So the winner is:
DAVID KING who chose THE WOOD QUEEN!
Congrats! E-mail me your address so I can send you your book.
Today I’m excited to interview debut author Jenny Lundquist about her new book SEEING CINDERELLA which will be released on March 20, 2012. Jenny nailed all the issues of middle grade like fitting in, changing friendships, and boy crushes. And I liked the little magical twist of the magical glasses. I really loved this book and read it in a day. It was that good.
Here’s a description from Goodreads:
Calliope Meadow Anderson wishes her life could be more of a fairy tale—just like the stories she writes. Her best friend, Ellen, is acting weird, her parent's marriage is falling apart, and to top things off, she found out she needs hideously large and geeky glasses.
But Callie soon learns they aren't just any glasses—they are magical and let her read people's thoughts. For the first time ever she's answering all the questions right in math class, and gets a glimpse of what goes through people's minds all day, including what Ellen—and her longtime crush—really think of her.
As if dealing with these crazy glasses weren't enough, Callie tries out for the lead in her school's production of Cinderella and actually gets the part. Instead, Callie chooses to let Ellen have the lead and be Ellen's understudy—just like she has done for their entire friendship.
Add in a new girl who has something to hide, a secret admirer, a best friend stealer who isn't what she seems, and Callie's year just went from ordinary to extraordinary.
Can this supporting actress learn to be a leading lady in her own life? Or is she destined to stay in the background forever—even with her super-freaky-magic glasses?
Hi Jenny. Thanks so much for joining us.
1. Tell us a bit about yourself and how you became a writer.
Thanks so much for having me, I'm a huge fan of LitRambles. I live in the Sacramento area now, but I grew up in southern California in Huntington Beach. This means my high school had a surf team. I didn't realize that was weird until I moved north. I always liked to write, but I didn't start writing seriously until the year I turned thirty. That was the year I realized all the time I'd thought, "I'd like to write someday…" was gone, and I had nothing to show for it. It's become my firm belief that the word someday is a dream killer. So I decided that instead of waiting for "someday" to appear, I'd start writing today, now. I sat down and started working on a story idea I had at the time, and I've been writing ever since.
2. Living in Michigan, I can't imagine a high school surf team. It'd be fun living somewhere you could have one. Like I said, I loved the magical glasses aspect of the plot. From seeing your 7th grade picture on your blog I’m guessing they may have helped you develop the look of the glasses. I could so relate to that picture because I’ve worn glasses since I was a baby and some of mine were less than fashionable to put it nicely. More like how did I ever wear those things? What made you decide to make them magical and why did you pick having them let Callie read others’ minds?
I first got the idea for a pair of magic glasses when I had to relate an incident that happened to me in seventh grade. It involved my glasses, a cute boy, and spit. You can read about it here. Anyway, I found myself saying, "My glasses had magic powers: They repelled boys." Then the writer in me thought…Hmmmm, but what if my glasses really did have magic powers? Like…what if they could read thoughts? At first I envisioned it as a short story, but I'm too long-winded to write those, so I started writing a middle grade novel that eventually became Seeing Cinderella.
Voice is really important to me—I think it's what I enjoy the most about middle grade literature. I did struggle with Callie's voice to the extent that I initially wanted to write a story about a really aggressive girl who didn't always "see" how her actions affected others. But sometimes we get to choose our characters…and sometimes our characters choose us. For me, I kept hearing this really shy character's voice in my head, and I decided to just go with it and scrap my original plans. I spend a lot of time journaling trying to find my character's voices and that's what I did with Callie. I think I had one or two spiral bound notebooks completely filled up with notes before I finished my first draft.
4. Two notebooks! That's true dedication to getting the voice right. Another aspect of the story that you did well was the whole middle grade scene and Callie’s shyness, issues with her best friend Ellen, and her boy issues. Tell us about the process of developing all these themes into your plot and weaving them in with the magical glasses. Did you draw on your own experiences from middle school?
Developing the secondary characters in my book was very time-consuming. One question I like to ask myself when I'm in the early stages character development is, "Based on who I think my main character is right now, who do I need my secondary characters to be in order to complement/highlight the things about my main character that I want the reader to see?" Yeah, it's a mouthful, but it works for me. I also wrote journal entries from my secondary character's point of view to help me see into their thought processes. In terms of my own middle school years I definitely felt shy and overwhelmed by middle school life. I was the late bloomer in my clique of friends and they were ready for a lot of things that I just wasn't. There's a part in Seeing Cinderella where Callie says her goal is just to survive middle school by being as unnoticeable as possible. I really related to that.
5. I can relate to that too. My whole childhood wasn't a happy time. Your agent is Kerry Sparks of Levine Greenberg Agency. Tell us about your journey to find an agent, how long you queried, and any tips you’d recommend for the rest of us starting or in the middle of that process.
I'm glad you asked! For anyone interested in obtaining an agent I recommend they subscribe to LitRambles and read all of the Agent Spotlights as well as Casey's articles on Agent Research. I'm not kidding. The content here is invaluable. I used LitRambles as my "homebase" when I was researching agents. I queried for about two months before I received an email from Kerry requesting a phone call. Because I was on vacation at the time and I only had spotty internet/email access it turned out I only had one hour to prepare for her call and I didn't have a clue what I was supposed to ask her. I was seriously panicking. Then I remembered…LitRambles had a whole article on Questions for the Call! I quickly went to LitRambles, wrote down a ton of questions and had just enough time to calm myself down before Kerry called. So in a very real way, LitRambles was invaluable to me as I went through the process of obtaining an agent.
And, for anyone who's currently querying, Kerry is an amazing agent. She's a prompt and clear communicator, a great cheerleader, and she gives fantastic editorial notes. I can't say enough good things about her. She's a rock star!
6. Casey does an amazing job with the agent spotlights. And they are a lot of work. I so appreciate she does them. I'm definitely going to use her questions if I'm ever lucky enough to get a call from an agent. You are part of The Apocalypsies, a group of 50 debut authors. How did you network with this group and when did you find out about them? When should a debut author connect with a blog group of other debut authors and how do we find these groups when they are forming?
I found out about them when Jenny Torres Sanchez, my agent sister, contacted me and encouraged me to join. Being a part of the Apocalypsies has been amazing. It's been great connecting with other writers who are at a similar point in their journey. I would say, start connecting with other authors as soon as you're offered a contract, if you haven't before. For anyone that's signing for a 2013 release, The Lucky 13's have just formed. Check out their blog and they'll let you know how to join. Being a part of the Apocalypsies has been invaluable. I would be a big quivering mess of nerves and indecisiveness without them.
7. That's a great tip to find out about these groups from other debut authors with your agent. Thanks. I'd been worried about this. Besides being a part of The Apocalypsies, what are you doing to market your book? What ideas are you trying from seeing other middle grade authors debut?
Besides scheduling interviews with bloggers, I've held contests on my blog for an ARC of SEEING CINDERELLA. I've spoken at a PTSA meeting for a local middle school in my city. I've sent postcards to librarians and independent bookstores asking them to consider my book for their collection. I'm an introvert at heart, so stepping out to market my book has been really challenging for me. But I'm finding that the more I do, the more I get a sense of what I'm comfortable with.
All the credit for that belongs to my editor at Aladdin M!X, Alyson Heller. She always let me know when she needed my draft, or first pass pages back by and from what I can tell on my end, she did a remarkable job of making sure things were always moving along. I've enjoyed working with her, and am excited to be writing another M!X book….
9. What are you working on now?
…Which is currently titled PLASTIC POLLY. It's about a girl who's the second most popular girl in her middle school. Many of her classmates don't like her, and call her Plastic Polly behind her back. It's inspired, in part, by a phrase I heard a lot growing up, which is, "She's so fake." That statement has always intrigued me, because what does that even mean? To an extent, we all wear masks, and yet we're all authentically who we are, and so I wanted to write a book from the perspective of the girl that many people didn't like in middle school. But, I also need a lot of fun in my projects, so Polly ends up having to coordinate a talent show competition between her middle school and their rival school. She finds out that only the popular kids (as opposed to the most talented kids) are being selected to participate in the competition, and she has to decide what she's going to do about it.
Thanks Jenny for all your advice. Good luck with your book.
You can find Jenny at her Website, Twitter, Facebook, and Discussion Guides for Seeing Cinderella.
Jenny generously offered an ARC of SEEING CINDERELLA for a giveaway. All you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment by midnight on March 31st. I’ll announce the winner on April 2nd. If your e-mail is not on Blogger, please list it in your comment. International entries are welcome.
If you mention this contest on your blog, Twitter, or Facebook, please let me know in the comments and I’ll give you an extra entry.
Marvelous Middle Grade Mondays was started by ShannonWhitney Messenger to spotlight middle grade authors. Check it out here.
And check out these other Marvelous Monday Middle Grade Reviewers:
Here's what's coming up. Next Monday I'm interviewing Anne Nesbit and giving away a copy of her debut book THE CABINET OF EARTHS. Then the following Monday I'll be interviewing Leah Bobut and giving away a copy of her debut book ABOVE. I'm really excited to interview Leah because Cheryl Klein, one of my favorite editors, is her editor.
Hope to see you next Monday!