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Cover Reveal!! The Winterton Deception 2: Fault Lines by Janet Sumner Johnson

I am beyond excited to share the cover of one of my most anticipated books this year:  The Winterton Deception 2: Fault Lines, by the wonderful writer (and my great friend), Janet Sumner Johnson.

 

Before we reveal the cover, please tell us a little bit about the Winterton Deception 2:  Fault Lines.

The Winterton Deception 2: Fault Lines has a kidnapping, a clue hunt, lots of family tension, and, of course, a treasure to find.

After the incredible events of the last official Winterton Bee, Hope and Gordon Smith have discovered that having an extended family isn’t so bad . . . and maybe their famous relatives’ lives aren’t so charmed. But Hope is still hiding a secret, and it’s a big one.

When Elizabeth Springer goes missing just before the Winterton’s big Thanksgiving celebration—their first reunion since the spelling bee—Hope knows it’s time to come clean. Her secret may be the only thing that can save Ms. Springer. But none of the Winterton clan want to hear it. Worse, they accuse Hope of making up the whole thing as an attention-grab.

Poised to give up on her new-found family, Hope gets a cryptic coded letter with instructions on how to find James Winterton—her long-estranged grandfather. What’s more, the letter hints that the Winterton’s secrets go well beyond a simple hidden treasure. Now Hope and Gordon face the impossible task of convincing their family to follow a shifty clue to find the man they want to see least, in order to save the woman who’s been lying to them for years.

I can’t wait for it to hit shelves!

 

And…The Reveal:

 

Cover Art by Francisco Fonseca

 

It’s gorgeous!!! I know that there’s a secret about the cover. Tell us about that.

I would love to! When my editor approached me about the cover for Book 2, we discussed all the possibilities, but really wanted to keep the mood and atmosphere that the cover of FINAL WORD offers. Happily, I had recently done some research for Book 2 and had taken some photos of a key location in the story. I sent off these photos, and the cover artist, Francisco Fonseca, created this brilliant work of art. It’s so fun to have had a part in the making of the cover (even if it’s a small part)!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You left us with a big reveal at the end of Book 1. What twists and turns do you have in store for us with Book 2?

I did! Of course, I can’t tell you all the twists and turns, because that would spoil it for you, but I will tell you that while I waited for the very end to deliver the big reveal in Book 1, in Book 2, I offer a big reveal early on. I’m so excited for readers to get to that moment! Writing a second book (which was not in the plan until it sold as a series) was so satisfying because I got to explore these characters a little more deeply. Unexpected emotions surfaced, and I learned things about them I hadn’t known when I started. Can I confess I still cry every time I read the ending? But they’re happy tears! It’s amazing to watch your characters grow and change.

Thank you so much for having me and for hosting the cover reveal for Fault Lines!

 

The Winterton Deception 2:  Fault Lines is available for pre-order now and will be hitting bookstores October 8, 2024.

 

Cover Reveal with Janet Sumner Johnson | MUF

Janet Sumner Johnson writes both picture books and middle grade novels. Her debut picture book, Help Wanted: Must Love Books, was the winner of the 2021 CLEL BELL Read Award and was nominated for the Children’s Choice Book Awards in Colorado (2022) and Washington (2023). The first book of her middle grade mystery series, The Winterton Deception 1: Final Word received starred trade reviews from Kirkus, Publisher’s Weekly, and Booklist. When she isn’t writing, she loves eating cookies, playing the piano, and singing along with the radio at the top of her lungs. She lives in Utah with her husband, three kids, and her dog. Visit her online at janetsumnerjohnson.com.

 

 

 

 

Are you excited about The Winterton Deception 2:  Fault Lines? Let us know in the comments below.

Winnie Nash Is Not Your Sunshine: An Interview with Author Nicole Melleby

Looking for a great coming-of-age book? Winnie Nash Is Not Your Sunshine has a little bit of everything. It will be the perfect summer read. I love getting a chance to interview the author and learn more about how the book came to be.

About the Book

Hi Nicole! I really enjoyed Winnie Nash Is Not Your Sunshine. It reminded me a lot of Judy Blume’s Are You There, God, It’s Me Margaret in that your character was relatable and a great example of a young teen trying to make sense of the world and her place in it.

Can you give us a short summary about the book?

Winnie Nash is a twelve-year-old kid who is staying with her grandmother, who lives in a senior citizen community center in Seabright on the Jersey Shore for the summer. Her mom is pregnant again after a string of miscarriages and is coming off of a really deep depression, so while she and Winnie’s dad take some time to “regroup”, they send Winnie to have a summer at the shore with her grandmother.

The problem is, Winnie’s parents don’t want her telling her grandmother about how bad her mom’s depression was, and they don’t want Winnie telling her grandmother about how Winnie already knows she’s gay, too. It’s a lot of weight to put on Winnie’s shoulders, particularly since all she wants is to find a community in which she can be herself with—which is why her dream is to go to NYC Pride.

Throughout the book, Winnie learns how to carve out space for herself and find the people in her life who are there to hold her when she needs to feel held.

About the Author

How did your childhood help to shape Winnie Nash Is Not Your Sunshine?

I grew up here in New Jersey and spent almost the entirety of my childhood on the Seabright beaches, where I set Winnie’s grandmother’s home. Like Winnie, my cousins and I used to walk along the seawall, gazing out at the water and the New York City skyline across the bay, dreaming of our future. Also like Winnie, I used to wonder what it would be like to be able to be out and confident and able to go to NYC Pride and celebrate with a community I wanted so badly to feel like I belonged to.

When did you begin writing? And what did you do before that?

I began writing when I was eight years old and saw the Harriet the Spy movie adaptation, and wanted to carry around a notebook like she did and write about everything. I started coming up with stories in those notebooks, and haven’t stopped writing since! I got my undergrad college degree in TV/Fillm (I wanted to write for soap operas!) and I worked for a little while as a personal trainer, but I always came back to writing, which is what my focus is on now.

What authors and/or books would you say influenced your writing style and/or this book?

I’m always inspired by Kate DiCamillo’s stories—she’s the first writer who I felt like gave me permission to let my middle grade characters be sad. Kids can be sad, and I think Winnie is a very sad, confused, and angry kid. I also was an MFA student of Eliot Schrefer, and I learned from him a lot then, and I still learn from him a lot now, as his friend.

What is something from your childhood that you snuck into the book? (Were you similar to Winnie?)

It’s funny, because when writing Winnie, I didn’t particularly think she was much like me, or that I wrote from a personal place with her—not anywhere close to what I had done when I wrote my second book, In the Role of Brie Hutchens, at least. Brie was a character that was wholly like myself and who I was as an 8th grader, so much so that I always say that Brie Hutchens is my most personal book. But a colleague of mine at Fairleigh Dickinson, where I teach (Minna Zallman Proctor, who is a wonderful translator and writer of creative nonfiction) read an earlier draft of Winnie and mentioned how much she sees *me* in this book, and I’ve since reflected on it a bit more. I think it’s there in a lot less obvious pieces than with Brie, but I think that I connect with Winnie’s yearning, and sadness, and anger, a lot more than I let myself realize when I sat down to write her.

 

Research/Writing

You tackled a lot of important topics (mental illness, embracing one’s sexuality, dealing with miscarriages, and family secrets). Was there one of these topics that you started with? Can you tell us how the story then came together?

Mental health and embracing one’s sexuality are two things I always aim to write about in my books, so I didn’t start with these topics but I always knew that they’d be included. And for this book in particular, I knew that I wanted Winnie to be well aware of her own sexuality and confident about it—she’s not confused about liking girls. But what I actually started with was the idea that Winnie’s mom had struggled with these miscarriages she had.

One in four pregnancies end in miscarriages, so I know that Winnie as an “almost-sibling” isn’t alone. It’s not my story to tell, but before my younger brother was born, my mom had miscarriages—I was younger than Winnie and it didn’t affect my own life like it does Winnie’s, and now being an adult who has friends who have experienced their own losses, it’s something that I thought deserved space on the page in a middle grade book. It’s sad, and it’s hard, but like I said earlier (thanks to what I’ve learned by reading Kate DiCamillo) kids can be sad, they can go through hard things, and they deserve to have stories written about them, too.

Which topic was the most difficult to write about?

The miscarriages, and how it affected Winnie’s parents. I think it was a difficult balance to get right; Winnie’s mom and her dad are human, they’re people, they’re struggling. And they make mistakes. They try and protect and shield Winnie, but only end up hurting her more. They are in the middle of their own grief and fear and trying to find their way to the other side of it. They suck at it; they’re doing their best. They make a lot of bad choices, but it’s the only choices they know how to make. Hopefully they learn. Hopefully they grow. Hopefully Winnie finds strength in the relationships she has with her grandmother and the people around her so that she’ll be okay.

A lot of my readers have been coming down hard on Winnie’s parents, and I get it, I do. I’m mad at them, too. But I think that life is hard and complicated for everyone involved, and writing that, figuring it out and getting this family to a place where they could maybe, hopefully, someday be okay, was the one thing I wanted to do right.

I read on your website [nicolemelleby.com] that you have a lot of Easter eggs connecting your books! I love that idea. Any hints?

Here is my favorite easter egg: Every single one of my books has the characters ordering or eating pizza from Timoney’s Pizzeria—which some readers may recognize from my book How to Become a Planet (every single one, including the books that came before How to Become a Planet did!) But since all of my books take place in the same area of New Jersey, if you read carefully enough, you might just find even more overlap!

For Teachers

Are you doing school visits related to this book?

I love doing school visits and am happy to and available to do visits with middle school students! I usually do visits with 5th-8th grade classrooms, where I talk about what it’s like to be a writer, how I became a writer, and what it’s like to write about mental health and identity. If you want to find out more about my school visits, you can head to hownowbooking.com!

How can we learn more about you?

You can find out more about me at www.nicolemelleby.com, or say hey to me on social media! I’m currently most active on Instagram, @nicolemelleby.

Thanks for your time, Nicole.

Be sure to check out Winnie Nash Is Not Your Sunshine!

The Magic & Power of Critique

Last summer, I took over the challenge of the Kansas/Missouri SCBWI regional volunteer critique coordinator position. One of my first tasks was to find ways for creators in our region to make connections and feel part of the SCBWI community even though our region covers a large geographical area. I had an idea for a virtual event we call Critique & Meet. 

The Critique & Meet idea is a monthly virtual gathering that’s part social, part critique, and 100% the KSMO SCBWI community coming together to help each other create. It’s like an open-mic night combined with a speed-dating version of critiquing. 

The goal is to provide a forum to meet other creators (perhaps even form outside critique groups), improve existing stories, and bounce story ideas off each other. Even if participants don’t create the specific category for a particular event, all are welcome to attend and participate in the critiques. The underlying philosophy is that we are all in this grand adventure together!

The basic setup for each virtual event gives four creators ten minutes to read and screen share their PB text, the first 500 words of a middle-grade/young adult project, or an illustration. After the presentation, a link is shared to a short critique questionnaire in a poll form for everyone to fill out. The results of each presenter’s critique poll are sent or shared with them upon event completion. 

The virtual session is open to any regional SCBWI members interested in helping others improve their manuscripts or illustrations. At the end of every session, we have a social block where we can hang out and talk kidlit, life, how dirty my office is, etc. Here are the Critique & Meet goals and rules:

The goals are to:

  1. Improve our work and learn by helping others.
  2. Make connections.
  3. Find critique partners and form critique relationships. The connections you make are worth their weight in gold.
  4. Discover/Remind yourself that you are not alone.

The Critique & Meet Ground Rules

  1. Help not hurt. A critique is not a debate. Respect the creator and respect the people providing their critique thoughts. It’s all about helping each other create the best version of our work. When in doubt, choose nice!
  2. Learn from both sides of the table. The creator learns ways to improve their work. The audience learns how to read and listen analytically.  
  3. Don’t share the work presented.
  4. Make connections. 

We’ve done two of these monthly Critique & Meet events and I’ve been happy with the results. There were around 20 participants for each event and the creators presenting their work report they’ve received good information from the quick critique polls. We’ve even had participants interested in forming a few local critique groups.

The moral of the story is no matter where you are in your creative journey, having fellow creative travelers along with you is a great benefit. If you are interested in creating or hosting something similar to our region’s Critique & Meet or have ideas to help establish/maintain critique relationships, please comment below. 

 

Adolphe Henri Laissement, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons