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Celebrating 2014, Awaiting 2015

What an amazing year 2014 has been! Thank YOU for your support of our books. You rock! Today on New Year’s Eve, come party with us and watch our video where we talk about our favorite moments and what we are looking forward to in 2015.

After teaching and traveling internationally, Christina Farley started writing about her adventures, tossing in a little fiction for fun. This inspired her to write GILDED, a YA about a Korean-American girl with a black belt and deadly proclivity with steel-tipped arrows published by Skyscape, March 1, 2014. Besides writing, Christina loves traveling, running, hanging out with her two Jedi warriors, and eating dark chocolate.
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NO PLACE to FALL has made it onto the stage!

It’s hard to believe that launch day is finally here. I finished this novel in the summer of 2012. It sold in late September of the same year. Now a full two and a half years from when I closed the document on my revised manuscript draft, it’s landing on bookstore shelves. The only way to describe this moment is amazing and surreal. I wrote a book, y’all. Thank you for following my journey, having my back, and just being the best group of authors, readers, and friends a writer could ever have. Now I’m off to lurk at my local bookstores for a few hours!

NoPlace hc c

Amber Vaughn is a good girl. She sings solos at church, babysits her nephew after school, and spends every Friday night hanging out at her best friend Devon’s house. It’s only when Amber goes exploring in the woods near her home, singing camp songs with the hikers she meets on the Appalachian Trail, that she feels free—and when the bigger world feels just a little bit more in reach.

When Amber learns about an audition at the North Carolina School of the Arts, she decides that her dream—to sing on bigger stages—could also be her ticket to a new life. Devon’s older (and unavailable) brother, Will, helps Amber prepare for her one chance to try out for the hypercompetitive arts school. But the more time Will and Amber spend together, the more complicated their relationship becomes . . . and Amber starts to wonder if she’s such a good girl, after all.

Then, in an afternoon, the bottom drops out of her family’s world—and Amber is faced with an impossible choice between her promise as an artist and the people she loves. Amber always thought she knew what a good girl would do. But between “right” and “wrong,” there’s a whole world of possibilities.

**Early Praise for No Place To Fall**

“Lyrically written with a deep sense of place and music, Brown’s story allows the heroine to stumble, falter, and suffer consequences without forcing a tidy, happy ending. There is so much joy within the pages that the sorrow hits hard and emotions rise and fall and rise again like a vocalist running scales.” – Booklist

“Debut author Brown makes a small town in North Carolina—where everyone knows everyone, and the outside world comes in via Appalachian Trail hikers—feel real, but the heart of the story is Amber, as she tries to find herself, love, and her voice (she’s a talented singer, but is afraid of singing in front of crowds).” – Publisher’s Weekly

“Southern charm oozes off the page.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Debut author Brown is off to a wonderful start with authentic characters who speak in true voices. Amber could be the best friend you had in high school—she’s funny and moody and truthful and absolutely the real deal, and readers will clamor for another well-paced story featuring her and her friends.” – School Library Journal Review

“The writing shines when Amber describes the feelings that singing awakens in her, with ‘songs swirling inside me like butterflies.’ One could wish for an accompanying soundtrack to fill out the fragments of lyrics that appear throughout.” – VOYA

“I was completely smitten.” – Robin Constantine, author of The Promise of Amazing.

“Hits a chord with the dreamer in all of us.” – Megan Shepherd, author of The Madman’s Daughter series

**Where you can find Jaye Robin Brown**

My launch party is TONIGHT at Malaprop’s Bookstore in downtown Asheville. It starts at 7pm and the lovely teen singer/songwriter, Indigo Blue DeSouza, will be playing a couple of songs from the book and some of her own music as well. If you’re in the area, please stop by!

I’m doing a mini-book tour with a few other folks, here are the stops I know so far:

Sat. Dec 27 3-5 pm – Fiction Addiction in Greenville, SC with Alison Kemper

Sun. Dec. 28 2-3 pm – TallTales Book Shop in Atlanta, GA with Alison Kemper

Mon. Dec. 29 5-7 pm – The Little Professor in Homewood, AL with Stephen Duncan

Saturday, January 10th, Robin Constantine and I will be doing an author’s cafe at the Burke County Public Library in Morganton, NC.

And in April, I’ll be at the Southern Kentucky Bookfest along with a bunch of other OneFours!!

 

 

Jaye Robin Brown, or JRo to most everyone but her mama, lives and writes in the Appalachian mountains north of Asheville, NC. She’s fond of dogs, horses, laughter, the absurd and the ironic. When not crafting stories she hangs out with teenagers in the high school art room where she teaches. Her debut novel, NO PLACE TO FALL (Harper Teen, December ’14), is a love song to small town girls and mountain music.

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Mad For Middle Grade: Crunching Numbers

Welcome back to MAD FOR MIDDLE GRADE!

This post is going to be a bit… unconventional. We’re pulling out all the stops here. And by all the stops, I mean: all the STATS. This post is all about comparing our publishing journeys, and we’re about to prove THERE IS NO NORMAL IN PUBLISHING!!!!

Here a bit of information about this post before we reveal our numbers:

  • 15 authors participated
  • All the participants were 2014 middle grade debut authors
  • Each author was allowed to opt in or out of whichever questions he/she choses
  • All data is presented anonymously

And without further ado:

ABOUT THE BOOKS

Highest Word Count: 78,000 words
Lowest Word Count: 19,000 words
Average Word Count: 53,000 words

Genre?
7 Contemporary
4 Fantasy
2 Historical Fiction
1 Mystery
1 Novel in Verse
1 Science Fiction

Which publishers?
2 books from Abrams
2 books from Candlewick
2 books from Disney-Hyperion
1 book from HarperCollins
1 book from Macmillan
4 books from Penguin
1 book from Random House
1 book from Simon & Schuster
1 book from Sourcebooks

 

ABOUT AGENTS

Do you have an agent?
Yes: 14
No: 0
Not when the book sold, but yes now: 1

How many query letters did you send out?
Most: 74 Query Letters
Least: 1 Query Letter
Average: 22 Query Letters
A further breakdown:
8 authors had between 1 and 15 query letters.
2 authors had between 16 and 30 query letters.
2 authors had between 31 and 45 query letters.
2 authors had between 46 and 60 query letters.
1 author had over 61 query letters.

How long were you querying?
Longest time: 10 months
Shortest time: 1 week
Further breakdown:
3 authors queried for less than 1 month.
8 authors queried between 1 and 4 months.
4 authors queried between 5 and 10 months. 

How many offers did you receive from agents?
One offer: 9
Two offers: 2
Three offers: 2
Four offers: 0
Five offers: 2

How long was the editorial process with your agent?
Longest time: 9 months
Shortest time: No editorial process
Average time: 2 months

 

ABOUT THE BOOK DEAL

How long were you on submission to publishers?
Longest submission: 2 years
Shortest submission: 9 days
Further breakdown:
3 books were on submission less than 1 month.
7 books were on submission between 1 and 4 months.
2 books were on submission between 5 and 12 months.
2 books were on submission longer than 12 months.

How many offers did you receive from publishers?
One offer: 9
Two offers: 4
Three offers: 1
Four offers: 0
Five offers: 1

How many books did your publisher buy?
One book: 9
Two books: 4
Three books: 2

What was the deal range?
10 Nice Deals
2 Very Nice Deals
2 Good Deals
1 Significant Deal

How long was the time between the book sale and the book release?
Longest wait: 33 months (A little less than 3 years)
Shortest wait: 14 months (A little more than 1 year)
Average wait: 21 months (A little less than 2 years)

 

ABOUT THE STORY

The numbers below indicate those authors who responded YES to the following questions.

Does your book have:
A girl protagonist? 9
A boy protagonist? 6
Any school scenes? 8
A character who cries? 13
A character who’s a writer? 5
A character with red hair? 3
A chosen one? 0
At least one orphan? 3
Siblings? 10
A first crush? 5
Kissing? 3
Magic? 4
Dogs? 5
Cats? 3
Bunnies? 3
Any references to real-life history? 10
Any references to real-life pop culture? 8

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Thanks for tuning in! Hope you were as interested in some of these numbers as we were!

We will return on Monday December 1st for our LAST Mad For Middle Grade segment. *snozzes into a handkerchief*  The wheels are already in motion, and it’s going to be a great post–so tune in next time!

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.
 
 
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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.

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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!

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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.)

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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.)

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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!)

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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.

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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.

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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.
 
 
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Mad For Middle Grade: Getting Schooled

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!

Back to school reads are HERE! Curl up with one of our September releases:

Torres_BrinyDeep

THE DISAPPEARING: The Briny Deep Mysteries #1
by Jennifer Torres
Release date: September 1
Goodreads

SPIRIT’S KEY
by Edith Cohn
Release date: September 9
Goodreads

I HEART BAND: CRUSHES, CODAS, AND CORSAGES
by Michelle Schusterman
Release date: September 11
Goodreads

HOOK’S REVENGE
by Heidi Schulz
Release date: September 16
Goodreads

THE 8TH CONTINENT
by Matt London
Release date: September 16
Goodreads

Three cheers for awesome books from Jennifer, Edith, Michelle, Heidi, and Matt! Give these great reads to the elementary schooler in your life to make him/her very happy… or tuck into a corner and rip through these adventuresome tales yourself while the kids are at school (muahahaha)!

Speaking of back to school…. today our characters are getting schooled! We’re here to talk about how characters learn, grow, and change throughout our novels, both in school and outside it!

Question: How do your characters learn and grow, either inside or outside the classroom? 

Edith Cohn
SPIRIT’S KEY
FSG/Macmillan20518878

In SPIRIT’S KEY, Spirit lives on Bald Island and attends school in a one-room classroom with all the island’s kids. Their teacher Mrs. Dialfield tries to keep them all on the same topic but at different levels. Lately Spirit is having trouble learning because she is grieving the loss of her beloved dog Sky. Mrs. Dialfield is kind and understanding and always smiles at Spirit even when she comes in late and doesn’t turn in her assignments. Mrs. Dialfield is also the only one who believes her when Spirit says she sees the ghost of her dog. “Lots of impossible things happen on this island,” Mrs. Dialfield says. Indeed, Spirit and Sky have a book full of adventures to come!

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AllFourStarsTara Dairman
ALL FOUR STARS
Putnam/Penguin

School is not exactly Gladys Gatsby’s favorite place–she doesn’t have many friends, and the lunches her parents pack for her are anything but inspiring. That all changes, though, when new teacher Ms. Quincy takes over Gladys’s sixth-grade class. Ms. Quincy convinces Gladys to embrace her passion for cooking and write about it for the statewide sixth-grade essay contest…but even she has no idea how much that one assignment is about to revolutionize Gladys’s life.

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Heidi Schulz
HookCover_frontonly_72 HOOK’S REVENGE
Disney-Hyperion

Jocelyn, the only daughter of Captain Hook, hates finishing school. What good will lessons in embroidery, dance, French, and manners be to the fierce pirate she intends to become? She wants to be out having adventures now, not decorating pincushions!

When Jocelyn is charged with avenging her father on the Neverland crocodile, she happily says goodbye to a school and all its useless information. It’s not like knowing which fork to use will save her life one day. Or will it?

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Jen Malone
AT YOUR SERVICE
Aladdin/Simon & Schuster

I don’t have any scenes set in school in At Your Service (well, except for one on the steps outside, where she gets picked up by the hotel limo amid immense jealousy from her classmates!) but I can say that my main character Chloe gets taken to school in a big way by a trio of visiting royals. Chloe is all about following proper protocol (no matter how weird it feels to say “Excuse me, Your Royal Highness Princess Ingrid of Somerstein” to anineyear-old, every time she needs to ask a basic question) but she won’t get the respect or approval of these kids until she figures out how to see past her official role as junior concierge and to recognize the ordinary kids inside the royal trappings. Sometimes a VIP would rather the emphasis on the “P” than the ”VI” and Chloe will take some hard knocks before learning that!

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Adriana Brad Schannen
QUINNY & HOPPER
Disney-HyperionQ&H cover from online

New neighbors Quinny and Hopper overcome a disastrous introduction to begin a magical summer friendship. The kind you never forget. It’s a summer full of juggling lessons, accordion playing, the biggest mud puddle ever — and the screwball adventure of reuniting an eccentric homeless chicken with her far-away family.

But then summer ends, and fall brings new haircuts, new schedules — and new anxieties. Quinny is excited to start 3rd grade, but grows unsettled by gossip about all the changes reportedly ahead, especially new “rules” regarding boy-girl friendships. Hopper, too, worries that once they get to school, everything will change. Especially when Quinny finds out the awful secret he’s been hiding all summer. Let’s just say neither of them gets much sleep the night before that first day of school!

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Matt London
THE 8TH CONTINENT
Razorbill/Penguin8thcontinentcover

One of the most important elements of drama is Change, and learning is one of the primary ways storytellers like us have our characters change. Each main character in THE 8TH CONTINENT gets schooled in a different way. Rick may be a super-genius, and Evie may be street smart (but hate school), but that doesn’t mean they don’t have much to learn from each other, and from the world around them. Teachers are key here. Their father teaches them. So does their father’s old research partner, Doctor Grant. For Rick and Evie, these teachers are even more important than their instructors at the International School for Exceptional Students. Sure, at school Rick and Evie may skydive into social studies, eat sushi in the cafeteria, and enjoy video game design classes, but that doesn’t mean school can’t be a drag, too.

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Gayle Rosengren
WHAT THE MOON SAID
Putnam/Penguin

The main character must learn and change in the course of any successful story. In What the Moon Said, Esther learns academics in the two-room schoolhouse but also, by virtue of the much smaller class and school size, she learns much more about her fellow students’ families and personal circumstances than she ever did at her large Chicago school. At home, Ma is constantly “schooling” Esther in superstitions and signs. And throughout the story Esther is learning from her experiences and observations, so that her desperate need early in the book to hear “I love you” from Ma is far less urgent by the story’s end, because Esther has learned that it is actions, not words, that matter most.

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Louise GalvestonBytheGraceofTodd_slsconf copy
BY THE GRACE OF TODD
Razorbill/Penguin

Todd and his even dorkier best friend, Duddy, are dreading the first day of middle school where the bullies are sure to only get bigger and meaner than the ones they’ve left behind. But when man-child and mega bully, Max, befriends Todd, it looks like his loser days are behind him…and so is his friendship with Duddy. Todd learns the hard way that life is a lot rougher on the other side of puberty, and in the end, the coolest person you can be is yourself.

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Robin Herrera
HopeIs HOPE IS A FERRIS WHEEL
Amulet Books

Pepperwood Elementary is not for the light-hearted.

In her first three months at school, Star Mackie learns that blue mullets make you stand out, that sometimes the way you hear a name isn’t how it’s spelled, and that teachers can be just as mean as students. But Star also learns about the Mayflower, something like 70 new words, and everything about Emily Dickinson. She also learns that Emily Dickinson is not the only poet worth reading, and that The Trailer Park Club is a terrible name for a club.
Pepperwood Elementary is a pretty tough school, as it turns out, but Star’s getting the hang of it.

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When Audrey Met Alice final coverRebecca Behrens
WHEN AUDREY MET ALICE
Sourcebooks

First Daughter Audrey is rather lonely at Friends School—the fancy private academy she attends in Washington, DC. (You might be lonely, too, if Secret Service agents followed you around the campus!) She finds friendship and understanding from an unexpected source: Alice Roosevelt’s long-hidden diary. It’s through reading about Alice’s hijinks, struggles, and heartbreak that Audrey learns how to be herself—no matter what House she’s living in.

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Lauren Magaziner
TheOnlyThingWorseTh#FEB1942 THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN WITCHES
Dial/Penguin

What Rupert learns in the classroom:
1. Never make eye contact with Mrs. Frabbleknacker, or she will most certainly call on you. And if she calls on you, she will make you stand upside down for an hour . . . or something equally awful.
2. He is very, very unlucky to be placed in Class B with dreadful Mrs. Frabbleknacker.

What Rupert learns outside the classroom:
1. With a great friend, he can get through anything, even Mrs. Frabbleknacker’s class.
2. Being a witchling’s apprentice was not at ALL what he expected. (Like brewing egg salad potion? Really??)

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Dana Alison Levy
THE MISADVENTURES OF THE FAMILY FLETCHER18769364
Delacorte/Random House

THE MISADVENTURES OF THE FAMILY FLETCHER starts in September, and follows the four Fletcher boys through the school year. While each boy learns a lot in school, the real lessons they learn are about themselves. Sam learns that it’s okay to have more than one passion; Eli learns that being smart doesn’t always mean being right; Jax learns that people are not always what they seem, or what you hope or fear; and Frog…? Well, Frog learns that real and imaginary worlds can sometimes overlap, causing utter mayhem! Hopefully, the lesson all the Fletchers learn is that they can count on their family to make them laugh, even when there’s cat barf to clean up.

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With only three segments left, are there any middle grade topics you want to hear about? Let us know in the comments!

We’ll be back on Monday October 6th. In a while, crocodile!

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.
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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.

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

Dana Levy

Boys, more boys, and SHENANIGANS!

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Gayle Rosengren
WHAT THE MOON SAID
Putnam/Penguin

Esther & Mickey

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Heidi Schulz
HOOK’S REVENGE
Disney-Hyperion

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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.

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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.

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Lauren Magaziner
THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN WITCHES
Dial/Penguin

IMG_4388

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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.

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Rachel Searles
THE LOST PLANET
Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan

Rachel Searles

Music = Energy = Inspiration!

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Rebecca Behrens
WHEN AUDREY MET ALICE
Sourcebooks

Rebecca Behrens

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

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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! 🙂

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Paul Durham
THE LUCK UGLIES
HarperCollins

Paul Durham

The morning commute.

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Skila Brown
CAMINAR
Candlewick Press

Skila Brown

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Tara Dairman
ALL FOUR STARS
Putnam/Penguin

Indian food

Mmmm, Indian food.

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Tracy Holczer
THE SECRET HUM OF A DAISY
Putnam/Penguin

Tracy Holczer

One of Mama’s birds.

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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.
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Mad For Middle Grade: Behind the Scenes

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!

Looking for a summer beach read? Then look no further than our adorable, delicious, delightful July releases:

ALL FOUR STARS
by Tara Dairman
Release date: July 10
Goodreads

THE MISADVENTURES OF THE FAMILY FLETCHER
by Dana Alison Levy
Release date: July 22
Goodreads

Hooray for Tara and Dana’s spectacular debuts! If you haven’t read them yet, then RUN–don’t walk–to your nearest bookstore or library! Trust me.

Ever wonder why authors choose particular names, include certain scenes, or write about specific topics? Want to learn some little-known facts about the writing of our books? Allow us to give you a sneak peek into some behind the scenes moments!

Question: Tell a behind the scenes story about your book!

Skila Brown
CAMINAR
Candlewick Presscaminar

Caminar is based on actual events, but since the story is fiction, I decided not to use real place names. Instead, I made up names, offering a nod to significant words and places. The name of the camp that the rebels are travelling towards, for example, is Ixchandé, which is inspired by Iximché, a place that was once the capital base of the Kaqchikel Maya around the time that the Spaniards invaded. And during the time of Carlos’s story, Iximché held an important meeting where many Guatemalans declared that they would organize and rise up against the militant government. 

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Robin Herrera
HOPE IS A FERRIS WHEEL
Amulet BooksHopeIs

I don’t usually name my characters after people I know. USUALLY. But when I was writing the book that would become HOPE IS A FERRIS WHEEL, I was also working at an elementary school. One of my favorite students was a kindergartner named Gloria. I worked one-on-one with her a lot and loved how silly and sweet she was. So when I needed a name for Star’s bubbly, sugar-obsessed pseudo-godmother (who is actually based on ME), I borrowed Gloria’s name. I don’t know if Gloria will ever read the book or make the connection, but it’s there because she always brightened my day.

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Kate Hannigan
CUPCAKE COUSINS
Disney-Hyperion

51nY5kdGT2L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_I knew I wanted my book to be very Midwestern, so set my story in Saugatuck, Michigan, which is this wonderful beach town along the Lake Michigan shoreline in Western Michigan. For Chicagoans who want to make a quick escape in the summertime, it’s an easy trip – no hassles of air travel, lots of fruit picking along the way. It’s a wonderful place to shed the big-city woes and just run around barefoot and enjoy the sand and the sun. I feel like with today’s plugged-in generation, kids don’t experience summertime the same way as generations before them. For too many kids, it’s a time to sit around in air-conditioning playing video games. I wanted to create a place where the characters shed all that and key into the beauty of the area – catching the sunsets, discovering hummingbirds, looking up at the stars as they light up a night sky. Old school joys of being out of school.

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Jen Malone
AT YOUR SERVICE
Aladdin/Simon & Schuster

For most of my childhood, my dad INSISTED he was the missing crown prince of Lithuania. The reason for the fake royal blood? My table manners. Every time he spotted my elbows on the table, I’d hear, “When I return to my birthright, you’re not going to be able to attend royal events at the castle with manners like that.” At a certain point, I learned to place my napkin in my lap (confession: I still sometimes sneak a book under it during dinner!) and I realized my father was, well, full of it. But I also knew exactly who to name the King of Somerstein after when it came time to write my book. You’re welcome for the promotion, Dad!

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Edith Cohn
SPIRIT’S KEY
FSG/Macmillan20518878

The “key” in SPIRIT’S KEY was inspired by a handmade ring I’d made from some Alice in Wonderland fabric. The fabric had all these cute little images on it: a key, a mirror, a rabbit, a cake. I’d isolated the key and made a ring with it that was sitting on my dresser when I was contemplating Spirit’s story. I knew already that Spirit’s Dad was a psychic—one who specifically had the ability to see the future. But I didn’t know how. I saw the key ring, and thought: Yes! People’s house keys! That’s how Dad will know their future. And Spirit’s Key was born.

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Rebecca Petruck
STEERING TOWARD NORMAL
Abrams/Amulet

Researching Steering Toward Normal was so much fun because I visited farms, state fairs, interviewed amazing 4-H’ers, and witnessed a ton of moments that I basically reported verbatim. Like the toddler at the Minnesota State Fair who moo’ed his guts out at a steer’s butt for five minutes, just pleased as heck he knew what sound a cow makes and very determined to get this particular animal to make it back to him. The little guy was hoarse by the time his mom led him away. The scene almost didn’t make the cut, but how could I not shoehorn in such cuteness?

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

18769364

THE MISADVENTURES OF THE FAMILY FLETCHER is filled with true happenings (both good and bad) and inside jokes. But one fun secret: their name didn’t start out as Fletcher. They were the family Furnival, until I got some editorial feedback that “some people” thought “Furnival sounded like “funeral.” I know, I don’t really hear it either. Anyway, off I went on a wild search for a new name! Then my editor said, “well, wasn’t the dog in your aunt’s (author Elizabeth Levy) books named Fletcher? What if you named the family after that dog?” So the family Fletcher was born, and only a few people knew that they were named for a basset hound in my aunt’s books! (If you want to see the original Fletcher dog, check here: http://elizabethlevy.com/booksall/ !)

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Tara Dairman
ALL FOUR STARS
Putnam/PenguinAllFourStars

As you may have noticed, Gladys Gatsby shares a last name with a certain other character from literature. Some people assume that this is a reference to “The Great Gatsby,” and it is–but not in the way they think. I’ve never been a fan of that book, so it’s always rankled me that Jay Gatsby is probably the most famous fictional literary character to live on Long Island (where I grew up, and where Gladys lives). So I guess I paid a tiny bit of homage by borrowing the name…but mostly, I just wanted to reclaim and reimagine it. My apologies to Fitzgerald!

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Louise Galveston
BY THE GRACE OF TODD
Razorbill/PenguinBytheGraceofTodd_slsconf copy

In By the Grace of Todd, Persephone, the spunky Toddlian, is sold as a slave to one of evil Max’s bully buddies. At his house she watches an hombre named John Wayne on TV and so admires his toughness that she becomes a self-styled cowgirl.
Her character is a tribute to my cowboy father, who is my hero and a huge fan of the Duke. I also love the work of Louis L’Amour, and his lingo definitely influenced my writing. Persephone gets a lot more page time in the upcoming In Todd We Trust, as do the rest of the Toddlians. “GERONIMOOOO!!!”

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Heidi Schulz
HOOK’S REVENGE
Disney-HyperionHookCover_frontonly_72

Jocelyn’s pirate crew in HOOK’S REVENGE are so desperate to look experienced that they pretend to have battle wounds. There is One-Armed Jack (who keeps an arm tucked inside his shirt), Jim McCraig with a Wooden Leg (who only has a giant sliver in his toe), Blind Bart (who could see fine if he would remove at least one of his eye patches), and Nubbins. Nubbins lost a thumb in a cooking mishap, but claimed a giant squid bit it off. Since he is the only one with the glory of a real injury, I let him keep his given name. He would have felt less need to embellish. 

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Lauren Magaziner
THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN WITCHES
Dial/Penguin

Here’s a quick glance at how I found some of my characters’ names:

Fairfoul WitchFairfoul was a name I stole off a gravestone in St. Andrews, Scotland.

Rupert: When trying to think of a perfect name for the protagonist, Rupert and Rufus were the first things that popped into my head. I went with Rupert because “Rufus” always makes me think of the (awesome) naked mole rat on Kim Possible.

Allison: One of my best friends once complained to me that there were never any nice, decent book characters named Allison. Challenge accepted!

Bruno: My nod to Roald Dahl’s THE WITCHES.

Rupert’s mom: Her name–Joanne–is only mentioned once in the whole book, but I named her after my favorite author, J.K. Rowling.

Mrs. Frabbleknacker: OK, this one just came from my brain. Fully formed. And weird.

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Jennifer Downey
THE NINJA LIBRARIANS
Sourcebooks

51qfkCHJ1QL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_THE NINJA LIBRARIANS is rife with real people, speeches, books, songs, and gadgets, summoned from history to help tell would-be sword-fighter Dorrie Barnes’ story. In it, the time-traveling warrior lybrarians call their headquarters “Petrarch’s Library”. I had never heard the phrase when I came across it scrawled cross-ways, loose, and all by itself on a piece of paper in a spiral notebook during a rare deepish house cleaning. I hadn’t written it, nor had anyone else in the family. The suggestive phrase wouldn’t leave me alone, and conjured the first images for me of a sprawling library connecting ancient and modern times. Petrarch the 14th c. humanist, it tickled me to learn, was a book fiend and restless traveler who often hit the roads leading a short train of donkeys laden with his personal library.

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Rebecca Behrens
WHEN AUDREY MET ALICE
Sourcebooks

When Audrey Met Alice final coverI wanted to write about a fictional First Daughter, and I also wanted to write about the very real and awesome Alice Roosevelt. But I didn’t know which story idea to pick, or how to put those two together—at least without time travel.

I was waiting to cross the street at 62nd and Madison when suddenly the concept for not AUDREY or ALICE but WHEN AUDREY MET ALICE popped into my head. A presidential tween could find Alice’s diary and get ideas for running riot in the 21st century! I went home and outlined the whole book.

Later, while researching, I found out that the very intersection where inspiration struck was where young Alice lived with her Auntie Bye. Coincidence?

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Ryan Gebhart
THERE WILL BE BEARS
Candlewick Press

There’s a scene in THERE WILL BE BEARS where Tyson threatens his friend Brighton that if he doesn’t confess to liking Taylor Swift, he’ll hack up a wad of snot and spit it into his mouth. Most people would like to believe something this disgusting is entirely fictitious, however, yeah… no. I have five older brothers. I’ve been pinned down by my brother Jacob, a wad of snot dangling from his lips. It fell into my screaming mouth that pleaded for mercy.

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What other behind the scenes info do you want to know about any of our books? Have any questions for particular authors? We’ll answer questions in the comments section!

After that cold winter, please enjoy that hot summer sun! And be sure to return for another segment of Mad For Middle Grade on Monday August 4th.

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.