Posts Tagged fiction

Author Spotlight: Christine Kendall… plus a GIVEAWAY!

Let’s give a warm Mixed-Up welcome to Christine Kendall, the NAACP Image Award–nominated author of the MG debut, Riding Chance (Scholastic, 2016). Christine’s sophomore novel, also published by Scholastic, The True Definition of Neva Beane, came out in September and was lauded by Lesa Cline-Ransome as “an inter-generational story written with humor, heart, hope—and the power of self-discovery.

Here is a summary of Neva Beane:

Being twelve isn’t easy, especially when you’re Neva Beane. She knows she’s beautiful and smart, but there are so many confusing signals in everyday life about, well… everything, including the changes taking place in her preadolescent body; her relationship with her best friend, Jamila; and her admiration for the social activist on the block, Michelle.

Mom and Dad are on tour in Europe and Neva and her brother, Clay, are left at home with their traditional grandparents. The household descends into inter-generational turmoil and Neva is left with what comforts her most—words and their meanings. While the pages of her beloved dictionary reveal truths about what’s happening around her, Neva discovers the best way to define herself.

And here’s a summary of Riding Chance:

Troy is a kid with a passion. And dreams. And wanting to do the right thing. But after taking a wrong turn, he’s forced to endure something that’s worse than any juvenile detention: He’s “sentenced” to the local city stables, where he’s required to take care of horses. The greatest punishment has been trying to make sense of things since his mom died, but through his work with the horses he discovers a sport totally unknown to him—polo. Troy’s has to figure out which friends have his back, which kids to cut loose, and whether he and Alisha have a true connection.

Q&A with Christine Kendall

MR: So glad to have you with us, Christine. Welcome to the Mixed-Up Files!

CK: Thanks so much for inviting me. It’s a pleasure to be here.

MR: I can’t tell you which of your novels I enjoyed more, Riding Chance or The True Definition of Neva Beane. They are both wonderful in such different ways. I know you wrote Riding Chance because you were inspired by a story on NPR (more on that later), but what prompted you to tell Neva’s story? Were you like Neva growing up? 

CK: It warms my heart to hear you enjoyed both books as I consider them companion novels. They’re both coming of age stories that take place in current-day Philadelphia. The True Definition of Neva Beane isn’t memoir but, like Neva, I paid a lot of attention to words as I was growing up, and I came to understand their power pretty early on.

One of the things that prompted me to write the book is my fascination with how young girls are seen, and how those notions about who they are may or may not align with how they define themselves. This is important because the period in a girl’s life when she moves from early childhood into adolescence is magical, but it can also be very confusing. People read girls differently as their bodies develop and often make judgments about them based purely on their physical selves. I wanted to explore those issues. Once I had the Neva Beane character I thought about other issues she may be confronted with in today’s world. That led me to think about her political awakening and various ways a person can make a positive contribution to their community.

Body Positivity in MG Fiction

MR: Speaking of Neva, it’s clear from page one that she has a strong sense of self, particularly when it comes to her changing body. She feels beautiful in her first bra, a “glorious white cotton status symbol,” and admires herself in front of the mirror until she’s “dizzy.” I love this scene because it’s such a gorgeous display of girl power and body positivity. Was that your intention when you wrote the scene—to encourage tween girls to take pride in their changing bodies? If so, what role does body positivity play, or should play, in MG fiction?

CK: I’ll confess that I wrote Neva Beane’s “mirror scene” based on memory. I was eleven years old and, unbeknownst to me, I was seen admiring myself in front of a mirror by one of my brothers. Well, of course, my brother almost died laughing and I was humiliated. I spent hours trying to figure out why I felt that way before I realized there’s no shame in acknowledging your own beauty. I just hadn’t expected to be seen in that moment by anyone else. I think many young teens have experienced moments like that and I wanted them to know that I see them and their beauty. Body positivity is an issue for boys as well as girls and MG fiction is a good place to explore it.

What’s the Good Word?

MR: As above, Neva Beane is obsessed with words and finds great comfort in them. In fact, her most beloved possession is a Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. What is it about words that fascinates and comforts Neva—and maybe you, too?

CK: Words have power. Neva Beane is fascinated by them because she sees how they can be used to elevate or to wound. I share that fascination and wanted to show how Neva’s ability to analyze words brings her comfort especially when she is in the midst of confusing situations. I also wanted to provide a concrete example of how a person can use words to elevate. Neva chooses that path at the end of the book.

Work to Ride Program

MR: Turning our attention to Riding Chance, I know you wrote the book because you were inspired by a story on NPR about a program called Work to Ride, where inner-city kids work with horses and learn how to play polo in exchange for stable chores. Can you tell MUF readers a bit about the program and how it inspired you? Also, what kind of research did you do in order to make the polo-playing scenes realistic? I’m guessing you weren’t a horseperson prior to writing the novel…?

 CK: You’re right about my not being a horseperson before I wrote Riding Chance. I hadn’t planned on writing a novel. I was simply inspired when I heard the wonderful story about how kids in a mentoring program in Philly won a polo national championship in 2011. It was such an incredible story about what can happen when young people are given opportunities to explore and develop themselves in new ways.

I had to do a lot of research including taking horseback riding lessons, studying the game of polo, going to polo matches, and learning about the powerful bonds between humans and animals. I was fortunate in that there were a couple of horsepeople in the critique group I was a member of who were more than happy to offer constructive criticism. I learned quite a bit and really enjoyed the process.

Themes in Christine’s Books

MR: I noticed that loss and abandonment is a theme in both of your novels. In Riding Chance, Troy is grieving the death of his beloved mom; in Neva Beane, Neva feels as if she’s been cast aside by her best friend, Jamila. Neva also misses her musician parents while they’re on tour in Europe. What is the message you’re trying to convey? Resiliency? Grit? Something else?

CK: You hit the nail right on the head with resilience. I think it is such an important skill for young people to develop. Life can be difficult at times and we need to believe we can work our way through tough situations. One of the ways people develop resilience is by not being afraid to take reasonable risks. We will not always succeed at everything we try but even our failures provide opportunities to learn and to become more confident.

Ch Ch Changes…

MR: Before writing Riding Chance, you were in the legal profession. What prompted you to make the switch from the law to writing? Can you tell Mixed-Up Files readers about your path to publication? Was it a steady canter or a wild Headless Horseman-style gallop? (I know… 🙂)

CK: I like the visual of a Headless Horseman-style gallop especially since my path to publication was somewhat unusual. As you mentioned, I had a career before I became a writer. I worked with large law firms in the areas of  attorney recruitment, associate relations, and diversity and inclusion. I enjoyed my legal career but I got to the point where I wanted to do something more creative. I had always loved books and reading so I took a big step, talk about taking a risk, and left my job to focus on writing.

After about a year of sitting at home by myself struggling with picture book manuscripts I took a writing workshop with an editor from Scholastic, the amazing Andrea Davis Pinkney. She saw my fascination with Philly kids playing polo and encouraged me to use that as inspiration for a novel. It took me three years to research and write and revise but, in the end, she wanted the book.

This Writer’s Life

MR: What your writing process like, Christine? Do you have a specific routine? Writing rituals?

CK: I don’t have a specific writing routine, but I often need something like music to move me from real life into the fictive world. I love jazz so I may listen to that while I’m working. I also read my work aloud as I go along and I write with my whole body. What I mean is I get up and sometimes act out what my characters are doing so I can describe their actions accurately. Needless to say, I write at home. I don’t think people would put up with me in other places.

MR: Finally, what’s next on your writing agenda, Christine? Care to share a bit about your latest project?

CK: I’m working on another MG novel. I wrote a short story a few years ago that doesn’t feel like it’s finished even though it’s been published. I’m expanding that story into a longer work.

MR: Oh! Last thing…

No MUF interview is complete without a LIGHTNING ROUND!

Preferred writing snack? Popcorn.

Coffee or tea? Tea.

Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary or Oxford English Dictionary? Merriam-Webster.

Favorite word? Milieu, although I don’t think I used that word in Neva Beane.

Mister Ed or Mister Rogers? Mister Rogers.

Zombie apocalypse: Yea or nay? Nay.

Superpower? Ability to find humor in most any situation.

Favorite place on earth? Mashomack Nature Preserve on Shelter Island, New York.

You’re stranded on a desert island, with only three items in your possession. What are they? A book, my eyeglasses, and a flashlight.

MR: Thank you for chatting with me, Christine—and congratulations on the publication of The True Definition of Neva Beane. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I know MUF readers will too.

And now…

A GIVEAWAY!!!

For a copy of The True Definition of Neva Beane, comment on the blog–and, if you’re on Twitter, on the Mixed-Up Files’ Twitter account–for a chance to win! 

CHRISTINE KENDALL grew up in a family of artists, the fourth of six children, where everyone studied the piano along with one other instrument. She still feels sorry for the neighbors. They woke up one morning and found themselves living next door to a flute, two clarinets, a French horn, a cello, a set of drums, and always, always somebody on the piano. Christine wasn’t any good on the piano or the clarinet, but she loved writing. Her short fiction has appeared in numerous literary journals and her debut novel, Riding Chance, was nominated for a NAACP Image Award in the category of Outstanding Literary Work for Youth/Teens. The True Definition of Neva Beane is her second novel. Christine lives in Philadelphia where she co-curates and hosts the award-winning reading series, Creative at the Cannery. Learn more about Christine on her website and follow her on Twitter.

Author Spotlight: Andrea Davis Pinkney… plus a GIVEAWAY!

Today, I’m beyond thrilled to welcome acclaimed children’s author Andrea Davis Pinkney to the Mixed-Up Files!

Andrea is the New York Times bestselling and award-winning author of nearly 60 books for young readers, among them The Red Pencil and A Poem for Peter, as well as several collaborations with her husband Brian Pinkney, including Sit-In and Hand in Hand, which received the Coretta Scott King Book Award.

Her latest book, Loretta Little Looks Back: Three Voices Go Tell It, is a series of dramatic monologues narrated by three members of the Little family, Loretta, Roly, and Aggie. B. The novel has received four starred reviews to date – from Kirkus, School Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, and BooklistEntertainment Weekly called the book “prescient” and a must for your anti-racist reading list. The book is illustrated by Brian Pinkney and available from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

A glimpse into Loretta Little Looks Back:

“Right here, I’m sharing the honest-to-goodness.” — Loretta

“I’m gon’ reach back, and tell how it all went. I’m gon’ speak on it. My way.”— Roly

“I got more nerve than a bad tooth. But there’s nothing bad about being bold.” — Aggie B.

Loretta, Roly, and Aggie B., members of the Little family, each present the vivid story of their young lives, spanning three generations. Their separate stories–beginning in a cotton field in 1927 and ending at the presidential election of 1968–come together to create one unforgettable journey.

Through an evocative mix of fictional first-person narratives, spoken-word poems, folk myths, gospel rhythms and blues influences, Loretta Little Looks Back weaves an immersive tapestry that illuminates the dignity of sharecroppers in the rural South.

Inspired by storytelling’s oral tradition, stirring vignettes are presented in a series of theatrical monologues that paint a gripping, multidimensional portrait of America’s struggle for civil rights as seen through the eyes of the children who lived it.

Q&A with Andrea Davis Pinkney

MR: A hearty welcome to the Mixed-Up Files, Andrea! First and foremost, I must tell you how much I adored Loretta Little. Not only was the format highly original, each of the three narrators—Loretta, Roly, and Aggie B.—has a remarkably distinctive voice. As a writer, this is no mean feat. What’s your secret for getting inside a character’s head?

So happy to be here, Mixed-Up Files! Thank you for inviting me to your party. I’m glad you enjoyed Loretta Little Looks Back. Actually, I don’t get inside characters’ heads – they inhabit my thoughts. And they bury themselves in my heart, too. I feel like Loretta Little Looks Back wrote itself. These kids just started talking to me, each in their own brassy ways. One by one, they walked up, stared me down, and spoke. And they wouldn’t stop! That’s when the writing began. Roly, Loretta, and Aggie B. compelled me to share their stories with other kids like them who are passionate about what they believe is right.

Balancing fact and fiction

MR:  Speaking of Loretta, Roly, and Aggie B., I read in your author’s note that the characters are based on members of your family. Aggie B., for instance, is a composite of your aunt Katherine and your mother, Gwen.  Real-life historical figures are featured in your novel, too, including civil-rights activists James Forman, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Charles McLaurin. The rural setting—Ruleville, Mississippi—is also real. What is the biggest challenge of blending—and balancing—fact and fiction?

Yes, this book’s branches come from the roots of my family tree. They spring from the lives and times of the kinfolk who raised me. I come from a long line of grass-roots civil rights organizers. When I was growing up, I heard my family’s stories on porches and at the supper table. Many of these ended up on the pages of this book. My late father marched with Dr. King, and my mom was one of the first Black members of the League of Women Voters, so blending fact and fiction came naturally.

Historical ground

MR: In this novel, you cover life-changing historical ground—particularly, the struggle for Black Americans to secure the right to vote. To point out one example, young social activist Aggie B. becomes one of the youngest members of SNCC (the student wing of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, organized by Ella Baker and SCLC’s founder, Martin Luther King, Jr.), and she later sustains a brutal beating as a result of her activism. What parallels do you see between the events you describe in Loretta Little Looks Back and the current call for racial equity via the Black Lives Matter movement?

One of my favorite scenes in Loretta Little Looks Back happens in 1964, when young Aggie B. accompanies her Aunt ‘Retta to a local SNCC meeting that is seeking volunteers to register to vote. It’s the Jim Crow south, so folks are reluctant. When they ask for a show of hands, nobody is brave enough – except Aggie. She says:  My hand had a mind of its own. It raised itself so far, I thought my palm and fingers would fly off the top of my wrist! I knew that being only twelve years old, I was too young to register to vote. But my hand didn’t care about the age a person needed to be to help make things better. 

This scene is punctuated by a painting of Aggie B. with an exaggerated hand that reaches its way off the page to bring visual power, affirming that the future is the hands of our kids. This is exactly what kids are doing today. They’re raising their hands to becoming change-agents. It’s young people who are out there right now on the sidewalks and streets, letting the world know their voices are important. These are the voters of tomorrow. It’s up to us adults to pull up a chair, and let them talk to us – and to listen!

Trust, hope, and stars

MR: Loss is an important theme in Loretta Little. The loss of a parent, of a spouse, of land, of basic human dignity, of hope…  As Aggie B. says, “You can only see stars when the sky is the darkest.” What is the message you are trying to convey?  

The Little family endures so much injustice.  They transcend and triumph, too. One of the narrative elements that appears throughout their stories is the concept of “can’t see,” which refers to the dark hours right before the sun rises, when there are still stars in the sky, reminding us of hope. Daybreak always comes. Trusting in that is what hope and stars are all about.

Brian Pinkney and “the three C’s”

MR: As most kidlit afficionados know, you and your husband, illustrator Brian Pinkney, have published nearly 60 books between the two of you — Brian is you collaborator in art, and in life. [The Pinkneys have been together for 30 years and have been dubbed a “Picture Book Perfect Author-Illustrator Couple” by NPR.] How do you maintain a work/life balance? Also, how do you and Brian decide which projects to tackle? I’m guessing arm-wrestling is not involved. 🙂

Working with the one you love can be a beautiful experience — or a fast track to disaster! Brian and I have come up with some great strategies for making books while staying happily married. We have a weekly “meeting” each Saturday at our dining room table to review our projects, and to sit down together to talk about them.

Before and after the meeting, we don’t discuss work at all. Our weekly meetings are when we brainstorm project ideas. We have a running list. The ones that keep bubbling to the top are those we work on first. Others can linger for as long as a decade, and then, suddenly, something happens and we move ahead with one or two of those. At every stage of the creative process, we abide by “the three C’s”  – Courtesy, Communication, Commitment. These simple words have been the key to keeping our love at the center of our creative lives together. We steer clear of arm-wrestling!

Andrea’s many hats

MR: In addition to writing children’s books, you are the Vice President and Executive Editor at Scholastic. This is a tricky balancing act as well. How do you separate “Andrea the Editor” from “Andrea the Writer”?

I like accessories, which is why I enjoy wearing a few different hats — author, editor, and publisher. These “hats” are all completely different. I’m seldom wearing more than one at the same time. As an early riser, I start writing when it’s dark outside around four in the morning, until around six, when the sun starts to rise. By full daylight, the “writer hat” comes off, and I slip into publisher/editor mode.

Writing is a solitary discipline that’s very introspective. As an editor and publisher, my primary purpose is to serve other writers. I’m the one who holds the flashlight while they do the digging. As a graduate school professor who teaches writing, I’ve become very accustomed to working with students, helping them tell their stories. The same rules apply with authors. I’m like the midwife. They’re the ones doing the hard work.

MR: And finally, I’m curious: There are three narrators in Loretta Little Looks Back. Why did you choose to single out Loretta in the title?

Loretta is the family griot, the storytelling presence that ignites the story, and keeps the narrative threads moving forward – she’s a powerful root of the Little family tree. Since the book is written as a series of theatrical monologues, Loretta is the first to present herself to the audience of readers. And she was the first to introduce herself to me on a cold early morning when she stepped up to my consciousness and said, “This is me, talking to you.”

MR: Oh! Last thing, Andrea. No MUF interview is complete without a lightning round, so…

Preferred writing snack? A Red Delicious apple.

Coffee or tea? Scalding water with lemon.

Favorite song? This Little Light of Mine.

Zombie apocalypse: Yea or nay? Big NAY!

Favorite word. Love!

 

Favorite place on earth? London, England.

You’re stranded on a desert island, with only three items in your possession. What are they? My husband and our two kids (who are neither “items” on “in my possession” but we have so much fun together, especially in island settings).

MR: Thank you for chatting with me, Andrea—and congratulations on the publication of Loretta Little Looks Back. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I know MUF readers will too!

Thank YOU, and happy reading!

And now… a fabulous

GIVEAWAY!!!

For a copy of Loretta Little Looks Back, comment on the blog–and, if you’re on Twitter, on the Mixed-Up Files Twitter account–for a chance to win! 

Andrea’s bio

ANDREA DAVIS PINKNEY is the New York Times bestselling an award-winning author of numerous books for children and young adults. Her work has received multiple Coretta Scott King Book Award citations. She is a four-time nominee for the NAACP Image Award, and has been inducted into the New York State Writers Hall of Fame. Andrea is the recipient of both the Regina Medal and the Arbuthnot Honor Award for her distinguished and singular contribution to the field of children’s literature. She has been named among the “25 Most Influential People in our Children’s Lives” by Children’s Health magazine, and is listed among the “25 Most Influential Black Women in Business” by The Network Journal.

Andrea is the librettist for the Houston Grand Opera’s The Snowy Day, an opera based on the beloved bestselling children’s picture book classic The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. She has served on the creative teams for several theatrical and audio productions based on works for young people, including those drawn from her acclaimed books, Martin Rising: Requiem for a King, The Red Pencil, and Rhythm Ride: A Trip through the Motown Sound. Andrea lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and frequent collaborator, illustrator Brian Pinkney, and their two children. You can find Andrea on Twitter and Facebook.

Interview with Julie Dawn Cole, Veruca Salt from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory!

Hello Mixed-Up Filers!

We are in for an enormous treat today!

Whenever I interview anyone, I usually ask them what their favorite childhood movie was. Among the top answers I always receive is Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. It’s among my favorites as well, and that is why this is definitely among the most excited I’ve ever been to conduct an interview. Please help me welcome one of the stars of that film, Julie Dawn Cole, who played one of the most memorable child characters ever, Veruca Salt!

                                                                                                                                     Julie Dawn Cole

JR: Hi Julie, and thanks for joining us today!

To start with, after you agreed to do the interview, I went back and watched Willy Wonka again, and it brought me right back to my childhood. It’s a movie that I watched as a kid, and loved when I got to see it again through that lens when I watched it with my children. The film has such a timeless feel. How often do you go back and rewatch it and can you distance yourself from the film and just enjoy it, or is it a more analytical and emotional experience?

JDC: I confess that I don’t go back and watch it as a whole, but if friends are around and it is on, then I might dip in. Though when I do watch it, it is like watching a scrap book for me, I remember what happened just before we did that etc etc, I remember the stuff surrounding it.

JR: I’m sure in many ways it’s like a home movie. At what point did you realize that the movie would have such tremendous staying power?

JDC: Not until the 80’s probably when it was shown on TV regularly and then gained its cult following. When It was released, it didn’t do well at the box office and came and went. In fact for many years, I hardly mentioned it, and I think for a while I left it off my resume, as it wasn’t relevant, and was a ‘kids movie’ and not a very popular one.

 

JR: That’s still amazing to me how it only got popular years after its release. You are my daughter’s favorite in the movie. Even though you played the perfect bratty child, you’ve picked up a big cult following, including a rock band named Veruca Salt. That’s a testament to your performance. What do you think it is about that character, which even though she was soooo bratty, kids still loved her?

JDC: I guess secretly we all have an inner dark self that we might like to let loose! Veruca does and says what we might secretly think but would never dare do, or be allowed to do.

                                                                                                                        Julie as Veruca Salt and now

JR: Have you had any interaction with the band?

JDC: Sadly no, though I think we connected via twitter.

                                                                                                                                  The band, Veruca Salt

JR: Other than Peter Ostrum, who played Charlie, you were the only kid to have a song, which was a memorable one. That must’ve been a feather in your cap.

JDC: It still annoys Paris, (Mike Teevee) he was desperate to have a song, and used to walk around singing ‘where is love’ hoping they might relent and write him one!

                                                                                                                     Paris Themmen as Mike TeeVee

JR: That’s very funny. Willy Wonka was your first film. What was that like for a kid to go in filming with some established actors and big names like Gene Wilder, Jack Albertson, and Roy Kinnear?

I was in awe of the woman who played my mother, Pat Coombs, and she doesn’t even get a credit! But don’t forget I was 12, and didn’t know who Gene and Jack were. I had seen Roy Kinnear on British TV, but as a kid I think you just accept things.

                                                                                                                Julie with Roy Kinnear and Pat Coombs

JR: That innocence was probably a good thing! What are your memories of Gene Wilder?

Gene was very sweet and kind, especially when he found out that I was the only kid who didn’t have a relative with them on location. 3 months in Germany away from home. I think he felt for me with that, and went out of his way to make a fuss of me. Plus probably the British accent helped!

                                                                                                                     Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka

JR: The accent certainly works on my daughter, she’s obsessed with all things British! I just read and loved your memoir, I Want it Now, which was so much fun. You included so many personal items like pictures and letters that you wrote from the time, that I felt like I was a part of the experience. There are tons of great stories that fans of yours and fans of the movie will find amazing and they’ll love being able to reminisce with you. I highly recommend everyone to go and purchase it from your website, https://www.juliedawncole.co.uk/ where they can get a signed and personalized copy, but are there some fun anecdotes from the making of Willy Wonka that you can share with us here?

JDC: I think most of them are covered in the book, apart from the fact that we used to play with an Ouija board in our hotel room. ( I didn’t include that bit,)  let’s face it we were often bored and there was no cable TV.

JR: Actually, the Ouija Board sounds like an interesting evening. I was saddened to read about Denise Nickerson’s unfortunate passing. Did you have contact with her before then?

JDC: I saw Denise regularly, and we were in contact just 2 weeks before she had her stroke. Paris was staying with me on vacation and Rusty Goffe (who played one of the Oompa Loompas), had joined us for lunch, so we gave her a call. Denise and I always called each other Sis. I was incredibly sad, when she died. She had a terrible year following her stroke and never recovered. Paris and I visited her in September just after her stroke. She had recovered well, but her speech was slow, and she struggled, So we sang Willy Wonka songs, and she seemed really happy. It was one of the saddest days I have known. That was the last time I saw her, waving goodbye from her balcony window.

                                                                                                                                    Denise Nickerson

JR: I’m glad you had that time together. You’ve gotten together with the cast many times for reunions. Do you all still keep in touch?

JDC: Yes all still in touch, last time was when I saw Paris and Pete for the launch of a pinball machine! We had a lot of fun.

                                                                                                                               Peter Ostrum

JR: Okay, I have to ask, the Oompa Loompas seemed to be working day and night at the whim of Wonka, shouldn’t they have unionized?

JDC: Of course they should!!!! Wonka was exploiting them.

                                                                                                                                     Oompa Loompas

JR: Speaking of Oompa Loompas, what was your first impression at seeing the chocolate room?

JDC: It was beautiful, and such fun to run round. I used to take my lunch to the riverbank and have my own little picnic.

                                                                                                                          Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Room

JR: I don’t blame you. That set looked magnificent. And I read that you actually hated chocolate? My daughters are the same, and I question their bloodlines because of that, but how was it for someone who hated chocolate to be surrounded by it?

JDC: There wasn’t as much chocolate as most people think there was. I guess the most was in the salts salted peanut factory when they were shelling wrappers, but most of those were dummies.

 

JR: You have had such a lengthy and fantastic career. Out of your post-Wonka roles, which are some of your favorites and why?

JDC: Couldn’t really say, but I have certainly had fun, and got to travel lots. I worked out once that work had taken me to 40 countries!

JR: That’s amazing! You really have been fortunate to get to see so many different places and cultures. Can you share any fun anecdotes regarding some of your other roles?

JDC: I was working on a movie called ‘Camille’ with an amazing cast, including the gorgeous Colin Firth. I shared a trailer with Billie Whitelaw, and we were on location near Versaille. Relaxing after lunch there was a little knock on the door. It was Sir John Gielguid. He asked if he could join us, as he was lonely on his own! What an amazing afternoon. Another time I had to meet Katherine Hepburn, and read a script with her. (I didn’t get the part) she said in that wonderful voice, “Oh you are so much better at this than I am!”. Not true of course, but oh how magical to read with her.

                                                                                                                                   Camille (1984 film)

JR: Do you ever do conventions?

JDC: Yes, we had some planned for the 50th anniversary, but sadly all on hold.

 

JR: That is sad. Would love to get to see you at a convention! How are your interactions with fans?

JDC: Interesting, especially the lady who has a full sized tattoo of me on her back! (Kansas City)

JR: Now THAT’S a fan! On your Facebook page, Julie Dawn Cole – The ORIGINAL Veruca Salt, you recently posted videos of you reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which was such a treat. I read the comments in the videos, and you just saw how much that meant to fans. It really was nice of you to do. Did that give you a new sense of how much of a part you played in the childhoods of so many people?

JDC: That was a fun thing to do, and early lockdown was such a scary time for us all. It was lovely to see all the comments, and I feel I know so many of the fans. It was such a thrill that people enjoyed it. When  we first did it, my kids said ‘ who is going to watch it?’ I” don’t know “I replied, ‘but I know the neighbours’ children will be watching, so that is 3.”I was stunned when we were getting thousands of hits. We are thinking of maybe doing it again for a YouTube channel. Watch this space!

JR: Will the videos be up for a while?

JDC: Hope so!

JR: Since we’re a site dedicated to children’s books, what was your favorite childhood book?

JDC: Pookie! By Ivy Wallace. I read them all as a child and have been collecting them for my Granddaughter. I loved them, they are out of print now, but I managed to find a first edition. Pookie got me through some very difficult times in my childhood.

                                                                                                                                     Pookie by Ivy Wallace

JR: With so many people saying that Wonka was their favorite childhood movie, do you have a favorite childhood movie?

JDC: In search of the Castaways, starring Hayley Mills. My childhood heroine!

                                                                                                                               In Search of the Castaways

JR: I enjoyed that one as well! You currently work in a cancer center as a psychotherapist. What made you decide to transition away from acting to pursue that field?                      

JDC: It was time to do something more meaningful.

JR: That’s very admirable. How can people follow you on social media?

JDC: My Facebook page is the best way, Julie Dawn Cole, the original Veruca Salt.

Twitter – @realverucasalt

JR: Julie, I’d like to once again thank you for joining us. This has been a real treat, and you’re welcome back anytime!

JDC: Thank you!

 

Again, I highly recommend checking out Julie’s memoir, I Want it Now! There were so many great behind-the-scenes stories from Willy Wonka, and Julie included perosnal letters and pictures from the time, which made you feel like you were there. 

Check it out:

Julie’s site, where you have an opportunity to have it personalized: https://www.juliedawncole.co.uk/

IndieBound:

B&N: