0

Mad For Middle Grade: Villainous Tricks and Treats

Welcome to MAD FOR MIDDLE GRADE!  We’re here the first Monday of every month, discussing middle grade writing, chatting about from our favorite middle grade books, introducing our own middle grade titles, sharing middle grade writing advice, and generally obsess over everything middle grade! And if there’s any middle grade topic you’re interested in, we’d love to hear it in the comments!

What’s not to love about the Halloween time? There are pumpkin spiced lattes, candy, costumes, hayrides, and most importantly… SCARY, EVIL BEINGS! There’s a real art to creating a convincing villain, so we’re here today to shed some advice on how to approach the task.

Question: How do you create good antagonists or roadblocks for characters? Share your villainous tricks and treats! 

Rebecca Petruck
STEERING TOWARD NORMAL
Abrams/Amulet

2014-09-29 16.37.53

The scariest villains are the ones we carry inside us. Being the person we want to be in the face of serious challenges can feel impossible, and in some moments is impossible. But those bad moments only define us if we let them. It seems like it should be easy to let go of the memories of things we’re not proud of and move forward as a better person. But feelings like envy, jealousy, anger, fear, doubt, and insecurity are clingy little dingleberries. Defeating our inner villain who wants everything his way right now without having to fight for it or compromise can be our greatest battle. Yet winning has the kind of long-term effects that can create a life we’re proud of—even if sometimes we just have to through some cow poop to get it out of our systems.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Dana Alison Levy
THE MISADVENTURES OF THE FAMILY FLETCHERDAL_Costume_OneFour
Delacorte/Random House

Personally, I find it far more difficult to write good villains than good heroes. After all, a good villain should be bad, sure, but also interesting, complicated, and have a story of his or her own. In THE MISADVENTURES OF THE FAMILY FLETCHER I didn’t really have a villain, (though some might have thought of Mr. Nelson that way at first). But I have worked on other stories with a more traditional bad guy (or bad gal!) and I think the only “trick” to writing a good one is to make her (or him) as full a character as possible. Does she love her dog? Does she laugh at puns? Does he only pursue his evil goal because of a desire to help someone else? If an author works to understand the villain readers are “treated” to a far better story!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Lauren Magaziner
Lauren Witch HatTHE ONLY THING WORSE THAN WITCHES
Dial/Penguin

Writing a villain for middle grade can be especially difficult. Without enough villainous “oomph,” an antagonist would be boring and give no stakes to your story–but at the same time, a villain can easily become too scary or menacing. I think the key is to balance a little bit of humor with the more threatening parts. For example, in one moment in The Only Thing Worse Than Witches the dreadful Mrs. Frabbleknacker makes children stand on their heads until their words come out backwards. It’s a funny kind of threat–something that is actually rather horrible when you really think about it, but so entrenched in humor that it feels almost safe. Almost. (Muahahaha.)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Robin Herrera
2014-10-01 04_19_43HOPE IS A FERRIS WHEEL
Amulet Books

I hope that people are surprised to learn that Mr. Savage, one of the “villains” of HOPE IS A FERRIS WHEEL, is based on myself. Creating a good villain starts with understanding your villain. The villain is the hero of their own story! In Mr. Savage’s world, he is the heroic teacher hired to shape and mold the minds of young 4th and 5th graders. Star Mackie is the villain of his world, and she’s about to start a rebellion in his own classroom! The only way to stop it is to assert himself in front of his students, belittling Star in the process. When you think about it that way, Star is kind of a huge jerk. (Just kidding! Mr. Savage still wins the jerk award.)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Louise Galvestonmongeepoo
BY THE GRACE OF TODD
Razorbill/Penguin

Bad guys aren’t born, they become. Understanding what warped a villain’s personality is key, even if it takes a while to be revealed. In By the Grace of Todd, Max is evil incarnate to Todd and his tiny Toddlians. But in the sequel, In Todd We Trust, we see that Max is terrified of his big brother, and get a glimpse of the treatment he’s faced that causes him to torment others. I also believe bad guys can be redeemed, as in Ernie, Todd’s elementary school nemesis who does an about face in middle school and becomes Todd and Duddy’s buddy. (I’m dressed as Mongee Poo, a hero from Todd’s favorite anime series Dragon Sensei. Hoo hoo hi-yah!)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Matt London
10362515_927717525241_7320697419049827655_n THE 8TH CONTINENT
Razorbill/Penguin

I’ve always believed that what makes readers LOATHE a villain is when the baddie gets away with something terrible. So I try to make sure my villains get away with everything! The villain of THE 8TH CONTINENT is Vesuvia Piffle, the ten year old super secret CEO of the Condo Real Estate Corporation. She is rotten! But she is also convinced she’s doing the right thing. And that makes her all the scarier.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Ryan Gehart
THERE WILL BE BEARSbearrcoat
Candlewick Press

It would appear that Sandy, the vicious grizzly bear prowling the Bridger-Teton National Park who killed two hunters from Ohio would be the villain in BEARS, but she’s anything but. Tyson wants nothing more than to see her. It’s everything that’s getting in the way of the trip that’s antagonizing him. It’s the realities of adulthood, of his beloved grandfather who was supposed to take him to the Tetons get put into a nursing home instead. And as Tyson puts it: being an adult sucks.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Two more posts left in our Mad For Middle Grade series! Are there any middle grade topics you want to hear about? Let us know!

See you on Monday November 3rd! And remember: the best way to stop an evil villain in his or her tracks is a pie in the face (……or maybe just a fantastic protagonist).

Lauren Magaziner is a 4th grader at heart, watches way too much TV, and loves to steal people’s toes to make Toecorn, which tastes like chewy, meaty popcorn. Only one of those is true. (Okay… you caught me. They’re all true.) Her MG debut THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN WITCHES—about a boy who becomes a witchling’s apprentice in a town full of dangerous, Toecorn-loving witches—is available now from Dial/Penguin.
 
 
0

LIES WE TELL OURSELVES Release Day

It’s incredibly surreal to think that this day has actually come. You spend years, probably decades, anticipating it. It’s like waiting for Christmas when you were a kid. The day itself always seemed so impossibly far away that your whole life was just anticipation.

But the anticipation is over ― and my first book, LIES WE TELL OURSELVES, is here. It’s in stores! It’s got an actual “Order” button on websites! (Preordering is so yesterday.)

Lies We Tell Ourselves

Synopsis:

In 1959 Virginia, the lives of two girls on opposite sides of the battle for civil rights will be changed forever.

Sarah Dunbar is one of the first black students to attend the previously all-white Jefferson High School. An honors student at her old school, she is put into remedial classes, spit on and tormented daily.

Linda Hairston is the daughter of one of the town’s most vocal opponents of school integration. She has been taught all her life that the races should be kept “separate but equal.”

Forced to work together on a school project, Sarah and Linda must confront harsh truths about race, power and how they really feel about one another.

Boldly realistic and emotionally compelling, Lies We Tell Ourselves is a brave and stunning novel about finding truth amid the lies, and finding your voice even when others are determined to silence it.

Advance praise for LIES WE TELL OURSELVES:

“A beautifully written and compelling read.” – School Library Journal

“A well-handled debut.” – Booklist

“A piercing look at the courage it takes to endure…forms of extreme hatred, violence, racism and sexism.” – Kirkus Reviews

“The big issues of school desegregation in the 1950s, interracial dating, and same-sex couples have the potential to be too much for one novel, but the author handles all with aplomb. What makes it even better is that both Linda’s and Sarah’s points of view are revealed as the novel unfolds, giving meaning to their indoctrinated views. Educators looking for materials to support the civil rights movement will find a gem in this novel, and librarians seeking titles for their LGBT displays should have this novel on hand…. This is a meaningful tale about integration.” – VOYA

Lies We Tell Ourselves is a phenomenal story of two high-school seniors experiencing desegregation for the first time in their Virginia school. The story provides no easy solutions; instead, it offers a solid and responsible ending that leaves hope for both girls to find a better future, while indicating that there is still much left for us to do.” – Sara Hines, Eight Cousins Books

Launch event:

This Saturday, I’m having a joint launch party with Caroline Richmond (whose debut THE ONLY THING TO FEAR comes out today too ― hurrah!) in Arlington, Va., right outside of Washington, D.C. You should come! Here are the details.

You can buy LIES WE TELL OURSELVES at:

IndieBound | One More Page Books | AmazonBarnes & Noble | Harlequin

Robin Talley lives in Washington, D.C., with her ornery cat, goofy hound dog, and very patient wife. Robin’s debut novel, LIES WE TELL OURSELVES (Harlequin Teen, September 2014), follows a black girl in 1959 Virginia who’s the first to desegregate an all-white high school, and winds up falling in love with a white girl in the process. Robin tweets at @robin_talley.
0

The Author’s Voice: interview with OneFour author VERONICA BARTLES

What do you do when your sister outshines you in every way, and now your crush wants your help in winning her heart? (hint: it involves a twelve-step program)

Veronica Bartles talks to us about sibling rivalry, dream guys, and her YA contemporary romance, TWELVE STEPS (Swoon Romance, 2014).

*
*

Veronica Bartles lives in New Mexico with her husband and four children. When she’s not writing or lost in the pages of her newest favorite book, she enjoys creating delicious desserts, exploring new places, and recycle knitting. Her debut novel, TWELVE STEPS was released in March 2014.

*
*

Kate Boorman is an independent artist and writer from the Canadian prairies. She was born in Nepal (where she was carried up the Himalayas in a basket) and she grew up in a small Albertan town (where she rode her bike to Girl Guides). She is fond of creepy things. Speaking of! Her YA fantasy WINTERKILL is out now (Abrams/Amulet and Faber & Faber).
0

The Author’s Voice: interview with OneFour author Linda Vigen Phillips

How far have we come in our comprehension and support of mental health? What is it like for a teen when her mother’s bipolar disorder is considered a “nervous breakdown”?

Linda speaks with us about her compelling YA novel in verse,  CRAZY (Oct 20th, 2014, Eerdmans).

 

*

Linda Vigen Phillips lives in Charlotte but never got over being a native Oregonian. She still goes gaga over mountains with Ponderosa pines and oceans that roar. She is a mother of twins, grandmother of two, wife of a retired minister, retired teacher of learning disabled students, and writer of YA, Middle Grade and poetry. Her debut YA novel written in verse, CRAZY, will be released by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers in Fall 2014.

*

Kate Boorman is an independent artist and writer from the Canadian prairies. She was born in Nepal (where she was carried up the Himalayas in a basket) and she grew up in a small Albertan town (where she rode her bike to Girl Guides). She is fond of creepy things. Speaking of! Her YA fantasy WINTERKILL debuts September 9th, 2014 (Abrams/Amulet and Faber & Faber).
0

The Author’s Voice: interview with OneFour author Jen Malone

NYC! Fancy hotels! Cupcake parties! And a junior hotel concierge with one precious, missing, hotel guest.

Jen Malone speaks with us about her MG debut, AT YOUR SERVICE.

*

Jen Malone has visited 50 countries, met her husband on the highway (literally) and went into labor with her identical twins while on Stevie Nick’s tour bus. These days she prefers to keep the drama inside the pages of her books. Her debut middle grade, AT YOUR SERVICE, releases in August from Simon & Schuster/Aladdin. Please visit Jen on Twitter @jenmalonewrites.

*
*

Kate Boorman is an independent artist and writer from the Canadian prairies. She was born in Nepal (where she was carried up the Himalayas in a basket) and she grew up in a small Albertan town (where she rode her bike to Girl Guides). She is fond of creepy things. Speaking of! Her YA fantasy WINTERKILL debuts September 9th, 2014 (Abrams/Amulet and Faber & Faber).
0

WORDLESS Release Day

… Except this post won’t be wordless. I am, in fact, a rather wordy person, which is probably why I write books. I’ve written a few at this point, and WORDLESS isn’t the first nor the last. It’s a step on what has been a long journey—a continuing journey, most definitely! So while this is a (book) launch, which conjures visions of rockets blasting off from the earth, it feels to me more like an incredible stopover on the moon. And thank you all so much for accompanying me on this venture.

Sounds cheesy, eh? Well, some folktales say the moon is made of cheese. Please kick back for my book launch/picnic on the moon, have a slice of cheese (gruyere on baguette, anyone?), and maybe check out WORDLESS while you’re here:

 

Wordless Final Cover
“The Gods made their Words into flesh, giving privileged individuals the powers of creation …”

In Eden City, a member of the illiterate wordless class would never dream of meeting the all-powerful Words … much less of running away with one. So when a gorgeous girl literally falls into his lap during a routine trash run, seventeen-year-old Tavin Barnes isn’t sure if it’s the luckiest or worst day of his life. That girl is Khaya, the Word of Life, who can heal a wound or command an ivy bush to devour a city block with ease. And yet she needs Tavin’s help.

By aiding Khaya’s escape from the seemingly idyllic confines of Eden City, Tavin unwittingly throws himself into the heart of a conflict that is threatening to tear the world apart. Eden City’s elite will stop at nothing to protect the shocking secret Khaya hides, and they enlist the other Words, each with their own frightening powers, to bring her back.

 

What people are saying:

“Impressive mythology and fast-paced adventure.” – Booklist

“Just the right amount of pizzazz in the form of cinematic action and naked, sexy fun…. [An] intriguing, original science-fantasy setting sure to attract fans.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Strickland’s fast-paced debut… raises questions of identity and belonging…. Even the least ethical characters prove emotionally vulnerable.” – Publishers Weekly

“A fast-paced blend of sci-fi and fantasy with scary real-world implications, Wordless grabbed hold of me from the start and wouldn’t let me go. Brilliant.” – Chelsea Pitcher, author of The S-Word and The Last Changeling

 

You can purchase a copy of WORDLESS at these places, or request it at your local library:

Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Indiebound ~ Books-A-Million ~ Book Depository

 

 Check out the official blog tour here for a chance to win one of three copies + a $25 B&N gift card!

 

AdriAnne Strickland author photo - tiny squareAdriAnne Strickland was a bibliophile who wanted to be an author before she knew what either of those words meant. She shares a home base in Alaska with her husband, but has spent two cumulative years living abroad in Africa, Asia, and Europe. While writing occupies most of her time, she commercial fishes every summer in Bristol Bay, because she can’t seem to stop. Her debut YA sci-fi/fantasy, WORDLESS, is coming in Summer 2014 from Flux Books. You can find her on Twitter and Facebook.
0

Mad For Middle Grade: A Picture’s Worth a Thousand Words

Welcome to MAD FOR MIDDLE GRADE!  We’re here the first Monday of every month, discussing middle grade writing, chatting about from our favorite middle grade books, introducing our own middle grade titles, sharing middle grade writing advice, and generally obsess over everything middle grade! And if there’s any middle grade topic you’re interested in, we’d love to hear it in the comments!

Bring on the laugher! Our August debut books are both full of LOL humor:

THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN WITCHES
by Lauren Magaziner
Release date: August 14
Goodreads

AT YOUR SERVICE
by Jen Malone
Release date: August 26
Goodreads

[Insert a super happy funky-little-boogie-dance here in celebration of the release of my book and Jen's positively delightful book!] YAY!!!!! :-)

Today we sharing pictures! Some will have captions… and as for the others, well, you know that famous saying: a picture’s worth a thousand words. But whether we’re showing you a photo of our imagined characters, the book’s setting, important objects, or even beyond-the-book inspiration, we hope that these pictures give you insight into the flavor, tone, and feel of our respective books!

Question: Share a photo that has some connection to your book or your publishing experience!

Adriana Schanen
QUINNY & HOPPER
Disney-Hyperion

Adriana Schanen

“Quinny & Hopper” was made possible in large part by daughter’s 2nd grade chick study.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Dana Alison Levy
THE MISADVENTURES OF THE FAMILY FLETCHER
Delacorte/Random House

Dana Levy

Boys, more boys, and SHENANIGANS!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Gayle Rosengren
WHAT THE MOON SAID
Putnam/Penguin

Esther & Mickey

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Heidi Schulz
HOOK’S REVENGE
Disney-Hyperion

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jen Malone
AT YOUR SERVICE
Aladdin/Simon & Schuster

photo

This is my daughter and this moment is what I pictured whenever I sat down to write. I cried when I took this shot.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Kate Hannigan
CUPCAKE COUSINS
Disney-Hyperion

Kate Hannigan

The house where “Cupcake Cousins” is set was inspired by the fantastic Michigan beach houses we see on bike rides during our vacations.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Lauren Magaziner
THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN WITCHES
Dial/Penguin

IMG_4388

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Louise Galveston
BY THE GRACE OF TODD
Razorbill/Penguin

Louise Galveston

One of the many inspirations behind By the Grace of Todd—my very own not-so-evil genius.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Rachel Searles
THE LOST PLANET
Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan

Rachel Searles

Music = Energy = Inspiration!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Rebecca Behrens
WHEN AUDREY MET ALICE
Sourcebooks

Rebecca Behrens

The White House Swingset, with a view into the Oval Office from the slide.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Rebecca Petruck
STEERING TOWARD NORMAL
Abrams/Amulet

Rebecca Petruck

A 4-H competitor gives his steer a wash and blow-dry before the Goodhue County Fair. No lie: steers get more beauty care than I do! :)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Paul Durham
THE LUCK UGLIES
HarperCollins

Paul Durham

The morning commute.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Skila Brown
CAMINAR
Candlewick Press

Skila Brown

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Tara Dairman
ALL FOUR STARS
Putnam/Penguin

Indian food

Mmmm, Indian food.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Tracy Holczer
THE SECRET HUM OF A DAISY
Putnam/Penguin

Tracy Holczer

One of Mama’s birds.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Are there any topics you want to hear about next time? Let us know in the comments section!

Miss us already? We’ll be back for another Mad For Middle Grade on Monday September 1st! See you later, alligator!

Lauren Magaziner is a 4th grader at heart, watches way too much TV, and loves to steal people’s toes to make Toecorn, which tastes like chewy, meaty popcorn. Only one of those is true. (Okay… you caught me. They’re all true.) Her MG debut THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN WITCHES—about a boy who becomes a witchling’s apprentice in a town full of dangerous, Toecorn-loving witches—is forth-coming from Dial/Penguin on August 14, 2014.