We’re excited to feature an interview with Jonathan Bernstein, author of Bridget Wilder: Spy-in-Training. In Bridget Wilder, middle school meets Mission Impossible in this hilarious spy series for fans of Chris Rylander, Stuart Gibbs, and Ally Carter about a girl whose life is turned upside down when she discovers her father is a superspy.
Mixed-Up Files: How did you come up with the idea for Bridget Wilder: Spy-in-Training?
Jonathan Bernstein: The teen/ tween spy genre is fairly crowded, but the story most commonly told is about the kid with incredible skills who lacks direction in life, and the mysterious spy academy that recruits him/ her and trains him/ her to become an international super spy. I wanted to go in a slightly different direction. Bridget Wilder has no particular skills, and she’s practically invisible both at home and at school, but she’s recruited by a covert department of the CIA because it turns out her biological father is a legendary spy who wants to get to know her better. What happens when someone no one notices becomes a spy and also—no spoilers!— are all these unexpected things that are suddenly happening to Bridget REALLY happening to her? Or is something else going on?
MUF: Are you a fan of spy novels and films? Which ones?
JB: No surprises here: I’m a loyal patron of the Bond and Bourne movies. Mission Impossible is one of the few franchises that actually improves with each passing film. The first two seasons of Alias were a big influence on Bridget Wilder. I heard there were vague plans to reboot that show, which I’d be all in favor of. Also, someone should look into finding a way to bring Chuck back in some capacity. There was an incredibly dark British spy show called Callan which should also be revived. You know what else I like, the post-Bond semi-parody movies from the mid-sixties: the Matt Helm films with Dean Martin and the Derek Flint series with James Coburn. Both very big with middle-grade audiences.
MUF: Are there books for middle schoolers that inspired you when you were writing this?
JB: I’d read a couple of Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girls books— do they qualify as middle grade?— but, for me, it’s best to stay away from anything that could be construed as comparable subject matter because i find I’m very easily influenced, even if it’s in a subliminal way.
MUF: What were you hoping readers would take away from the experience of reading this book?
JB: That they found Bridget Wilder relatable and human, even though she was involved in heightened, fantastical situations. That they might want to spend more time in her world.
MUF: Is this your first MG novel? Was it hard after so many years of doing non-fiction reporting to jump into the mind of a 13 year old girl?
JB: I’ve written two YA superhero novels, Hottie, and it’s sequel Burning Ambition—never heard of them? You’re not alone— plus another couple of books that may/may not see the light of day at some point. I don’t know what it says about me, but no, it didn’t seem to be that difficult to assume the identity of a 13 year-old girl. But real middle-graders will be the ultimate judge of whether I actually succeeded or not.
MUF: You’re not a spy, are you? What do you do with your time when you’re not writing MG fiction?
JB: Apart from spying, you mean? Which I don’t do, obviously, because I’m not a spy. But then, that’s the sort of thing a spy would say. In non-spying mode, I write reviews and interviews for two British newspapers, the Telegraph and the Guardian. I once had a screenwriting career of no great distinction, and am currently making attempts to revive it. I am a prodigious podcast listener, and pop culture consumer. And, um, I like to take long walks on the beach?
MUF: What’s next for Bridget? Can you tell us anything without ruining the ending of book one? How many more books are currently planned?
JB: There will definitely be two more. Bridget Wilder: Spy To The Rescue—I wanted to call it Spy 2 The Rescue, because more sequally— comes out next spring and, if you liked the first one, you will REALLY like this one. The trilogy concludes in 2017 with Bridget Wilder: Live Free, Spy Hard which, if you liked the first two, you will REALLY REALLY like (and which features a boy band from my home town of Glasgow). What’s next is bigger action, higher stakes, different locations, scarier viliains, more shocking twists, and at least one love triangle.
MUF: If there’s anything you would like to add here, feel free to do so!
JB: Thanks for giving me the opportunity to talk to your audience. Check out my website www.jonathanbernsteinwrites.com. Follow me on Twitter @jbpeevish, and Instagram at Peevishjb