A chat with Sally Pla, author of Stanley Will Probably Be Fine

It was a thrill to read Sally Pla’s The Someday Birds when it came out last year so I was excited to dig into her newest novel, Stanley Will Probably Be Fine. And it lived up to expectations!

Stanley, suffering from a sensory processing disorder, lives in today’s new ‘normal’, dealing with lockdown drills at school, not to mention friend drama. But  his keen awareness of his own anxiety makes him relatable – elements of his struggles will resonate with almost everyone. Stanley escapes into comic books, where good and evil are often clear cut and logical.

I found this pivot away from a taxing reality both brave and heartbreaking.  Stanley reminds us that while the world may not make sense, we need strategies to live in it, and his journey toward doing just that will have you rooting for him all the way. And now, lucky us, some Q&A with author Sally Pla.

(Buy the book: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound)

Who were your favorite authors as a kid?

There weren’t many books in my house when I was a kid. I remember an old copy of Hans Christian Anderson. There was a set of Dickens that my late grandfather found on a sidewalk (the story goes), and carted home in his wheel barrel. There was a beautiful 19th century copy of Tennyson on the shelf (I still have it), a circa 1910 medical book with nightmare-inducing photos, an encyclopedia, and an art book on German Expressionism which was almost as scary as the medical book.

Once I got old enough to bike to the library by myself, my world brightened considerably! Nancy Drew, Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume, Laura Ingalls Wilder, E.L. Konigsburg, Aahhhhhh!!!! Also, animal stories! Misty of Chincoteague! Dr. Doolittle! I reread James Herriott’s “All Things Great and Small” series a million times and decided that when I grew up, I’d become a vet in Yorkshire.

Both The Someday Birds and Stanley Will Probably Be Fine deal with children suffering from anxiety. What process do you go through to make sure your depictions are accurate?

Charlie in The Someday Birds and Stanley in Stanley Will Probably Be Fine are indeed both anxious. This was no problem at all to write. I have been anxious my whole life. Every physical symptom, every awfulizing, catastrophizing thought those characters have, are thoughts and symptoms and feelings that I have had. They are me; I am them.

Kids deal with things like active shooter and shelter in place drills in school all the time these days. How did you decide this could work as the focus of a middle grade novel?

We had a school principal, when my three boys were in elementary, who had a peculiar code phrase for initiating a drill. He’d get on the intercom and say: “John Lockdown is in the building!”

Now, everyone thought that was kind of funny. At home, my boys would run around playing this James Bond sort of gun chase game, pretending to be “John Lockdown.” They weren’t freaked out by the drills, not really.

But I was. What kind of a world do we have, when school kids accept as normal the possibility of an intruder bursting in and shooting them in cold blood? When they come home and cheerfully play-act about it?

This really bothered me.

I got to thinking: What if we don’t become inured to it? What if we fight against this societal desensitization? And so, further: What kind of a kid would have a problem with the normalization of violence in his life? What would that kid look like, and act like? What could that kid teach us, if we slipped inside his skin for a while?

Stanley is so wonderful, genuine and relatable. Is he based on anyone you know? Where did he come from?

Stanley is just Stanley. He has many of the same issues as Charlie in The Someday Birds, but Stanley has a dark, sardonic little sense of humor about himself and the world. Now that he exists, I love him like my own kin. Thank you for liking him too!

Superhero comic books are Stanley’s escape from reality and you include multiple panels from Stanley’s own comic creation, John Lockdown. Loved these! Did you work closely with an illustrator to get them right or did you do them yourself?

I did do my own version of Stan’s comic panels, just to storyboard it and see what needed to go where. But thank goodness for artist Steve Wolfhard! Steve’s a veteran comic artist whose work can be seen, most notably, on Cartoon Network’s Adventure Time. I think Steve’s art in the book (and on its cover) is just amazing. Originally, there were to be many, many more panels of Stanley’s comics. I so wish we could have included them all! Gosh darn!

Secondary characters can often feel cliché but yours, primarily Stanley’s messy family, provide depth and richness to the book. How much backstory do you create for them to achieve this, that never makes it to the page?

I write a lot of backstory, and take a lot of different approaches. At first, Stanley had two older brothers, not one. And he had both a dad and mom, but no grandpa… Things shifted a lot. What I like to do, repeatedly, is draw a bubble map with my main character in the center. Then I put each secondary character in a bubble around him. Each secondary character has to challenge the main character in a different, unique way, so the main character is always being tugged in different interesting directions. The bubble maps help me visualize this. Then, the supporting cast’s personalities grow from this. I also do a lot of journaling on each of them, until I can consistently hear their voices in my head.

What are you currently working on?

A love story between a big lonely girl named Alice Eugenia McMann and a woolly mammoth named Snowball, with a lot of cutting-edge genomic science – and an 85 year old best buddy — thrown in. It is not set in Yorkshire.

How do you prefer readers get in touch with you?

Check out www.sallyjpla.com — there’s a “contact me” link! Or email sallyjplawrites@gmail.com.

 

An interview with Elly Swartz, author of Smart Cookie

Elly Swartz’s new middle grade novel, Smart Cookie, has all the elements that are sure to delight young readers – friendship, family, secrets, mystery, a cool granny and ghosts.

At a young age, Frankie lost her mother but rather than wait for fate to intervene and choose a new partner for her father, she is determined to influence events. Along the way, she will have to wrestle with family secrets, an irritated best friend and, possibly, a haunted B&B. I loved Frankie’s spunk and grit and I know you will, too.

(Buy the book: Amazon, Barnes and NobleIndiebound)

(Also by Elly Swartz: Finding Perfect)

 

What were your favorite books as a kid?

I was a huge fan of Pippi Longstocking, Ramona the Brave, and Eloise. I think I loved their spunky, mischievous, independent nature.

In Smart Cookie, protagonist Frankie creates an online dating profile for her dad without his knowledge, with humorous results. What sparked this idea?

The best ideas are everywhere! You just have to store them away for the right story. I run a business where I help students and their families navigate the college process. And a long time ago, one of my students shared that she created an online dating profile for her grandmother. It wasn’t, however, a secret mission. Although this was many years before Frankie came to life, it planted the seed for Operation Mom. That’s the thing about idea seeds, you collect them, but they only germinate when the story is ready to spring to life.

Frankie feels like a classic middle grade hero – her voice is genuine and relatable. Did she show up that way or did you experiment with different versions of her?

Frankie came to me with all her spunk and heart. I loved her from the first moment she started whispering in my ear. She’s filled with a strong sense of loyalty and love of family. But, ultimately, learns that family isn’t about having all the pieces in place, it’s about having people in your life who love you unconditionally. And that circle is so much bigger than those with whom you’ve shared a childhood or a name.

Secrets and mystery are at the heart of Smart Cookie. Are you a mystery fan or did this just evolve as you went along?

The secrets and mystery element of Smart Cookie evolved as an integral part of the story. When I write, I start with the heart of a character. In this case, that was Frankie. From there, it’s like I’m the muse and the characters are whispering in my ear. They are sharing their secrets and telling me why it’s so important to keep them hidden. And, if I am listening, really listening, I get to write their story.

Frankie, her dad and her grandmother live together in a struggling B&B. I loved the details. How did you research what it might be like running a place like The Greene Family B&B?

My husband and I have spent a lot of time in B&Bs. They are warm and friendly and filled with family. And many of these B&Bs have been nestled in wonderful small towns in Vermont. During our stays, I’ve spoken to the owners of the B&Bs about what motivated them to buy the inn, how life has been for them as owners, and the travails that have ensued at the B&B.

What are you currently working on?

I am in the middle of revisions for a new middle grade novel that comes out in 2019. In GIVE AND TAKE, you’ll meet twelve-year-old Maggie. Maggie has a big heart and a hard time letting go. Of stuff. Of people. Of the past. With the help of her turtle Rufus, a baby named Izzie and the almost all-girls trap shooting team, she begins to understand that people are more than the things that hold their memories.

I also have ideas stirring for a nonfiction book and another new mg novel. So stay tuned. Good things are coming!

How do you prefer readers get in touch with you?

I love connecting with readers! They can reach me via my website, http://ellyswartz.com/contact or ellyswartz@outlook.com or on Twitter @ellyswartz. And, for all the educators and librarians reading, I also love visiting schools and Skyping!

 

Smart Cookie Curriculum Guide

http://ellyswartz.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Smart-Cookie-Curriculum-Guide-.pdf

 

 

 

 

A conversation with Jackie Yeager, author of Spin the Golden Light Bulb

Yay!  A new year of books! I’m excited to kick off my 2018 author conversations with Jackie Yeager. Spin the Golden Light Bulb (Buy the book: Amazon, B&N, IndieBound) is set in 2071 and finds eleven year-old Kia Krumpet determined to build her 67 inventions.  But she won’t have the opportunity unless she earns a spot at PIPS, the Piedmont Inventor’s Prep School. Kia, who has trouble making friends, has dreamed of winning the Piedmont Challenge and attending PIPS ever since she learned that her Grandma Kitty won the very first Piedmont Challenge. She wins, but that’s just the beginning. Things get complicated and Kia is in for the ride of her life.

Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing/etc. come from?

I’ve always loved playing around with words and turning them into something. In elementary school, I loved writing plays for my siblings and neighborhood friends. Later, as a middle school and high school cheerleader, I loved making up cheers for our team to perform in between quarters, at halftime, and from the sidelines. For me cheers were more than just words though. They were like pieces of a story, each with a different message that would motivate the players at a certain point in the game. It wasn’t a conventional path toward writing but that’s pretty much where it started! It wasn’t until I became an elementary school reading teacher that I found my passion for writing actual stories. I loved the books my students were reading and soon felt compelled to write them too!

Spin the Golden Light Bulb is set in 2071. I love how life is familiar in some ways and yet dramatically different in others. How much world building did you do before you started writing or did it evolve as you went along?

Most of the world building happened as I went along at either the draft stage or during revisions. Though pretty early on, I realized that the story needed to be set in the future. That way, I could make it so the inventions found at Camp Piedmont, or that the kids created for the competition, could be absolutely anything—because anything is possible in the future. But I didn’t want it to be set so far into the future that life would be beyond recognition. I wanted readers to see the possibilities of what their very own future could look like if they worked to make it happen.

In your Author’s Note, you talk about your experience as a coach of Odyssey of the Mind. Are your characters based on your world final’s making team members?  

They were! After we returned from the World Finals competition, I knew that I had to tell a story similar to the experience we had just had—even though I had no idea at first what it would actually be about. The five kids on that team had such fun and different personalities that I had a lot of material to work with.

People have often asked me what it was about these kids that made them work so well together, where they were able to create such fantastic objects, costumes, and skits. I believe it was because they were so different from each other. Sure, they had their squabbles like any other team I had coached, but this team learned very early on how to play to each other’s strengths, overlook their differences, and motivate each other to create something special together. But most of all, they each had a certain quality, something special that I knew kids would relate to—even if I did exaggerate some of their quirks and personalities traits a bit. I mean this is fiction after all!

There’s a lot of suspense in this novel, edge of your sit type stuff. And thrillers need great characters to succeed. What came first for you – character or plot?

Thank you! It’s always a challenge to write a story with high enough stakes and I have to say that for this book, the characters came first. Even though I knew I wanted the story to be about a larger than life competition, I wasn’t sure right away what the competition itself would entail or what the stakes would be. The characters came to me right away and once I imagined them into the story, I was able to imagine the adventure they would be a part of.

Writing for middle grade readers can be a challenge. What about this age range/genre appeals to you?

 I love writing stories for this age group because kids are just beginning to form solid friendships and see themselves outside the world in which they live—the world their parents or other adult figures have created for them. But they also don’t necessarily want to veer too far away from them. It’s fun creating a world or situation for characters where they can venture out on their own a bit and grow into the best versions of themselves, but still want to come back home!

Who are your favorite authors?

 Oh so many! Some of my favorite middle grade authors are Jen Malone, Rebecca Stead, Suzanne LeFluer, and Trenton Lee Stuart, but I could go on and on! I read a lot of YA too though and my favorites are Suzanne Collins, Veronica Roth, Suzanne Young, and most recently Stephanie Garber. Caraval is my new favorite book!

What is your favorite thing to do when not writing?

 Oh let’s see…when I’m not writing, I love going out for bagels in the mornings with my husband—even though I don’t like bagels that much! I like going out to lunch or for coffee with my husband, my kids, my friends, my sisters, or my mom. I love meeting anyone in a cute restaurant or coffee shop to eat, drink, and chat! I love binge watching Netflix with my kids too. I have certain shows I watch with my son and ones that I watch with my daughter. But on a random day when it’s quiet at home and I feel like I can spare the time, I love doing yoga, watching The Young and the Restless, or planning our next trip to Disney!

What are you working on right now? Will there be a sequel to Spin the Golden Light Bulb?

Yes! In fact, when I signed my publishing contract, for Spin the Golden Light Bulb it was for a two-book deal. I recently completed the edits and the sequel, Flip the Silver Switch will be released on January 10, 2018! I can hardly believe it. I’m still getting used to the idea that I have a published book, and soon the second one will be out in the world too. I feel so lucky and so very grateful.

How do you prefer readers get in touch with you?

I love hearing from readers and the best way is through my website: swirlandspark.com. Links to my email address and social media accounts are there. I’m on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook quite a bit also so those are great ways to get in touch with me too!

(Don’t miss the book trailer!)

2017 Best Middle Grade Novels

When you think the world is falling apart and you just can’t take it anymore, I suggest a visit to your local bookstore or library. Browse the middle grade shelves. Pick up almost anything. What will you find?

Gold, pure gold.

Middle grade authors produce some of the best and bravest writing I’ve seen, no matter target audience or genre. Novels range from fantasy to contemporary to historical to completely silly and fun. (I have been known to shout “Funny or die!’ on occasion) These books embrace tough subject matter, not shying away from the difficulties of growing up in a complicated world. I appreciate, too, how girl characters are being elevated to positions of leadership and authority. It’s so important for girls to see themselves on the pages.

I say it all the time: what we read matters.

(Want a chance to win one of these titles? See details at the end.)

 

THE 2017 LIST

 

The Someday Birds, by Sally J. Pla (HarperCollins)

Authors talk a lot about ‘voice’ and how important it is to get it right. It’s hard to describe what exactly ‘voice’ is but when you encounter it, you know – you can feel it all the way down to your toes. You are with the character in his or her head, seeing the world through his or her eyes.The Someday Birds is a perfect example. Charlie struggles to fit in and understand the world around him and just when he thinks he’s got it nailed down, well, everything changes. I felt his pain and confusion and admired his passion. If this character suddenly walked into my living room, I would not be at all surprised. He is that real.

Read an interview with the author here.

 

 

The Countdown Conspiracy, by Katie Silvensky (HarperCollins) 

Holy cow, I loved this book!  Science, adventure, friendships, outer space, robots, bad guys. The stakes are high in this page turner and it will have you on the edge of your seat. Set in a future post war Earth, Miranda Regent is picked as one of six kids training to go to Mars. But things go immediately sideways and Miranda may be the only one who can herself, her family, her friends and, indeed, the world. Plus, this book has the best epilogue ever.

 

 

 

The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street, by Karina Yan Glaser (HMH Books for Young Readers)

I loved this big, warm story about siblings trying to save their sprawling home, a New York City brownstone about to be rented out from under them. It’s an important lesson for kids that they are not powerless and their actions can have an impact. The neighborhood setting brings home the notion that children can experience an expansive world without leaving their city block. I read it in one sitting and look forward to the sequel, due next year.

Read an interview with the author here.

New York Times Book Review here.

 

 

Click’d, by Tamara Ireland Stone (Disney-Hyperion)

Best selling author Stone delivers a fun read with tech savvy Allie Navarro at its heart. Allie develops an app at code camp that helps kids make friends and it’s a hit. It might even be enough for her to beat arch enemy Nathan at an upcoming coding competition. But a glitch might bring down more than her game. Allie has to work fast to save her friendships and her chance at winning the competition. Along the way, she learns valuable lessons about what matters most. This story has all the elements of middle grade – friends, family, school – but bundled with the idea that girls can code as well as anyone. And I hope they do.

 

 

Kat Greene Comes Clean, by Melissa Roske (Charlesbridge)

Author Melissa Roske expertly captures the feelings of a middle school girl who finds herself dealing with how messy life can be. Navigating divorce and her mother’s worsening OCD plus a best friend who’s changing before her eyes. Kat’s bravery in dealing with the chaos broke my heart a little bit – kids being strong in the face of adversity gets me every time. But the message that we should never have to face problems on our own and that help is there no matter what is an important one that Roske brings home beautifully.

Read an interview with the author here.

 

 

 

A Dash of Dragon, by Heidi Lang & Katie Bartkowski (Aladdin/Simon & Schuster)

The premise of this book is completely delightful: A thirteen-year-old chef has a lot to prove as she tries to run a five-star restaurant, repay a greedy loan shark, and outsmart the Elven mafia in this entertaining novel that combines all the best ingredients—fantasy, humor, adventure, action, cute boys, and a feisty heroine. And the authors (who are sisters – cool, right??) deliver. This is the kind of book I would have loved as a kid and stayed up, hiding under my blankets with a flashlight, to finish. Good fun.

Read an interview with the authors here.

 

 

 

Ahimsa, by Supriya Kelkar (Tu Books)

As Ahmisa opens, it’s 1942 and Ghandi has asked families to give one member to the Indian freedom movement. In the case of Anjali, it’s her mother who steps up. As Anjali’s life changes, she’s forced to confront a new reality brought on my her mother’s commitment to the cause. I love stories where a girl is pushed out of her comfort zone and becomes a better, stronger version of herself. Anjali’s path is thrilling to follow and especially timely in today’s world.

Read an interview with the author here.

 

 

 

The Prisoner of Ice and Snow, by Ruth Lauren (Bloomsbury)

In order to rescue her sister from a maximum security prison, Valor needs to first be thrown in jail and then figure a way to bust out. The audacity of her plan tells us a lot about her character. She’s bold and daring and will stop at nothing to save her sister. I was taken from the start by Lauren’s intricate world building and edge of my seat pacing. There’s also a visual quality to her writing that had this tale unspooling like a movie in my head.

Read an interview with the author here.

 

 

Holly Farb and the Princess of the Galaxy, by Gareth Wronski (Aladdin/ Simon & Schuster)

This novel has a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy sensibility that I found irresistible. After a case of mistaken identity, Holly finds herself in outer space contending with bounty hunters, giant worms, perky holograms, cosmic board games, sinister insectoid librarians, and a robot who is learning how to lie. Things are complicated….and funny…but author Wronski never loses sight of Holly’s humanity and the struggles that abound in middle school.

Read an interview with the author here.

 

 

Karma Khullar’s Mustache, by Kristi Wientge (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)

I loved the adolescent angst in this one because if felt so familiar! Twelve and thirteen year old self doubt is unique and this book offers kids a chance to realize they are not alone dealing with all the weirdness. Karma’s body feels a little bit alien and her best friend seems ready to trade up to a newer shinier best friend. Add in her dad as the new stay at home parent, a mom at work all the time and Karma is just confused. And alone. In true Judy Blume fashion, Wientge captures Karma’s emotions with honesty and charm.

 

 

Free Books!

What’s better than free books? Nothing. Duh. Sign up for my occasional newsletter and be entered to win one of these titles!

 

 

 

 

FREE Skype visits to celebrate the cover release of Power Play!

For a limited time I’m offering FREE Skype visits to your school classroom or library to celebrate the awesome new cover for Mrs. Smith’s Spy School 2: Power Play!

Visits are 20-30 minutes of Q&A about the books, writing or whatever reading related topics your kids are interested in.

Email me for details at Beth@BethMcMullenBooks.com

Order Mrs. Smtih’s Spy School for Girls on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Preorder Power Play on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

 

Reese Witherspoon agrees with me…

Coming July 3, 2018!

(sing up for my monthly newsletter here)

 

I’m super excited about two things right now – first, I get to paint my daughter’s lovely perfect face with bloody wounds and scratches for her Halloween zombie costume. Okay, maybe that’s a lie but I am excited about the cover art for Power Play (Mrs. Smith’s Spy School for Girls 2), the next installment of the trilogy!  It’s as good as the first and fits perfectly with the globe trotting elements of the story. Abby is all in trouble again – click here for details…

I want to thank everyone who bought the first book. It was such a thrill to hear from young readers (and their parents) about how they connected with Abby. If you liked the book (or your child did) please consider leaving a review on Amazon. It makes a difference! Here’s the link so you don’t have to waste time searching.

 

 

Now on to the important stuff. Have you read Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, by Gail Honeyman? It’s a-Mazing. And Reese Witherspoon is turning it into a movie so I guess she agrees with me. It’s about a woman living a very small life, trying to contain the trauma of her childhood. As she begins to let people in, everything changes in ways that are heartbreaking and funny at the same time (tears, laughter, tears, laughter, tears AND laughter – I was a mess). Also, I accidentally took out the Large Print edition, which weighed forty pounds and gave me tendinitis in my wrist but you shouldn’t have the same problem. What is it they say – no pain, no gain? Probably they weren’t talking about reading.

 

 

 

Is the weather where you are finally turning? In my ‘hood, we get excited when it drops below ninety. People put on sweaters and down jackets. I used to make fun of these people, the east coast transplant that I am, but now….well, let’s just say I’ve lost my credibility. As soon as I can turn on the oven without cranking up the AC to compensate, I bake. And these cookies are to die for. Make them and eat them while you read Eleanor Oliphant! I’m jealous already.

 

 

Okay, one last thing before I go. Have you tried Lore yet? Did you know that the saying ‘saved by the bell’ originated in the 1800s when people were occasionally buried alive (by mistake) and a bell was built into coffins so the victim could alert the living that he or she was six feet under and getting a little uncomfortable? No, me neither! I’ve also learned about the origins for vampire stories, silver bullets and that rampant consumption created a lot of terrifying superstition among the unenlightened folks in the early days of our country. The podcast is also a creepy six episode Amazon Prime show. Do not watch before bedtime

 

 

The Cover Art is Here!

PowerPlay (Mrs. Smith’s Spy School for Girls 2) has the best cover! What do you think? Keep reading if you want to know what sort of trouble Abby is up to this time….

Abby and the rest of her friends go international as they embark on their first “official” Center mission in this second book in the Mrs. Smith’s Spy School for Girls series.

After discovering the truth about her spy school/boarding school—and her super-spy mom—Abby Hunter is ready for her next adventure, but what’s about to happen is something she never would have guessed…

Everyone at The Smith School is obsessed with Monster Mayhem, the latest reality video game craze. But when Drexel Caine, the mastermind behind the game is suddenly kidnapped, it becomes clear that the kidnappers are playing for more than just special badges.

After Drexel’s son—who is Abby’s friend, Toby—receives a cryptic message, Abby and her friends discover the kidnapping is part of a bigger scheme that could take down The Center for good.

With the help of Abby’s frenemy (and reluctant mentor), Veronica Brooks, the group tackles their first official Center Mission. They tangle with the world’s most notorious hacker, get in trouble for the possible theft of the Mona Lisa, and prepare for the ultimate showdown in London. But not before they have to contend with one more hurdle: the agonizing Smith School Spring Formal. Along the way, they discover they are much stronger as a team they can ever be alone.

And with a little luck, they might just save the world.

An interview with Supriya Kelkar, debut author of AHIMSA

As Ahmisa opens, it’s 1942 and Ghandi has asked families to give one member to the Indian freedom movement. In the case of Anjali, it’s her mother who steps up. As Anjali’s life changes, she’s forced to confront a new reality brought on my her mother’s commitment to the cause. I love stories where a girl is pushed out of her comfort zone and becomes a better, stronger version of herself. Anjali’s path is thrilling to follow and especially timely in today’s world. This title is a valuable addition to any home, school or public library. (And the cover is so gorgeous!)

And now, the author answers our questions…

Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing/etc. come from?

I grew up surrounded by books thanks in part to a book-of-the-month club membership my aunt and uncle had given me for years. I also grew up watching lots of Hindi movies, and my father had written a couple Hindi movies as well. The combination of the exposure to books and Bollywood made me want to become a storyteller.

AHIMSA was inspired by the life of your great-grandmother. In the research phase, did you learn things about her that you didn’t know before?

I did! I actually didn’t know much about her at all except that she was a freedom fighter, had been imprisoned, and became a congresswoman after independence. It wasn’t until I read her biography, written by my great-grandfather, that I learned the details of her work. One thing that was really fascinating to me was after she was arrested for leading a protest, the government sent word to her husband that if she would just apologize, they would let her go. But she refused because she knew what she was doing was right and so she remained in jail until a pact Gandhi had made with the viceroy of India freed political prisoners who were not violent.

Even though AHIMSA takes place in 1942, the issues of social justice in the book feel incredibly timely. Did you have the current climate in mind as you wrote?

I actually wrote the first draft of the book back in 2003. It wasn’t until I was working on the edits in 2016 that it dawned on me how timely the novel was.

How did you settle on a middle grade novel as the best way to tell this story? Was it your first choice?

It took a few stages to get there. I first tried to write Ahimsa as a screenplay about my great-grandmother. I don’t think I even managed to write a word of it. I just couldn’t figure it out. I then decided to write it as a fictional script, and thought rather than the protagonist being the freedom fighter, it might be more interesting to see the story through the eyes of the daughter of a freedom fighter. When I got stuck on that script, I decided to give novel-writing a try and thus the first draft of the book was born.

Who are your favorite authors?

Growing up I was a huge Ann M. Martin fan. I also really loved re-reading books by James Stevenson, Nancy Carlson and Holly Keller.

What is your favorite thing to do when not writing?

Besides hanging out with my family and friends, I’d have to say binge watching TV shows. I just love immersing myself in a new world this way.

What are you working on right now?

I’m working on a few pictures books and middle grade novels.

How do you prefer readers get in touch with you?

I have lots of information about the book at my website www.supriyakelkar.com and they can e-mail me at supriyakelkarbooks@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Karina Yan Glaser, The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street. The Interview!

When I lived in New York, a million years ago, I used to take the train fairly regularly through Harlem,  the setting for The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street. As the story unfolded I could see it happening. I could imagine the places. I wanted to crawl right inside and hang out with Vanderbeekers.  Not many books have me wishing for that. I’m feeling lucky I got to ask author Karina Yan Glaser a few questions. Have a look…

Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing/etc. come from?

I’ve been a reader as long as I can remember. I was the kid who brought books with her to recess and kept a book in my lap during dinner so I could sneak read while I ate. When my kids were born, I started a blog where I wrote hundreds of blog posts about being a new mom. I found out I loved telling stories, and when my second daughter started preschool I began writing The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street in a coffee shop.

What was the best part of writing The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street?

I loved revising and polishing, inserting wording or paragraphs that pulled me more and more into the story. For me, writing a novel is like putting together a puzzle. It doesn’t all come together at the first go; the full picture gradually reveals itself with time, patience, and diligence.

Your novel centers on a possible eviction from a beloved Harlem brownstone. Did you have a house in mind from your own past when you began writing or one in your current neighborhood?

The brownstone setting idea came from lots of walks around my current Harlem neighborhood. Thankfully I have a few friends who live in brownstones, so my familiarity with the buildings come from visiting and spending time in their brownstones. One day, if The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street sells a bajillion copies, I hope to move my family into a brownstone!

Both Publishers Weekly and Kirkus use the term ‘old fashioned’ (as in charming and lovely!) to describe this book. Did books you read as a child influence the tone of this work?

Definitely. I loved books like Sydney Taylor’s All-of-a-Kind Family­, Eleanor Estes’s The Moffats, and Elizabeth Enright’s The Saturdays. All of those stories were about big families, and All-of-a-Kind Family and The Saturdays were set in New York City. I’m honored that reviewers saw glimpses of that sensibility in The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street!

Writing for middle grade readers can be a challenge. What about this age range/genre appeals to you?

Oh, I love everything about middle grade books. That eight-to-twelve age range was when I fell in love with reading, and I love the themes of growing up and discovery that comes during that age. The best thing about having kids who are currently seven and nine is that I can share my favorite middle grade books with them!

Who are your favorite authors?

So many! Katherine Paterson, Jason Reynolds, Ashley Bryan, Grace Lin, Linda Sue Park, Louise Erdrich, Jack Cheng, Gary Schmidt, Cynthia Voigt, Elizabeth Enright, Richard Peck, Janice Nimura, Holly M. McGhee, Jacqueline Woodson, Sydney Taylor, Joyce Sidman, Eleanor Estes, Laurie Halse Anderson, Melissa Sweet, Jacqueline Kelly, Kelly Barnhill, Ada Calhoun, Ruta Sepetys, Jeanne Birdsall… those are just some!

What is your favorite thing to do when not writing?

Reading! Hiking! Eating chocolate!

What are you working on right now?

I am finishing up illustrations for the sequel to The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street. I’m also starting my third book.

How do you prefer readers get in touch with you?

I’m reachable through most social media outlets and by email!

Website: www.karinaglaser.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/karinaisreadingandwriting/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/KarinaYanGlaser

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