We have another amazing author visit today here on The Mixed-Up Files!
Despite being a debut author in the middle grade arena, this author might already be familiar to you. It’s William Ritter, the author of the New York Times bestselling Jackaby series, which deserves a major round of applause. But he’s here to share his intriguing #mglit tale of vanishing magic, the Wild Woods, goblins, and more! And to top all this newness off, William shared with me that this is the first time his own illustrations are being used in one of his books. Super cool!
Hi William, it’s such a pleasure to speak with you again. We’re very excited to have you here. Tell us, what books did you find most memorable as you were growing up?
I loved so many books growing up. As a teen, I liked the witty language of PG Wodehouse and the silly situations of Douglas Adams. When I was a middle-grade reader, the standout was probably Patricia Wrede’s fantastical Dealing with Dragons.
Do you think they’ve influenced you as an adult? As a writer?
The stories I loved as a kid are deep in my bones now—and they definitely influence the books I write. Wrede’s series, set in the Enchanted Forest, borrows all manner of classic folktale tropes, turning them on their head and reimagining them in clever, playful ways. My MG debut, The Oddmire, is set in the Wild Wood, and it is absolutely following in Wrede’s literary footsteps.
Speaking of THE ODDMIRE, let’s show the readers your book.
Magic is fading from the Wild Wood. To renew it, goblins must perform an ancient ritual involving the rarest of their kind—a newborn changeling. But when the fateful night arrives to trade a human baby for a goblin one, something goes terribly wrong. After laying the changeling in a human infant’s crib, the goblin Kull is briefly distracted from his task. By the time he turns back, the changeling has already perfectly mimicked the human child. Too perfectly: Kull cannot tell them apart. Not knowing which to bring back, he leaves both babies behind.
Tinn and Cole are raised as human twins, neither knowing what secrets may be buried deep inside one of them. Then when they are twelve years old, a mysterious message arrives, calling the brothers to be heroes and protectors of magic. The boys must leave behind their sleepy town of Endsborough and risk their lives in the Wild Wood, crossing the perilous Oddmire swamp and journeying through the Deep Dark to reach the goblin horde and discover who they truly are.
In this first book in a new fantasy-adventure series, New York Times bestselling author William Ritter takes readers on a journey of monsters, magic, and discovery.
Love this cover! And the story sounds like a non-stop race and adventure. What was your favorite part of writing this story?
Making my own kids laugh. I have two boys (the inspiration for the Burton twins in The Oddmire). MG readers are a very discerning audience with little patience for boring prose—so when I read my drafts to my boys and they laugh at the funny bits or demand to hear the next chapter, it makes my heart happy.
Okay, this answer just made my heart all squishy. Was there anything that surprised you while writing The Oddmire?
There are always tiny ideas that grow into huge elements as a book evolves. The character of Fable wasn’t even in my earliest outlines, and I can’t imagine the story without her now. The Queen of the Deep Dark similarly began as a simple boogeyman, but the more I explored her character, the more depth I found.
*Note future writers: this is a teeny peek into what it’s really like to develop characters. And it is so much fun! What do you hope readers find within the pages of this story?
Having a family that looks different or comes together in an unconventional was is not a bad thing. Family can be messy & difficult, but real family is about love, not about clean, simple genealogy.
Gosh, this is truth and such a wonderful message for kids to grasp. Okay, we know this is a series. Any sneak peeks into what’s to come?
Changeling is centered around the Burton twins. They meet many fun characters along the way, but in the end, it’s their story. The Unready Queen bring the twins back, but turns its focus toward the enigmatic Fable, a girl from the Wild Woods. It’s her turn.
*flails Kermet arms* This is very exciting! It will be great to get to know Fable even more.
For our reading writers, what’s the most valuable writing advice you’ve ever received?
E.B. White (Charlotte’s Web) once said: “A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.” Truth! Sometimes you’ll feel truly inspired—other times you’ll have to drag each word out. Sometimes you’ll write in a clean, tidy office—other times you’ll be sitting on the back seat of a city bus. Sometimes you’ll write in the quiet morning light on a vintage typewriter with a steamy cup of tea beside you—other times you’ll poke letters into a cell phone notepad in the middle of the night because you woke up to a screaming baby and then got an idea for a new story. Readers will never know which passages were written under “ideal” circumstances and which you scraped out of the muck. Just let yourself write.
Such wonderful advice, William. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and your work with us. Looking forward the The Oddmire’s release on July 16! Your friends at The Mixed-Up Files will be cheering you on.
Reports of William Ritter’s birthplace are unreliable and varied, placing his hometown either in a series of mysterious Catacombs in Malta or in a quiet town in Oregon. His parents, it can be confirmed, raised him to value intelligence, creativity, and individuality. When reading aloud, they always did the voices.
At the University of Oregon, William made questionable choices, including willfully selecting classes for the interesting stories they promised, rather than for any practical application. When he wasn’t frivolously playing with words, he earned credits in such meaningful courses as Trampoline, Juggling, and Seventeenth Century Italian Longsword. These dubious decisions notwithstanding, he regrets nothing and now holds degrees in English and education with certificates in creative writing and folklore.
He currently teaches high school language arts, including reading and writing, mythology and heroes. He is a proud husband and father. When reading aloud, he always does the voices. Find out more about William – WEBSITE | TWITTER
Readers, do you like fantasy middle grade like The Oddmire? If so, what do you like about fantasy?