Posts Tagged spooky kidlit

Spooky, Scary Stitchers

For those of you who love spooky, scary middle grade, I have a treat for you. The Stitchers (ABRAMS/Amulet 2020), by debut author Lorien Lawrence, releases this week, and alongside that spooky scary goodness, it’s SO. MUCH. FUN.

The Stitchers Cover

About The Stitchers:

Thirteen-year-old Quinn Parker knows there’s something off about her neighbors. She calls them “the Oldies” because they’ve lived on Goodie Lane for as long as anyone can remember, but they never seem to age. Are they vampires? Or aliens? Or getting secret experimental surgeries? Or is Quinn’s imagination just running wild again?

If her dad were still around, he’d believe her. When he was alive, they’d come up with all sorts of theories about the Oldies. Now, Quinn’s determined to keep the investigation going with the help of Mike, her neighbor and maybe-crush. They’ll have to search for clues and follow the mystery wherever it leads–even if it’s to the series pond at the end of the street that’s said to have its own sinister secrets. But the Oldies are on to them. And the closer Quinn and Mike get to uncovering the answers, the more they realize just how terrifying the truth may be.

Interview with Debut Author Lorien Lawrence

Welcome, Lorien Lawrence, to the Mixed-Up Files! As I often do, I shared your book with my son, who’s a middle grade and young adult reader.  He loved the Stitchers–which meant he and I got to collaborate on these interview questions.  NOTE: This interview has been edited slightly in order to group topics and transitions.

HMC: I am always curious about origin stories – where did you get the idea for the Stitchers?

LL I think I say this in another!er interview, but there’s nothing scarier than losing someone you love. I wrote this story after my dad suddenly died. I had just moved back to my hometown with my husband, and we would go for these really long walks and try to make sense of what happened. Eventually, my childhood streets brought back happy memories and feelings of nostalgia instead of sadness. And we started to play a “what if” sort of game, where we took turns wondering “what if that house was haunted?” or “what if that pond was magical?” Eventually, one of these “what ifs” turned into THE STITCHERS. So I guess writing Quinn’s story helped me come to terms with my own grief.

Writing About Loss for MG

HMC: (As you just mentioned,) your main character, Quinn, is coping with the loss of her father … and picking up where he left off, investigating the same mystery. Loss and fear are pretty scary subjects no matter how old you are … how did you balance respecting your middle-grade readers’ maturity with knowing when the subject matter needed to be age-appropriate?

Finding this balance was probably the most difficult part of the writing experience for me. I knew I needed to show Quinn coming through the other side, so to speak. She doesn’t miss her dad any less, but she learns how to live a new kind of normal. Her dreams continue, her friendships continue, even though she herself has changed. But the change isn’t all bad: she’s stronger. She’s braver. She’s more determined and more vulnerable. And she realizes that she’s still surrounded by people who love her.

Questions from HMC’s Son

HMC’s Son: What was your favorite part of this book to write? 

LL: Great question! My favorite part to write was the scene in the basement of the funeral home. I won’t give it away, but it was delightfully gruesome and fun to imagine!

HMC’s Son: What did you like most about Quinn? 

LL: Another great question! I like that Quinn is flawed. She lies. She hides the truth. She hides her true feelings. But these are things that normal 12 year olds do. And by the end of the book, she makes things right.

HMC’s Son: This book is the beginning of a series. Can you give us any hints about what is coming up next for Quinn and Mike?

LL: The next book in the series is called THE COLLECTORS, and it comes out next fall. It follows Quinn once again as she and Mike launch into a new supernatural investigation – but I don’t want to give too much away! 😊 I can say that it picks up directly where THE STITCHERS leaves off.

Stitchers Fan Art

                                                                                Stitchers Fan Art, by Elle Jauffret

Eternal Youth, Monsters, and Witches

HMC: Another interesting theme in your book is about the eternal quest for youth … and how it can make people do strange things. (!!) What takeaways do you think this element in your plot has for the middle-grade reader?

I think I was inspired by the day-old conundrum of kids wanting to be older, and adults wanting to be younger. In reality, we need to just learn to appreciate where we are in the moment.

HMC: In this book, I found lots of literary and theater connections, from Frankenstein to the Crucible. Did any of those influence your writing?

LL: Oh my gosh, I’m thrilled that you noticed! YES! I’ve always been taken with Frankenstein and The Crucible – really the whole idea that society creates the monsters, not the other way around.

Open Mic Question

HMC: What do you want us to know about The Stitchers that we haven’t asked?

LL: A quick fun fact: I have tiny clues hidden in THE STITCHERS and THE COLLETORS that hint towards future books in the series!

THE PANDEMIC QUESTIONS

HMC: I’ve begun a new line of pandemic questions in all my interviews because I’m curious about how we as kidlit authors are going to handle the pandemic in our writing going forward. You’re a middle school teacher in New England – will you be going back into the classroom to teach this fall, or will you be teaching virtually?

LL: As of right now, I still don’t know where or how I will be teaching. I am assuming that I’ll be teaching virtually as I did in the spring. I’m from Connecticut, and our state got hit with the virus early, so my school closed in early March and remained closed for the year. Whatever I end up doing, I’ll try to make the best of it!

HMC: How has the coronavirus pandemic affected your writing life?

LL: I grew up with (and still struggle) with anxiety, and writing has always been a coping mechanism for me. So I’ve actually been writing a lot! I wrote two new manuscripts during quarantine. I don’t know if these books will ever see the light of day, but it helps me to throw myself in a made-up world when times are scary.

HMC: Will Quinn and Mike have pandemic related conversations in your new book?

LL: This is a great question! I honestly don’t know the answer! They won’t be talking about it in the first two books in the series, but if I’m able to publish more adventures of Quinn and Mike, I’ll have to have a serious think about what to do with that. Maybe I’ll ask my students if they would be interested in reading about something so scary and recent. I’m sure they’ll have strong opinions either way!

((More about pandemic writing in this archived post on Writing Prompts for a Pandemic))

HMC: Thanks so much, Lorien. Congratulations on your debut and best of luck to you!

Debut Author Lorien Lawrence

Lorien Lawrence

Lorien Lawrence is a writer and middle school English teacher from Connecticut. When she’s not reading or writing, she can be found hunting ghosts with her family. The Stitchers is her debut novel.

Where to find the Stitchers:

  1. Bookshop.org
    1. Click on this link, then search for THE STITCHERS — or any other book.
  2. Amazon

Editor Spotlight: Georgia McBride, Georgia McBride Media Group

Georgia McBride is founder and editor of Georgia McBride Media Group, which is home to Month9Books, Swoon Romance, and Tantrum Books. She has used her experience launching brands in the music business, licensing music to film and TV, launching new technology products, and marketing and product development to build the Georgia McBride Media Group brand. Georgia is one of Publishers Marketplace’s most prolific editors. She’s completed over 225 publishing, audiobook, and film/TV deals on behalf of three imprints since 2012. Georgia founded the #YAlitchat hashtag and weekly chat on Twitter in 2009.

Hi Georgia, thanks for chatting with us!
You’re publishing two of my 2019 middle grade debut-mates: Malayna Evans and Kristin Thorsness. Can you talk about what originally sparked your interest and made you want to acquire their debut novels?

Thanks for having me, and congratulations on your debut! Malayna’s Jagger Jones and the Mummy’s Ankh has everything a kids’ action adventure fantasy should have but most of all, it has heart. Sure it’s a time travel adventure that takes Jagger and his little sister back to the Ancient Egyptian court, but it’s also funny and full of historical references and gags. So, while readers go on this harrowing adventure, they learn about Ancient Egypt and laugh the entire time. Additionally, the characters in this series are biracial, like my own kids, so I definitely was intrigued when it crossed my inbox. Representation is so important, especially at this age.

On the other hand, Kristin’s The Wicked Tree, which went through a title change after acquisition is spooky, atmospheric, and creepy. When I read it for the first time, it reminded me of a spooky tree outside my bedroom window when I was about the same age as the main character, Tav. I remember seeing a figure in the tree one night and screaming at the top of my lungs. None of the adults believed me, of course. The Wicked Tree captured all those creepy feelings I had back then, and I knew it would have a similar effect on readers. It’s also got a pretty cool mystery. So readers can put on their detective caps while getting spooked out.

With both of these stories, and especially for middle grade, I’m looking for something that makes the story and its characters unique. In both examples, I made a personal connection to the characters in both stories, so that helped.

Both these novels, The Wicked Tree, and Jagger Jones & The Mummy’s Ankh are in some sense quest/mystery novels. And Jagger is set in a very remote historical period. Are there any particular challenges in editing these genres?

I’m a lucky editor in that the author of Jagger Jones and the Mummy’s Ankh, Malayna Evans, has Ph. D. in Ancient Egyptology. That said, we did try our best to fact-check. We still asked questions, challenged assertions, and focused a lot on consistency during the edits.

For Kristin’s The Wicked Tree, we looked at the logic and reasoning behind the mystery and why characters did and said what they did – or why not. Mysteries can always be solved, and therefore, they have to follow basic and consistent logic, even with twists and even if it isn’t something a reader would personally do, think, or say.

Can you talk about your experience in the music business? What aspects do the music and book industry share?

As you can imagine, working in the music business is a lot of fun. It is also a lot of hard work. The music business and publishing business are very much alike in that my roles have remained basically the same. When I worked in music I did so mostly in marketing, talent acquisition, and packaging. Whether it is discovering, marketing, packaging, producing, editing, etc., the process and prospects are almost identical.

I miss the music business though. I no longer get free music now that I’m out. And, as of this year, I have had to pay to attend concerts. That is definitely new for me. I love what I do as a publisher, though. The similarities in my roles prepared me to hit the ground running in 2011. And now, I get free books and invites to all manner of spectacular bookish things.

What’s the number one thing authors can do, pre- or post-publication, to help boost sales of their books?

Be available. Be personable. Engage your audience in an authentic way. That may include in-person events, online, on social media, etc. I encourage those who write children’s literature to go where the kids are.

On average, middle schoolers spend 6-8 hours of their days in school. They receive book recommendations from teachers, librarians or media specialists, book fairs, etc. Engage that audience frequently, and you will soon start to build your own. Don’t give up or be discouraged if you don’t hit it out of the park on book 1. Stay focused, determined, and undeterred.

What’s an under-represented middle-grade genre or topic that you’d like to see more of?

This fall we published BERTIE’S BOOK OF SPOOKY WONDERS about a little girl who has difficulty making good choices. Her mother’s impending wedding to a widower with two kids compounds her difficulties. Of course, being TantrumBooks/Month9Books there’s magic and some spooky goings on in this story also, thus the wolves and raven on the cover!

As parents, we tend to focus on perfect behavior and good decision making for our kids, and sometimes fail to realize that our kids may struggle with impulse control and or feelings of anxiety. We expect our kids to manage their emotions and feelings well most of the time. Some kids are going through so much at home, and it can sometimes manifest as acting out. I love that BERTIE’S BOOK OF SPOOKY WONDERS tackles these issues. In her new blended family, Bertie’s parents are very much around, and are trying to help her cope. I would like to see more stories about coping with life in general and all the pressure twelve-year-olds are under to adapt in these modern times.

Do you have other forthcoming middle-grade novels you’d like to introduce us to?

Of course we have the sequels to Jagger Jones and the Mummy’s Ankh and The Wicked Tree releasing in 2020. We also have The Prince and the Goblin, a heavily illustrated adventure fantasy told from the point of view of a goblin who wants more from his life. Then there’s Kids from G.H.O.S.T, a graphic novel about kid ghost detectives, and The Fate of Freddy Mitchell, which is the new one from Andrew Buckley, author of Hair in all the Wrong Places.

Thanks so much for your time, Georgia!

Thank you!

Follow Georgia on Twitter: @georgia_mcbride
On Instagram @iamgeorgiamcbride, @month9books
Or visit her website at https://www.georgiamcbride.com/

Celebrating Snow Fright

Book jacket for Snow FrightMost people in the book business love Tuesdays because that’s when new books are released into the world. I particularly love Tuesdays when an author whose books my kids & I love has a new release. And when that author happens to be friend and Mixed-Up Files contributor Amie Borst, well, let’s just say it’s a banner Tuesday!

I was lucky enough to chat with Amie about Snow Fright, about writing with her daughter, and about all things pink and sparkly. Leave a comment for your chance to win a copy of Snow Fright!

JA: Cinderskella came out in 2013. How has writing three books with your daughter changed as she’s grown? 

AB: My daughter and I actually wrote Cinderskella in 2010 shortly before her 10th birthday, so by the time it was published in 2013 and we penned Little Dead Riding Hood in 2013/2014 we’d experienced quite a shift in our partnership. First, Bethanie wasn’t a child any more but had grown into a teenager. Second, her writing skills had also blossomed. And third, she was gaining independence. I could give her a prompt and ask her to write the scene and she’d churn out 2,000 words before I’d even sat down at my desk. When it came time to write Snow Fright she penned about half of it before we even really plotted together! Of course she was on track and her writing set the tone for the novel.

JA: Do you think you’ll continue to collaborate?

AB: She’s written at least four more novels on her own and I’ve ventured into solo works as well. So that’s hard to say. She’s a teenager now who is thinking about college and career choices. I’d love to write more stories with her but….hold on….I hear her groaning in the background. Okay. Never mind. That’s a no.

JA: What was your favorite part of writing Snow Fright? 

AB: I really do love collaborating with my daughter. She’s so smart and creative. And she’s freaking funny. The best part is that she’s so uninhibited. I’ll always think that something can’t be done and she’ll say, “Why not?” Turns out she’s right, of course. It can always be done.

I think the best part was developing the seven worms that live inside Sarah’s head. That was all Bethanie’s idea, of course, and I couldn’t imagine Snow Fright any other way.

JA: Do you and your daughter read a lot of the same books? Do you tend to agree or disagree on your favorites?

AB: We definitely have very similar literary tastes! Okay, I admit I’m not a Tolkien fan but when it comes to middle-grade books we share the same love for dark stories.

A photo of author Amie Borst

Author Amie Borst

JA: What’s on your bookshelf right now? Any fall releases you’re particularly excited about?

AB: Textbooks. I recently returned to school so I’m swimming in assignments. There is one class entirely dedicated to middle-grade novels (Classics in Children’s literature). That stack includes Winnie the Pooh, The Secret Garden, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, The Golden Compass, The Tale of Desperaux, Adam of the Road, Holes, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Where the Red Fern Grows, Sounder, James and the Giant Peach, Harry Potter, and The Lightening Thief. I’m going to be very busy this semester!

As far as new releases, I’m excited to read Rose Cooper’s The Ungrateful Dead (sequel to I Text Dead People). Rumor has it I’m in the acknowledgements.

JA: When did your obsession with the color pink begin? Does your daughter share this love, or rebel against it? 

AB: Hahaha!! No, she most definitely does not share my passion for pink. She is the furthest thing from a girly-girl and according to her, pink is classified in the ultra-girly-girl category.

My earliest recollection for my pink passion came in first grade. I wore a pink dress to school almost every day. My teacher at the time nick-named me The Pink Lady. It just kind of stuck. I actually do like other colors, green being a close second, but I think my affinity for everything pink will live forever.

JA: What’s next for the Borst writing duo?

Chocolate. Chocolate is definitely next. Maybe cookies. Perhaps ice cream. But definitely chocolate.

JA: Cookies sound good! Congratulations on the launch of Snow Fright and best of luck, Amie! Readers, don’t forget to leave a comment below for your chance to win a copy of Snow Fright!

Amie Borst loves glitter, unicorns, and chocolate. But not at the same time. That would be weird. She’s a PAL member of the SCBWI as well as a founding and contributing member of The Mixed-Up Files…of Middle-Grade Authors. As a featured judge on Rate Your Story, she enjoys helping new writers find their voice. Amie is the author of the middle-grade series, Scarily Ever Laughter. The series, which she co-authored with her daughter, Bethanie, features fairy tale retellings with a twist. Cinderskella, Little Dead Riding Hood, and Snow Fright are published by Jolly Fish Press. Amie lives in Virginia with her three beautiful daughters, her handsome husband, and two cute dogs named Lily and Maggie. She wishes she could travel the country in a hot pink elevator but for now, her minivan will have to do.

You can find Amie on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram as well as her website www.amieborst.com and blog www.amieborst.blogspot.com. She also shares a website with her daughter www.amieandbethanieborst.com.