Book Lists

OWL’S OUTSTANDING DONUTS: Interview with Robin Yardi

We’ve got a real treat for all our loyal MUF subscribers today: a peek into a brand new book: OWL’S OUTSTANDING DONUTS. And just because we’re so cool, we got special access–an interview with author Robin Yardi, a sneak preview of her fabulous book trailer for OWL’S OUTSTANDING DONUTS, and …. a 5-ARC giveaway! We must be doing something right! We can’t wait to see the video … but before that, we wanted to introduce you to Robin.

MUF: Congratulations on Owl’s Outstanding Donuts! Like you, I’m passionate about the environment, animals, and writing. I totally identified with your main character, Mattie. As a kid, I was always waiting for birds to speak to me when no one else was around. And having an owl’s perspective on human behavior was delightful!

Did you have a mission when you started out writing this book?

RY: Yes, but maybe not exactly in the way that you mean! My first mission when writing a book is always to create a story that I think a kid will enjoy reading.

  • Will they think it’s funny?
  • Will it be exciting?

And since this is a mystery, I wondered will my story stump kid readers in a satisfying way?

Not Just a Mystery

But the deeper things that are important to me, my internal missions, always show up in my stories too. I don’t have to consciously work to make that happen. So I’m always writing about the dynamics of friendships and siblings in ways that I think will help kid readers. I feed my characters delicious food, whether it’s tamales or donuts, and surround them with helpful grownups, because that’s what I craved as a kid reader. And I’m always writing about the natural world in ways that foster wonder and engagement, because it’s been one of the greatest joys of my life!

While drafting this book about an environmental crime committed near the Big Sur River, I was teaching school groups at our local natural history museum in what we call The Backyard. Kids would come and learn about the creek that runs through the museum property, test the water quality, meet our resident snakes, all while listening to our orphaned great horned owl hoot in the background.

It would make sense if I had set out to write OWL’S OUTSTANDING DONUTS seeing the connections between my budding story and my everyday mission of teaching kids about the environment and the natural world, but I honestly didn’t! A good story comes first and the mission just sneaks in.

Protecting the Environment

MUF: What can middle graders do to help protect the environment?

RY: An easy way for kids to be engaged environmentalists is by taking command of household recycling. Rinse it, sort it, and take it out! I also notice (in my house and in others) that kids can be an important voice of conscience. A new generation means new habits and new awareness. Mom, did you remember the tote bags? Dad, let’s use the water bottle instead! Um, should that go down the drain? Kids can and will speak up!

MUF: Can you tell us about an unusual wildlife encounter you’ve had?

RY: Well, my family recently lived with a bat for about a month! We sleep with the upstairs windows open and it was coming into the house, flying downstairs, and roosting on a grate in a powder room (the closest thing to a cave in our home). Finally, we called our local wildlife rescue organization and they sent someone to remove the bat. Apparently it’s not a good idea for humans to live with bats. At all. BUT IT WAS SO CUTE.

This summer I’ve also been enjoying watching a local mule deer tiptoe into our backyard to drink from our fountain… with three little fawns coming along with her. I’m not sure if they are all hers—that would be triplets—but I’ve loved watching them grow out of their spots over the summer.

Coping With Loss in Middle-Grade

MUF: Your main character, Mattie, is grieving over her mother’s death. You’ve included several elements in your book that might help with loss. What do you hope young readers who might be hurting will take away from this book?

I’ve given Mattie room to grieve and struggle and I think that gives readers the same opportunity. The book starts in a place where Mattie isn’t up to doing all the things she wants to do and that’s okay. It’s okay for things to feel hard.

Young readers need to read stories that acknowledge the parts of their lives that are hard—all the way from new school anxieties, to fighting with your best friend, to losing a family member—and those stories can show the reader a way to move forward. In OWL’S, Mattie learns to move forward in life surrounded by loving and helpful adults, great food, good friends, and the beauty of the natural world.

Young readers may not have all of those things all of the time. Not everyone can have a friendly mystery-solving owl in their backyard, but any kid can have Alfred and Big Sur and the redwoods and donuts when they read my book!

MUF: Thank you so much, Robin.

And Now …. the Video Reveal!

And now, without further ado, let’s take a sneak peek into your video trailer, a behind-the-scenes tour of one of Robin’s favorite places:

 

But that’s not all.. Robin is also offering a giveaway. FIVE lucky winners will receive an ARC of OWL’S OUTSTANDING DONUTS … so don’t delay …. enter the Rafflecopter below, and good luck!

                                  

Kirkus Reviews told readers, “Doughn’t miss this earnest tale.” Booklist called the book “quiet but quirky story about friendship, family, and of course, donuts.”

Rafflecopter Giveaway – 5-ARCS of OWLS OUTSTANDING DONUTS

a Rafflecopter giveaway

MG Novels in Verse: 5 Authors Share Their Love for the Genre

If you’ve read Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming, or Kwame Alexander’s The Crossover, or Laura Shovan’s The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary, or Margarita Engle’s The Surrender Tree — or any other beautifully crafted novel in verse — you know how powerful this form of the written word can be. Here, five authors of middle-grade verse novels, Thanhhà Lại, Chris Baron, Aida Salazar, Skila Brown, and Ellie Terry, share their love for the genre…and why verse speaks to them in ways prose can’t.

Meet the authors and their books:

Thanhhà Lại is the New York Times bestselling author of INSIDE OUT & BACK AGAIN (2011), her debut novel in verse, which won both a National Book Award and a Newbery Honor. Praised by Kirkus as “poignant and unexpectedly funny,” INSIDE OUT & BACK AGAIN is inspired by Lại’s experience as a refugee, fleeing Vietnam after the Fall of Saigon and immigrating to Alabama. Lại’s other books include the YA debut BUTTERLY YELLOW (HarperCollins, 2019), and LISTEN, SLOWLY (2015), a Publisher’s Weekly Best Book of the Year. Learn more about Lại on her website.

Chris Baron, a poet, and professor of English at San Diego City College and director of the Writing Center, is the author of the novel in verse, ALL OF ME (Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan, 2019). Described by Booklist magazine as “[A] beautifully written and psychologically acute debut,” ALL OF ME follows 13-year-old Ari Rosensweig on a journey of self-acceptance as he battles with his weight, self-harm, and bullying; witnesses his parents’ rocky marriage; and deals with his burgeoning feelings of attraction for his elusive friend, Lisa. Learn more about Baron on his website and follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

Aida Salazar is a writer, arts advocate, and home-schooling mother whose writings for adults and children explore issues of identity and social justice. Her MG debut novel in verse, THE MOON WITHIN (Scholastic, 2019), was hailed by Kirkus as “a worthy successor to Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” and the first-middle grade novel to reflect menstruation from the Latinx perspective. Salazar’s forthcoming novel, THE LAND OF THE CRANES (Fall, 2020), and picture book JOVITA WORE PANTS: THE STORY OF A REVOLUTIONARY FIGHTER (Spring, 2021), are also published by Scholastic. Salazaar lives with her family  in Oakland, CA.  Learn more about Salazar on her website and follow her on Twitter.

Skila Brown is the author of verse novels CAMINAR (2014), inspired by events during Guatemala’s 1981 civil war, and TO STAY ALIVE (2016), told from the viewpoint of one of the members of the Donner Party and described by Horn Book as “a nuanced and haunting portrayal of the indomitable human spirit.” Her two books of poetry, SLICKETY QUICK (2016) and CLACKETY TRACK (2019), are also published by Candlewick. Brown, who received an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts, grew up in Kentucky and Tennessee and now lives in Indiana where she writes books for readers of all ages. Learn more about Brown on her website.

Ellie Terry is the debut author of FORGET ME NOT (2017, Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan), a novel in verse that centers on astronomy-loving Calliope June, a 12-year-old who struggles with Tourette syndrome—all the while navigating seventh grade at a new school, in a new town. A novel of self-acceptance and the meaning of friendship, School Library Journal hailed Terry’s debut as one that “will stay in the hearts and minds of readers for a long time.”  She lives in southern Utah with her husband, three kids, two zebra finches, and a Russian tortoise. Visit Terry’s website and follow her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

And now, without further ado, the questions…

MR: Authors, your debut novels are written in verse. What is it about this form that appeals to you?

Thanhhà Lại:  I struggled for years writing in prose about a refugee family. Still, the voice never rang true because my long sentences couldn’t convey what it’s like to think in Vietnamese. Once I found prose poems, where sentences were broken into a cadence and where images could be infused into thoughts, I knew I had happened upon the best way for English words to land on a page for my characters.

Chris Baron: Poetry speaks to the heart. We see with more than just our eyes, and the music of poetry helps words sing directly to us. I have always loved the way poetry says more with less; the way the images evoke the emotion in unexpected ways that are sometimes stunning, sometimes subtle. Personally, I feel the most comfortable writing poetry.  I don’t think the world always flows in a linear way all the time anyway, so the idea of finding the right imagery and language to explore what is going on around us, and then articulating the images we see in order to convey meaningful emotion and connection, is a very powerful way to discover stories.

Also, I am drawn to images, and I love the idea that a single image can be foundational to a story. I have always been someone who records things, images, and ideas. When I was a middle grader, I was captured by the Narnia stories–and then I read this C.S. Lewis Quote: ‘The Lion all began with a picture of a faun carrying an umbrella and parcels in a snowy wood. This picture had been in my mind since I was about sixteen. Then one day, when I was about forty, I said to myself, ‘Let’s try to make a story about it.'” Something clicked for me then, and I thought: I better write stuff down because you never know when a simple image might become the next story!

Aida Salazar: The first pages I wrote came in verse and in my main character Celi’s voice as clear as day. I had recently read Andrea Davis Pinkney’s verse novel, The Red Pencil. It reminded me to trust my origins as a poet. I remembered that poetry, like love, is powerful and deepens the meaning in our lives. The story I wanted to tell about the blossoming of brown and queer kids lent itself perfectly to the form. I followed the muse in this way until I finished the manuscript.

Poetry is my manantial, the spring from which all my writing flows. Though I also write prose, I always aim for my prose to be infused with poetry and lyricism. This is the kind of writing I like to read and find most intriguing — writing that is rich in metaphor, imagery, and unusual phrasing; writing that enters the emotional essence of a character to show us a truth about humanity that we don’t often see. I love verse novels for these very same qualities. There is a tension at play between elements poetry gives us (economy of words, metaphor, simile, line breaks, white space, etc.) and the standard elements in crafting a story (conflict, plot, character arc, etc.). I love the hybridity of this space. I love this tension. With verse novels you can’t spend too much time waxing poetic because you do have a story to tell but you can bring the poetic point of view into every speech, action and plot point as you go. Verse novels are a wonderful space from which to tell a story that is unique, vulnerable and compelling at once.

Skila Brown: I think poetry is a great way to narrate something that’s hard to digest. Starvation and genocide are tough topics for any reader. Using a poet’s tools, such as white space and symbolism, allow readers of all ages to process what they are able to process in a way that suits them best. Poetry makes these stories more accessible.

Ellie Terry: I love working with words on a smaller scale and getting to literally play with them and arrange them however I want; you know, being able to show readers how the story develops in my brain.

MR: What are the biggest challenges of writing in verse? The biggest rewards?

Thanhhà Lại:  I naturally think in verse because I grew up listening to my mother recite poetry all day. That is how she talks. It is much easier for me to write in prose poems. The challenge lies in using verse for characters who are not thinking in Vietnamese. I haven’t found a way to do that yet.

Chris Baron: I think there are practical challenges. While there are the core elements of fiction at work, plot, character setting, etc., they don’t always function in a traditional way. Dialogue, for example, can often feel uneven compared to the internal thoughts. Or, form… I like to use free verse, but I use many different poetic conventions: syllabics, figurative language, accentual meter. This is all joy, but it can also be challenging because if it isn’t measured or cared for, it can create a sort of anti-rhythm that challenges the reader in an unwelcoming way. I have to spend a lot of time crafting and “performing” the poem out loud to hear the cadences and breaths in the writing. Each poem (or section) must be strong enough to stand on its own. This is true for any chapter, but there is a lot of pressure on the already compressed and concise words in a novel in verse, so even though fewer words are being used, this can sometimes take a lot of time.

I think there is a lot of power in the idea that author is not only focusing on the use of words but also use of all the empty space on the page. Every part of it matters, so authors writing in verse contend with the entire page, the placement of words, and how they come together everywhere. Also, the form allows for the reader to hopefully jump right into the action since the language is so concise. I try to make sure that every poem carries its weight, moves the story, can stand alone, and supply value for the reader–not just in the overall story, but in the immediate moment of reading that specific poem.

Aida Salazar: The challenge in writing a verse novel is to synchronize story and verse so that one does not overshadow the other; to craft them in such a way that they dance beautifully together. In my process, after the initial draft of the story is done, I go back and ask myself a series of questions pertaining to poetry. What is the rhythm of the line? Is there metaphor? Is there figurative and unusual use of language? How do the lines break? Do the line breaks serve the piece? Do the lines perform the text…? When I’ve answered all of these questions exhaustively, and made corrections and enhancements, that is where I find the biggest reward.

Skila Brown: I think dialogue in verse is tricky. Most of us don’t authentically speak in poetic ways in everyday conversation, so writing what our character says aloud can be tough. The biggest reward of writing verse novels for me is definitely hearing from teachers how much reluctant readers and ENL students lovereading verse novels. The smaller word-count and quick page-turns go a long way to keep some readers engaged in the story.

Ellie Terry: The biggest challenge/frustration for me is revision. When writing regular prose, I can easily remove/rearrange words, sentences, but when I’m working with verse, changing just one word often affects the entire stanza/page/poem and then I have to re-work everything. The biggest reward is when a poem comes together to explain exactly how the character is feeling . . . and it hits the reader in the heart.

MR: Somehow, the novel-in-verse form is able to capture characters’ emotions in a way that prose often cannot. What is it about this form that strikes such an emotional chord with the reader?

Thanhhà Lại: Fewer words loaded with images. I combed through INSIDE OUT & BACK AGAIN and deleted every unneeded word, much like boiling gallons of sap to get a pint of syrup. Without having to wade through a dense fog of sentences, readers can breathe and feel the words allowed on a page.

Chris Baron: There is room in a poem to be raw, vulnerable, and completely imperfect. I think that the novel-in-verse form creates an intimacy with a reader that is immediate, personal, and allows them to hear the tone and cadence of a character’s voice. I think this can create even stronger connections for readers because the form provides greater access to the internal landscape of a character. Poetry also relates to all kinds of readers. There is space on the page, measured breaks, pacing, music, and movement of lines that a reader of almost any level can find their way into. The imagery in a poem is not just about giving the setting but about the way the setting directly interacts and connects with characters’ minds, actions, and emotions.

Aida Salazar: As with all writing, the relationship between the reader and the text is ultimately personal. The power of story is profound. However, with verse, a more intimate layer is accessed because it is one focused on artistry. Through selective and precise language, the poet brings the reader into feelings and thoughts such as a vivid childhood memory, a trivial or deep idea about the world, the helplessness of falling in love, or a struggle with the spirit. The goal is not only to communicate a conflict and a plot but to create art that ignites the senses and the heart and speaks to the humanity in us all.

Skila Brown: I think dialogue in verse is tricky. Most of us don’t authentically speak in poetic ways in everyday conversation, so writing what our character says aloud can be tough. The biggest reward of writing verse novels for me is definitely hearing from teachers how much reluctant readers and ENL students lovereading verse novels. The smaller word-count and quick page-turns go a long way to keep some readers engaged in the story.

Ellie Terry: This kind of goes along with what I was saying above. Poetry is meant to make the reader feel an emotion. If it doesn’t make the reader laugh, cry, get angry, jealous, feel like they got punched in the gut, etc. it isn’t poetry. Also, you know that saying, “Sometimes less is more?” I think that’s true for verse novels. Sometimes less words = more emotional impact.

MR: What advice would you give to aspiring writers of novels-in-verse? Does one need a background in poetry to write one?

Thanhhà Lại:  I didn’t study poetry. I don’t call myself a poet. I write inside a character and if prose poems represent an authentic way to convey that character’s thoughts, then I write in verse. So I am not the best person to detail the preparations involved in a poet’s craft.

Chris Baron: So many kidlit authors have incredibly poetic, lyrical lines in their prose, so the gap isn’t always that wide. I think what has helped me the most is to read novels-in-verse, learn from what master authors like Jacqueline Woodson, Margarita Engle, Joy McCullough, Nicky Grimes, Thanhhà Lại, Kwame Alexander, and others. It always helps to be in a writing community that appreciates and understands the genre. And, I think taking a class or a poetry workshop never fails to inspire, and at the very least, help us to produce more work!

Skila Brown: To me, a “background in poetry” is really about experience with poems. If you’re wanting to write a verse novel, you should obviously read some of the great verse novels that are out there. Lots of them. But you should also spend time absorbing poems. Poems that rhyme. Poems that don’t. Poems for small children and poems for pretentious adults. Songs are great to study too, not just for the lyrics but also for the sound of putting it all together. Hearing the words beat out a rhythm in your soul—that’s poetic training.

Ellie Terry: I don’t think it’s necessary for an aspiring verse novelist to have a background in poetry, but it would certainly be beneficial! Verse is so much more than adding random line breaks to regular prose. It’s about creating white space and directing the readers’ attention to specific words. It’s about syntax and using poetic techniques such as alliteration and metaphors. Reading published verse novels and becoming familiar with poetic devices would be a great place to start!

MR: Thanhhà, Chris, and Ellie: Your debut novels are loosely autobiographical. What are the main differences between you and your protagonists? The similarities?

Thanhhà Lại: Hà [in INSIDE OUT & BACK AGAIN] and I both were born in Vietnam and dropped at age ten into this strange land called Alabama. We both have fathers missing in action. Our mothers are especially similar. Fictional Hà is much spunkier than I ever was. She envisions an upward trajectory within one year whereas it took me a decade to feel like I will be fine. And she’s much funnier. I don’t remember being funny. Mostly I stood alone and shot laser eyes at everyone while trying to make sense of life among Alabamians.

Chris Baron: Ari [in ALL OF ME] is definitely a character born from my experiences, both internally and externally. Like Ari, I have an artist mom, and my parents were just very busy parents. And I had to deal with my weight issues. I had a lot of fun growing up, but it was really hard. I think Ari learns a lot faster than me, though, and he does a good job of listening and learning from his friends. I wish I had done that.  Also, I think Ari is really brave. (I’m working on that too.) The other side of Ari is that he is more of a gentle soul, and I’ve known so many kids like this growing up; kids who would adventure, take risks, challenge themselves, but don’t necessarily want to step on anyone as part of it. I wanted to give some voice for them too.

Ellie Terry: FORGET ME NOT is definitely a work of fiction; however, I did use parts of my life (especially the tics and compulsions and the feelings that go along with those) and incorporate them into the novel and into my main character, Calli. We have a lot in common, but we have a few differences too. For example, Calli is an only child, while I have seven siblings! Calli is also much braver that I was at her age.

MR: Skila: You have published two books of poetry as well. Do you feel as if you need to inhabit a different headspace to write poems?

Skila Brown: Yes. Absolutely. I don’t think in poems usually, so when I’m trying to write a poem, I have to open my mind and loosen my thoughts and really think about a subject from an “outside the box” angle. I need to think not just about content, but about sound and the physical appearance of the words on the page. It’s much more complicated than writing in prose, from that angle. But the precision of it feels very freeing.

MR: Aida: THE MOON WITHIN focuses heavily on issues that often accompany puberty: body image, self-acceptance, sexuality, and sexual identity. What prompted you to explore—and celebrate—these vitally important topics?

Aida Salazar:  I was inspired to write THE MOON WITHIN as my eleven-year-old daughter began to ask questions about her changing body. As a Xicana feminist, I wanted to offer her a different way into the understanding of this important transformation than I had been given. I wanted her experience to be grounded in body positive self-knowledge and self-love, in a connection to her ancestry, and the power that is inherent in all of that beauty. I’ve been a moon disciple for decades — marveling, exploring, and ritualizing our connection to her — through astrology, astronomy, spirituality, and the study of pre-colonial Mexican history. We held a ceremony to honor my daughter’s menstruation that was informed by this love of the moon. As a writer, I wanted to share our experience of this magical ritual through story with other children. I was very intentional about sharing ideas of the beauty and power of menstruation Mesoamerican traditions teach us that departed from the often-negative views of our current patriarchal and colonized society. I wanted to reframe the conversation around menstruation by showing what would happen if we, in fact, honored and revered these processes instead.

To follow up on what you said Aida, Judy Blume’s Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret was written almost half a century ago (eek!). Why do you think it’s taken this long for the topic to reappear?

Aida Salazar: This reality is really absurd. How is it that every single person on this planet came from a menstruator and yet, the topic of menstruation is virtually absent in middle grade fictional literature? This is arguably the time when it is most life-altering, when it matters most. It is clear to me that this gaping hole in literature but also in the larger dialectic has to do with the colonial, patriarchal, and puritanical beliefs that are dominant today. These inform how societies, the world over, view menstruation and the feminine body. Girls, women and menstruators of all genders have internalized these predominantly negative views relegating nearly every aspect of our cycles into secrecy and shame.

When I went to search for books to help me present puberty to my own daughter, I found dozens of non-fiction books for adults and girls that were written from a Western European perspective and only a couple from a US indigenous lens. When I looked to fiction, I rediscovered Judy Blume’s novel, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret– a personal favorite of mine when I was a child. There were no books that spoke to it from a Latina perspective and certainly none from a Mexican indigenous perspective in either fiction or nonfiction. So, I set out to write a novel that would fill that gap for her and other Latina girls. I wanted this book to be “the book” that they passed among friends, as I did with Judy Blume’s book in the 80’s, because they saw themselves in it as girls but especially as Latinas. I wanted to invoke the beauty and magic that happens during such a tender time but one that was grounded in ancestral tradition. My intention was to have Celi’s story help redefine the conversation – the dominant narrative that girls bodies and menstruation in particular are dirty, to be feared or loathed – into a conversation that celebrates our bodies, honors our natural cycles and our natural connection to the moon. I hope this is only the beginning of this reframing.

Writing for TV and the movies – Interview with author Robert Cochran, and Giveaway

We’re thrilled to have Robert Cochran on Mixed-Up Files today. Robert co-created the international hit television series 24, for which he received six Emmy nominations and two wins. Before that, he had written and/or produced a number of other popular shows, including L.A. Law, Falcon Crest, JAG, The Commish, and La Femme Nikita. Prior to becoming a writer, he was a lawyer and a management consultant, careers he considers highly useful because they convinced him that he didn’t want to be a lawyer or a management consultant.  He lives with his wife in Monterey, California.

Robert talks to us about The Sword and the Dagger – his first novel and his career of writing for TV.  Be sure to check out the giveaway at the end of the post.

 

  1. How did you start your career in tv and writing in general?

From as early as I can remember, I always wanted to be a writer, though I have to say it took me a while to get started! I was a lawyer for several years, then a management consultant, but always writing in my spare time. One day, a friend of mine, a screenwriter, showed me one of his scripts. It was the first time I’d seen the screenwriting format, and I instinctively felt it was something that would come more naturally to me than prose fiction, which I’d been concentrating on previously. This turned out to be true, and after a few false starts, it eventually led to a career in television. Now, with The Sword and the Dagger, I feel I’ve come full circle back to prose fiction.

 

  1. Tell us about the first time you thought about writing for children and young adults. What made you decide that, yes, this is a story I want to write for a broader audience?

I’d come across the historical figure of the Old Man of the Mountain and found him and his era fascinating. His trained assassins were mostly quite young, and I wondered what would happen if one of them became emotionally involved with the intended victim and couldn’t bring himself to carry out the assassination. It seemed probable that the intended victim would also be young (making the bond more likely), so the main points of view were those of young people, and it just seemed natural to write the story for young people as well. You might say, I didn’t really make the decision to write for young adults — the story made it for me!

  1. Can we look forward to more novels from you in the children and young adult space? What are you excited about?

I don’t have any immediate plans for another novel — at least nothing specific. I love history, though, and if I write another young adult novel, it will probably be historical and probably again set during the Middle Ages, or perhaps a little earlier — maybe about Vikings. They did some pretty crazy things and are easy to get excited about!

 

  1. Tell us about your protagonist. How long did it take for you to figure out your main character and her motivations?

It took a while! I think you only really get to “know” your characters by writing them — your view of them changes as the story goes along. Elaine is born to privilege, but it’s privilege that feels like a cage. She’s surrounded by people, mainly men, telling her how she should behave and how she should think, and she sees no chance that this will ever change. She wants to rebel, to be free, to have adventures! And she does — she breaks free of her cage. But the adventures she has help her to understand that her privilege also carries obligations. Many people, an entire nation, will be affected by the decisions she makes. She has to find a way to be true to herself while still protecting those who depend on her, and this struggle forms her character and leads to decisions that change her life and the lives of her companions.

 

  1. How does your experience in TV affect your process of writing for young adults?

Writing for television teaches you about structure and keeping the story moving — you don’t want people changing the channel! But all adults, of whatever age, are interested in the same fundamental things: love, relationships, loyalty, courage, family, a person’s place in society, how to find purpose and meaning in life, and so forth. A story geared for young adults may tend to delve into such themes slightly less deeply than works targeted at an older audience, and while violence and sexuality aren’t ignored by any means, scenes involving them are presented less graphically. (I’d point out that there are many books and movies intended for young adults that older adults enjoy just as much, and vice-versa!)

 

  1. What advice would you give writers who want to write novels that have the potential to be made into movies or TV shows?

I actually think that just about any novel with a good story and strong characters has the potential to be made into a movie or TV show. So I would advise writers not to write with that goal in mind but just write the best novel they can possibly write. I’d also suggest, especially when you’re starting out, don’t worry too much about what’s popular or what’s selling at the moment. Write what moves you, what interests you, what you believe in, what you feel passionate about. That’s your best chance of coming up with something that’s authentic and original, and, therefore, your best chance of getting interest from film or television!

 

  1. Is there anything you’d like to say to readers?

Keep reading — then read some more! We don’t all have the time or the resources to visit different places or meet people who live different lives than ours, but the next best thing is to read about them, whether in fiction or nonfiction. Every time we experience the world through the eyes of another, we gain a little more understanding and compassion. It may sound corny, but I really believe a world full of readers is a better world.

 

Thanks, Robert! 

Want to have your own copy of The Sword And The Dagger? Enter our giveaway by leaving a comment below! 

You may earn extra entries by blogging/tweeting/facebooking the interview and letting us know. The winner will be announced here on Friday, August 30, 2019 and will be contacted  via email and asked to provide a mailing address (US/Canada only) to receive the book.