Posts Tagged We Need Diverse Books

Author Spotlight: Ciera Burch

Today, we welcome author Ciera Burch to shine in the Author Spotlight. Her MG debut novel, Finch House, is out September 5th from Margaret K. McElderry Books. But first…

A Summary 

Eleven-year-old Micah has no interest in moving out of her grandfather’s house. She loves living with Poppop and their shared hobby of driving around rich neighborhoods to find treasures in others’ trash. To avoid packing, Micah goes for a bike ride and ends up at Finch House, the decrepit Victorian that Poppop says is Off Limits. Except when she gets there, it’s all fixed up and there’s a boy named Theo in the front yard. Surely that means Finch House isn’t Off Limits anymore? But when Poppop finds her there, Micah is only met with his disappointment.

By the next day, Poppop is nowhere to be found. After searching everywhere, Micah’s instincts lead her back to Finch House. But once Theo invites her inside, Micah realizes she can’t leave. And that, with its strange whispers and deep-dark shadows, Finch House isn’t just a house…it’s alive. Can Micah find a way to convince the house to let her go? Or will she be forced to stay in Finch House forever?

Interview with Ciera Burch

MR: Welcome to the Mixed-Up Files, Ciera. It’s always exciting to have a debut author on our blog!

CB: Thank you for having me!

MR: Could you tell Mixed-Up Files readers about Finch House?

CB: Of course! Finch House is a horror middle-grade novel about a young girl, Micah, whose curiosity draws her to an old Victorian house that she’s been forbidden by her poppop, her grandfather, to go near. When he goes missing, she’s drawn back to the house to search for him, and she discovers mysteries about the house, the people who used to live there, and even things about her own family’s past.

Victorian Inspiration

MR: What was your inspiration behind the novel?

There are so many inspirations behind Finch House—my own poppop’s basement, my attitude on change, my love of horror as a genre despite being easily frightened. One of my biggest inspirations, however, was my love of Victorian houses. There was a neighborhood near mine growing up that was full of them, and every time we drove past my eyes would be glued to the window. I loved imagining what the houses looked like on the inside and who used to live in them and, for some of the scarier ones, what ghosts or witches might exist inside. That curiosity never left and eventually manifested into Micah, who’s even more curious than I was as a child.

A Dark Room, Creaky Floorboards…BOO!

MR: What is it about the genre of spooky MG that appeals to you most? Were you into ghosts, haunted houses, and the supernatural as a child?

CB: Oooh, what a great question. I think it’s probably the courage that the characters possess. I was, and still am, a bit easily spooked but getting to read about characters who are brave in the face of scary things is always fun to me. Plus, I love the atmosphere. A dark room, creaky floorboards… it always gets my heart racing in the best ways.

I wasn’t quite as into them as a child as I am today, but I did enjoy the Goosebumps books. I always tried to pick the ones I thought might be less scary based on the cover. Those, and Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark always had me up reading until way too late…and then burying my head under the covers to hide from all the monsters.

Breaking the Rules

MR: Micah, the main character of your novel, knows that Finch House is strictly off-limits—but she dares to go inside anyway. What is it about rule-breaking that is often so enticing? And what does this say about Micah’s character that she ignores Poppop’s instructions?

CB: I think it’s the sense of self that it allows you. After all, it’s typically someone else who has set the rules—Poppop in this case. In choosing to break a rule, you’re making your own decisions. Your own rules, even! There’s something thrilling about that, especially as a kid, the aspect of being in charge of yourself and doing what you want to do regardless of what anyone else has said or told you to do.

As for Micah personally, I think it shows a good portion of her stubbornness—she wants answers and she’s going to get them whether or not she’s been told otherwise. I think she craves the knowledge that her usually very open Poppop won’t give her in this particular instance. And honestly, she also just thinks it’s fun. At first, anyway.

(For more spooky fun from the Mixed-Up Files archives, click here.)

Poppop: Fact versus Fiction

MR: Speaking of Poppop, I’m guessing this character is based on your own grandfather. Can you tell us about him? How is he similar to the fictional Poppop? How is he different?

CB: He is! Oh, man, I love talking about my Poppop. He’s great. He’s the most adorable man in his 70s that you’ve ever seen. He has a single gold tooth, forever wears his Navy hat, and chuckles in answer to just about anything. In terms of similarities, he and the fictional Poppop look pretty much alike and they both go networking! I also think they share a sense of comforting quiet. Unless he’s telling a story, my Poppop isn’t a huge talker but he’ll listen to you and I think both Poppops do that well. They also both spoil their granddaughters! In terms of how he’s different, my Poppop can probably be a little grumpier sometimes.

Writing for Different Readers

MR: In addition to being a writer of middle-grade fiction, you write YA (Something Kindred, out Winter 2024 from Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers) as well as short stories. What is the secret sauce for writing with different readerships in mind? The biggest challenge? The greatest reward?

CB: Honestly, I just try to stay true to the story and to the characters. They are usually about the age of the general readership—kids or teens or adults, etc—but I don’t tend to think too much about that when I’m writing. I’m focused on what my characters’ lives are and whether they are coming across as genuine and if the situation they’re in fits them—or doesn’t fit them.

I think the focus on readership is important, of course. If I’m discussing grief in MG versus YA, I’m going to go about handling things differently, but I don’t ever really censor myself based on who’s reading because that feels limiting for both me and my readers. I try to tell the best story I can for my characters first and foremost to do them the justice they deserve. That’s where both the biggest reward and biggest challenge comes into play for me: creating authentic, fully fleshed-out characters who people can relate to in any age range or format or genre.

One City One Story

MR: As a follow-up, your short story, “Yvonne,” about a queer woman of color who reconnects with her biological grandmother, was selected as the 2019 One City One Story read for the Boston Book Festival. Can you tell us about that? What was it like to be chosen for this prestigious opportunity at such a young age? (You were only 23!)

CB: I’d honestly forgotten about it after I submitted the story at first! I was in grad school for my MFA at the time and working two jobs, so I was very busy and I had a spreadsheet of what story I’d sent to which contest or magazine and when. So I didn’t stress about them all, once I marked a short story down, I tried my best to forget about it. When I got the email, I was at work, at the indie bookstore, and tried super hard not to freak out at the register! I took a quick break to call my mom in the stairwell and from there…everything got real.

Being chosen for that was more than a dream come true, it was something I hadn’t even dared to imagine for myself. So, it was really amazing to have my very diverse, queer story be celebrated by the entire city from the newspaper to the radio to all the languages that it was lovingly translated into. It was such a wonderful experience that I’ll never forget, especially because it just reaffirmed my goals in life: I can write professionally while telling diverse stories and be successful at it.

Path to Publication

MR: Can you tell us about your path to publication? Was it smooth sailing or bumpy seas?

CB: It was pretty smooth. I waited until my manuscript, which was also my master’s thesis, was ready and then I started by querying an agent who had reached out to me during the One City One Story whirlwind and a few other agents on my spreadsheet. I was signed pretty quickly and I was lucky enough that I was talking to editors and was offered a book deal for my YA very shortly after that.

Ciera’s Writing Routine

MR: What does your writing routine look like? Do you have any particular rituals?

CB: I’m such a big type-A person that it’s really shocking that I don’t have a routine! It used to be whenever I could find the time; on my lunch break, after a closing shift, on my phone on the metro, etc. Typically, at night since I’m a big night owl. But these days, I like to take a few hours a day or two a week to write at a café or library during the day and the rest of the week it’s me typing away on my couch or at my desk.

MR: What are you working on now, Ciera? Enquiring Mixed-Up Files readers want to know.

CB: I’m currently working on my second middle grade! I don’t know how much I can say but it involves a summer camp, missing campers, and a particular cryptid native to my home state.

 We All Scream for Ice Cream

MR: Before I let you go, I must share that we have something in common: We’re both ice cream lovers. What’s your favorite flavor? (I know… it’s like being asked to pick your favorite child.) Also, you have a favorite ice cream haunt? (sorry!).

CB: Yay ice cream! My absolute favorite food group. Hmmm…a favorite flavor is so hard! I’m going to have to go with a good old classic and say Mint Chocolate Chip. Perfect blend of mintiness with just a hint of chocolate. Favorite ice cream haunt in Boston was probably J.P Licks (or the Scoop N Scootery for late night writing cravings!) and now in D.C I’d probably go with Larry’s Homemade Ice Cream.

Lightning Round

MR: And finally, no MUF interview is complete without a lightning round, so…

Preferred writing snack? (besides ice cream) Dark chocolate peanut butter cups from Trader Joe’s!

Coffee or tea? Neither, actually! Strictly a hot chocolate girl.

Zombie apocalypse: Yea or nay? No way!

Superpower? Flying!

Favorite place on earth? Scotland!

If you were stranded on a desert island with only three things, what would they be? A copy of Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor, my stuffed bunny, and a hair tie!

MR: Thank you for chatting with us, Ciera. It a pleasure, and I’m sure MUF readers will agree!

CB: Thank you so much for having me! These were such fun questions to answer.


Ciera Burch is a lifelong writer and ice cream aficionado. She has a BA from American University and an MFA from Emerson College. Her fiction has appeared in The American Literary MagazineUnderground, the art and literary journal of Georgia State University, Stork, and Blackbird. Her work was also chosen as the 2019 One City One Story read for the Boston Book Festival. While she is originally from New Jersey, she currently resides in Washington, DC, with her stuffed animals, plants, and far too many books. Learn more about Ciera on her website and follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

WNDMG Wednesday -Interview with Kaela Rivera

We Need Diverse MG Logo hands holding reading globe with stars and spirals floating around

We Need Diverse MG Logo hands holding reading globe with stars and spirals floating around

Interview with Kaela Rivera

I absolutely fangirled when Kaela Rivera agreed to let me interview her for the MUFMGA.

Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls and Cece Rios and the King of Fears

When you read this introduction to Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls and Cece Rios and the King of Fears, I bet you’ll see why I am such a huge fan.

Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls
When a powerful desert spirit kidnaps her sister, Cece Rios must learn
forbidden magic to get her back, in this own voices middle grade fantasy perfect for fans of The Storm Runner and Aru Shah and the End of Time.

Cece Rios and the King of Fears

In its thrilling sequel, Cece and her sister Juana must journey into the stronghold of Devil’s alley to challenge the criatura king El Cucuy if they, and their criatura friends, have any hopes of staying alive. 

Can’t you just feel the excitement and tension? Plus, I love a good story that touches on a type of mythology we don’t read about often—or should I say often enough?



Your story places a lot of emphasis on Tzitzimitl. What is it about this Aztec God that captured your attention?


One of my favorite things about Mesoamerican mythology is this emphasis on exploring and understanding duality. It reminds me that our ancestors were wrestling with our own duality as people, just as we do now. How we can be both beautiful and dangerous, healing and painful, loving and wrathful. That theme is perfectly captured in the legend of Tzitzimitl, a creature who’s almost demon, almost goddess.

In myth, Tzitzimitl is both the protector of children and pregnant women and also a wrathful warrior who attacks the earth whenever there’s an eclipse. She devours and destroys when her loyalties call upon it, but she also protects and uses her power to have mercy on humans. Her character is of great importance throughout the series because I wanted Cece, my main character, to learn that both good and evil wars inside people. It’s our job as we wrestle with them to choose which one wins.

That is such interesting insight. It’s not always a black and white world, and your readers can learn to appreciate that right along with Cece.

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Los Cinco Soles (The Five Suns)

Aztec Mythology

Did you spend much time studying Aztec mythology and/or culture before you wrote your books?

I’d studied all kinds of folklore and mythology before writing Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls, but very little of it had been from Latin America, despite my heritage. That changed when I went to visit my abuelo when I was in college, and he told me stories about curanderas and brujas and La Llorona. I came home with a desire to learn more, and after researching all kinds of folktales and myths, inspiration struck, and I started writing Cece.


Las Brujas (The witches)

In fact, one of the reasons I love to write is because it’s one of the best ways to learn. Want to know more about folklore? Write an article or story about it, and you’ll find yourself encountering all kinds of questions that send you hunting excitedly for answers. That process also connected me more and more with my culture, something I’ll forever be grateful to my abuelo for inspiring.

Abuelitos and abuelitas are truly wonderful!




What do you think are the scariest Aztec monsters?

Honestly, so many Aztec monsters are terrifying! Most Latin American monsters are; in fact, most monsters from mythology across the world is—a testament to the kinds of fears our ancestors wrestled with in even harsher times. But like the horror genre itself, there’s a distinct morality about the terror in Latin American mythology and folklore. There’s usually a reason why something became terrifying, or why terror was inflicted.

In Cece Rios and the King of Fears, I got to include a few of my favorites, including Alux. In the story, he’s a dark criatura, but in actual tradition aluxes were small, magical beings similar to how those of European descent might think of dwarves or fairies or elves. But they had a ferocious side, and they could curse or harm people if they trespassed on their homes, good will, or even nature itself. I took that inspiration into my series because I think the exploration of nature itself being both benign and dangerous is fascinating.



Another one of my other favorite legendary beings comes from Huichol tradition (the Huichol are direct descendant of the Aztecs): Tukákame


He’s something between a demon and a zombie—an animated corpse that burns at the touch of water and has skeleton birds for minions. He eats human flesh, and he seemed like an appropriate way of exploring destruction in the second book, though I did that more symbolically than outright.


I see that you know how to make buñelos which are amazing. What other Mexican foods do you like to make (or eat!)?

Yes, I adore buñelos! I’m quite happy to say I’ve gotten pretty great at timing exactly how long they need to fry for, too.

I also like making enchilada sauce from scratch. Well, “like” might be a strong word—it takes a few hours, so I’m sometimes reluctant to start, but chile sauce really does taste better when it’s fresh, not from a can.

Spanish rice and refried beans are also a classic, so I can’t not mention them (or I won’t, at least, hah!). Spanish rice with garlic smashed with the side of a knife? Mmm. The smell fills up your whole kitchen, and I love that. Refried beans that taste fresh, not canned? All half-smashed by hand in a pan? An absolute must.


This is one I don’t make myself, but I also really like gansitos. My friend introduced them to me a bit later in life, and now I can’t quite get over the perfect blend of cinnamon, vanilla cake, chocolate, and raspberry filling. It might be junk food, but it’s my junk food. I even had them at Cece Rios and the King of Fears’ launch party!

I see from your website that you’re part British, part Mexican-American. Any plans of focusing on your British roots for upcoming stories?

I do, actually! Well, I suppose I should say I have plans to combine my heritages together in my stories, to embrace the mix I was born with. I have a YA fantasy that will combine the Victorian language of flowers, and certain aspects of British culture, with an Aztec kingdom steeped in old magic. Plus, a playful middle-grade written with a narrator that nods toward old British fairytales, but focused on latine main characters and setting.

This has been so fascinating. I hope you’ll come back when Cece Rios and the Queen of Brujas comes out, and if any readers are interested in learning more about Kaela Rivera, you can find her and her recipe for buñelos at:

Interested in learning more about mythology. Check out

Check out this interview with author Karla Arenas Valenti and learn about her book which is named after the fun game Lotería

Author Spotlight: Sally J. Pla

For those of you who are regular Mixed-Up Files readers, you know that I LOVE to do author interviews. So, you can only imagine how thrilled I was to have the good fortune to chat with one of my favorite authors—and favorite author friendsSally J. Pla!

Sally, who wrote the best-selling MG novels The Someday Birds and Stanley Will Probably Be Fine, is also the author of a picture book, Benji, the Bad Day, and Me. Her latest MG novel, The Fire, The Water, and Maudie McGinn, is out tomorrow, July 11, from Quill Tree Books.

A  Summary of Maudie McGinn

Neurodivergent Maudie always looks forward to the summers she spends in California with her dad. But this year, she must keep a troubling secret about her home life—one that her mom warned her never to tell. Maudie wants to confide in her dad about her stepdad’s anger, but she’s scared.

When a wildfire strikes, Maudie and her dad are forced to evacuate to the beach town where he grew up. It’s another turbulent wave of change. But now, every morning, from their camper, Maudie can see surfers bobbing in the water. She desperately wants to learn, but could she ever be brave enough?

As Maudie navigates unfamiliar waters, she makes friends—and her autism no longer feels like the big deal her mom makes it out to be. But her secret is still threatening to sink her. Will Maudie find the strength to reveal the awful truth—and maybe even find some way to stay with Dad—before summer is over?

Interview with Sally J. Pla

MR: Sally! I’m jumping up and down with excitement to welcome you to the Mixed-Up Files. Thanks for stopping by, my friend!

SJP: I’m jumping up and down with excitement to be here! I love Mixed-Up Files! And you!

MR: First, you already know how much I loved The Fire, The Water, and Maudie McGinn. I laughed, I cried, and I rooted for Maudie from beginning to end. What was the inspiration behind this wonderful book?

SJP: Thank you so much for those kind words! In terms of inspiration, I guess you could say that for this book, the setting was the first character. Maudie’s story is set in an RV campground by the beach, in a fictional town in San Diego County. I live in this county, not too far from the beach, and there’s an actual RV campground that I often meander through during beach walks.

Something about the place is so appealing. Lawn chairs pulled up to fire pits, folks chatting, kids whizzing around on skateboards, surfers making their way up and down the cliff steps with their boards. The supply store, the rangers’ office, the snack bar—it’s a whole little world. So, as I walked, I started to weave a narrative in my head about a young girl who lived in a fictionalized beachside campground. What would be her story? And what could have brought her there?

All About Maudie

MR: The protagonist Maudie, who is autodivergent, is a kind, lovable, and highly relatable character. How were you like Maudie as a child? How were you different?

SJP: Maudie has many of my childhood behaviors, quirks, and challenges. She dislikes change. She has shy attacks– i.e., going mute when overwhelmed, just as I did. She loves simple, comfortable clothing. She is incredibly empathetic, caring, and sensitive. Nothing about her is too girly or precious. Maudie is willing to be brave, though, and she wants to delve into life; to join in, to try new things. These are all ways we are similar.

As for differences: Maudie’s mom and dad were struggling teen parents who split, and now she has a difficult stepdad situation. This is not my family history. Although, like Maudie, I did experience emotional and physical abuse in my formative years.

The Future is Female

MR: As a follow-up, Maudie McGinn is your first MG novel to feature a female protagonist. What made you decide to switch it up?

SJP: I have three boys. Between them and all their friends hanging out, I used to joke that the testosterone in my house was giving me facial hair! Because I lived in boy-world for a long time, it naturally filtered into my writing choices. But now they are grown, I am turning to my own personal stories and experiences. It’s time to write for GIRLS.

Autistic girls are diagnosed at a rate four times less than boys. They fly under the radar, because their behaviors can be more subtle. Part of why I write is that I want to shine a spotlight on this.

Poisonous Secrets

MR: An important theme in the novel is secret keeping, when Maudie’s mom makes Maudie promise not to tell anyone about the abuse she’s suffering at the hands of her stepfather, Ron. What were you trying to say about secret keeping—and secrets in general?

SJP: That sometimes, secrets are poison. They corrode your sense of self, your self-esteem. Certain secrets are intricately connected to shame. And you can’t really heal yourself from the damage they do, until you find the power within yourself to show them the sunlight. Speak them aloud. I feel so strongly that we need to learn to air certain secrets, if we ever plan to heal from them.

Maudie’s mother puts Maudie in a dire situation by making her promise to keep her new stepdad’s anger attacks upon Maudie a secret. It compounds the abuse. And Maudie has trouble speaking, in general—so how does she find her way through this dilemma?

Fact: Autistic (or otherwise neurodivergent) and disabled children are three times more likely to experience abuse than their normal-presenting peers. Quite frankly, they are more likely to frustrate a caregiver or parent. And they are less likely to be believed or listened to, after the fact.

 Hang Ten

MR: Maudie wants to learn how to surf, so she takes lessons from former pro surfer Etta Kahana. Unless I’m mistaken, Sally, you’re not a surfer yourself. How did you make the surfing scenes so realistic? What kind of research did you do?

SJP: Many of my family members are surfers. And where I live, a lot of it is just in the air. I also have surfing-enthusiast friends—most notably, my pal Janet Berend, lifelong surfer, author, and teacher. She read the whole manuscript for me to check it for surf-accuracy, and I’m forever indebted to her. (Any mistakes are my own!)

I do not surf, but when I was younger, I used to love to windsurf. I still have my old Mistral board. Nowadays, though, all I do is swim. And I deeply enjoy being surrounded by all that beautiful, watery blue.

Literary Leanings

MR: Maudie McGinn is a wonderful hybrid of prose and verse. What made you choose this particular literary form for your novel?

SJP: Maudie has a glitch: She has some auditory processing delays. Auditory processing (listening-understanding-responding within typical speed parameters) is a challenge for some autistic people. It was for me when I was very young.

So, words come to Maudie, and leave her lips, at a halting pace sometimes. Verse is perfect for this. I found myself writing verse for her without even realizing it. Verse format reflects how she sometimes thinks: in slow, considered, spare, fragments.

Path to Publication

MR: What was the path to publication like with Maudie McGinn? To use a surfing analogy, was it a smooth ride or did you wipe out once in a while?

SJP: Ha ha, great analogy! Publishing IS like surfing: a ridiculous and unpredictable combination of skill, timing, and luck. Lord knows, I’ve messed up that combination often enough in the past, but Maudie was more or less of a smooth ride. I wrote it during Covid, so there were big waves of emotion involved. But the writing flowed.

I’m so grateful to be at Quill Tree Books, an imprint of HarperCollins, that raises up underrepresented voices. Quill Tree’s slogan is: “Many branches, many voices,” and I love that.

No World Too Big

MR: You have a poem in the MG poetry anthology, No World Too Big: Young People Fighting Global Climate Change. Can you tell us about this project? How did you get involved, and why?

SJP: I was super honored to be asked to write the poem for Greta Thunberg, as she is one of my absolute heroes! Talk about an autistic girl with courage and grit! It’s such an inspiring anthology, with gorgeous illustrations by Jeanette Bradley. Editors Lindsay Metcalf and Keila Dawson were a joy to work with! And there is no more important issue affecting our next generation—affecting all of us—than climate crisis.

(For more information on the impacts of our changing climate, check out this STEMTuesday interview with author Christy Mihaly.)

Write This Way…

MR: What does your writing routine look like, Sally? Do you have any particular writing rituals?

SJP: I have insomnia, and sometimes do my best work sitting up in bed in the wee hours. That is a HORRIBLE method, however, and I do not recommend it unless you enjoy feeling dopey and groggy all day. Otherwise, I try to be an early bird. Hot tea. Quiet. A comfy armchair. Oh, and ‘Freedom’ blocking software on my laptop, to keep me from wandering away into every rabbit hole in the cyberwilderness.

A Novel Mind

MR: In addition to being an acclaimed children’s book author, you run, a site about mental health and neurodiversity in children’s literature. Can you tell MUF readers a bit about it? What was the impetus behind starting this site?

SJP: Thank you for mentioning A Novel Mind! I cofounded it a few years ago with my friend, neurodivergent author/licensed therapist Merriam Saunders.

It grew out of our many, many complaining conversations, bemoaning how hard it was to find stories with quality, authentic autism/ADHD/disability/mental health representation. The stories that didn’t “other” or “pathologize” the neurodivergent kid, or use them for the purpose of what’s called “inspiration porn.” The stories that just showed neurodivergent or otherwise challenged kids going about their lives naturally, and having adventures, etc. Because these stories help show kids their power. They are great touchstones to classroom conversations. They grow empathy. They heal.

We have well over 1,000 such books in our searchable database now. And there are Educator Resource pages on the site with tons of informative links, curated by amazing autistic librarian Adriana White and myself. There are close to 200 guest posts on our weekly blog, now, written by some of today’s foremost award-winning children’s authors, and educators and other professionals. In sum: it’s a great resource, and a labor of love. I hope Mixed-Up Files readers will check it out!

MR: What are you working on now? Enquiring Mixed-Up Files readers want to know.

SJP: A dual point-of-view Romeo+Juliet retelling, set against the background of a simmering family feud, in a small farming town in the upper Midwest, in the early days of the culture wars. Upper middle-grade!

Lightning Round!

MR: And finally, no MUF interview is complete without a lightning round, so…

Preferred writing snack? Roasted almonds.

Coffee or tea? I love the smell of coffee but sadly can’t drink it! I’m “English Breakfast” all the way!

Cat or dog? Big goofy dogs are my total weakness.

Favorite beach? I grew up on Southport Beach, in Connecticut. It’s the setting of so many memories: big nostalgia! But now I live by, and love, Moonlight Beach, Swami’s, Cardiff Beach, Del Mar dog beach, La Jolla Shores–all my favorite San Diego sandy spots.

Zombie apocalypse: Yea or nay? No apocalypses of any kind for me, thank you very much!

Superpower? To not feel sensory overwhelm, fear, or anxiety anymore would be a superpower enough. But if we’re being truly aspirational: SuperWorldPeaceMaker!

Favorite place on earth? The chair in my living room that looks out over a beautiful canyon and soaring hills, and it’s so peaceful, all you hear are birds.

If you were stranded on a desert island with only three things, what would they be? A deluxe resort! Great friends! Good weather! Ha ha.

MR: Thank you for chatting with us, Sally—and congratulations on the publication of The Fire, The Water, and Maudie McGinn. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I know MUF readers will too!

SJP: Thank you so much, Melissa! This is my most personal and heart-felt book yet, and I hope everyone who reads it, falls in love with Maudie a little bit. Then I’ll feel as if I’ve done my job.


Sally J. Pla is the award-winning author of acclaimed middle-grade novels THE SOMEDAY BIRDS and STANLEY WILL PROBABLY BE FINE, and the picture book, BENJI, THE BAD DAY, AND ME. Her books are Junior Library Guild Selections with starred reviews that have appeared on many awards lists and “best books” roundups. Her latest middle-grade novel, THE FIRE, THE WATER, AND MAUDIE McGINN, pubs on July 11, 2023 (Quill Tree/HarperCollins).

Sally has appeared on television and radio as an author and autism advocate, and she runs the website resource A Novel Mind ( Learn more about Sally on her website and  follow her on Twitter and Instagram.