Author Interviews

Author Interview: Dianne Salerni and her latest release, The Carrefour Curse



The Addams Family meets The Westing Game in this exhilarating mystery about a modern magical dynasty trapped in the ruins of their once-grand, now-crumbling ancestral home.

Twelve-year-old Garnet regrets that she doesn’t know her family. Her mother has done her best to keep it that way, living far from the rest of the magical Carrefour clan and their dark, dangerous mansion known as Crossroad House.

But when Garnet finally gets summoned to the estate, it isn’t quite what she hoped for. Her relatives are strange and quarrelsome, each room in Crossroad House is more dilapidated than the last, and she can’t keep straight which dusty hallways and cobwebbed corners are forbidden. 

Then Garnet learns the family secret: their dying patriarch fights to retain his life by stealing power from others. Every accident that isn’t an accident, every unexpected illness and unexplained disappearance grants Jasper Carrefour a little more time. While the Carrefours squabbles over who will inherit his role when (if) he dies, Garnet encounters evidence of an even deeper curse. Was she brought to Crossroad House as part of the curse . . . or is she meant to break it?

Written with loads of creepy atmosphere and an edge-of-your-seat magical mystery, this thrilling story reads like The Haunting of Hill House for preteens. Perfect for late-night reading under the covers.


Today, we have the pleasure of hosting a favorite author of mine, Dianne K. Salerni, to talk about her latest release from Holiday House Books called, The Carrefour Curse. Here’s her official introduction:

Dianne K. Salerni has written many books for children, including Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selections Eleanor, Alice, and the Roosevelt Ghosts and Jadie in Five Dimensions. After teaching elementary school for twenty-five years, Dianne now spends her time hanging around creepy cemeteries and climbing 2,000-year-old pyramids for book research. Visit her online at

Dianne can also be found online at: 

The Interview

MH: One of my favorite things as a reader and a creator is the author’s story of their story. The journey and brain science behind how a story grew from bits and pieces of an idea to a book on the shelf is fascinating to me. What is the origin story of your latest middle-grade release, The Carrefour Curse?

Dianne: There were two main inspirations for The Carrefour Curse: Dark Shadows, the supernatural soap opera, and The Spook House, a vignette written by Ambrose Bierce. My mother was a fan of Dark Shadows, and I used to watch the show as a young child even though I wasn’t allowed to. I hid behind the sofa and became a lifelong fan of all things gothic. As for the Bierce story, the image of a locked room filled with dead people haunted me for a long time, and I tried for years to build a plot around it. When I got the idea to combine Dark Shadows and The Spook House, the result was The Carrefour Curse.

I wrote the first draft in 2017, and when it was finished, I proclaimed it “a terrible mess,” closed the document, and forgot about it. Fast forward to early 2020, when I devoured the Netflix series, Locke & Key. I loved that show so much, I made a list of all the elements that called to me and thought, I’d like to write a story with these elements. Then I remembered I already had!  For the first time in three years, I opened the document named Crossroad House, read it, and discovered that, although it was messy, it wasn’t terrible. Revising this manuscript soon became my pandemic project.

MH: I’ve always been drawn to your ability to create real and believable fictional worlds within a recognizable “normal” story world. From the magical extra day of The Eighth Day series to the extra dimension worlds of Jadie in Five Dimensions, you build logical worlds that allow the reader to seamlessly move in and out of. I realize my begging at your feet and screaming,  “How do you do this?” is too broad and too unfair of a question to ask, but can you share a few steps of how you create such effective world shifts in your books? 

Dianne: Well, it certainly doesn’t happen in the first draft, that’s for sure! The world-building usually starts with an idea. Like: There’s a secret day hidden between Wednesday and Thursday. Or: Our 3-dimensional universe exists inside a larger 4-dimensional universe. In my first draft, world-building is thin, disjointed, and often contradictory as I try to nail down the plot. After the story is complete, I work on a list of “rules” for my alternate world, with my priority being that the rules have to allow all my events to happen and still make sense. In successive drafts, I work on the inconsistencies and the logic and make sure that the world elements saturate the story, instead of feeling tacked on. In the final drafts, I make a list of the chapters and chart what elements appear in each one. Has it been several chapters since my main character felt like Crossroad House was watching her or influencing events? I’ll work a mention in.

MH: Can you describe your creative process of how an idea becomes a fully-formed story in your hands? 

Dianne: Every book starts with a premise, like the secret day or the nesting universes, or an inspirational source, like Dark Shadows and The Spook House. Next, come the characters. Who are they and what happens to them? What is the main conflict? In rare cases, before I start writing, I’ll outline the entire story on Scrivener. I did that with Eleanor, Alice, & the Roosevelt Ghosts and also with the second and third books in the Eighth Day series. But most of the time, I outline the first third or half and then jump into writing because I don’t know how it all works out until it happens on the page. Sometimes there are surprises. In The Carrefour Curse, a rather important character invented herself in Chapter 23 and inserted herself into the climax, forcing me—in later drafts—to weave her very existence into the first half of the book. Sometimes, the surprise is that the book is a dud. There are many, many unfinished manuscripts on my computer.

MH: Are you a multiple-irons in-the-fire creator or a one-story-at-a-time creator?

Dianne: Usually, I’ll work on only one story at a time. If I’m struggling with it, I might put it aside to revise and polish an old manuscript. (The Carrefour Curse is not the only one of my books to come out of a resurrected manuscript.) Once in a while, publication deadlines require that I work on more than one thing at a time. While I was under contract for the Eighth Day series, I once found myself proofreading the galley of Book 1, making editorial revisions on Book 2, and drafting Book 3. I got so confused about what Jax knew and when he knew it that I had to rearrange my schedule to work on one at a time: first the proofreading, then the revisions, and finally back to drafting.

MH: Can you describe your experience with Holiday House in bringing The Carrefour Curse to its publication date? 

Dianne: Holiday House has been wonderful to work with. My last three books have been published through Holiday House, and I think my editor, Sally Morgridge, is brilliant. I love the covers they’ve commissioned for all three books – they’re all very different but each one perfect in its own way. The publicity department is enthusiastic and very communicative. In the past, I have worked with bigger publishers where I never had any contact with my “official publicist,” so this is a refreshing change!

MH: What’s next?

Dianne: I have a book on submission. Because it’s not recommended that we talk about works on submission, I’ll say only that it’s a comedy-mystery and somewhat different from my other books. While I wait for word on that, I’m drafting a middle grade horror story. We’ll see how that goes because I’m approaching the end of the “index cards” on my Scrivener corkboard and wading into the un-outlined part of the story. For me, this is the scariest part of my horror story!

MH: What are some of your favorite activities, outside of the butt-in-chair life of an author, to recharge your creative battery?

Twice a week, I volunteer at our local animal shelter. I walk dogs and service the cat room – feeding and cleaning up after the cats and assorted critters. (Currently, we have more rabbits than cats in the so-called cat room.) I have three hydroponic gardens in my home. I typically grow lettuce, tomatoes, and baby bok choy, but I’ve also experimented with sweet peas (too much vine and not enough peas), dwarf eggplants (they do better outside), and Swiss chard (nobody at my house would eat it). I also enjoy skiing and scuba diving, and my husband and I LOVE to make homemade pasta.


Thank you, Dianne, for a fantastic insight into your writer’s life and The Carrefour Curse. How can one not want to read a book with a tagline like, The Addams Family meets The Westing Game? The entire MUF family wishes much success for the book and for you. Personally, I can’t wait to read the next one.

For more information on The Carrefour Curse and Holiday House Books, check out the following links.

The Carrefour Curse Book Page @ Holiday House Books

Holiday House Books Socials

Interview with Middle Grade Author Beth McMullen

It’s a special day here at The Mixed Up Files when one of our own has a new book coming out. Yay! Time to celebrate Beth McMullen’s latest novel SECRET OF THE STORM: LAND OF DRAGONS—Out tomorrow!

Lisa: Tell us about Secret of The Storm: Land of Dragons

Beth: I find writing sequels a challenge, sometimes in a good way and sometimes not! But I love these characters so much, especially the relationship between Cassie and Albert, that I was excited to go back to their world. The way we love our animal companions is uncomplicated and beautiful and wanted to grow that in the second book. I also gave it an ending that is shocking even to me!

Lisa: Did you hide any Easter Eggs that only a few people will find?

Beth: If you’ve read my other middle grade series you were certainly see some cross over. As a reader, I love being rewarded by easter eggs (Stephen King is a master at this!) because it makes me feel like I’m in on a private joke. And that’s pretty fun.

Lisa: What is your writing Kryptonite?

Beth: Oh boy, just one??? Fatigue is probably the big one. If I’m exhausted my attention turns into a cloud that just floats right away at the slightest breeze. But knowing this helps me turn off the light and go to sleep at a reasonable hour because I hate losing a day because I can’t keep my eyes open.

Lisa: If you could tell your younger writing self, anything, what would it be?

Beth: It’s a marathon, not a sprint! Honestly, people who make it in this profession (and ‘making it’ has many definitions) are the ones who stay and don’t quit and persevere. If you can’t take the occasional kick in the teeth, this might not be the profession for you.

Lisa: Which scene was the hardest to write, and why?

Beth: The shocking ending that I talked about in question one! I wrote it and then thought ‘no way.’ It was too much. So I rewrote it a few times but none of those drafts worked and I ended up where I began.

Lisa: Which of the characters do you relate to the most and why?

Beth: The dragon. Kidding. I love how Cassie faces the challenges in her life and doesn’t completely go to pieces. And I was really happy with the angles in Cassie and Joe’s friendship. They are not the obvious choice for each other but it works.

Lisa: If you could spend a day with another author, dead or alive, who would you choose?

Beth: Stephen King. Yeah. Huge fan. I don’t think he gets enough credit for creating regular relatable people with such apparent ease. I’d love to wander around in his head for bit.

Lisa: What are you working on now?

Beth: I’m working on a novel for adult readers that I absolutely love. I’m having way too much fun!

Lisa: Last, but most important-What is your favorite podcast?

Beth: Writers with Wrinkles. Those ladies are so funny and informative! If you haven’t listened, download it right away. You don’t want to miss out on this one!

Beth McMullen is the author of the Mrs. Smith’s Spy School for Girls (Aladdin/S&S) series as well as the Lola Benko, Treasure Hunter (Aladdin/S&S) series. Her third middle grade series, Secret Of The Storm arrived in March 2021 with the second installment out March 7th, 2023.  Beth lives in Northern California with her husband, kids, cats and a very tolerant parakeet named Zeus.

You can reach her on FaceBook/Instagram @BethMcMullenBooks and on Twitter at @bvam.  Visit to email or for more information.

Turtles of the Midnight Moon: Debut Author Interview + Giveaway

Turtles of the Midnight Moon 

María José Fitzgerald takes us on an adventure to Honduras where we encounter many twists and turns in solving a mystery. I had a chance to find out more of the behind-the-scenes with my interview with her. Read to find out about how this book came to be, tips on writing your own eco-mystery, and ways to use the book in your classroom. Plus, enter the book giveaway for a chance to win a copy of Turtles of the Midnight Moon!

Maria Jose’ Fitzgerald – Debut Author Interview

About the Book

Hi Maria! Thank you for sharing Turtles of the Midnight Moon with me. I love a good eco-mystery! Can you give us a short summary about the book?

Thank you so much for sharing my debut novel in From the Mixed-Up Files of Middle Grade Authors!

Turtles of the Midnight Moon follows two 12-year-old girls, Barana and Abby, as they attempt to solve a sea turtle egg poaching mystery in Barana’s coastal village in Honduras. Barana has a special—almost magical—connection to the leatherback sea turtles that come to her beach to nest. She is a poet and an artist with great compassion for the planet and its creatures. She also feels invisible and misunderstood by her family. Abby lives in New Jersey and is a multi-cultural kid with a Honduran father and American mom. She is a budding photographer who sees the world through her camera. Abby longs to one day visit her father’s homeland. As she struggles to reckon with a difficult year in 6th grade, she’s overjoyed to finally get the opportunity to join her Papi on a work trip to his childhood home. Abby and Barana’s stories come together when Abby and her father stay at Barana’s abuela’s casita, or guest house. Upon first meeting, Barana and Abby want nothing to do with each other, but soon enough, they join forces as the two commit to trying to stop the poachers and bring them to justice. As they hunt for clues and follow leads, the two of them also wrestle with questions of identity, family, and friendship. Turtles of the Midnight Moon is a story about our connection to the natural world and each other, and how compassion and courage can cause big waves of change.   

Preorder Available Now

When does it come out?

The book is available for pre-order now and will hit bookshelves on March 14th, 2023!


Tell us who would especially enjoy this book?  

Readers who love a character-driven mystery and who appreciate our amazing planet and its creatures will especially enjoy this novel.

Weaving Parts of Yourself into the Story

How did your childhood help to shape this book? (Be sure to tell us about your grandfather’s impact on you!)

 As a kid I was a little scared of the ocean, but I loved it anyway, and I believed there was something magical about it. Every year, we spent time on the beach with my family. It was my paternal grandmother, Bela’s, happy place, and where she was born. One of her favorite stories to tell us was how they’d set up shark alarms on the beach to alert the fishermen when there was a shark in the water! I learned to swim and snorkel at an early age, and I would explore until my fingers looked like raisins, despite constantly looking over my shoulder for sharks and barracudas. Though I never saw a leatherback sea turtle, I did see many other beautiful creatures in the reefs, including other species of sea turtles. My paternal grandfather was a big nature lover. He’d go on long walks in the woods and sometimes take us with him for parts of it, pointing out birds and other critters. He nicknamed each of us after an animal. I was his bunny—Coneja. Many of the characters in my story have bits of my childhood and my family. Tulu’s disdain for plastic and trash, Chiqui’s art, Abby’s questions about her identity as a Honduran-American, the food in the novel, and so much more. I think it’s impossible to tell a story without weaving in parts of yourself, little anecdotes, and even things that we are not even conscious about as we’re writing them!

Becoming an Author

How did you end up becoming an author? And did you have other jobs before that?

I always loved stories, writing, poetry, and keeping a journal, but I never, ever imagined I’d be a published author. I studied Ecology, Education, and became a teacher. Though I was a teacher for a long time, I also had other odd jobs throughout my young-adult life, all of which have shaped who I am. In 2019 I turned 40 and decided to take a break from my teaching career to focus on my family (and to possibly give writing a try) …That summer, Barana and Abby came to me as fully formed characters, and I wrote a (pretty bad) first draft that year. A little backstory: when I was in my twenties, I wrote a picture book about sea turtles. The opening poem in Turtles of the Midnight Moon is a revised iteration of that picture book!

As writers do, I started querying after sharing my first draft with a handful of friends. I received a lot of rejections in 2020, and a couple of R&R’s. It was discouraging, but I wasn’t about to give up. Later that same year, my manuscript was selected for Pitch Wars. That was the moment everything changed. Under the mentorship of Jessica Vitalis and Julie Artz, I was able to rewrite, revise, and polish my manuscript and sign with my agent. While I returned to the classroom this year, I am still writing and dreaming up stories in my free time. Stay tuned for my second book announcement sometime this year.

Congratulations on your second book! What authors (and/or books) would you say influenced your writing style?

So many authors have inspired me and influenced who I am as a writer. E.B. White is a big one that comes to mind–I love the compassion in his stories. Erin Entrada Kelly is a master at creating memorable, relatable characters, and I love to read her stories as mentor texts for that reason. Other authors whose work inspires me are Katherine Applegate, Adrianna Cuevas, Meg Medina, Heather Murphy Capps, Anne Ursu, Rebecca Balcárcel, Kim Baker, Anna Sewell, and Rebecca Stead, to name a few!

Character Connections

You mentioned the characters Abby and Barana are inspired by your daughters. Who do you feel you’re more like of the two?

I am definitely a little bit like both of them, but perhaps I share a few more traits with Barana than I do with Abby. Barana’s love of words and poetry, her special connection to Luna, her compassion for wildlife, and her frustration with the gender roles she must abide to in Honduras are things I have in common with her. I wish I were as brave as Barana though! She is certainly much more of a risk taker than I ever was at her age. I can relate deeply to Abby’s struggle with not feeling “Honduran enough” or “Latina enough,” and also like Abby, I dealt with my closest friend moving away in 6th grade.


What was your original spark for the book?

It’s hard to explain, but the stories that come to me just show up like lightning in my mind. I have no idea what sparks them. Life experiences, personal interests, timing, and the mystery of the human imagination!

I know that you grew up in Honduras, but I’m guessing you still needed to fill in some holes. What research did you end up having to do?

Yes, I did have to fill in some holes. I spent a lot of time reading about the lobster diving industry, decompression sickness, and the many issues faced by lobster divers and environmental activists in Honduras. I knew quite a bit about sea turtles already, but I did have to do some fact checking about leatherbacks for the novel. For Abby, I spent a lot of time following, reading about, and admiring some amazing wildlife photographers on social media.

What is something from your childhood that you snuck into the book? 

I snuck in a lot of things, but I’m not sure I can list them all here! The food, for one. I included my favorite dishes growing up in Honduras, which continue to be my comfort food. The trash collecting and recycling we see Tulu doing is something my father still does to this day. He does not make art sculptures per se, but he will reuse anything and everything, and he’s built a lot of decorative windows from recycled bottles. The scuba diving, sibling rivalries, and church-going in the story are all very loosely based on my own experiences as a child.

Turtles of the MidniAny tips on writing an eco-mystery or a mystery in general?

Writing mysteries can be scary for writers. They’re like a big puzzle that you have to somehow structure in your mind and then get on the page. For me, it required lots of pre-writing and lots of thinking! Here are three tip I can offer for writing a mystery in general:

  1. Know who your villain/culprit is from the get-go. Whether you are a plotter, a pantser, or anything in between, knowing the ending is crucial for a mystery.
  2. Try to include a plot twist after the mystery has been ‘solved’ so that both the reader and the protagonist can discover the real truth at the same time.
  3. Remember your readers are smart! Leave hints and plant them throughout the novel but keep them subtle and organic so they feel naturally a part of the scene.


For Teachers

This would be a great read aloud or small group novel in the classroom, teachers! My suggestion of topics to discuss and research: the impact of humans on wildlife, the culture and the biodiversity of Honduras, and friendship.

Maria, any suggestions you have for ways to use Turtles of the Midnight Moon in the classroom?

I think this novel lends itself nicely to an interdisciplinary unit that includes science, language arts, social studies/geography, and art. Students can research marine ecosystems and sea turtle ecology in science, explore the themes, magical elements, and structure of the eco-mystery novel in language arts, make art sculptures or collages from recycled plastic in art, and perhaps study Central American geography in social studies.


Are you doing school visits related to this book? Tell us more!

Absolutely! I am very excited to do school visits! The target grade range is 4th-7th grade, with the sweet spot being 4th and 5th grade. I’ll cover topics such as the writing process, how a book gets published, and share a little bit about the novel itself (without spoilers), Honduras, and sea turtles. I will try to deliver a message of hope and empowerment, so that kids leave my presentation knowing that they, too, can have a great impact in their local community’s natural environment.

How can we learn more about you?

My website is

I am mostly on Instagram @

 María José Fitzgerald will be giving a copy of Turtles of the Midnight Moon to a lucky reader. Enter the giveaway below for a chance to win a copy. (U.S. addresses only, no P.O. Boxes)

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