Kicking Back with Kick-butt and Margaret Dilloway!

Welcome to Kicking Back with Kick-butt!

We’re chatting with Margaret Dilloway, the author of


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!”

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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!



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


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


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!”


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!


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


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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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!


Kicking Back with Kick-butt and Rajani LaRocca!

Welcome to Kicking Back with Kick-butt!

We’re talking with Rajani LaRocca, the author of


Eleven-year-old Mimi dreams of winning a baking competition judged by her celebrity chef idol. But she loses her best helper when her food writer father returns from a business trip mysteriously unable to distinguish between delicious and disgusting. Mimi follows strangely familiar music into the woods behind her house, meets a golden-eyed boy, and bakes with him using ingredients they’ve found in the forest. Then everyone around her suddenly starts acting loopy.

Squabbling sisters, rhyming waitresses, and culinary saboteurs mix up a recipe for mayhem in this Indian-American mashup of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and competitive baking.

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

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


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

Thanks, Casey! I’m lucky enough to have two careers: writing for kids (middle grade novels and picture books) and practicing medicine (for adults). I was born in India, raised in Kentucky, and now live in the Boston area with my wonderful family and impossibly cute dog.

Where did the idea for MIDSUMMER’S MAYHEM come from?

MIDSUMMER’S MAYHEM was born from the confluence of three different ideas.

First, when I was a kid, my dad didn’t travel that much, but when he did he was sometimes gone for up to a week. Having an overactive imagination—or perhaps a suspicious nature—I wondered what would happen if the person who came home was not actually my dad, but instead someone else who looked exactly like him. How would I know the imposter? I devised a series of “tests,” questions I knew that only my real dad could answer. Luckily, it was always him.

When I started thinking about ideas for a novel, this memory came back to me. And I wondered: what if there were a girl whose dad returned from a business trip acting weird, and she was the only one who noticed? What if there really was something wrong with him?

Second, I’ve always loved the concept of imaginary friends. And I thought, what if someone had an imaginary friend who was actually real? That idea led me to think about fairies, which, as a longtime Shakespeare fan, made me think of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. And when I remembered the Indian connection in the play, things fell into place.

Finally, add a dash of my own obsession with baking and cooking shows, and MIDSUMMER’S MAYHEM was born!

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

I was at the New England SCBWI conference attending a workshop. My agent usually calls with good news, but he knew I was at the conference, so he forwarded an editor’s email saying the book had made it through acquisitions and we’d be getting their offer letter soon! I almost fell out of my chair! Within a week, we were in an auction! I got to speak with all the interested editors and hear about their visions for the book, and ultimately, MIDSUMMER’S MAYHEM went to Charlie Ilgunas at Yellow Jacket, the new MG imprint of Little Bee Books. It is the perfect home for my novel!

Oh, wow! Most memorable conference ever, right? Love that you found the perfect home for your novel.

What were three interesting things you discovered while working on MIDSUMMER’S MAYHEM?

  1. I’d always thought of baking as a realm where I had to adhere precisely to a recipe, as opposed to cooking, where I could experiment freely. But I had lots of fun experimenting in order to develop the recipes for the baked treats in MIDSUMMER’S MAYHEM, and they turned out well!
  2. I learned that I could essentially rewrite a book (I eliminated a major character!) in a month. I did a very big revision through the awesome mentoring program, Pitch Wars, and this led to me signing with my wonderful agent, Brent Taylor of Triada US.
  3. Mimi’s story in MIDSUMMER’S MAYHEM is a metaphor for my own writing/publishing journey. In the book, Mimi has a dream that she isn’t sure she can achieve. She keeps working and trying, though, despite roadblocks and setbacks. In writing this book, I’ve discovered the unique gifts I have to share with the world…and to keep at it even when the going is tough.

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

This is such a fascinating question! I think I’d transport my characters into the world of Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones and see what fairy/baking magic would do there. I love Sophie, the main character in that book, and I think she and Mimi would get along well.

Ah! That’s one of my favourite books! I would totally read that crossover! 😀

Why were you drawn to writing middle grade?

My favorite books, the ones that influenced me the most, were ones I read between the ages of 8 and 13. The middle grade years are when we do so much growing: figuring out who we are, what we care about most, and what we dream of becoming. It’s the time when we struggle with the desire to be unique vs. the need to be like everyone else. I’m fascinated by that uncomfortable and wonderful time in our lives.

I also find that middle grade is my natural novel writing voice…or maybe my brain is just stuck at 12 years old. 😀

Any hints about your next book project?

I’m working on a companion novel to MIDSUMMER’S MAYHEM set in the same town but with different characters, and a middle grade novel in verse about immigration, mothers, and daughters. I also have several picture books publishing in the next few years!

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

I’ve been surprised by the deep connections I’ve made to other writers, in person and online. Kidlit writers are among the smartest, most creative, generous people I’ve ever met. We have shared our work and our experiences, our joys and our heartaches. They’ve become some of my closest friends, and I’m so grateful to have them in my life.

What are you reading right now?

I just finished the ARC of THE STORY THAT CANNOT BE TOLD by J. Kasper Kramer. It’s a middle grade book set in communist Romania in the late 1980s and includes interwoven Romanian folktales. It is incredible! I also recently listened to the audiobooks of THE POET X and PRIDE. Next up: THE BRIDGE HOME by Padma Venkatraman.

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

Kindness matters. We can’t control everything, but we can decide how we treat others. And don’t forget to be kind to yourself!

Yes! Always! Thank you so much for joining us, Rajani!

Kick-butt Kidlit friends, make sure you check out MIDSUMMER’S MAYHEM! It’s hitting shelves on June 11th!

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Add MIDSUMMER’S MAYHEM on Goodreads!

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

Click here to win a copy of MIDSUMMER’S MAYHEM! Contest closes Saturday, May 11th at 11:59 pm EST.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more fun interviews!


KBKL Spotlight on Canadians: Giveaway!

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Two months, twenty-five interviews, and hopefully MANY new names for your book shelves! This spotlight series has been a ton of fun to work on. I hope all of our Kick-butt readers at home enjoyed it as well.

But wait! We’re not done yet!


You can enter to win one of 25 prize packs featuring books from all of our amazing Canadian authors and illustrators!

Click here to enter to the Spotlight on Canadians Giveaway!
Ends April 28th, 2019!

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Missed one of our interviews? Get caught up by checking out the links below:

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Sarah Raughley, Joanne Robertson, Naseem Hrab, Tom Ryan, Carmen Mok

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Regan McDonell, Jennifer Mook-Sang, Mireille Messier, Mahtab Narsimhan,
Philippa Dowding

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Tanaz Bhathena, Charlene Chua, Natasha Deen, Erin Bow, Melanie Florence

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Nafiza Azad, Cale Atkinson, Nhung Tran-Davies, Sarah Everett, Qin Leng

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Wade Albert White, Aviaq Johnston, Nadia L. Hohn, Jess Keating, S.K. Ali

Stay tuned for more awesome interviews with amazing Kick-butt Kidlit creators and as always, thank you for reading!

KBKL Spotlight on Canadians: S.K. Ali

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A big Kick-butt Kidlit welcome to author, S.K. Ali!

S. K. Ali is the author of YA novels, Love from A to Z, and the 2018 Morris award finalist, Saints and Misfits, which won critical acclaim for its portrayal of an unapologetic Muslim-American teen’s life. She has a picture book, The Proudest Blue, co-authored with Olympic medalist, Ibtihaj Muhammad, coming out in September, 2019, which is a story about resilience in the face of othering. She has a degree in Creative Writing and has written about Muslim life for various media, including the Toronto Star and NBC News.

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Tell us a bit about your latest/upcoming project?

Love from A to Z is a YA novel about two teens, one Canadian (Adam), the other American (Zayneb), who meet on a plane on their way to spend spring break in Doha, a city in the Arabian gulf. The thing they don’t know about each other is that they’ve both been keeping “Marvels and Oddities” journals, recording the amazing and not-so-amazing things in the world. When they meet, they’re at low points in their lives, and the story traces whether they’re meant to meet each other or not, whether they’re marvels or oddities in each other’s worlds.

I also have an unannounced project, a middle-grade one, that I’m really excited about, as well as the sequel to Saints and Misfits. I’m having a lot of fun with the latter as I want to give Janna, the MC, the time of her life — something she didn’t get previously!

What are you reading right now?

I’m reading A Deadly Divide by Ausma Zehanat Khan. A Canadian!

Who is a Canadian author or illustrator that you’d like to see more people discover?

Ausma Zehanat Khan — she has an excellent mystery series. In terms of kidlit, I’d love if more people discovered the work of illustrator Elly MacKay.

What’s been the most surprising part of your publishing journey so far?

That there’s publicity involved! I seriously had no idea that I’d be asked to be on TV, radio, to do interviews, etc. I really envisioned the task of authoring as churning out books that people would just somehow discover. Now that I know that books need to be pushed (more so in this day and age), I’m learning how to do it effectively.

When a reader picks up your books, they can always expect to find…

All sorts of emotions evoked — from tears to laughter to contemplation and, hopefully, deep connection. Also, a HUGE cast of characters.

What’s the most Canadian thing you’ve put in a book?

Well in Love from A to Z, I put in Canada Goose symbolism. In a WIP that I’m revising, I put in a lot of Tim Horton’s love.

What would you like to see more of in the world of Canadian children’s literature?

More books centering marginalized characters written by marginalized authors that don’t cater to othering-expectations.

If you could spend a day inside of any book, which one would you choose?

Am I weird to say that I would like to remain in my world? I love books but I also love coming out of them so much! (Though, when I was a kid, I would have said any one of Beverly Cleary’s books.)

Lastly, we always end with: what’s your best piece of kick-butt advice?

Don’t get fixed in writerly ways. Don’t fall for the thinking: I have to do it this way. Try different things and reinvent your techniques, styles, process as many times as you need to.

Yes! So true! Thank you so much for joining us, S.K.!

Kick-butt Kidlit friends, add S.K.’s books on Goodreads!

Connect with S.K. on Twitter, Instagram, or through her website!

Click here to enter to the Spotlight on Canadians Giveaway! You could win one of 25 prize packs featuring books from all of our amazing creators!

S.K. Ali Prize Pack – a copy of LOVE FROM A TO Z

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Other available prizes:

Jess Keating Prize Pack – a signed ARC of NIKKI TESLA AND THE FERRET-PROOF

Nadia L. Hohn Prize Pack – a signed copy of MALAIKA’S COSTUME

Aviaq Johnston Prize Pack – a copy of THOSE WHO DWELL BELOW


Qin Leng Prize Pack – a copy of THE BETTER TREE FORT

Sarah Everett Prize Pack – a copy of NO ONE HERE IS LONELY

Nhung Tran-Davies Prize Pack – a copy of A GRAIN OF RICE

Cale Atkinson Prize Pack – a copy of OFF & AWAY

Nafiza Azad Prize Pack – an ARC of THE CANDLE AND THE FLAME

Melanie Florence Prize Pack – an ARC of JUST LUCKY

Erin Bow Prize Pack – an ARC of STAND ON THE SKY

Natasha Deen Prize Pack – a copy of IN THE KEY OF NIRA GHANI

Charlene Chua Prize Pack – a copy of THE WIND PLAYS TRICKS

Tanaz Bhathena Prize Pack – a copy of THE BEAUTY OF THE MOMENT

Philippa Dowding Prize Pack – a copy of OCULUM

Mahtab Narsimhan Prize Pack – a copy of EMBRACE THE CHICKEN

Mireille Messier Prize Pack – a signed copy of TELLEMENT SAUVAGE!

Jennifer Mook-Sang Prize Pack – a signed copy of CAPTAIN MONTY TAKES THE PLUNGE

Regan McDonell Prize Pack – a copy of BLACK CHUCK

Carmen Mok Prize Pack – a copy of GRANDMOTHER’S VISIT

Tom Ryan Prize Pack – the very first signed ARC of KEEP THIS TO YOURSELF

Naseem Hrab Prize Pack – a copy of IRA CRUMB FEELS THE FEELINGS

Joanne Robertson Prize Pack – a signed copy of THE WATER WALKER

Sarah Raughley Prize Pack – all three books in the EFFIGIES series

Don’t forget to enter the giveaway! It ends on April 28th!