Kicking Back with Kick-butt and Anne Ursu

Welcome to Kicking Back with Kick-butt!

We’re chatting with Anne Ursu, the author of

THE LOST GIRL

When you’re an identical twin, your story always starts with someone else. For Iris, that means her story starts with Lark. Iris has always been the grounded, capable, and rational one; Lark has been inventive, dreamy, and brilliant—and from their first moments in the world together, they’ve never left each other’s side. Everyone around them realized early on what the two sisters already knew: they had better outcomes when they were together.

When fifth grade arrives, however, it is decided that Iris and Lark should be split into different classrooms, and something breaks in them both. Iris is no longer so confident; Lark retreats into herself as she deals with challenges at school. And at the same time, something strange is happening in the city around them, things both great and small going missing without a trace. As Iris begins to understand that anything can be lost in the blink of an eye, she decides it’s up to her to find a way to keep her sister safe.

Let’s talk to this lovely author about her incredible book!

This is Anne. Everyone say, “Hi, Anne!”

Anne Ursu

Welcome to Kick-Butt Kidlit, Anne! Tell us about yourself!

I am the author of six books for young readers, the mom of a twelve-year-old boy, and keeper of several dysfunctional cats. I procrastinate from writing by teaching writing at Hamline University’s low-residency MFA in Writing for Children and the Highlights Foundation.

Where did the idea for THE LOST GIRL come from?

I was interested in the way schools are often unequipped to deal with students who have learning or emotional issues, and particularly the way shy and anxious girls’ troubles can be ignored because they aren’t causing problems. At the same time, I was interested in the way society talks about girls together, as if the relationships are automatically dysfunctional. All of that, plus an interest in art theft and a sign I passed outside of an antique store became The Lost Girl.

This book has an unusual narrator. What was the reason behind that?

As I was writing, I kept hearing this first person narrator addressing Iris. So in one draft I just finally put that narrator in, and three fourths of the way through I knew exactly who that narrator was, and it brought the whole book together for me. Writing is weird.

What were three interesting things you discovered while working on THE LOST GIRL?

1) The collective noun for ravens is an unkindness.

2) The smallest mammal in the world is the bumblebee bat.

3) Kids actually dissect owl pellets in classrooms.

Note: I looked up the bumblebee bat after reading this and it’s also adorable.

If you could transport your characters across book dimensions, which book would you most like them to end up in and why?

They have to go to Hogwarts, right? Lark would be in heaven, and Iris would call Malfoy a mole rat.

Why were you drawn to writing middle grade?

Because it’s the best. The readers are the best. You have so much freedom to play in middle grade—with form and structure and reality—and the readers will just go with you, as long as you’re telling them a story.

Any hints about your next book project?

I vowed I would not write a high fantasy again and then was smited with an idea for one. I’m about 60 pages into a book that, right now, is about a girl sent to a reform school for girls in a kingdom beset with attacks by monsters. What it is about when I finish it—well, who knows?

It already sounds awesome! Can’t wait to hear more about it!

What has been the most surprising part of your publishing journey?

That every single book will require its own process, and you’ll never feel like you know what you’re doing.

What are you reading right now?

I am reading Christina Soontornvat’s forthcoming A Wish in the Dark, which is outstanding.

What’s your favourite piece of kick-butt advice?

“Anne. Just finish the dang draft. You can fix it later.”

Relatable!!! Thank you so much for joining us, Anne!

Kick-butt Kidlit friends, make sure you check out THE LOST GIRL! It’s out now!

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Add THE LOST GIRL on Goodreads!

Connect with Anne on Twitter or through her website!

Click here to win a copy of THE LOST GIRL!
Contest closes Wednesday, August 7th at 11:59 pm EST.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more fun interviews!

Kicking Back with Kick-butt and Gail D. Villanueva

Welcome to Kicking Back with Kick-butt!

We’re chatting with Gail D. Villanueva, the author of

MY FATE ACCORDING TO THE BUTTERFLY

When superstitious Sab sees a giant black butterfly, an omen of death, she knows that she’s doomed! According to legend, she has one week before her fate catches up with her — on her 11th birthday. With her time running out, all she wants is to celebrate her birthday with her entire family. But her sister, Ate Nadine, stopped speaking to their father one year ago, and Sab doesn’t even know why.

If Sab’s going to get Ate Nadine and their father to reconcile, she’ll have to overcome her fears — of her sister’s anger, of leaving the bubble of her sheltered community, of her upcoming doom — and figure out the cause of their rift.

So Sab and her best friend Pepper start spying on Nadine and digging into their family’s past to determine why, exactly, Nadine won’t speak to their father. But Sab’s adventures across Manila reveal truths about her family more difficult — and dangerous — than she ever anticipated.

Was the Butterfly right? Perhaps Sab is doomed after all!

Let’s talk to this awesome author about her excellent book!

This is Gail. Everyone say, “Hi, Gail!”

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Welcome to Kick-Butt Kidlit, Gail! Tell us about yourself!

Hi! I’m Gail D. Villanueva. I’m a Filipino author born and based in the Philippines. I’ve been a web designer since forever but in the recent years, I decided to fulfill a dream I had when I was a kid: become a published writer. I still can’t believe it, but my dream is actually going to come true when My Fate According to the Butterfly comes out from Scholastic Press on July 30, 2019. It’s so surreal!

Where did the idea for MY FATE ACCORDING TO THE BUTTERFLY come from?

I first heard of the black butterfly superstition from my grandmother. It was a common Filipino belief that the appearance of a black butterfly means someone close to you has died. Ironically, my grandmother didn’t believe in it herself, and yet I did. I believe I even saw the butterfly when she passed away.

Maybe it was a way for me to cope, to believe there’s life after death and that my loved ones aren’t totally gone. Or maybe it was a way to explain the unexplainable. Either way, I know a lot of Filipinos who could attest to this superstition—that the black butterfly is real.

But what if there really is no question about the existence of the black butterfly? What if it was truly an omen or a message from the other side? From there, I expanded on this idea and thought about my younger sister, who would have panicked at the sight of it had it been real. And since I’ve always wanted to write a story that focuses on sisters, the premise of My Fate According to the Butterfly was born.

The earlier drafts of the story were so much darker than the one published, which is understandable, since I wrote that version during hard times. But with editor’s help and guidance, My Fate According to the Butterfly found its place between magic, reality, and hope.

What were you doing when you found out there was an offer on your book?

I live in the Philippines, so we’re twelve hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time. My agent and publisher are both in New York, so when my agent forwarded the offer email to me, it was already Friday night here.

My husband and I were eating pizza and watching a TV movie when my phone dinged. I saw the email subject and screamed—it was an offer for Butterfly! I squeezed my husband tight (while screaming in the middle of the night), then ran to the kitchen to wake up my sleeping duck, Sundae, and danced around with him (I’m weird, I know. Haha). I also woke up my dogs, cats, chicken, turtles, and other ducks. They will never know I got an offer that night, but I’m sure the animals felt my happiness and excitement.

Ah! I love that it was a celebration with the whole family! 😀

What were three interesting things you discovered while working on MY FATE ACCORDING TO THE BUTTERFLY?

  • Life in the Philippines, though in some ways universal, can still be surprising to folks who have never been here. For example, I had to make it very clear that “summer” in the Philippines begins in March, not July. We only have two seasons here—wet and dry seasons—so we technically don’t have summer. Our dry season tend to be very hot, quite like your summers, and it’s also when kids are on “summer break.” So, while we also do summer-y things here (no school, going on vacations, etc.), it’s still very different since it happens on different months.
  • Unlearning ableist language is an ongoing process. As much as I tried my best to make sure I don’t perpetuate ableism by using “lame,” “crazy,” or “dumb” in a negative sense, I still slipped. It was only one time, and it’s lucky my editor and the production team caught it, but I still felt ashamed. It just goes to show that I still have a lot to learn.
  • A lot of things in My Fate According to the Butterfly are based on real life but were fictionalized to fit a story that mixes reality, magic, and everything in between. Researching for Butterfly gave me a deeper understanding of addiction and its effects on families, as well as the importance of rehabilitation.

If you could transport your characters across book dimensions, which book would you most like them to end up in and why?

I think I’d want Sab and her ate (pronounced as “ahh-teh”), her big sister, Nadine, to visit the world of Remy Lai’s Pie in the Sky. It’s set in Australia, and Sab and her Ate Nadine have never been to Australia. Ate Nadine will have a hell of a time babysitting Sab, Jingwen, and Yangho, but I think these kids are going to have so much fun hanging out together! (Remy is my friend but we’ve never met in person yet. But when we do, I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a blast so it’s only natural for characters to get along too!)

Yes! What a fun choice! I would definitely read that cross-over!

Why were you drawn to writing middle grade?

I’ve always loved reading middle grade. Like, 85% of my mini library at home are middle grade books. So, it’s only natural that I’d be drawn to writing middle grade too. On a more personal note, my middle grade years are some of the best ones of my life.

Any hints about your next book project?

The new book I’m working on is another MG that also has a Filipino protagonist. But this time, the story takes readers to a fictional island in present-day Philippines. It explores Filipino magic a bit more, discusses the consequences of our actions, and shows love in its various forms. At the same time, it also talks about the importance of respecting consent and boundaries. And oh, this book has a very loyal and adorable doggo 🙂

What has been the most surprising part of your publishing journey?

Every day, it still surprises me that there are people who want to read my story. Even more surprising is that there are folks who actually like it! I guess writing has been just a hobby for so long, it’s hard for me to get used to the idea that Scholastic will publish my book and there are people outside my family who will buy and read it.

And we can’t wait to read more!

Speaking of reading: what are you reading right now?

I received an ARC of Elsie Chapman’s All the Ways Home and I’ve just re-read it again (for the third time now). It’s just wonderful! You’re so going to want that book on your shelves (the story is as beautiful as its cover). Also, my copy of Lisa Moore Ramee’s A Good Kind of Trouble just arrived. I can’t wait to read it!

What’s your favourite piece of kick-butt advice?

Keep reading. Keep writing. Keep learning. The moment we stop learning, we stop improving.

So totally true! Thanks very much for chatting with us, Gail!

Kick-butt Kidlit friends, make sure you check out MY FATE ACCORDING TO THE BUTTERFLY! It hits shelves on July 30th!

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Add MY FATE ACCORDING TO THE BUTTERFLY on Goodreads!

Connect with Gail on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or through her website!

Click here to win a copy of MY FATE ACCORDING TO THE BUTTERFLY!
Contest closes Wednesday, July 24th at 11:59 pm EST.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more fun interviews!

Kicking Back with Kick-butt and Lisa Moore Ramée!

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!”

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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!

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Add A GOOD KIND OF TROUBLE on Goodreads!

Connect with Lisa on Twitter, Instagram, or through her website!

Click here to win a copy of A GOOD KIND OF TROUBLE!
Contest closes Monday, July 15th at 11:59 pm EST.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more fun interviews!

Kicking Back with Kick-butt and Margaret Dilloway!

Welcome to Kicking Back with Kick-butt!

We’re chatting with Margaret Dilloway, the author of

SUMMER OF A THOUSAND PIES

When twelve-year-old Cady Bennett is sent to live with the aunt she didn’t even know she had in the quaint mountain town of Julian, she doesn’t know what to expect. Cady isn’t used to stability, or even living inside, after growing up homeless in San Diego with her dad.

Now she’s staying in her mother’s old room, exploring the countryside filled with apple orchards and pie shops, making friends, and working in Aunt Shell’s own pie shop—and soon, Cady starts to feel like she belongs. Then she finds out that Aunt Shell’s pie shop is failing. Saving the business and protecting the first place she’s ever really felt safe will take everything she’s learned and the help of all her new friends. But are there some things even the perfect pie just can’t fix?

Let’s talk to this marvelous author about her fantastic book!

This is Margaret. Everyone say, “Hi, Margaret!”

Margaret Dilloway sm

Welcome to Kick-Butt Kidlit, Margaret! Tell us about yourself!

Hi! Thanks for having me! I write middle grade realistic contemporary as well as fantasy (MOMOTARO series, Disney-Hyperion), plus women’s fiction. I usually write about the intersections of race and social class in some way, shape, or form, even in fantasy. SUMMER OF A THOUSAND PIES is my 7th published book! In my spare time, I like to perform long-form improv and hike and bake.

Where did the idea for SUMMER OF A THOUSAND PIES come from? 

I had written about a pie shop in a women’s fiction book that never got picked up, and I was kind of obsessed with the idea. The main character, Cady, came from some experiences I had as a parent. Specifically, many years ago, my son had a reading buddy who lived in a similar kind of situation, and who had a hard time in school because of it.

There’s a nod to one of my favourite shows in this book: THE GREAT BRITISH BAKE-OFF! If you were to make a signature bake (in any category), what would it be? (Also, who’s your favourite? Mel, Sue, or Mary? *This is a Paul Hollywood free blog.*)

I accidentally came up with a recipe for really yummy gluten-free chocolate chip cookies, only because I was out of some stuff and I had to experiment.

My favorite is Mary!

Love a happy accident with delicious results!

What were three interesting things you discovered while working on SUMMER OF A THOUSAND PIES?

-You can find a recipe for any pie flavor combo you can think of on the Internet. Carrot pie? Check! Strawberry basil? Check! Apple-fennel? Check! You can put your own twist on them and make it your own.

-Immigration law is a hodgepodge of unrelated, illogical rules. The wait time to get into the US with documentation from Central and South America is 20 years. All of it needs to be thrown out and completely reworked by a bipartisan committee.

-Gopher snakes shake their tails like rattlers, so they get mistaken for rattlers, but are harmless.

If you could transport your characters across book dimensions, which book would you most like them to end up in and why?

Narnia because I think Cady and Jay would end up ruling the land instead of the Pevensies.

Yes! And I could totally see them swapping recipes with the Badger family. 😀

Why were you drawn to writing middle grade?

The subjects I wanted to write about lent themselves best to this age level.

Any hints about your next book project?

It’s about a 6th grader with social anxiety and a heart condition who starts doing improv as a way to manage her symptoms and finds it changes her life in unexpected ways (so basically my life story) It’s called FIVE THINGS ABOUT AVA ANDREWS and will be out next year!

What has been the most surprising part of your publishing journey?

That each book never gets easier. I hear that’s true with every author, though.

What are you reading right now?

HER BODY AND OTHER PARTIES by Carmen Maria Machado. It’s brilliant. Remember the spooky childhood story about the woman with the ribbon around her neck? She reimagines it. Many more, too.

What’s your favourite piece of kick-butt advice?

The only way out is through. So if you’re feeling stuck or whatever, the only way out of your spot is to work through it.

Yes! Always keep going! Thanks so much for joining us, Margaret!

Kick-butt Kidlit friends, make sure you check out SUMMER OF A THOUSAND PIES! It’s out now!

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Add SUMMER OF A THOUSAND PIES on Goodreads!

Connect with Margaret on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or through her website!

Click here to win a copy of SUMMER OF A THOUSAND PIES! Contest closes Wednesday, June 26th at 11:59 pm EST.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more fun interviews!

 

Kicking Back with Kick-butt and Remy Lai!

Welcome to Kicking Back with Kick-butt!

We’re talking with Remy Lai, the author of

PIE IN THE SKY

When eleven-year-old Jingwen moves to a new country, he feels like he’s landed on Mars. School is torture, making friends is impossible since he doesn’t speak English, and he’s often stuck looking after his (extremely irritating) little brother, Yanghao.

To distract himself from the loneliness, Jingwen daydreams about making all the cakes on the menu of Pie in the Sky, the bakery his father had planned to open before he unexpectedly passed away. The only problem is his mother has laid down one major rule: the brothers are not to use the oven while she’s at work. As Jingwen and Yanghao bake elaborate cakes, they’ll have to cook up elaborate excuses to keep the cake making a secret from Mama.

Told in prose and graphic novel elements, this middle-grade novel is about a boy’s immigration experience, his annoying little brother, and their cake-baking hijinks!

Let’s talk to this amazing author about her wonderful book!

This is Remy. Everyone say, “Hi, Remy!”

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Welcome to Kick-Butt Kidlit, Remy! Tell us about yourself!

Thank you for having me here! I’m a writer-illustrator based in Brisbane, Australia. I have two dogs. Sometimes I eat ice cream for breakfast.

Where did the idea for PIE IN THE SKY come from?

For a long time, I had an image in my mind, of two brothers secretly making cakes. When I figured out that they couldn’t speak English, the story that would become PIE IN THE SKY clicked into place. From there, I borrowed things from my childhood, about moving countries and learning new languages.

What were you doing when you found out there was an offer on your book?

It was early morning over here (which was probably around 5pm in New York). I was having my coffee and nervously waiting for a call from a fantastic editor who wanted to have a chat. An hour before the scheduled chat, my phone rang. It was a US number I didn’t recognise. I thought that I had converted the time wrongly and that it was the editor calling.

But turned out, it was my agent Jim The Beard (yes, he lets me call him that), using a different line then the one he used when we chatted previously. I had told him to call me if PIE IN THE SKY got an offer, no matter the time and day, but when I heard his voice, I didn’t dare assume I had an offer. Also, a publishing offer usually comes after a phone call with an editor, followed by an acquisitions meeting (Don’t quote me on this!), and I hadn’t even spoken to the first editor.

“What’s up, Jim The Beard?” I said, acting nonchalant but dying inside.

Very, very, very calmly, he said, “So . . . good news . . .” And then he told me that Macmillan had placed a pre-empt.

We both screamed and squealed a lot.

Oh, my goodness – that’s the best! How exciting!

What were three interesting things you discovered while working on PIE IN THE SKY?

1. Drawing and writing about cake makes me want to eat cake for breakfast, lunch, dinner. Sadly, there is a limit to how much cake an adult can eat in a day. For kids, I think the limit is infinity. They’re so lucky.

2. Americans hardly use the word “toilet.” Your bathrooms don’t actually have baths in them.

3. Most people don’t realize how many people it takes to get a book ready for the shelves.

What was that collaborative experience like for you as an author/illustrator? 

I loved every minute of it. I’m constantly bowled over by every single person in every single step of publishing, from my editor Brian Geffen to my book designer Carol Ly to my colorist MJ Robinson to the copy editors, the proofreaders, the marketing team, the publicity team, the school and library team, the media and advertising team. They work so hard and have so much love for kids’ books. They’re the best!

You are an artist as well as an author (which is so cool)! How did you decide which parts of PIE IN THE SKY should be illustrated? Did you go with the flow or did you have a plan for which parts had to be in prose?

I’m a pretty intuitive writer, so during the early stages of writing PIE IN THE SKY, I went with the flow. During later revisions, my Relentless Editor (really, that’s his name plaque haha) would ask me questions and make me think deeper about my choices. It was really cool realising why my intuition chose what it chose.

It’s so neat how those threads can appear without us seeing it the first time through!

Any hints about your next book project?

Like PIE IN THE SKY, it’s also a graphic novel/prose hybrid. It’s about a twelve-year-old boy who goes on an international flight on his own, without his parents’ knowledge, to prove that he’s not a baby anymore.

What has been the most surprising part of your publishing journey?

What a roller coaster of emotions it is. One moment you’re ecstatic, the next you’re jealous, and then dejected, and then terrified, angry, grateful, joyous, zen hopeful, and then one day you find yourself making a deal with Satan in exchange for a solution to a plot hole. Just kidding. Satan finds the tortured souls of writers to be too gristly.

What are you reading right now?

I’m drafting a middle-grade manuscript, and I don’t read middle-grade during this period, so I’m reading a fantastic adult fantasy—Jade War by Fonda Lee (it’s an ARC, the book will be out in July).

What’s your favourite piece of kick-butt advice?

Have fun.

Yes! Important to never forget that part!

BONUS QUESTION: if you were a cake, what type of cake would you be?

Some days I’m all light and happy like an airy chiffon cake. Some days I’m all philosophical and complex like a layered cake.

Kick-butt Kidlit friends, make sure you check out PIE IN THE SKY! It’s out now!

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Add PIE IN THE SKY on Goodreads!

Connect with Remy on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or through her website!

Click here to win a copy of PIE IN THE SKY! Contest closes Friday, June 7th at 11:59 EST.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more fun interviews!

 

Kicking Back with Kick-butt and Karen Strong!

Welcome to Kicking Back with Kick-butt!

We’re talking with Karen Strong, the author of

JUST SOUTH OF HOME

Twelve-year old Sarah is finally in charge. At last, she can spend her summer months reading her favorite science books and bossing around her younger brother, Ellis, instead of being worked to the bone by their overly strict grandmother, Mrs. Greene. But when their cousin, Janie, arrives for a visit, Sarah’s plans are completely squashed.

Janie has a knack for getting into trouble and asks Sarah to take her to Creek Church: a landmark of their small town that she heard was haunted. It’s also off-limits. Janie’s sticky fingers lead Sarah, Ellis, and his best friend Jasper to uncover a deep-seated part of the town’s past. With a bit of luck, this foursome will heal the place they call home and the people within it they call family.

Let’s talk to this delightful author about her excellent book!

This is Karen. Everyone say, “Hi, Karen!”

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Welcome to Kick-Butt Kidlit, Karen! Tell us about yourself!

Thanks so much for having me Kick-Butt Kidlit! Such a pleasure! I’m the middle-grade debut author of JUST SOUTH OF HOME. I was born and raised in the rural South, which holds a special place in my heart.

Where did the idea for JUST SOUTH OF HOME come from?

JUST SOUTH OF HOME is inspired by my country girlhood. I loved growing up in a tight-knit family with tons of cousins where we had many adventures. I also loved hearing about the ghost stories and other spooky folktales. This book was actually sparked by a writing exercise at the Callonwolde Arts Center in Atlanta, Georgia where I took my first writing class many years ago. Amazingly enough Chapter 7 of the book was the original inspiration, and it’s surreal seeing how that writing prompt has transformed into a novel.

Oh, wow! That’s so cool! It’s always so incredible how a story can grow out of a small seed of an idea.

What were you doing when you found out there was an offer on your book? 

At the time I was working in the software development industry and I had just come home from another long day with a broken brain. I saw that my agent had sent me an email, but the subject was just the title of my book so I figured I would eat my too-big burrito first because I was hungry. But then she sent me a text and that’s how I found out Simon & Schuster wanted to buy the manuscript. Needless to say, I had champagne instead!

What were three things you discovered while working on JUST SOUTH OF HOME?

This novel is so entrenched in my girlhood and deals with true historical events. One thing I discovered is how people don’t want to acknowledge a traumatic past. I also learned a lot about family secrets and how older relatives can have so many things hidden. But I think the most interesting thing I learned is how many people believe in the spirit world and how there is usually a ghost story waiting to be told if you’re willing to listen.

If you could transport your characters across book dimensions, which book would you most like them to end up in and why?

I would love to see the kids from JUST SOUTH OF HOME be transported into the book dimension of SPIRIT HUNTERS by Ellen Oh. It would be interesting how Sarah’s scientific method would work against that particular ghost. Also would love to see how Janie would deal with it all too. I’m sure Ellis would just hide under the bed with a ham sandwich and maybe Jasper would just escape on his bike. The girls would be on the case though!

That would be an epic crossover. Love it!

Why were you drawn to writing middle grade?

Middle-grade is my first love. I love that characters are just trying to figure out who they are separate from their families. These kids are striving to see what they want to believe and how they want to be seen in their new, widening world.

Any hints about your next book project?

I’m writing a new story set in the South but in a very different setting with new characters that I’m hoping readers will love. One hint that I can give you is that it centers around a ruined mansion and a malevolent ghost.

What has been the most surprising part of your publishing journey?

I think the most surprising is how my publishing journey started with a tweet. I participated in #DVpit, a Twitter pitch contest that spotlights marginalized writers founded by agent Beth Phelan. My April 2016 pitch was successful and I received several agent offers within a month. Then Simon & Schuster bought my manuscript a year later. So definitely luck and timing was everything for me.

What are you reading right now?

I have so many books I’m reading. I usually read many books at once. I have a tower of books in my office. Right now, it’s a lot of research for my current novel project but fiction-wise I’m reading a lot of 2019 debuts which have been amazing.

What’s your favourite piece of kick-butt advice?

Be your best advocate.

I love that. It’s so true. Thank you for joining us, Karen!

Kick-butt Kidlit friends, make sure you check out JUST SOUTH OF HOME!
It’s out now!

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Add JUST SOUTH OF HOME on Goodreads!

Connect with Karen on Twitter, Instagram, or through her website!

Click here to win a copy of JUST SOUTH OF HOME! Contest closes
Saturday, May 25th at 11:59, EST.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more fun interviews!

 

 

 

Kicking Back with Kick-butt and Lamar Giles!

Welcome to Kicking Back with Kick-butt! 

We’re talking with Lamar Giles, the author of

THE LAST LAST-DAY-OF-SUMMER!

When two adventurous cousins accidentally extend the last day of summer by freezing time, they find the secrets hidden between the unmoving seconds, minutes, and hours are not the endless fun they expected.

Otto and Sheed are the local sleuths in their zany Virginia town, masters of unraveling mischief using their unmatched powers of deduction. And as the summer winds down and the first day of school looms, the boys are craving just a little bit more time for fun, even as they bicker over what kind of fun they want to have. That is, until a mysterious man appears with a camera that literally freezes time. Now, with the help of some very strange people and even stranger creatures, Otto and Sheed will have to put aside their differences to save their town—and each other—before time stops for good.

Let’s talk to this fantastic author about his awesome book!

This is Lamar. Everyone say, “Hi, Lamar!”

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Welcome to Kick-Butt Kidlit, Lamar! Tell us about yourself!

I’m the author of several YA mystery novels as well as short stories across many genres and I’m super excited to be delving into the world of middle-grade! Also, I’m always wishing summer was longer.

Where did the idea for THE LAST LAST-DAY-OF-SUMMER come from?

The book is heavily inspired by The Phantom Tollbooth. But if that’s fifty percent of the inspiration, I’d say detective series like The Hardy Boys, and the strange/fun adventures of Uncle Scrooge and his nephews on DuckTales make up the rest of the inspirational recipe here. I always wanted to write boys who look like me having fun, zany adventures.

A time-freezing camera plays a big role in this book. What’s the first thing you’d do if you could freeze time?

Me? I’m boring. I’d take naps without losing any time. So, basically, I’d be super well rested and would probably write whole books within the course of one day.

That’s not boring – that’s genius! Sign me up for more naps too, please.

What were three interesting things you discovered while working on THE LAST LAST-DAY-OF-SUMMER?

1) It’s quite difficult to mix humor with danger and keep it age appropriate

2) It’s also quite fun

3) “Platypus” is such a fun word I had to make it a chapter title

If you could transport your characters across book dimensions, which book would you most like them to end up in and why?

I’d love for Otto, Sheed, Wiki, and Leen to accompany Charlie to the Chocolate Factory, because I’m almost certain they’d escape Willy Wonka’s tour and find a way to free the Oompa-Loompas. That’s perhaps another conversation for another time.

You’ve written a number of YA novels. What was the appeal in switching over to middle grade?

I think my YA mystery work skews a little dark, and I wanted to write something a little more fun and lighthearted. I suppose I could’ve done that with a YA novel too, but I like writing for the MG audience because I recall that age being around the time my friends stopped liking reading. It was largely because we couldn’t see ourselves in the stories that were presented to us, so I wanted to make sure I contributed in a way that gave kids another option if they’re looking for a different type of hero.

Any hints about your next book project?

More than a hint: I’m working on a sequel to The Last Last-Day-of-Summer. I can’t say much more than that, but know that the adventures of Otto and Sheed will continue

Oh, awesome! That’s great to hear!

What has been the most surprising part of your publishing journey?

How fun it is to travel the world and meet so many eager young readers. I had no way to know that would be a thing BEFORE I published, but it’s been the most enjoyable part of the journey.

What are you reading right now?

I’m always reading multiple things. Batman comics, Sadie by Courtney Summers, Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein, and a short story collection called Training School for Negro Girls by Camille Acker

What’s your favourite piece of kick-butt advice?

Practice finishing. Whether that’s writing, or any other good thing you start. I haven’t always done that, and I’m not saying you can’t ever start something you don’t finish. But seeing stuff through to conclusion can lead to some of the best surprises in your life.

Totally agree with this! Thank you so much for joining us, Lamar!

Kick-butt Kidlit friends, make sure you check out THE LAST LAST-DAY-OF-SUMMER! It’s out now!

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Add THE LAST LAST-DAY-OF-SUMMER on Goodreads!

Connect with Lamar on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or through his website!

Click here to win a copy of THE LAST LAST-DAY-OF-SUMMER! Contest closes Saturday, May 18th at 11:59 pm EST.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more fun interviews!