Welcome to Kicking Back with Kick-butt!
We’re chatting with Lisa Moore Ramée, the author of
A GOOD KIND OF TROUBLE
Twelve-year-old Shayla is allergic to trouble. All she wants to do is to follow the rules. (Oh, and she’d also like to make it through seventh grade with her best friendships intact, learn to run track, and have a cute boy see past her giant forehead.)
But in junior high, it’s like all the rules have changed. Now she’s suddenly questioning who her best friends are and some people at school are saying she’s not black enough. Wait, what?
Shay’s sister, Hana, is involved in Black Lives Matter, but Shay doesn’t think that’s for her. After experiencing a powerful protest, though, Shay decides some rules are worth breaking. She starts wearing an armband to school in support of the Black Lives movement. Soon everyone is taking sides. And she is given an ultimatum.
Shay is scared to do the wrong thing (and even more scared to do the right thing), but if she doesn’t face her fear, she’ll be forever tripping over the next hurdle. Now that’s trouble, for real.
Let’s talk to this lovely author about her wonderful book!
This is Lisa. Everyone say, “Hi, Lisa!”
Welcome to Kick-Butt Kidlit, Lisa! Tell us about yourself!
Hi! I’m originally from Los Angeles, but now live in Northern California with my husband, two children and two cats. I went to school here (San Francisco State for undergrad and Cal State East Bay for Master’s) and raised my kids here, so it feels as much like home as SoCal. I didn’t start writing until post-college, which seems unusual compared with most writers I know. My first book attempts were horror novels since I was a huge Stephen King fan, but after my daughter got to about fourth grade, I fell in love with middle grade books and I’ve been writing for kids ever since.
Where did the idea for A GOOD KIND OF TROUBLE come from?
I loved Judy Blume growing up, and I wanted to write stories like that. Books that were more like a friend than a story—with one huge difference—as a Black author, I wanted main characters that were Black. So AGKOT started out as a pretty simple straightforward friendship story. But as I was writing it, I saw almost every day on the news a horrible story about someone Black being killed by police, and I started to wonder how seeing those types of stories would affect a Black child. How would they see themselves? What would they think the world thought of them? I felt any contemporary book with a Black main character needed to explore this issue.
What were you doing when you found out there was an offer on your book?
It was really funny actually. I had been trying to get an agent for many years and had started to worry it might not happen, so I started looking for a job and found a great one. Ironically, when I was interviewing for the job, I was also interviewing agents, because I had finally gotten a “yes.” My book went out on submission the day after I started my new job, and it got offers sort of crazy fast. I had to excuse myself from training to take calls from my agent. When we accepted the offer from Balzer + Bray, I came back inside and basically screamed at my boss that I had sold my book. She of course thought I was quitting. But I’m still working there. My team has been hugely supportive of my author journey.
Oh, my gosh, that’s amazing! Talk about making an impression at the new job! 😀
What were three interesting things you discovered while working on A GOOD KIND OF TROUBLE?
1) I had to do a lot of research on how to jump hurdles—although I am still unable to jump one! But it was interesting learning about things like a lead leg, and how hurdles do a high kick chorus line to warm-up.
2) I was surprised to learn that, just like when I was in junior high, it is still pretty common for students to separate themselves by race.
3) Oh, I went back to my old junior high, and while it is still named after Ralph Waldo Emerson, it is now a middle school and the front doors are (oddly) painted sparkly silver.
If you could transport your characters across book dimensions, which book would you most like them to end up in and why?
Tough question! I’d probably send her through the looking glass to Wonderland—see what I did there? There’s some problems there for sure, but I have always loved the fantastical elements, and the sheer madness of Wonderland. Also, there’s a lot of classic books that would be problematic for a Black girl, but I think Wonderland is just so nuts, skin color would be the least of your worries.
Why were you drawn to writing middle grade?
Primarily because when my daughter was about nine, we were reading so many middle grade books and the sound of that specifically aged MG voice got stuck in my head. Then, once I started thinking up stories for that age group, I saw that it was such a sweet spot for me. You can tackle tough topics, but also have some silliness and almost any topic is a great big question mark for that age. It’s rife with material!
Any hints about your next book project?
The main character in my next book struggles to stay invisible, friendless, and not hurt anyone with her powerful thoughts. Of course, she’s going to be challenged on all three of those desires!
I’m intrigued already! Can’t wait to hear more about it!
What has been the most surprising part of your publishing journey?
This will sound a little too self-deprecating, but after so many years of rejection, having people say they loved my work, was HUGELY surprising (and of course amazingly wonderful). Also surprising—and I heard this a lot so I shouldn’t have been surprised—is how slow publishing is. When my book sold in 2017 and I was told it would come out fast, I was shocked to find out that meant 2019. Lol.
What are you reading right now?
I got two books in the mail at the same time and couldn’t help but start reading them both! Karen Strong’s Just South of Home and Elizabeth Acevedo’s With the Fire on High.
What’s your favourite piece of kick-butt advice?
Think of your writing more like Twitter—you only get so many characters. Don’t be precious and overblown and take 15 words when you only needed three. Sharpen your editing knife until it is as sharp as cut glass, and cut out everything you can.
Excellent! Thank you so much for joining us, Lisa!
Kick-butt Kidlit friends, make sure you check out A GOOD KIND OF TROUBLE!
It’s available now!
Add A GOOD KIND OF TROUBLE on Goodreads!
Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more fun interviews!