I’d like to introduce Lauren Baratz-Logsted. She’s one of the three co-authors of The Sisters 8 series. Lauren has experienced two unique situations in the writing industry. One is writing with her husband and middle-grade daughter. The other you will read about later. So grab a scone and a warm cup of tea and curl up for an interesting conversation!
Me: Where did you get the concept for The Sisters 8 series?
Lauren: In December of 2006, when Jackie was still just six, we were visiting friends in Crested Butte, Colorado, when a great blizzard hit that closed Denver Airport. Our friends have no TV nor were there any other children around. This was fine for the originally allotted time for the trip, but when the blizzard extended our stay to 10 days, well, how many snow angels can a person make? Jackie had always been proud of my career but never able to read any of the books because they were for adults and teens. So, toward the end, to keep Jackie entertained, I asked her what kind of book she’d like. Her: A book about sisters. Me: How many sisters? Her: 8. (Trust me, she’d give a different answer today, having gotten rather used to being the center of the universe.) Me: How old should they be? Her: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. Me: That would be interesting, but what if we made them something really rare like, say, octuplets? Before we knew it, my husband Greg got into the act. We began brainstorming an entire book about octuplets whose parents go missing one New Year’s Eve, leaving the eight girls to solve the mystery of what happened to their parents while keeping the rest of the world from realizing they’re living home alone. Our brainstorming kept us entertained through the rest of of the trip and the long flight back to Connecticut on Christmas Day. Jackie named all the sisters, I named the cats, and Greg came up with all the crazy inventions like the talking refrigerator and the flying watering can. Little did we know then that something that started simply as a way to keep ourselves entertained would turn into a nine-book series from a major publisher.
Me: That’s awesome. So can we call you the original Octomom? (just kidding, of course!) What role did each of you play in the writing process? And how was it to work together–fun, exciting, stressful?
Lauren: When we got home from Colorado, just for fun I wrote the prologue and first chapter. I read it to Greg and Jackie, and then we all discussed what worked/didn’t work and what needed to happen next. That became the template for the entire series. So I did the actual writing, but The Sisters 8 would not exist without my co-creators. I can go through each book and see their contributions to our invention and those contributions are massive. I think for them it was always just fun and exciting – I’m the only one that would add stressful! But that’s because I was the one who was responsible for keeping what would eventually be over a thousand pages of continuous story in my brain. When we were working on the series, sometimes we’d go out for what we called “editorial brunches” to discuss things. But sometimes, the other two would be throwing ideas at me so fast with me scribbling on napkins and I’d feel like saying, “Can’t I eat my eggs first?” Still, despite the stresses of being “The Pen” I wouldn’t change having done this for the world. Nothing in my writing career has matched the joy of getting to work with my family on The Sisters 8 and I can’t imagine anything that ever will.
Me: I love that! There’s nothing more thrilling than to see children involved and excited about writing, books and creating. Does your daughter, Jackie, aspire to be a writer as a career?
Lauren: Jackie is 13 now. She does enjoy writing, but she also enjoys acting and singing, and she plays a mean electric guitar – all things that have guaranteed well-paying careers with full benefits! She also likes shows about house-flipping. Honestly, I have no idea what she’ll do for a career, and I don’t think she does either, but whatever she chooses I suspect she’ll be good at it and I hope she’ll be happy.
Me: It’s so hard to know what they’ll do. My daughter (and co-author) wants to go to the Olympics for archery. But it’s still fun to write together! It was hard facing rejections though. Did your previous relationships with editors, agents and industry professionals help ease concerns when working with a child author? Did it require convincing or were they unconcerned (perhaps even excited) about working with Jackie?
Lauren: I did have a prior relationship with our editor at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Julia Richardson. She’d also been my editor at Simon & Schuster where she’d bought three books from me and two from Greg. She’d even met Jackie before. So, no, they were not concerned at all, only excited. When we went to Boston to meet with everyone else at the company, they just loved Jackie, which is an easy thing to do. She’s funny, bright, creative and easygoing, so what’s not to love? A few months before the first two books came out, they had us do a group book signing at the New England Independent Bookseller Association’s annual conference. The night before, while out to dinner she talked me into buying her a large stuffed lobster, which she put in front of her on the signing table, signing books with a large feather pen she’d brought from home. People just couldn’t stop smiling at her. And I do believe she was on to something. Perhaps all authors should sign with stuffed lobsters. I know if Norman Mailer were still alive, he’d be more accessible with one.
Me: Too cute! I’m keeping that idea in my back pocket! So, The Sisters 8 series is traditionally published, but your Hat City series is self published, correct? Tell us a bit about that experience.
Lauren: The sad truth about traditional publishing is that even when something is successful on some measures and The Sisters 8 has sold 200,000 copies, it still can be not enough and the publisher has no plans to do more at this time. And yet, every day, I receive emails from kids – and parents, grandparents, teachers and librarians – telling me they love the series, sometimes even that they hated reading before discovering the books, and that they want more. If it were up to me, we’d be writing The Sisters 8 forever – and The Brothers 8! – and it’s immensely gratifying to think that something we originally did for ourselves has turned into a source of joy for so many. But it’s also been heart-breaking, having all these kids who want more and not being able to give it to them. So I decided to start a new series and publish it on my own. How it’s different: everything is on me, which makes it tremendously scary and tremendously wonderful all at the same time.
Me: One last question: Pistachio ice cream or lemon bars? Skittles or Dove chocolate? Elves and fairies or the creature from the black lagoon? (Okay, that was more than one…)
Lauren: Greg is a huge fan of pistachios but in nearly 30 years together, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him eat pistachio ice cream, and I can’t remember any of us eating lemon bars. Greg and Jackie are both Skittles and Dove chocolate, while I’m just Dove. We are all elves and fairies and The Creature from The Black Lagoon.
Me: I think we’d get along famously! Thanks for joining us here today, Lauren!
Lauren has offered to give away not one, not two, not three but four (yes, FOUR) books in The Sisters 8 series! Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below and leave a blog post comment and maybe you’ll be the lucky winner of the following four books! (open to U.S. only, please)
A rather large problem has befallen the Huit girls. (Sisters, actually. Octuplets to be exact.) One particular New Year’s Eve, the girls wait for their mommy to bring them hot chocolate and their daddy to return with more wood for the fire. But they don’t. Mommy and Daddy, that is. They’re gone. Poof! Maybe dead—no one knows for sure.
You must see the problem here. Eight little girls on their own, no mommy or daddy to take care of them. This is not a good thing.
So now these little girls, must take care of themselves. Get to school, cook the meals, feed the cats (eight of them, too), and pay the bills. They can’t ask for help, oh no. Any self-respecting adult would surely call in social services, and those well-meaning people would have to split them up. After losing their parents, being split up would be completely unbearable.
At the same time, the question remains:What happened to Mommy and Daddy? The Sisters Eight (as they are called, affectionately and otherwise) are determined to find out. Luckily, they do seem to have someone or something helping them. Notes keep appearing behind a loose brick in the fireplace.
It’s a good old-fashioned mystery with missing (or dead) parents, nosy neighbors, talking refrigerators, foul-smelling fruitcake (is there any other kind?), and even a little magic. Eight little girls, eight cats, and one big mystery—let the fun begin!