Welcome to Kicking Back with Kick-butt!
We’re chatting with Melanie Conklin, the author of
EVERY MISSING PIECE
Maddy Gaines sees danger everywhere she looks: at the bus stop, around the roller rink, in the woods, and (especially) by the ocean. When Maddy meets a mysterious boy setting booby traps in the North Carolina woods, she suspects the worst.
Maddy is certain she’s found Billy Holcomb-the boy who went missing in the fall. Except, maybe it’s not him. It’s been six months since he disappeared. And who will believe her anyway? Definitely not her mom or her stepdad . . . or the chief of police.
As Maddy tries to uncover the truth about Billy Holcomb, ghosts from her own past surface, her best friend starts to slip away, and Maddy’s world tilts once again. Can she put the pieces of her life back together, even if some of them are lost forever?
Let’s talk to this delightful author about her amazing book!
This is Melanie. Everyone say, “Hi, Melanie!”
Welcome to Kick-Butt Kidlit, Melanie! Tell us about yourself!
Thanks for hosting me! I’m happy to be here to talk about my second book for young readers. I started writing about 7 years ago, and it’s been four years since my debut, Counting Thyme. It’s both exciting and terrifying to have a new book enter the world!
Where did the idea for EVERY MISSING PIECE come from?
When I was a child, I often wondered what would happen if I found a missing child. I saw missing child notices sometimes, at the grocery store or yes, on the back of milk cartons. So this is a “what-if” scenario that has been in my mind for a long time. In Every Missing Piece, the main character is an eleven-year-old girl named Maddy who thinks that the new boy in her neighborhood might be a child who went missing six months earlier.
What were three interesting things you discovered while working on the book?
As authors, we look up all kinds of weird stuff, right? For this one, I learned that bullfrogs can lay up to 20,000 eggs at once (!), that North Carolina has on average 4 tornadoes per month, and that there is a meteor shower called the Gamma Normids.
20, 000!!! That sounds exhausting! 😂
When you were working on EVERY MISSING PIECE, how did you balance plotting out the action elements of the mystery with the emotional arcs of the characters?
I’ve learned not to worry about getting the plot right during my first draft. Often, my external action is completely wrong for the story the first time around. Once I finish a draft, I step back and examine my plot. Then I can change the plot until it works, and in this case, until it provides the right sequence of clues for a quickly-paced mystery!
If you could transport your characters across book dimensions, which book would you most like them to end up in and why?
Wow, what a great question! I think Maddy and crew would’ve to visit the characters in WISH by Barbara O’Connor. WISH is also set in North Carolina, which is my home state. It was super fun to write about settings from my childhood, including pig pickin’s and the secret cemetery that was hidden in the middle of my neighborhood!
What is your favourite thing (or things if you can’t pick just one) about writing middle grade?
I love that middle grade stories give you hope. No matter how challenging the circumstances, there is always a dose of hope, and my heart needs that.
That’s one of my favourite aspects too.
Any hints about your next book project?
My next project is set in New Jersey in a town very similar to my own! It’s another mystery, but this time starring a group of friends and neighbors who have to face some hard truths about their choices as a community.
What has been the most surprising part of your publishing journey?
The most surprising part of the publication journey is how wonderfully support children’s authors are. We are a community and I appreciate that.
What are you reading right now?
Right now, I’m reading A WISH IN THE DARK by Christina Soontornvat and RED AT THE BONE by Jacqueline Woodson.
What’s your favourite piece of kick-butt advice?
If you want to kick butt at writing, let go! Allow yourself to explore in early drafts. Don’t be too rigid in your writing rules. Give yourself the time and space to discover the heart of your story. The rest can be fixed in revisions!
Thank you so much for chatting with us, Melanie!
Kick-butt Kidlit fans, make sure you check out EVERY MISSING PIECE!
It hits shelves on May 19th!
Add EVERY MISSING PIECE on Goodreads!
Click here to win a copy of EVERY MISSING PIECE!
Contest closes Friday, May 15th at 11:59 pm EST
Thanks for reading!