Michelle Schusterman: I HEART BAND

We’ve got a great group of debut authors here at OneFour KidLit. Today we’re introducing Michelle Schusterman, author of I HEART BAND. One author, four questions. Here we go!

Hey, you’re getting published! How’d that happen? 

It was a rather long and winding road. Back in 2007, I started writing a book. I queried an embarrassing number of agents to no avail. I wrote another book and got two offers. I signed with Superwoman, aka Sarah Davies of Greenhouse. We went on sub, I got an offer, and a month later the offer was rescinded. After that, it was all rejections. I drowned my sorrows in beer (I was living in the Pacific Northwest at the time, so at least I had some great local drafts.) I wrote a third book and my agent made me rewrite it. Then she made me rewrite it again. Then she said it still wasn’t quite there. I despaired. More beer was consumed.

Then, out of the blue, my agent got an email from an editor at Penguin who wanted to find a writer for a series about middle school band geeks. Know anyone? the editor asked. My agent immediately contacted me. Somewhere in a spastic ALLCAPS email with an alarming number of exclamation points, I explained that not only was I a former band geek, I had actually been a middle and high school band director for four years, and yes, I was mildly interested.

I had a phone call with the editor, where we discovered that not only were we both band geeks, we were both Texas band geeks, which is a whole other level of uber-band-geekery. My agent had sent her one of my books so she could get an idea of my voice and style, and the phone call was great, so I hung up feeling pretty positive I was at least going to get to write a few sample chapters.

Twenty minutes later, my agent called and said they had made an offer. The announcement went up two days later on Publisher’s Marketplace. It was utterly surreal.

What’s your debut book about? Can you share any cool details with us?

Band geeks! Okay, more specifically:

Holly Mead’s first day of 7th grade isn’t going as planned. Her brother ruins her carefully-chosen outfit, she’s almost late, and her new band director has some surprisingly strict rules. Worst of all, it seems like her best friend, Julia, has replaced her. Natasha is new at Millican Middle School, but she and Julia bonded at band camp over the summer. Natasha is pretty, smart, and as good at French horn as Holly – maybe even better.

Holly is determined to get first chair, but Natasha is turning out to be some pretty stiff competition – and not just in band. As Natasha and Julia get closer, Holly feels like she and her best friend are drifting further apart. Maybe being second best in band isn’t the end of the world, but when it comes to best friends, Holly just has to be first. Band might be a competition, but friendship isn’t – and Holly needs to figure it out before she loses Julia for good.

This is a 4-book series, and the second book, FRIENDS, FUGUES, AND FORTUNE COOKIES, will be released with the first in January 2014!

What cool facts might readers not know about you?

I play the steel drum. When I was 19, I bailed on my spring semester, went to Trinidad, and joined the Witco Desperadoes Steel Band. We won the 2000 International Panorama Competition. (There’s a vid on YouTube. It’s really hard to see me.)

I interviewed Ted Allen once (the guy who hosts CHOPPED on Food Network) and my hands shook from nervousness for like half an hour afterwards.

Same thing happened when I interviewed Norwood Fisher of Fishbone.

My second MG series, THE EX-KAT FILES, will launch with the same imprint as I HEART BAND in 2015! It’s got ghosts and traveling and stuff.

My writing career began when I was on quarantine with tuberculosis in Korea.

I’ve been to the three of the world’s biggest Carnival celebrations – New Orleans (11 times!), Salvador, Brazil, and Trinidad.

I’ve lived on three continents. (Not, like, simultaneously. But one day, when I have my TARDIS…)

Falo um pouco de Português.

What do you do in your daily life outside of writing?

Life…outside of writing? Hmmm…

Hang out with friends, scope out NYC’s awesome live music venues with my husband, wrestle trash from my chocolate lab that she believes to be edible, try new foods (the spicier the better), watch BBC shows and shake my fist at the writers, marathon training, cooking, reading…wow, feels like a personal ad! So, what are your likes and dislikes? *rests chin in hands*

Michelle Schusterman writes books for kids, screenplays for a tv/film production company, and music for anyone who’d buy a “groove matters” bumper sticker. She lives in New York City with her husband (and band mate) and chocolate lab (who is more of a vocalist). Her debut MG series, I HEART BAND, will be released by Penguin/Grosset in January 2014.

22 thoughts on “Michelle Schusterman: I HEART BAND

  1. 1. dr. who reference: nailed it.
    2. i cannot wait for both your series (serieses? seri?)
    3. i really hope you run some sort of contest that involves ponying up pictures from our band days. because i’ve got some photos of me + an alto sax + a big plume hat that have your name on it…haha

  2. As a former French horn player and contemp MG fanatic, I am so excited for your awesome series! You also have the most interesting “how my writing career started” story ever. Yay Michelle!

  3. What an incredible story. I can’t believe your offer was rescinded, and that you aren’t the first person I heard that happen to. I HEART BAND sounds awesome. So glad everything worked out (and then some!)

  4. Both of your series sound awesome!! Can’t wait to read them. I love your path to publication story because it just goes to show that you have no idea what opportunities are right around the corner! 🙂

  5. Steel drums in Trinidad…TB in Korea…Carnival in Brazil…sounds like you’ve been living a pretty wild and exciting life! And on top of that two very cool-sounding series at once! I tip my hat to you, madam 🙂

  6. As a former band geek (trombone), and as someone who’s always though we needed more band geek books, I’m really looking forward to this!

  7. Carnivals in Salvadar AND Trinidad? I’m so jealous! Also, I think I read recently that there is now a food truck serving doubles in NYC somewhere…can you confirm? 🙂

    So glad that your road to publication has finally lead you two having two series in the works–how exciting. Looking forward to reading your work!

  8. Michelle, you have such effervescence. It comes across in your tweets, your posts, and in this interview. What a colorful life, and I HEART BAND is something I think both my tween goddaughter and I would enjoy reading.

  9. Came here via Rebecca Behrens’ blog. Because :flaily mcflailerson: a book about BAND GEEKS??? I don’t think I remember a proper once since MIDDLE SCHOOL BLUES when I was the right age for reading middle grade.

    Done. I’ve put a reminder in my personal system to buy it. I want my mitts on this.

    Also, yay for alto saxes.

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