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!
Enter the giveaway by leaving a comment below. The randomly-chosen winner will be contacted via email and asked to provide a mailing address (within the U.S. only) to receive the book.
Your host is Mary Kay Carson, author of The Tornado Scientist, Alexander Graham Bell for Kids, Mission to Pluto, Weird Animals, and other nonfiction books for kids. @marykaycarson