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!)