In the Middle with Simon P. Clark

Today, we are in the middle with Simon P. Clark, author of Eren, a book I cannot wait to read! (In fact, I just purchased the ebook and hope to read it next week while I travel between tour stops.)

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People are keeping secrets from Oli. His mum has brought him to stay with his aunt and uncle in the countryside, but nobody will tell him why his dad isn’t with them. Where is he? Has something happened? Oli has a hundred questions, but then he finds a secret of his own: he discovers the creature that lives in the attic…

Eren.

Eren is not human.
Eren is hungry for stories.
Eren has been waiting for him.

Sharing his stories with Eren, Oli starts to make sense of what’s happening downstairs with his family. But what if it’s a trap? Soon, Oli must make a choice: learn the truth – or abandon himself to Eren’s world, forever.

Eren is now available for purchase in the UK: Amazon | Waterstones Foyles | Hive (Find your nearest independent bookshop)

The ebook is available now in the US: Kindle | Nook

Or preorder the US version of the hardcover, available June 9, 2015 (retitled Tell the Story to its End for American markets): Amazon

Q&A with Simon

What draws you into writing for a middle grade audience?

I think, in common with a lot of children’s authors, I have very vivid memories of the books and stories I read as a kid. Children read very differently than adults – there’s something wild, something all-in about the way they can get wrapped up in a good tale. When I imagined myself as a writer, isn’t wasn’t necessarily as only a children’s author, but it was always going to encompass that, Maybe I’ll write for adult audiences in the future – if I can dumb things down a bit.

If you had a time machine and could visit middle-grade you, what would you tell him?

Firstly, keep rocking the Thomas the Tank Engine knitted cardigan look – you are totally pulling it off. Actually, I don’t know. I had a good time as a kid – I wouldn’t want a boring adult coming and telling me what to do. Mistakes are important, and they’re a part of any good adventure.

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Choose your own adventure: Is there an interview question you’d love to answer, but haven’t been asked?

Y’know, no one ever asks about the books that didn’t make it – the things I’ve written that will never see the light of day. It’s probably important for people to hear that Eren didn’t just burst from nowhere – it’s the end of a ten year long process. The first book I wrote was a weird Harry Potter-esque portal fantasy about ‘The Moors of Magic’, where all fictional animals are secretly living, and a girl – Adele – who finds out her parents aren’t dead (gasp!) but actually went there. It was … not good. I think my younger sister actually still has a copy. The day will come when she uses it to blackmail me.

And now I think I shall have to find your sister and become her new BFF. Thanks for dropping in today, Simon, and congratulations on your debut!

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Simon P. Clark is a British writer currently working in New Jersey. He likes bread, travel, and books that give you the creeps.
Connect with Simon on simonpclark.com, erentales.com, Twitter, Tumblr, or Facebook.

In the Middle with Edith Cohn

This week, we are in the middle with Edith Cohn and her wonderful debut, Spirit’s Key:
Spirits Key jacket front cover

By now, twelve-year-old Spirit Holden should have inherited the family gift: the ability to see the future. But when she holds a house key in her hand like her dad does to read its owner’s destiny, she can’t see anything. Maybe it’s because she can’t get over the loss of her beloved dog, Sky, who died mysteriously. Sky was Spirit’s loyal companion, one of the wild dogs that the local islanders believe possess dangerous spirits. As more dogs start dying and people become sick, too, almost everyone is convinced that these dogs and their spirits are to blame—except for Spirit. Then Sky’s ghost appears, and Spirit is shaken. But his help may be the key to unlocking her new power and finding the cause of the mysterious illness before it’s too late.

Spirit’s Key is available through Indiebound, Barnes & Noble, Amazon and at bookstores near you.

Q&A with Edith

What draws you into writing for a middle grade audience?

I think most writers favor a main character of a certain age when they sit down to write. For me that age is somewhere around twelve. In my first college creative writing class, I wrote a short story about a ten year old kid, and my teacher suggested I submit it for a local magazine contest. I won 2nd place! That was an early clue I was meant to write middle grade novels.

If you had a time machine and could visit middle-grade you, what would you tell her?
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This might be a strange answer, but when I was a kid, we had dogs. I have terrible guilt, because dogs in my family were treated something like farm animals. They stayed outside always and never got walked. Our poor dog was all alone, too, because we only had one dog at a time. As kids, we played with the dog only when the whim struck. So, I would tell ignorant kid me that dogs are pack animals. They need to be a part of the family and have companionship. They also need walks–a chance to see the world, people, and other dogs–a chance to sniff new smells. A yard with a fence is just a giant kennel, and that’s not a nice enough life for your best friend.

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In hindsight I think this is the seed for the animal rights theme in my book. I wrote about an island of people who discriminate against dogs. A friend of mine pointed out that it’s called speciecism.  Oh, if I had a nickel for the things I didn’t know. 😉

Choose your own adventure: Is there an interview question you’d love to answer, but haven’t been asked?

Who is your favorite character in SPIRIT’S KEY?

I have to pick three. I’m going to pick one adult character, one kid character, and one animal character. My favorite adult character is Mrs. Borse, who is Spirit’s agoraphobic fur-wearing, gun-totting, eagle-trapping neighbor. She came into my head fully formed. My favorite kid character is Spirit’s friend Nector who wants to fly airplanes and whose family is haunted by hurricanes. He’s my favorite because I had to work so hard to birth him. I didn’t know who he was for a long time. He reminds me that if I work hard, I can turn a flat character into a rounder one. As much as I love Spirit’s dog Sky, my favorite animal character is actually the eagle that Mrs. Borse traps. Once the eagle is set free, she brings Spirit notes from her ancestors which is a lot of fun! This is something my editor helped me expand on after I sold the book, and I’m grateful the eagle gets more screen time (or page time, as it were).

Those are all such great characters! Thanks for sharing them with us, and thanks for dropping it. Congratulations on your debut!

Edith Cohn was born and raised in North Carolina where she grew up exploring the unique beaches of the Outer Banks. She currently lives in the coyote-filled hills of Los Angeles with her husband and her dog. All of these things provided inspiration for her debut middle grade novel, SPIRIT’S KEY, a mystery about a girl and her ghost dog coming in September from FSG/Macmillan. 
Connect with Edith on EdithCohn.com, Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.

In the Middle with Jen Malone

Today, we are in the middle with Jen Malone, chatting about her adorable middle grade debut, At Your Service.

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Thirteen-year-old Chloe Turner wants nothing more than to follow in Dad’s footsteps as a respected concierge in a posh NYC hotel. After all, living at a hotel is heaven, and perks like free concert tickets and all-access passes to boutiques, restaurants, and attractions aren’t too shabby either.

When the spoiled brat child of an important guest is only placated by some quick thinking on Chloe’s part, Chloe is awarded the role of Junior Concierge. But she might be in over her head when tasked with tending to the every whim of three royal guests: a twelve-year-old princess who can’t stand Chloe, a cute fourteen year-old prince(!), and their ten-year-old sister, who has a nasty knack for getting herself lost. After the youngest princess slips Chloe’s care, Chloe and the remaining royals must embark on an event-filled hunt for her through NYC’s best tourist spots.

At Your Service is available on IndieBound, B&N, and Amazon and in bookstores near you.

Q&A with Jen

What draws you into writing for a middle grade audience?

I think I particularly love the push and pull between being a tween and maybe wanting to revel in the lack of responsibility and the magic of childhood and YET also equally wanting so badly to grow up and have real grown-up responsibilities and freedoms. To me, it’s a fascinating crossroads. Plus, I love writing totally wacky scenarios and pratfalls and those lend themselves well to middle grade stories!

If you had a time machine and could visit middle-grade you, what would you tell her?

Funny enough, I actually have an interview with my tween self on my website where I break her(my) poor little tween heart by telling her(me) that we do not, in fact, marry Craig Zimmerman. I think I would mostly like her to know that it’s perfectly okay to be a little bit awkward and a lot bit boy-crazy because those things will both influence the writing SO MUCH when the time comes!

Choose your own adventure: Is there an interview question you’d love to answer, but haven’t been asked?

I don’t know, I’ve been getting some quite crazy ones. I can mostly guarantee that no one has asked- or will ever ask- me what the square root of 4116345 is and I would like to answer with a resounding, “How the heck should I know? There’s a reason I WRITE, people!”

If I were ever asked that, I’d certainly have to google the answer. Thanks for stopping by, Jen, and congratulations on your debut!

Jen Malone is the author of AT YOUR SERVICE (Simon & Schuster/Aladdin), about a tween concierge living and working in an upscale NYC hotel, as well as the forthcoming PLEASE RSVP series with co-author Gail Nall. Two YA novels are forthcoming with HarperCollins. She lives in Boston with her identical twin boys and their younger sister and bugs her husband daily for a pet hedgehog.
Connect with Jen on JenMaloneWrites.com, Twitter, and Facebook.

In the Middle with Lauren Magaziner

I was obsessed with witches and magic as a girl. Kid-me would have read today’s book ragged. Kid-me would have also told adult-me to hurry up and tell you about the book! Today, we are in the middle with Lauren Magaziner and her magical debut, The Only Thing Worse than Witches:

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Roald Dahl meets Eva Ibbotson in this hilarious middle grade debut perfect for reading aloud!

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

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

The Only Thing Worse than Witches is available on IndieBound, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Book Depository, Books A Million, and in bookstores near you.

Q&A with Lauren

What draws you into writing for a middle grade audience?

Laughter, laughter, laughter. Jokes and joy. Guffaws and giggles. Chortles and snortles. My humor skews more toward silly and absurd, which is a perfect fit for middle grade stories, where funny and fantastical things often happen! I feel very lucky to write for middle grade readers, who love humor, adventure, magic, and silliness as much as I do!

Middle Grade Me

If you had a time machine and could visit middle-grade you, what would you tell her?

Oh, I wouldn’t tell her ANYTHING. The repercussions of tampering with the laws of time are rather immense. Just by giving Little Lauren advice or a warning, I could unravel the very fabric of our existence! Create some sort of paradox! Get us both stuck in a time loop! Break off into alternate parallel universes in which Little Lauren never ends up becoming an author, thus the Lauren that’s sitting here answering this question doesn’t exist, thus this blog post never gets written.

And you would be very sad about that, I know.

Besides, fourth-grade Lauren doesn’t need my help. In some ways, she has a lot of things figured out: like being able to proudly and confidently dress up as one of her favorite book characters in public. (Some things will never change for her.)

Choose your own adventure: Is there an interview question you’d love to answer, but haven’t been asked?

After passing the witch Bar Exam, which witch name would you choose, and why?

The Collywobbles Witch

Why? Because collywobbles (which means stomach pain or queasiness) is the singularly most amazing sounding word in the history of time. And because I’d hope to be a fearsome enough witch to induce collywobbles in humans. *cackles*  (Though in honesty, it would probably be one of those names that’s ironic, as I’m very friendly.)

I love the word collywobbles! Thanks for stopping in today, Lauren, and congratulations on your debut!

Lauren Magaziner recently graduated from Hamilton College. She lives in Brooklyn, New York and works in children’s magazine publishing (her coworkers still think her last name is a hoax). Her debut novel, The Only Thing Worse Than Witches, has been called “a fun, frothy story” by Publishers Weekly, and Kirkus Reviews says, “Readers will banish themselves from the real world to finish this book in a flash.” Lauren continues to write humorous, whimsical, wonky children’s books. To learn more about current and upcoming projects, visit her at laurenmagaziner.com.

In the Middle with Dana Alison Levy

Oh hi, faithful readers! Wondering where I’ve been? Well, I’ve been hard at work on Hook’s Revenge: The Pirate Code, with little time to check in here. I’ll put together a new post with updates on me and Hook’s Revenge and perhaps even my chickens very soon.

In the meantime, please get to know the lovely Dana Alison Levy, author of The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher, joining us in the middle today.

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Meet the Fletchers: four boys, two dads, and one new neighbor who just might ruin everything.

Sam, age 12

Mostly interested in soccer. And food. And his phone.

Jax, age 10

Psyched for fourth grade. Thinks the new neighbor stinks, and not just because of the skunk.

Eli, age 10 (but younger than Jax)

Delighted to be starting this year at the Pinnacle School, where everyone’s “the smart kid.”

Frog (not his real name), age 6

Wants his new friends at kindergarten to save a seat for his invisible cheetah. 

The start of the school year is not going as hoped for the Fletcher brothers. Their miserable new neighbor, Mr. Nelson, complains about everything. Even worse, each boy finds his plans for school success veering off in unexpected directions. As the year continues, the boys learn the hard and often hilarious lesson that sometimes what you least expect is what you come to care about the most.

From camping trips to scary tales told in the dark, from new schools to old friends, from imaginary cheetahs to very real skunks, the Fletchers’ school year—as always—is anything but boring.

THE MISADVENTURES OF THE FAMILY FLETCHER is available online or in stores now! Ask your local bookseller or check out these links: Indiebound | Barnes&Noble | Amazon

Q&A with Dana

What draws you into writing for a middle grade audience?

I have always loved kidlit, from the time I was reading these books myself; through college, when I took several children’s literature classes; to adulthood and parenthood, when I began to share them with my own kids. My first few attempts at novels were for adults, and I don’t think I made it more than fifty pages in any of them. But the first time I started writing a book for kids…well, I couldn’t type fast enough to get the words out! Middle grade books — books for nine to twelve-year-olds — are amazing, because they encompass such a magical and difficult time of life. So much is changing at that point: friendships, families, and the awareness of the wider world. There is a lot to play with as a writer, from the hilarious to the heartbreaking.

If you had a time machine and could visit middle-grade you, what would you tell her?

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Keep writing. I kept journals from the time I was seven or eight, and I always wanted to be a writer. But after college I filed that away under “ridiculous” and tried to get a real job. Spoiler alert: in most of my “real jobs” I spent a lot of time writing, because it’s what I do best and enjoy the most. So I’d tell myself not to prevaricate* so much! Also, I’d tell myself not to believe the hairdresser who said I’d look like Pat Benatar with short hair. He was wrong. I didn’t look like a sexy 1980s rock star. I looked like a boy.

Choose your own adventure: Is there an interview question you’d love to answer, but haven’t been asked?

Questions that I haven’t been asked include but are not limited to:

  • Why are you so tall?
  • Wow! How did you sell a book when you were so very young?
  • What are you going to do with all that money?
  • You never seem to waste time! How do you you stay so laser- focused?

However, one that deserves an answer might be: What are five books that pop into your head (without going to look at your bookshelves) that all kids should read?

  • The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
  • My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell
  • One Crazy Summer by Rita Garcia-Williams
  • The Four-Story Mistake by Elizabeth Enright
  • Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool

Whew, those are random! But I stand my them — they are all worth a read!

*Prevaricate is a pretty good word. Look it up if you don’t know it!

The photo of you and that llama is my favorite photo of this whole series. Every successful childhood should include a portrait with a llama. Thanks for dropping in and congratulations on your debut!

Dana 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.You can find Dana online at www.danaalisonlevy.com or on Twitter and Facebook.

In the Middle with Tara Dairman

Warning: This week’s In the Middle just might make you drool. Cover your keyboards.

Today, we are chatting with Tara Dairman, author of All Four Stars (Putnam/Penguin).

All Four Stars by Tara Dairman Cover

“A scrumptious gem of a story!”—Jennifer A. Nielsen, New York Times bestselling author of The False Prince

Meet Gladys Gatsby: New York’s toughest restaurant critic. (Just don’t tell anyone that she’s in sixth grade.)

Gladys Gatsby has been cooking gourmet dishes since the age of seven, only her fast-food-loving parents have no idea! Now she’s eleven, and after a crème brûlée accident (just a small fire), Gladys is cut off from the kitchen (and her allowance). She’s devastated but soon finds just the right opportunity to pay her parents back when she’s mistakenly contacted to write a restaurant review for one of the largest newspapers in the world.
 
But in order to meet her deadline and keep her dream job, Gladys must cook her way into the heart of her sixth-grade archenemy and sneak into New York City—all while keeping her identity a secret! Easy as pie, right?

All Four Stars is available on all of the following websites, and bookstores near you.

Indiebound * Penguin * B&N * Amazon * BAM * Powell’s * Walmart * Indigo * Book Depository  

Q&A with Tara

What draws you into writing for a middle grade audience?

Middle graders are the perfect mix of curious and capable—just starting to show hints of their adult potential, but not so far removed from the world of play that they’re all jaded about things yet. Plus, most of my favorite books are middle-grade ones, so I guess it’s no surprise that I ended up writing it myself!

If you had a time machine and could visit middle grade you, what would you tell him/her? (If you have a photo of yourself at this age, I’d love to post it.)

Sixth grade was a pretty tough year for me. There was some bullying. Most days I wouldn’t have anyone to play with during recess, so I carried a notebook out onto the playground and worked on a (never-completed) science fiction novel.

If I could go back in time, I guess I would tell myself that one day, far in the future, my dreams of completing and publishing a novel would come true, and that they’d draw on that tough year more than sixth-grade me could probably ever imagine.

Or maybe I’d just sign sixth-grade me out for lunch, so she could go eat something tasty for a change and not have to worry about how to get through recess. :)

Choose your own adventure: Is there an interview question you’d love to answer, but haven’t been asked?

bluebarb pie

No one has asked me yet which of the desserts featured in ALL FOUR STARS is my favorite! While I love a lot of them, I’d have to go with the “bluebarb crumble,” which has a special significance for me. Instead of a cake, my  husband and I had “wedding pies” at our wedding, a different flavor on each table. But for our own special pie, we weren’t sure what flavor to choose. My favorite kind of pie is rhubarb, and his is blueberry. So we asked the baker if she could put them together, and voila: bluebarb pie was born. And it was so good that I decided to immortalize it in my novel.

Thanks for having me, Heidi!

The pleasure was all mine. Seriously. You brought pie! I might not ever let you leave.

Tara Dairman is a novelist, playwright, and recovering world traveler (2 years, 74 countries)! Her first middle-grade novel, All Four Stars, will be published on July 10, 2014 by Putnam/Penguin. Tara has a B.A. in Creative Writing from Dartmouth College, and currently teaches writing to students aged 6-13. Connect with Tara on TaraDairman.com, Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.
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