Hi Everyone! How are you all doing? Social distancing and self-confinement is not something any of us expected to be doing, right now. Such an abrupt change to our lives can make us feel withdrawn and lonely. But there are ways to combat that feeling of isolation. One way is through reading and writing. Just as exciting is doing that with others through the internet. If you scroll to the bottom of this post, you’ll find a little creative exercise I created for you to do. Those who participate will have a chance to win a prize!
But don’t scroll yet! Take a peek at my next creepy book spotlight and what the author has to say about his writing journey. It’s seriously an amazing, creepy middle grade read.
by Ronald L. Smith
A delightfully creepy novel from a Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award winner imbued with magic and seafaring mythology. Lemony Snicket and Jessica Townsend meet Greenglass House, with a hint of Edward Gorey thrown in.
When twelve-year-old Rory applies for a job at a spooky old mansion in his gloomy seaside town, he finds the owner, Lord Foxglove, odd and unpleasant. But he and his mom need the money, so he takes the job anyway. Rory soon finds out that his new boss is not just strange, he’s not even human—and he’s trying to steal the townspeople’s shadows. Together, Rory and his friend Isabella set out to uncover exactly what Foxglove and his otherworldly accomplices are planning and devise a strategy to defeat them. But can two kids defeat a group of ancient evil beings who are determined to take over the world?
Another delightfully creepy tale from Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award–winning author Ronald L. Smith.
Hello Ronald! It’s such a pleasure to have you visit us. Let’s begin with an area most readers are curious about: What is it about writing stories that makes it all worth it for you?
Selfishly, it’s a dream come true to do this for a living. I feel very lucky to have such a cool job. But what’s really rewarding is knowing that kids will read my books and (hopefully) like them.
Did any book(s) from your childhood influence or encourage you to . . .
- Want to read more?
- Become a writer?
Yes. One of my favorite books as a kid was The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet by Elanor Cameron. I also loved Ray Bradbury, Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. All of these books fired my imagination and set me on a path of becoming a writer.
How do you think authors, librarians, teachers, and parents can encourage a love of reading in middle schoolers?
I think they’re all doing a fantastic job. There has to be a story for every kid. The librarians and teachers are on the front lines in suggesting books that will appeal to every one of them, no matter their background. Also, it’s not just books. Comics, graphic novels and poetry also help kids become better readers of novels. So don’t discourage any kind of reading at all!
So very true!
Describe for us the town in which you set Gloom Town and why this story had to be told there?
Hmm. Well, I write organically, and just kind of discovered Gloom Town as I was writing it. I wanted a locale that felt out of time. Kind of like 19th century England but with odd details in the mix as well. The seaside setting was a surprise to me, but once that came to me I really began to love it. Ships, mariners, the docks—it all came together to create a setting I really loved.
I love how the town revealed itself to you as you were writing the story.
What was your favorite part of the story to write?
I like the creepy stuff, so it has to be Lord Foxglove and his minions!
What makes your main character Rory different from other characters you’ve written?
He has a lot on his shoulders and will do whatever it takes to keep his family safe. He is bright and confident, brave and curious. His home life is different from that of my other characters. His mom is a singer, and her friends are artists and performers, so he has grown up in a creative, avant-garde community.
Why will middle schoolers relate to Rory and/or your other characters in Gloom Town?
Hopefully, they’ll see a bit of themselves in these characters and experience every bit of joy, fear and happiness that they do!
What do you hope readers will take-away with them after reading this story?
Be brave. Fight for your family. Don’t take a job at a spooky mansion.
Food advice: What’s your favorite writing snack?
I don’t really have one. I take a break at noon for lunch. I usually have some tea in the afternoon. But if I had to answer I’d say anything salty and crunchy!
Writing advice: What do you do when the writing just isn’t flowing?
Walk away for a while. Read someone else’s novel. Take a walk and clear my head.
One favorite idea-generating method you use is . . .?
Sometimes when I get stuck I imagine that the book is a film. What would happen next if this were a movie, I ask myself. Sometimes it works, Sometimes it doesn’t.
Sounds like a pretty effective method.
Care to share a favorite middle grade book of yours?
His Dark Materials from Philip Pullman and The Abhorsen Trilogy by Garth Nix.
Thank you for sharing your wisdom and experience with us. All the best to you, from your Mixed-Up Files family!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ronald L. Smith is the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award-winning author of Hoodoo, The Mesmerist, The Owls Have Come to Take Us Away, Gloom Town, and Black Panther: The Young Prince. He lives in Baltimore, Maryland.
Dear Readers, thank you for joining in to learn more about Ron’s mysterious story of GLOOM TOWN! Are you ready for your home-schooling exercise? Create your own fictional town – Name & a brief Description – in the comment section below along with your Twitter handle for a chance to win a copy of GLOOM TOWN! I can’t wait to see what you come up with! Giveaway runs from today until April 1st, (US only). Winner will be announced via Twitter.