It hit bookshelves just two weeks ago, and already entered number seven on the top ten children’s bestsellers list. But who’s surprised? Rebecca Stead hit her first middle grade homerun with When you Reach Me, and now she’s back with another bit magic in Liar & Spy.
I asked Rebecca to stop by Novel Novice today to share her inspiration for writing the book, her favorite ice cream flavor, and what future goodies she has in store!
There was no “big idea” when I started – just a setting, two characters, a lot of questions, and the memory of middle school.
What do you feel is the biggest difference between writing a boy as your main character, vs. a girl (Miranda, in When You Reach Me)
There’s no categorical difference between boy characters and girl characters in terms of my approach to the writing. But Georges, the main character in Liar & Spy, is not always telling himself the truth, which made this book a bigger challenge than When You Reach Me. Miranda admits her vulnerability, which makes it easier for people to connect with her. Georges is trying harder to protect himself. I wanted to stay true to him while holding on firmly to my readers.
New York seems to play a prominent character in your books – tell us a bit about your relationship with the city, and what dynamic you feel that adds to your plot development in Liar & Spy.
A big part of writing is observation. I love New York, and I’ve lived here since I was born, so it’s what I reach for most often. When I’m working on a book like Liar & Spy, I’m after something honest, something that will resonate, and I’m throwing everything I have at the story – tiny details about setting and character are an important part of the reader’s experience. I guess I trust my experience more than I do my imagination.
Which character in the book do you identify most with?
Hmm. I’m not sure. I think this one has pieces of me scattered throughout.
All of your characters feel a bit lonely – as if their internal words exist as an almost alien dimension apart from the outer world, while their observations/actions try to bridge the gap. I think a lot of children/middle grade kids feel that way. How do you view Safer and Georges internal worlds, and did you feel similar when you were young?
You mean everyone else in the world doesn’t experience internal life as an alien dimension? I think both Safer and Georges, like every book character I’ve ever cared about, sense a gulf between their internal and external experiences. A lot of life is, for me, about exploring that gulf: Who am I, really? How can other people know me? Which are the meaningful parts of life? Most of the time, these are the questions I’m exploring through my characters. And if I wrote for adults, I would be doing the same thing. Writing isn’t about showing off what you know. I think it’s about asking questions.
What was your favorite scene to write in the book?
The scene where Safer and Georges talk through the bathroom door, along with pretty much any scene with Candy in it.
What’s next? (Do you have any other middle grade books on the horizon)?
Yes, I plan to write another middle-grade novel in the next year or so (thanks for asking!).
Private Concert – who’s playing?
My brain freezes every time someone asks me a question about music.
Favorite ice cream flavor
Depends on the day. Today, anything with peanut butter.
Book you can’t stop re-reading?
So Long, See You Tomorrow, by William Maxwell
Living or dead – who would you like to have dinner with?
Family dinner with the Obamas.
Adventure in the morning, a nice view and a book in the afternoon.
I don’t have one favorite, but E.T., Local Hero, Charade, and The Sting are all movies I love, among many others.
Thanks for stopping by today, Rebecca! We look forward to your future middle grade novel adventures!