Todd’s room borders on Hoarders-level messy. We’re talking Roomageddon here. When his mom gives him the ultimatum to clean it or miss his best friend’s birthday bash, Todd makes an amazing discovery: he has created an entire civilization of ant-sized people from the sheer grossness on his filthy sock. The “Toddlians” put their faith in their all-powerful creator, but can the kid who can’t even keep a hermit crab alive save them from Max Loving, the biggest bully at Wakefield Middle School?
Me: Welcome Louise! Thanks for joining us here at The Files. Why don’t you start by telling us why you write MG books?
Louise: The middle-grade years are that transformative time between dreams and reality–between being a kid and becoming a “responsible” adult. It’s the cocoon season, full of introspection and self-discovery. It was a huge period in my life, because I made a major move from the suburbs of Tulsa to a tiny rural Kansas town, and to fit in, I basically had to reinvent myself. All of that awkwardness really stuck in my psyche. I still feel like I’m in that place between immaturity and sophistication–somewhere between my Jack Black sense of humor and my Jane Austen sensibilities.
Me: With or without a move, I think many of us had to go through that transition at some point or another. What was your favorite MG book when you were a kid?
Louise: Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh. I still have my fifth grade copy. That book got under my skin and made me want to write (also was a good cautionary tale–I’m still careful about what I put in my journals!) And I loved the artwork. I consider myself an “underdeveloped” artist. I’d love to go back to school and get my art degree so I can illustrate my own books.
Me: I think that would be amazing! I really admire author/illustrators. So who or what was your inspiration for BY THE GRACE OF TODD?
Louise: I have eleven children, so you might say I preside over my own micro-civilization. With five sons (one of which just turned thirteen), I have boatloads of inspiration (and stinky socks that might be growing their own species). I also have a blankie-toating toddler who readers will recognize as Todd’s baby sister, Daisy. (Minus the “evil” in the evil genius.) Princess VanderPuff (Todd’s mom’s pernicious poodle) is based on the dog I had growing up, “Chachi”.
Me: Eleven children? Wow. I can’t help admire you for managing it all and being an author. I struggle to find balance with three kids! Okay. Last question. You’re at Hogwarts and you have one choice to do the following everyday for the next month: Eat earwax flavored jelly beans for every meal or battle the Whomping Willow.
Louise: Hmmm… well, I’ve been totally freaked out by scary trees since the first time I saw The Wizard of Oz, so I’m going to have to say the earwax flavored jellybeans, which might taste (or at least look) like popcorn flavored JellyBellies–one of my favorite food groups. My kids say I can eat anything, and I did once almost swallow a fried worm, like the hero in one of my other favorite middle-grade books.
Me: Whomping Willow it is! I never said I played nice 😉 Just kidding. I’ll give you chocolate instead, just for putting up with me. You deserve it!
Louise Galveston grew up on horseback and books in the Midwest, where she still lives. In addition to writing middle-grade novels, Louiise is resident playwright and director of her local children’s theater. She also enjoys performing occasionally alongside her husband and eleven children. When she’s not writing or at the theater, you can find Louise sketching or battling laundry.
From the Mixed-Up Files is the group blog of middle-grade authors celebrating books for middle-grade readers. For anyone with a passion for children’s literature—teachers, librarians, parents, kids, writers, industry professionals— we offer regularly updated book lists organized by unique categories, author interviews, market news, and a behind-the-scenes look at the making of a children's book from writing to publishing to promoting.