all the katydids, Osage oranges, stick insects, and magnolias. While writing Deadly Delicious, I also collected inspirations on a Pinterest board.

Deadly Delicious - ebook coverI adore your cover. How did you get such an awesome cover? 

My cover artist, Kirbi Fagan, did an awesome job. You can see some of the earlier drafts of the cover on her website.

What are you working on now? 

I’m writing dieselpunk romance for adults, and I’m also drafting a young adult regency that involves ladies with a tendency to transform into cats.

FLASH QUESTIONS:

Favorite decade?

I’d say the 1950s, for writing this book. ;)

Must-have writing snack?

Cherry cream cheese danishes at a local cafe, but sparingly!

Favorite Disney movie? 

Aladdin. I loved that movie when I was a kid, and watched the old VHS tape almost to death.

The beach or the mountains? 

Beach! Mountains involve climbing and panting for breath.

Song that can always get you dancing? 

“Lose Yourself to Dance” by Daft Punk, with Pharrell. Once I was getting ready to run a 5K race and the song came on, so my whole running group started skipping to the song.

Name 5 things currently on your desk (or in your writing space), and share a photo, if possible

I have my writing notebooks by my computer and a few toys. The hedgehog came from a Japanese bookstore in Seattle. The stingray came from the aquarium in Denver. I got to pet and feed real stingrays there, and they felt like wet mushrooms!

 Karen's writing stuff

Exclusive Q&A with Brazen Author Katherine Longshore – Part 3

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Today we bring you part 3 our exclusive three-part interview with Brazen author Katherine Longshore. If you missed it, check out part 1 here and part 2 here.

Katherine_Longshore_1589_CL_57_WFavorite decade?

The 1920s.

Must-have writing snack?

Trader Joe’s dark chocolate peanut butter cups.

Favorite Disney movie?

The Lion King

The beach or the mountains?

Both.

Song that can always get you dancing?

Love Shack by the B-52s

Name 5 things currently on your desk (or in your writing space).

Besides, my computer, I have:

  1.   Aphotograph of my parents (I like to think my dad is watching over me)
  2. A photo of the YA Muses
  3. My “Kings and Queens of England Family Tree” coffee cup
  4. A glass paperweight for my 3×5 cards
  5. And a pad of paper.

Thanks again for stopping by, Katherine!

The Family Romanov by Candace Fleming: Blog Tour Q&A + Giveaway

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Today, I am pleased to be hosting a stop on the official blog tour for The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion & the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming – an exciting new non-fiction book for teen readers.

family romanovYep, non-fiction. We don’t see a lot of YA non-fiction, so I’m really excited about this. Plus, a book about the Romanovs? You KNOW it’s gonna be good. Check out our Q&A with the author, then keep reading for your chance to win a copy of The Family Romanov!

Most YA readers tend to veer towards fiction. What about THE FAMILY ROMANOV will entice fiction readers?

It’s such a compelling, heartbreaking and, at times, downright weird story.  Imagine this: The Russian royal family is living a fairy-tale existence. The richest man on the planet, Tsar Nicholas II owns one-sixth of the world’s land, thirty palaces, five yachts, an endless collection of priceless painting and sculpture, two private trains, countless horses, carriage and cars, and vaults overflowing with precious jewels. The Romanovs have it all! But Nicholas is a man of limited political ability. He’s simply not suited to rule Russia. And a charismatic, self-proclaimed holy man named Rasputin spellbinds his wife, Alexandra. She believes Rasputin can save her hemophiliac son, Alexei, from bleeding to death. Desperate, she will do anything – anything — including handing over the reins of power to the evil monk.  Meanwhile, in the palace there also lives four, beautiful grand duchesses – Olga, Tatiana, Marie and Anastasia. But they are kept isolated from the world by their paranoid and overprotective parents. They don’t attend balls or banquets. They don’t have any friends their own age, or suitors, as they grow older. The have only each other. Living in this bubble stunts them emotionally. Even at age twenty, Olga giggles like a schoolgirl and blushes when she sees an onscreen kiss. With all this craziness going on inside the palace gates, no one is paying any attention to the dark clouds gathering outside them. Starving, war-weary Russians are tired of Nicholas and Alexandra’s inept rule. They revolt, and the Romanov’s fairy tale lives come crashing down, leading to ninety days in captivity, a horrific and bloody mass murder, hidden bodies and rumors of escaped princesses. Wow, if that’s not a great story, I don’t know what is!

Photo by Michael Lionstar

Photo by Michael Lionstar

The sort of research involved in a book like this seems so daunting to me. Where did you even begin your work?.

The research for this book followed four paths. The first, of course, was primary research.   After all, the heart of all research is the firsthand accounts and eyewitness testimonies of those who lived through an historical event. And so I read reminiscences written by the children’s’ tutors, and Alexandra’s ladies-in-waiting and Nicholas’ courtiers. I delved into the royal family’s letters and diaries and other personal papers. I read Yakov Yurovsky’s chilling account of the murders; statements from the guards; depositions from the priests and cleaning women who visited the Romanovs in their last hours. All of it was so personal, so intimate. If you think about it, it really is the height of nosiness… and probably the reason I love this sort of research so much. I get to be part detective, piecing together testimony from all that conflicting testimony, and part gossip, reporting on all the juicy details I uncover.

My second path? Secondary source material. There are hundreds of books about the Romanovs and the Russian Revolution (although very few for young readers). Dozens of scholars have made the rigorous examination of Russia’s past their life’s work. They’ve written insightful, enlightening histories. And I read dozens of them. For months every night I curled up with books with titles like The Russian Revolution of February 1917 or The Fall of the Romanovs. There’s no denying that my book stands on the shoulders of these works.

My third research path leads to experts – scholars, historians, and other writers. They are, I’ve learned, incredibly generous. All my nonfiction titles have been immeasurably improved by their time and effort. But perhaps no one was more helpful than Dr. Mark Steinberg, professor or Russian, East European and Eurasian studies at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. While doing research, I came to rely on Dr. Steinberg’s work – his accessible histories of Russia, his impeccable translations of documents recently released from the Russian archives, his re-examination of Nicholas’ leadership abilities, his new and brilliant scholarship on Lenin, his admiration for Maxim Gorky. Can you tell I am a fan? So as the first draft of the book neared completion I approached him tentatively. More than anything, I wanted him to read what I’d written. I wanted his opinion, his knowledge. I wrote him, explaining my purpose and my readership.   Then I crossed my fingers and hoped he’d answer. He did… enthusiastically.   Over the course of the next six months, he read my draft, made suggestions, pointed out errors, suggested more appropriate source material and forced me to look at the evidence in different ways. He sent along books and articles he believed would help in my work.   He re-read portions of the book I’d reworked based on his comments, and patiently answered what must have felt like a tireless stream of questions throughout the entire publication process. That’s generosity!

Last, but certainly not least, my fourth research path leads to travel. I believe it’s imperative to visit the places where the story happened. Landscapes speak and houses hold memories and secrets. This was especially true when writing The Family Romanov. In August 2012 I traveled to Russia where I followed in the Romanov’s footsteps, wandering the shady paths of Tsarskoe Selo and traipsing through the hallways of the Alexander Palace; visiting Rasputin’s apartment; exploring worker’s neighborhoods, Lenin’s headquarters and the dark, dank jail cells of the Peter and Paul Fortress.   Just walking the streets and feeling the air brings my biographical subjects closer.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned about the Romanovs and the uprising against them during your research?

Probably the most surprising and important discovery I made during my research for The Family Romanov came while visiting the Alexander Palace. In none of my sources had anyone mentioned how close the palace sat to the front gate. I’d assumed it was somewhere in the middle of the park, away from prying eyes. Not so. The tall, main gate with its golden, double headed eagle opens directly onto the palace’s circular driveway. Every day the family could look through its iron grillwork to the town of Tsarskoe Selo just on the other side. It gave me pause. The family was so close to it’s people. They were right there, just on the other side of the gate. The Romanovs could look out their windows and see them. They could hear their people’s voices from the palace balcony. They could smell their cooking. They really weren’t as physically removed from the people as sources led me to believe. It gave me pause. Why, I wondered, didn’t the Romanovs feel more attachment to their subjects? I mean, they were right there. The question led me down entirely new paths of thought.   And it eventually led to the book’s inclusion of first hand worker and peasant accounts under the title, “Beyond the Palace Gates.”

This is one of several nonfiction books you’ve written for teen readers. Any idea on what subjects you might be tackling next?

I’m tackling William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody next. Actually, I’m in the throes of writing it now. After that, who knows? I’m challenged and intrigued by the Lindbergh baby kidnapping. I recently read Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s account of those terrible, terrible days when she waited for news of her son. And I’m filled with questions. For me, that’s the first sign that a new piece of nonfiction is brewing.

FLASH QUESTIONS:

Favorite decade?

The 80’s – I was a carefree, college student back then. Believe it or not, I even had purple hair!

Must-have writing snack?

Skinny Pop Popcorn – love that “no artificial anything.”

Favorite Disney movie?

It’s a toss up between The Ugly Dachshund (does anyone remember that one… Dean Jones!) and 101 Dalmatians. I’m a sucker for dog movies.

The beach or the mountains?

The beach along Lake Michigan’s southern rim. There’s nothing I love more than escaping to those endless, sandy shores for an afternoon. I pick up beach glass, hum in my head, and let the world fade away. Ahhh!

Song that can always get you dancing?

“What I Like About You” by the Romantics. Embarrassing, but I pogo to it. The 80’s again, you know?

Name 5 things currently on your desk (or in your writing space), and share a photo, if possible

  1. A gold bust of Nicholas II I purchased at the Alexander Palace.
  2. A shadow box of objects and fancies collected by my partner, Eric Rohmann and I, on our many travels. If you look closely you’ll see things like an iguana claw from Costa Rica, an antique glass bead from Venice, Italy, and an animal cracker from the National Zoo in Washington D.C.
  3. A crystal ball. So far it has not foretold my future.
  4. A Henry VIII eggcup for holding my paper clips. It also serves as a reminder to stick to the Skinny Pop.
  5. A two-headed rubber ducky – it’s just weird.

WIN A COPY OF THE FAMILY ROMANOV

Now here’s your chance to win! Just fill out the Rafflecopter form here and you’ll be entered to win a copy of The Family Romanov, courtesy of Random House.

U.S. or Canada only. Contest ends at midnight (PT) on Wednesday, July 23rd.

family romanovHere’s more about the book:

New from Candace Fleming, THE FAMILY ROMANOV: MURDER, REBELLION, AND THE FALL OF IMPERIAL RUSSIA (Schwartz & Wade / On sale July 8, 2014 / Ages 12 up) offers up non-fiction at its very best. From the acclaimed author of Amelia Lost and The Lincolns comes a probing look at Russia’s last tsar, his family, and their crumbling dynasty.

When Russia’s last tsar, Nicholas II, inherited the throne in 1894, he was unprepared. With their four daughters (including Anastasia) and only son, a hemophiliac, Nicholas and his reclusive wife, Alexandra, buried their heads in the sand, living a life of opulence as World War I raged outside their door and political unrest grew.

Deftly maneuvering between the lives of the Romanovs and the plight of Russia’s peasants—and their eventual uprising—Fleming offers up a fascinating portrait, complete with inserts featuring period photographs and compelling primary-source material that brings it all to life. Tragedy, melodrama, and I-can’t-believe-it moments make this a read that both kids and Romanov aficionados will devour. History doesn’t get more interesting than the story of the Romanovs.

For the comments: What intrigues you about the Romanov family?

Exclusive Q&A with Brazen Author Katherine Longshore – Part 2

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Today we bring you part 2 our exclusive three-part interview with Brazen author Katherine Longshore. If you missed it, check out part 1 here.

Katherine_Longshore_1589_CL_57_WFor anyone wanting to learn more about the Tudors, what resources would you recommend?

The library! Whatever part of the Tudor history interests you most, you should be able to find something to satisfy your craving. Want to know details on how life was lived and the workings of the court? Try Alison Weir’s Henry VIII: The King and His Court. Fascinated by the king and his relationships? David Starkey’s Six Wives is a great place to start. Love Anne Boleyn? Eric Ives wrote the definitive biography. Need to know more about the Howard family after reading BRAZEN? House of Treason by Robert Hutchinson tells the long, corrupt story.

brazenWhat was one of the most surprising things you learned while researching BRAZEN (or any of your novels)?

Because I had been reading about Henry and his court for about five years before I started Gilt (my first novel), it became difficult to find anything that surprised me. Once you spend five years in a place where a woman can be executed for treason in her 70s (Margaret of Salisbury) or a man can go from nothing to being the king’s most trusted advisor (Thomas Cromwell), all of the Tudor machinations and betrayals and trysts and servility become frighteningly commonplace. I suppose, though, on a more detailed and material level, I was (surprisingly) surprised to discover that the Tudors (and Henry in particular) were masters at re-gifting. Though the term originated with Seinfeld, the Tudors practiced regifting all the time—with no apparent chagrin.

Do you have other Tudor-era books planned? Who else would you love to write about?

None planned at the moment—I’m actually working on a contemporary novel right now. But I would love to write the story of a young Elizabeth, or Lady Jane Grey (any of the Grey sisters, actually!) or one of Elizabeth’s young maids in waiting when she was queen. Lettice Knollys (Elizabeth’s second cousin, who ended up marrying Robert Dudley) springs to mind.

Tune in for part 3 on Friday!

Exclusive Q&A with Brazen Author Katherine Longshore – Part 1

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I’m so excited today to be kicking-off our exclusive three-part interview with Brazen author Katherine Longshore. Thanks to Katherine for stopping by today, and to the folks at Penguin for helping arrange this interview!

Katherine_Longshore_1589_CL_57_WThis is your third book set during the Tudor era. What first drew you to this specific time in history? What keeps drawing you back?

I kind of fell backwards into my love of Tudor history. I started with Richard III, after seeing Ian McKellen in the film adaptation of the Shakespeare play. I thought, no one could really be that bad and set out to find the truth. It seemed a natural progression from Richard to Henry VIII. It’s the characters who keep drawing me back (and preventing me from moving chronologically forward on my historical quest). The chimeric king, his highly individual wives, the courtiers—ambitious, brutal, backstabbing, poetic, artistic, loyal, craven, adulterous, victimized or just plain in the wrong place at the wrong time. All human life is here.

brazenMary Howard is not a name most people are familiar with. What drew you to telling her story in BRAZEN?

During my research for TARNISH, I came across a little-known historical artifact called the Devonshire Manuscript. It is believed that it was passed around the court during the 1530s and 40s, and that many hands contributed to the collection of poems, notes and cryptic messages enclosed within. The initials stamped on the cover are MF—Mary FitzRoy—and two of the primary contributors are Margaret Douglas and Madge Shelton. I fell in love with the idea of a 16th Century literary brat pack and imagined Mary—the owner of the book—at the center.

What are some of the biggest creative licenses you took when writing BRAZEN?

The very biggest was placing Mary within the court during the three years the action takes place. There is no concrete evidence that she was there or that she served Anne Boleyn as queen during that time. There are hints—she participated in Anne’s first mass as queen and in Elizabeth’s christening, and one chronicler mentions her as one of Anne’s greatest supporters. I took that mention as license to build a friendship between the two women.

The second biggest license was the relationship between Mary and her husband, Henry FitzRoy. Nowhere does the historical record relate that they even saw each other after their marriage, much less got to know each other. But for me, Fitz (like Anne) had to be an integral part of Mary’s story. And just because something isn’t mentioned doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, right?

Thanks again, Katherine! Tune in for part 2 of our Q&A on Wednesday!

Exclusive Q&A + Giveaway with Babymouse Co-Creator Matt Holm

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This month for Novel Novice Junior, I’m excited to share an exclusive Q&A with Matt Holm, the illustrator and co-creator of the best-selling Babymouse series and Squish series. Plus, we’ve got a great giveaway in store for you, too – so be sure to keep reading!

 You’ve been writing Babymouse with your sister for quite a while now. How did you guys get started?

babymouse1I started working with Jenni as a copyeditor/fact-checker on her Boston Jane novels. Some nitpicky readers had given her grief over an inaccuracy in her first novel, Our Only May Amelia (Jenni had written a scene where the characters, who live in southwest Washington state, watch fireflies at night—but, unfortunately, there really aren’t any fireflies on the West coast), and she wanted to head that sort of thing off at the pass. I was working as an editor and writer at Country Living Magazine at the time, so I was used to that sort of task.

Jenni Holm

Jenni Holm

Jenni then started working on a book that eventually became Middle School Is Worse than Meatloaf. The book doesn’t follow a traditional narrative: It’s a year in the character’s life, told through her “stuff.” You see the notes her mom leaves her, the grades she gets on tests at school, receipts for things she buys, etc. Jenni wanted the main character to have an older brother who would draw her little comic strips, so she had me draw the comics as the brother. That was our first collaboration in the world of comics, and it went so smoothly that Jenni immediately started thinking about what else we could work on together.

Matt Holm

Matt Holm

She came to me with the initial concept for Babymouse in 2001, and we started working up a pitch. It wasn’t a fully fleshed out story like the books are now, it was more of a “day in the life” of Babymouse—little scenes of her fighting with her locker, of dreaming that math class was like prison, of imagining dodgeball in gym class was like war, etc. She wrote out a simple storyboard, and I sketched a smattering of pages throughout the story to give people a feel for what it might look like.

Jenni and our agent shopped that around for almost three years before we got any interest. It seems surprising now that no publishers would pick it up before then, but at the time, there were literally no graphic novels for kids. That whole market segment didn’t exist. Nearly all the comics, from the DC/Marvel side of things as well as the traditional book publishing side, were for adults (superheroes on the one side, and serious memoir on the other side).

Finally, in January 2004, Jenni did one last round of pitches around the New York publishing houses. (Her husband got a job in Maryland, so they were leaving the city.) This time around, Jenni had interest from several publishers, but Random House had the most enthusiasm. They picked us up, and we immediately hit the ground running to try to create a series. The first five books came out in a single year, and we’ve hardly let up on that pace since!

Babymouse recently made her debut as a costumed character. What’s that feel like, to see this character you created come to life off the page?

babymouse costumeVery exciting, and very strange. The life of an author is kind of weird, since you spend months and years working alone on your ideas, forgetting that they’ll eventually go out into the world and be shared by other people. So it’s already sort of a shock just seeing your books out in the real world. But seeing this thing that existed in your head actually walking around and interacting with people … ? It’s pretty surreal.

I’m sure you hear from young fans all the time. What’s the best fan feedback you’ve ever gotten?

We’ve heard many, many stories from kids, parents, and teachers that Babymouse is the book that got a particular kid to start reading on his/her own. That’s really mind-blowing, and, honestly, not something I ever expected to hear when we started doing this. I just thought we were telling some fun stories! But I guess you never know what kind of impact your work is going to have on people.

Tell us about the origins of Squish. How did that series come about?

squish1We had been working on Babymouse for a couple of years, and were thinking we might like to branch out into another series. We figured it should be another anthropomorphic animal of some sort (animals are more interesting than people, in my opinion), but we couldn’t decide which type of animal. We also recognized some of the strengths of the Babymouse format, like the daydream interludes and the way the books encouraged reading and introduced bits and pieces of classic literature, and wanted to make sure that we brought that to the new series, too.

We finally lighted on amoebas and other microbes—inspired, probably, by our doctor and nurse dad and mom, and way too many dinner table conversations about the types of infections they were seeing in the office. Not only were amoebas under-served in literature (!), but it gave us a way to add some real science content to the books, without being too preachy/didactic.

The idea of Squish and his friend Pod came together quickly, but we spent almost two years trying to figure out the framing story for everything. Originally, Squish was going to live on the damp towel in someone’s bathroom, take trips to the puddle on the floor (as if it was the ocean), go on adventures looking for mythical moldy sandwiches lost behind the refrigerator, and so on. But we inevitably got sidetracked into questions about the people who lived in the house—who were they, how could Squish interact with them, etc. But the people seemed far less interesting to us than the microbes, and we came up with the idea of putting the action out of the house and into a pond, where they could have their own little self-contained world. We also decided Squish would like to read comic books, and that gave us a way to interject some fantasy interludes into the book (in the form of scenes from the comic books Squish is reading), much the same way Babymouse is interspersed with her daydreams.

You’ve had a pretty intense publishing schedule the last few years. How have you and Jennifer managed?

Lots of caffeine, little sleep, and occasional nervous breakdowns. We had been doing three to four books a year for a long time, which is kind of unsustainable. When Squish was launching, I actually turned in five books that year, which was completely crazy—especially because we travel a lot, and each often do upwards of thirty school visits a year.

Last year we had a “Babymouse summit meeting” with Random House to take stock of where things stood and what our strategy in the future would be. One of the decisions we made was to trim things down to only two books a year: a Babymouse in the spring, and a Squish in the fall. That would lead to a more manageable schedule, and a way to let each book shine a bit more when it was released (instead of getting lost in the continuous flood of new work).

What are you guys working on next?

comics squadI’m wrapping up final art on Babymouse: Bad Babysitter (#19) and will be preparing to work on sketches for Squish #7. We’re also collaborating with Jarrett Krosoczka (who makes the Lunch Lady graphic novels) as editors on an anthology series called COMICS SQUAD. The first volume, COMICS SQUAD: RECESS! comes out on July 8th (the same day that SQUISH: FEAR THE AMOEBA hits shelves!), and it has 8 short comic-book stories by awesome kids-comics creators, including Raina Telgemeier (Smile), Gene Yang (American Born Chinese), Dan Santat (Sidekicks) and Dav Pilkey (Captain Underpants), among others. There will also, of course, be a Babymouse story. We’re putting together the lineup for volumes 2 and 3 now, so stay tuned…

FLASH QUESTIONS:

Favorite decade?

The 1980s? Any decade with two Star Wars movies in it is a hit with me.

Must-have writing snack? (Or in your case, must-have snack while drawing?)

I don’t snack that much while working (I actually force myself to take breaks to eat), but I do consume very large amounts of Diet Dr Pepper.

Favorite Disney movie?

Aladdin. Great songs, really funny, and two equally strong lead characters.

The beach or the mountains?

Mountains. Especially here in Oregon, where the mountains are usually warmer than the coast, even in the middle of summer.

Song that can always get you dancing?

The “This Is Babymouse” song we wrote with Marty Beller for the launch of Babymouse: The Musical!

Name 5 things currently on your desk (or in your writing/drawing space)

  1. Babymouse dolls in 2 sizes2-babymouses
  2. An original Bloom County comic strip by Berke Breathedbloom-county
  3. A sketch of the Mystery Solving Teens by Kate Beatonkbeaton-mystery-solving-teens
  4. A picture of my dog looking tortured (we made her wear a winter parka); here also is a pic of the original, tortured (hardly) dogpathetic-dogskeptical-dog
  5. A poster of the original cover of Babymouse: Monster Mash, which was rejected (not for being too scary, but because the editors were worried that she didn’t look enough like Babymouse; I guess it’s the suit?)monster-mash-poster

Thanks again for stopping by, Matt!

CONTEST

Now here’s your chance to win a copy of Squish #6: Fear the Amoeba and Comics Squad: Recess! Thanks to Matt for offering up today’s contest prize!

Comment below to tell us about YOUR favorite comic book, then fill out the Rafflecopter form here for your chance to win. The contest runs through midnight (PT) on Monday, July 14th.

squish fear the amoeba comics squad

Q&A with The Stepsister’s Tale author Tracy Barrett – Part 3

june2014 stepsister's tale botm banner
Today, we bring you part 3 of our exclusive Q&A with The Stepsister’s Tale author Tracy Barrett. If you missed it, catch part 1 here and part 2 here.

FLASH QUESTIONS!

tracy barrettFavorite decade?

It’s a tossup between the 470s BCE and the 1260s CE. I know, I’m a nerd.

*Sara’s note: That’s probably the best response I’ve ever gotten to that question!

Must-have writing snack?

I’m so unoriginal. Chocolate.

Favorite Disney movie?

Lady and the Tramp

The beach or the mountains?

Beach!

Song that can always get you dancing?

“Shout” (The Isley Brothers)

Name 5 things currently on your desk (or in your writing space)

Fan mail to answer (I promise I’ll get to it soon!), a tiny lamp that I bought just because it was cute, a coaster for my coffee cup that I bought in Italy, a light bulb for inspiration, and a puppy! The puppy isn’t always in my writing space but he’s so adorable that I had to think of a way to sneak in a picture of him.

study2 pericles on chair office with light bulb