As we’re starting to emerge from the grips of winter, it’s a relief to think about warmer weather. Today we’ll get an introduction to OneFour Kidlit author Kate Hannigan, whose middle-grade cooking caper CUPCAKE COUSINS comes out with Disney-Hyperion on May 13th.
What’s your debut book about? Can you share any cool details with us?
CUPCAKE COUSINS is a celebration of a whole bunch of things. Mostly it’s the joys of summertime. It’s about two cousins, almost-10-year-olds Delia and Willow, who get together every summer with their extended family at an old Victorian beach house on the shores of Lake Michigan.
Only this summer it’s different because their aunt is getting married. And she’s asked Delia and Willow to be her flower girls. It’s a task the girls feel is far beneath them; they’d much rather be “flour girls” and bake delicious desserts for the wedding. So they spend the whole week doing everything they can to get out of having to wear pink dresses and get into white aprons.
I wanted to create a pair of strong girls who are on equal footing. One is not sidekick to the other. They are both the stars of the show. And I wanted to present them “making and doing,” really pursuing their interests and making things happen for themselves and the people they love. The story is filled with cooking disasters along the way, but failing (sometimes miserably!) is all part of the learning.
The Great Outdoors features prominently too. I wanted these girls engaging with bugs and critters and dirt and sand during their summer vacation. Sometimes in the rigorously scheduled worlds we build for our kids, we forget to let them play outside and experience nature up close. So these cousins get to meet hummingbirds and pick blueberries, watch sunsets and boogie-board in the lake.
What are you most excited about in the debut process?
Other people! I’ve been able to connect with some wonderful writers, readers, and book lovers because of this story. The coolest connection might be with the owners of a cupcake food truck, Cupcake Gangsters, which will be a big part of my book launch here in Chicago in May. They are from the South Side as well, and they’re so great to take an interest!
I’ve also loved getting to connect with other writers. A handful of Chicago-area middle-grade authors has sort of bonded together – I’ve been calling it a middle-grade jam session – to do some bookstore events and festivals, talking about the magic of middle-grade. I am thrilled to be going out into the world with my book alongside some warm, wonderful people. We’ve called ourselves Middle-Grade in the Midwest, and it feels like a party. I can’t wait for the first events with this group.
Do you have any writing quirks, places you need to write or things you need to have with you?
My characters are really superstitious, and that’s because I am too. I find lucky talismans all over the place, and I never ever pass up a penny on the sidewalk. At any given moment you can find me carrying a lucky charm in my pocket, whether it’s a Petoskey stone shaped like a heart, a plastic monkey my daughter (now 14) used to play with when she was 2, Santa Yoda, a decorative key I found on the street, a shark tooth (needs no explanation, right?), and best of all, a 1946 wheat penny, which is just like the wheat penny that brings the girls extra good luck in CUPCAKE COUSINS.
What’s missing from this talisman collection is the little soldier I found on the grass right around the time Disney-Hyperion was considering my manuscript for publication. I knew this little guy was going to bring me luck, so I carried him with me in my coat pocket for weeks. While his disappearance has me distressed, I am imagining he was picked up by another hopeful writer and is right now bringing her the good luck she needs to see her manuscript turned into a book.