Happy Monday, everyone!
I’m excited about this author interview because it gives me a chance to introduce our Mixed-Up Files community to one of my favorite middle-grade writers, Amanda Rawson Hill. Her debut novel, THE THREE RULES OF EVERYDAY MAGIC (Boyds Mills Press), drops on September 25.
And what’s more …. we get to give one lucky reader a copy of THE THREE RULES OF EVERYDAY MAGIC! After you read our interview with Amanda, scroll down and enter the Rafflecopter to win.
Author Interview with Amanda Rawson Hill
My son and I read THE THREE RULES OF EVERYDAY MAGIC at the same time, which allowed us the fun of collaborating on an author interview with Amanda about the amazing Kate and how her brand of magic came to be.
MUF: How did you come up with the concept for the Three Rules of Everyday Magic? And by that, we mean the theme of the book AND the three rules themselves?
Elizabeth Gilbert is a best-selling author and she wrote a book called BIG MAGIC that talked about the theory that ideas are actual THINGS that exist outside of a person and are just waiting to be found. That’s sort of what finding the theme and the three rules felt like. When I started writing the book, I didn’t know it was going to be about connecting with others through giving. I just knew it was about a girl and her grandma. When Grammy taught Kate how to knit a hat, that’s when I realized that the book was about giving. I actually worked on the book for about ten months before I did a major revision that added in the THREE RULES OF EVERYDAY MAGIC. I was writing while on a cross-country drive and all of a sudden my fingers typed out Grammy saying, “That’s the first rule of Everyday Magic. You have to believe.” It wasn’t in my head before I wrote it, but all of a sudden it was there on the paper. And I thought, “What are the other rules?” That’s when it all came to me. Like it was one of those ideas just floating around in the air waiting for someone to latch onto it.
So I guess that’s a long way of saying, “I don’t know.” Sometimes…most of the time…I don’t feel like I did come up with the rules. I feel like they kind of exist outside of me and were just waiting to be discovered.
MUF: Did you conceive of Kate before the book? Or did she grow along with it?
A bit of both. There are certain things about Kate that haven’t changed at all since the very first words of the first draft. Her love of karate, her hatred for the color pink, her secret crush on Parker. But there was a lot of her that I felt like I really didn’t know after the first draft. So I opened up a blank document and completely rewrote the entire book trying to really tap into WHO KATE IS. I ended up writing that version in epistolary format. The whole thing was told in letters to her dad. It didn’t stay that way, but doing so allowed me to really get to know Kate because letter writing requires a certain vulnerability which Kate didn’t really want to show me (and I still struggled to get her to open up to me all the way, even in much later drafts.) That’s what the symbolism of the pink is all about. Kate becoming comfortable with being vulnerable.
MUF: The poetry in this book is simply lovely and we just loved the way Kate’s teacher structured the history lesson with poetry and self-expression. Have you done this yourself as a homeschooling mother?
I’ve done poetry with my kids before, but I haven’t done this specific kind of poem with them yet. I got the idea for it at a writing conference I went where George Ella Lyon herself was presenting about how to write a ‘Where I’m From” poem and how to help children write one. It was such a great class, and everyone shared lines of their poems and I loved it so much that I knew I had to use it in my book.
MUF: Another special piece of the poetry in this book is that Jane’s poem was written by Joan He, a friend who is also a writer. How did you come by her poem?
I actually asked Joan and paid her to write it just for this book. It was important to me that Jane’s poem was authentic to her experience as a Chinese American, and I just didn’t feel like I could do that justice, even if it was just a few lines. I felt Joan’s knowledge and authenticity would really add something that I couldn’t bring to it, and I definitely think I was right about that because the poem is amazing and beautiful.
MUF: The themes of loss and depression are tough to write about – and poor Kate has to cope with some terrible losses. How did you approach writing these themes for a middle-grade audience?
I started out approaching them much more simply, with Kate simply referring to her father’s depression as “the sadness” and describing it all about his eyes and just lying in bed all day. But when it sold, my editor made me get much more specific about it. She had me refer to it by name, call it a sickness every time. She wanted me to show the slow development of it, other ways it manifested, etc. Which meant that I then went and talked to a lot of different people who had experienced it, so that I could show it in several true ways. I think that’s important. There are lots of kids dealing with depression, whether in their parents or themselves, and so naming it and accurately portraying it is absolutely vital, even if it’s hard because we’d like to just simplify and shield kids from it, right? But that doesn’t end up doing anyone any favors.
However, I did still have to filter all this information through the eyes of a child. I think that’s where the hope comes in. That quiet, undying hope that everything can and will get better eventually. And when you let hope color these hard topics, even when you face them and the pain head-on, it makes it approachable for a middle-grade audience. That’s the number one rule. Hope. Always.
MUF: What is your favorite passage?
Oh man! What a hard question! There are so many that I love. I think my absolute favorite though is, “Grammy said that magic happens when love becomes visible, when you give people something they can hold. But I think she was wrong about that. Because some things you can’t hold, not really. Like a firm squeeze that says it’s okay, or a song that makes you feel better. Like a family that’s always, always a family no matter what. You can’t knit that, or cook it, or draw it, or write it. But all those things are magic.”
Followed closely by this one that always makes me cry. “I’ve waited five months and twenty days to hear Dad say my name again, to say it like he knows me for real and forever, and when he does, it’s like somebody shaking up a root beer and pouring it over ice. All the foam comes spilling out from inside of me. ‘Daddy, please come home. Please come home. I can make you happy again. Mom will understand. I know you’re sad. But I’m sad too. And Mom’s sad. She needs you. We need you.'” (This passage hasn’t changed since the very first draft, which is kind of miraculous.)
MUF: We got chills AND tears in our eyes when we read that part, Amanda.
MUF: Congratulations to you, and good luck with your launch. And — thank you so much for offering to give away a copy of THREE RULES OF EVERYDAY MAGIC!
Amanda Rawson Hill
Amanda Rawson Hill grew up in Southwest Wyoming with a library right out her back gate. She got a degree in Chemistry from Brigham Young University and now lives in Central California with her husband and three kids. THE THREE RULES OF EVERYDAY MAGIC is her first novel.