Welcome to STEM Tuesday: Author Interview & Book Giveaway, a repeating feature for the fourth Tuesday of every month. Go Science-Tech-Engineering-Math!
Today we’re interviewing Kerrie Logan Hollihan, author of MUMMIES EXPOSED! The highly-praised first installment in a new Creepy and True series published by Abrams. The book received starred reviews from Kirkus, School Library Journal, and Booklist. Wow!
Mary Kay Carson: Tell us a bit about your new book.
Kerrie Logan Hollihan: Mummies Exposed! takes an in-depth look at human bodies that were preserved either with intent or by Mother Nature. (Some call the latter “serendipitous” mummies but “natural” is a friendlier term for my middle grade readers.) I tell their stories of discovery—and, thanks in part to STEM research—at least part of the stories of the dead themselves: ten children, women, and men across space and time, explaining why these people (like us) were mummified or how their bodies survived the process of decay.
MKC: Did your exhaustive research led to some interesting finds?
Kerrie: The best surprise I share with my readers is this: There is always something new to discover about something old! For instance, here I am writing about King Tutankhamun when along comes a New York Times story reporting that the blade in one of Tut’s daggers is composed of metal from a meteorite. That fresh fact would merit a quick revision before the book went to press. Stuff like that happened frequently during the more than three years I spent researching for various proposals and eventually writing the book. I like to say it nearly made a mummy out of me!
MKC: Do you choose to specifically write STEM books?
Kerrie: STEM writing found me in the course of thinking about something or someone I wanted to learn about. When I was in a master’s program in journalism at Northwestern University, I took a science writing class that led me to lots of interesting spots to learn—and ask questions about—astronomy, portland cement, nuclear physics, medications, and how to claw your way out of quicksand. I discovered then that I like to learn about the history of science. The key component to science writing, I learned, is to ask questions…lots of them…find answers, and then interpret these for the reader at a number of levels: general readership, science magazines, and best for me, young readers.
MKC: What approach or angle did you take to writing this book?
Kerrie: In my heart, I’m still a sixth-grade girl who read the encyclopedia for fun. That’s who I target when I write for young people. As it turns out, older people can learn a few things from my books as well if they sit down and read my work. For Mummies Exposed!, I identified which mummies to include, according to availability of information, reliability of sources, and appropriateness for middle grade kids.
Some chapters were far tougher to write, because I had to explain (or gloss) key terms such as anthropology and archaeology, not to mention how they differ! There was quite a bit of science research to explain, as well—DNA and CT scans, aerobic and anaerobic bacteria, tuberculosis, and so on. It took well over a year to research and write the book. I worked chapter by chapter, researching each as I went along. I think you’d say Mummies Exposed! is mostly narrative nonfiction, but I also included bits that are expository, too.
MKC: What are you working on now?
Kerrie: I’m wrapping up final edits in my next book for Abrams Books for Young Readers, Ghosts Aghast! It’s more STEAM than STEM. After we started work on Mummies Exposed!, Abrams suggested a series to me: “Creepy and True.” Abrams suggested the ghost title, to be followed by a third book (which I’d proposed initially) which we are calling Bones! Think King Richard III buried in a parking lot in England, and a young woman who was cannibalized—posthumously—in the Jamestown Colony. Lots of intriguing STEM info to locate, read, and explain to my readers.
Win a FREE copy of Mummies Exposed!
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