I’m thrilled to welcome Laura Brown and Elly Kramer to the Mixed-Up Files to celebrate their upcoming release of two exciting new chapter books: Trillium Sisters 1: The Triplets Get Charmed and Trillium Sisters 2: Bestie Day. They’re illustrated by Sarah Mensinga and will be published by Pixel+Ink on June 1, 2021.
Three sisters discover that they and their pets have superpowers they can use to protect the world around them in this fantastical new chapter book series about family, friendship, and environmental responsibility perfect for fans of Mia Mayhem and The Wish Fairy.
This is such an amazing concept for a series. How did you come up with the idea?
Laura: It was originally inspired when I was on a family ski trip in Colorado. I was alone on a slope when I found myself by a gorgeous stand of Douglas Firs. The setting was so beautiful, I just had to stop. I began to imagine what it might be like to live in that beautiful spot, surrounded by nature! Who might live there and how? I couldn’t stop thinking about it. When I got home, I called Elly and we built the world and characters from there.
Elly: So, we had the setting. We knew where the stories would take place but had to figure out who the stories would be about. I had always wanted to tell a story featuring families. While they all look different, it’s something that every reader can relate to. And as someone who has an incredibly special relationship with my sister, the idea of writing about sisters popped into my head. (And in case he’s reading this, I love my brother very much, too. Trillium Brothers is next!)
What inspired the two of you to co-write the Trillium Sister series?
Elly: Laura and I had worked together in children’s television for years and we had recently co-written some scripts for a show on Nick Jr. We loved the collaboration and realized we had some ideas of our own. That sparked the partnership. We both wanted to do something that empowered girls to be the heroes of their own stories. We call that modern princess magic.
Laura: It was also important to us that there were strong boys/men beside these strong girls. That’s why the family is headed by a single, nurturing dad and there’s a little brother who has his own unique gifts.
What are some of the pros and cons of co-writing, and do you have tips for anyone who is considering working with a co-writer?
Laura: I think co-writing was natural for us given that we came from television. We’ve both been part of writer’s rooms where story ideas are workshopped with lots of different people at once. It’s loads of fun to create stories collaboratively – it’s almost like playing pretend when you’re little! My favorite part of co-writing is taking an idea in an unexpected direction when the other brain gets involved. Elly and I call this “yes anding” each other!
Elly: What I love about our co-writing process is that we get each other unstuck. If I’m unsure where a chapter is going or if Laura wants the dialogue punched up, we turn to each other. In terms of co-writing tips, I’d say figure out what you are each best at and lean into your strengths. No one has to do it all.
Laura: Yes, and pick a partner who has different strengths than you do so you each bring unique qualities to the team. Then, talk, talk, talk! You don’t want anything left unsaid when you’re writing together.
Elly: And don’t over use semi- colons! Apparently I used them way too much!
LOL. It’s easy to see how well you work together. It sounds like such a fun way to write, brainstorm, and revise.
How have your backgrounds and lived experiences helped with your new chapter book series?
Elly: Having worked in television, I was used to thinking about all of the elements that go into telling stories. Things like, knowing who your audience is. How to think about world building and character development. There are some practical things that are different between developing for television and books, but ultimately you want your audience to fall in love with what you’ve created and to keep coming back for more.
Laura: The older I get, the more I love and respect nature. So few kids today have the opportunity to spend a day in the woods! My passion for the natural world really shaped the book. In terms of career, I’m an educational psychologist and I’ve spent years running focus groups with young children, exploring how they react to stories. That gives me a strong understanding of what engages children and what they understand at different ages.
What surprised you the most while writing these books?
Laura: How easy it was to get lost in the stories! I love the world so much that sometimes I’d write an entire scene only to realize it wasn’t going to work. I had done it because I wanted to explore that part of Trillium Mountain! Of course, that doesn’t mean the writing was always easy. It wasn’t, but that’s when it was essential to have a partner and a great editor. Bethany Buck helped us in so many ways, but one thing that stands out is what she taught us about pacing the reveal of new information over the course of the series.
Elly: To see how these girls have come alive off the page! We put mood boards together while we were developing the books. Everything from their clothing, to their rooms, to what kind of music they would listen to. We compiled images of what we envisioned they would look like before they were designed. My niece recently was looking through my phone and saw an image of a young girl. She said, “That looks like Giselle!” and it was a piece of inspiration I had pulled for Giselle. To see and feel how dimensionalized these girls have become, even though they’re not animated, has been incredible.
Pics that inspired the sisters. Emmy is sensitive and compassionate. She loves nature and all living things. Clare has big out of the box ideas and loves design and fashion. And Giselle? She lives to move and she’s a confident decision maker.
I love that your niece was able to look at your inspiration photo for Giselle and recognize her! The inspiration photos for the girls are amazing, and I can’t stop smiling at the inspiration photos for their adorable pets, too. Readers will want their own mini’mals after meeting these cuties.
Inspiration for the pets – Soar the eaglet, Fluffy the wolf pup, Claw the bear cub
Here’s the inspiration for the incredible world they created. What an amazing place to live! It’s an alpine oasis with touches of the fantastical. Where you can drink daisy juice, bring your pet to the Paw Pad for a massage, and find the most exquisite rocks. Trillium flowers hold special meaning for the girls.
Can you share a writing exercise with us?
Laura: One thing I struggle with is getting out of my everyday brain (which has a lot of “to do” lists in it) and into my creative brain. To do that, I go for a walk with my dog, Charley Brown. Then, I go home and “vomit write” for 10 minutes, which means I write whatever pops into my head without worrying if it makes sense. It’s something I used to do with my daughter when she had trouble coming up with a writing topic for school. There’s often a little gold in all the mess.
Elly: Similar to Laura, I just write at first. I get everything out and then go back to re-read and edit. I’ve also found it incredibly useful to give myself time and space between each revision. I see things differently the next day than I do after working on a chapter for 4 hours.
Thanks for the great writing exercise and tips! Fast-drafting without allowing a pesky internal editor to interfere helps me discover so many gems, too. And giving myself time between revisions is a huge help!
What’s next for both of you?
Laura: I’m working on a picture book and another chapter book series. The picture book is a humorous take on sibling relationships, based loosely on my own kids. They’re grown now and very close but when they were little, I worried it wouldn’t work out that way! Elly and I are also writing some short stories for an online platform.
Elly: I have some new TV ideas I’ve been working on, but one of the greatest things that have come out of this process has been working with Laura. I am so much better working with someone else. It’s hard for me to come up with ideas in a vacuum. Laura and I are always talking about what we can do next together. I can always tell when she’s been out walking Charley … she usually calls with some great new idea as soon as she gets home from her walk.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Laura: I want readers to know Trillium Sisters is first and foremost an adventure fantasy. We hope kids get lost in our stories and have fun. In our opinion, those experiences teach us the most and make passionate readers.
Elly: Nothing to ‘yes and’ there. Perfectly said.
Thank you so much for stopping by the Mixed-Up Files, Laura and Elly. It was great chatting with you.
Laura and Elly: Thank you! This was trilltastic!
Laura Brown, an early childhood expert, collaborates with organizations to create high quality educational media properties and products. She has written curricula and scripts and served as Content Expert and Research Director for series produced by Nick Jr., Disney Junior, Amazon Kids, DreamWorks Animation Television, PBS Kids, and many others. She is currently Curriculum Director at WarnerMedia Preschool/Cartoonito. A mother of three, she lives in Tenafly, NJ, but in another life, she would happily live in a treehouse in the forest. (Instagram: @laurabrownauthor)
Elly Kramer is currently the VP of Production & Development at Imagine Entertainment in their Kids and Family division and has created and led the development of numerous award-winning and highly-rated TV shows, online games, and innovative apps. As VP of Production and Development with Nickelodeon, she led the development of long and short-form content. She has also produced and developed over thirty-five shorts. Elly is a frequent speaker at film festivals and industry events. She lives in Los Angeles, CA. (Instagram: @ellykramerauthor)
Enter the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win a copy of both Trillium Sisters 1: The Triplets Get Charmed and Trillium Sisters 2: Bestie Day. (U.S. only)
Trillium Sisters 1: The Triplets Get Charmed
Eight-year-old triplets Emmy, Clare, and Giselle are excited to celebrate Founding Day, the day their dad found them and they became a family. The girls want this year’s celebration to be extra special. And Dad has a big surprise—trillium petal charms that he found with the girls.
But when the girls’ little brother, Zee, slips into the river while helping them plan a special surprise, something magical happens: The charms are drawn together, forming a glowing flower, and the girls suddenly have superpowers! Channeling their new abilities, they work together to try to save Zee, but will they be able to figure out how to help in time?
Trillium Sisters 2: Bestie Day
The Trillium Triplets are flying into action!
Wondering if their powers will return, Clare, Emmy, and Giselle throw themselves into preparations for Bestie Day, when everyone in Trillsville celebrates the special people in their lives. The girls are planning to make presents for one another from fallen flower petals. That way, they can enjoy the beauty around them without causing harm.
But at the flower field, instead of finding beautiful blooms, the Trills find a big problem. Two girls from town are cutting so many flowers for their Bestie Day bouquets that the bees can’t get enough nectar. And without the bees, the entire mountain ecosystem could fall apart! When their Trillium powers activate, will the sisters be able to buzz to the rescue?
The winner will be announced on Sunday, May 30. Good luck. 😊