Welcome to Kicking Back with Kid-butt!
Today we’re chatting with Chrystal D. Giles, the author of
TAKE BACK THE BLOCK
Wes Henderson has the best style in sixth grade. That–and hanging out with his crew (his best friends since little-kid days) and playing video games–is what he wants to be thinking about at the start of the school year, not the protests his parents are always dragging him to.
But when a real estate developer makes an offer to buy Kensington Oaks, the neighborhood Wes has lived his whole life, everything changes. The grownups are supposed to have all the answers, but all they’re doing is arguing. Even Wes’s best friends are fighting. And some of them may be moving. Wes isn’t about to give up the only home he’s ever known. Wes has always been good at puzzles, and he knows there has to be a missing piece that will solve this puzzle and save the Oaks. But can he find it . . . before it’s too late?
Let’s talk to this fabulous author about her splendid book!
This is Chrystal. Everyone say, “Hi, Chrystal!”
Welcome to Kick-Butt Kidlit, Chrystal! Why don’t we start with some introductions – tell us about yourself!
Hi, thanks so much for having me! I’m a children’s book author, I’ve written some picture books and poetry, but my heart is in middle-grade fiction. My debut novel is a middle-grade contemporary realistic story called TAKE BACK THE BLOCK.
I’ve also had a fairly extensive career in accounting and finance but I can truly say writing for young people is so much more fun! I live outside Charlotte, NC with my husband and son.
What was the inspiration behind TAKE BACK THE BLOCK?
This story was directly inspired by my hometown, Charlotte, NC. My city, like many cities across the nation, is experiencing gentrification and the displacement of marginalized people. Years ago, I started to notice whole communities being wiped away, I really became troubled by the thought of what happens to the children and families when these neighborhoods are transformed.
I couldn’t get that worry out of my mind so I decided to write a story that centered on the up-close view of a community fighting to remain whole.
What were you doing when you found out there was an offer on your book?
I was at my day job when the first offer rolled in. My agent was kind of expecting an offer from an editor who had loved the book. Just a few days after receiving the manuscript, that editor had sent an email swooning over a scene. I was ecstatic and overwhelmed and happy to have an official offer.
As the week went on, we got some other interest so my agent set an auction for the next week. Ultimately, three editors made offers and I ended with a two-book deal.
Oh, that’s so exciting! Yay for more Chrystal books!
What were three interesting things you discovered while working on TAKE BACK THE BLOCK?
- I learned about the history of my hometown, and more importantly, the historical Black Americans who’d done so much for it and its residents.
- How much I love young people’s style and fashion sense. I wanted my main character, Wes, to be style-obsessed so I made sure to pay attention to how young people dress and the impact of sneaker culture on this generation of kids.
- The more detail you put into your story, the more relatable is it to readers. I think new writers tend to skip details that don’t seem interesting in their own minds, I sure used to. But really it’s those specific things that readers relate to most.
Do YOU have a favourite pair of sneakers? If so, which ones?
Just like my main character Wes, I am a lover of Nike AirMax. I don’t have a favorite pair (as I have many, too many) but I am partial to the AirMax 90 style.
Why were you drawn to writing middle grade?
I have such clear memories of sitting alone reading stacks and stacks of books as a girl around the age of ten. In some ways, books were my first friends. I want to write stories for the kids who are looking for themselves and their world in a book. I also write for the kids are who just starting to get interested in the lives of their neighbors and people who have stories different from their own experiences. Middle-grade is the perfect entry point for those explorations.
So true. This is why middle grade is the best!
Any hints about your next book project?
My next project is another middle-grade contemporary novel. I’m in the process of editing it now and the horror stories of publishing your second book are true. I absolutely love the book but the stress of editing during a pandemic all while debuting (during a pandemic) have been a true test.
Readers can expect the new book late 2022 or early 2023.
Seriously. Everyone who debuted/released books during the pandemic is a total super star. I am in awe of anyone who managed to tackle any words this past year.
What has been the most surprising part of your publishing journey?
Honestly, that people are reading and relating to my book. I know that must sound pretty simplistic, but really I am constantly surprised (and flattered) every time I’m tagged in a post or see a picture of someone holding my book.
What are you reading right now?
I just finished, THE SHAPE OF THUNDER by Jasmine Warga, last week. It was so good and I still think about it at least once a day.
What’s your favourite piece of kick-butt advice?
Write the story only you can tell.
Thank you so much for joining us, Chrystal!
Kick-butt Kidlit friends, make sure you check out TAKE BACK THE BLOCK!
It’s on shelves now!
Click here to enter to win a copy of TAKE BACK THE BLOCK!
Contest ends Friday, July 16th at 11:59 pm EST
Thanks for reading!