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Today I’m excited to have debut author Gayle Rosengren here to share about her MG historical novel WHAT THE MOON SAID that releases tomorrow. This sounds like a fantastic story about Esther who must move from Chicago to a farm in Wisconsin when her father loses his job. The book has already been selected by Junior Library Guild.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

Thanks to her superstitious mother, Esther knows some tricks for avoiding bad luck: toss salt over your left shoulder, never button your shirt crooked, and avoid black cats. But even luck can't keep her family safe from the Great Depression. When Pa loses his job, Esther's family leaves their comfy Chicago life behind for a ramshackle farm in Wisconsin.

Living on a farm comes with lots of hard work, but that means there are plenty of opportunities for Esther to show her mother how helpful she can be and maybe get the hug she yearns for. She loves all of the farm animals (except the mean geese) and even better makes a fast friend in lively Bethany. But then Ma sees a sign that Esther just knows is wrong. If believing a superstition makes you miserable, how can that be good luck?

Debut author Gayle Rosengren brings the past to life in this extraordinary, hopeful story.

Hi Gayle. Thanks so much for joining us.

I'm delighted to be here, Natalie! Thanks for inviting me.

1. Tell us about yourself and how you became a writer.

I grew up in Chicago and I always loved three things: books, horses, and dogs. For a long time I wasn't able to have a dog, and I never did get a horse (sigh) but thanks to school and public libraries I always had access to books.. Authors, I came to believe, were remarkable people with the magical ability to create stories that while I was reading them--and sometimes long after--took me out of my everyday world and whisked me away into one that sometimes seemed more real than the one I left behind! Along with this growing admiration for authors came the realization that someday I wanted to write books that would make that kind of impact on other readers. I wasn't sure how one actually became a writer, but I kept reading and I started writing little stories of my own as I made my way through grade school and high school. It was like a dream-come-true when I discovered that my college offered creative writing classes and fiction workshops, and I took them all. Classes can teach a writer a lot, but I think most writers would agree that in the end their writing improves most by reading the work of authors they admire and, like anything else, with practice. So I read and I wrote, and in time I published short stories in magazines for children, and eventually I wrote WHAT THE MOON SAID.

2. So awesome you’ve written all your life. Where did you get the idea for your story?

I was always puzzled by the difference between my mother and my grandmother. My mom was super affectionate while my grandmother, though kind, was not given to hugs or kisses and statements like "I love you". I concluded that my mother gave my brothers and me the kind of loving gestures that she had wished for when she was growing up but hadn't received from my undemonstrative grandmother, and I felt sorry for the little girl who had been my mother. Later, my mom told me that when she was expecting her first child, my grandmother told her that she should never let her children know how much she loved them. I'm not sure what my grandmother's reasoning was, but the fact that she did love her children but refused to show it, was the initial seed for WHAT THE MOON SAID. My grandmother's many superstitions and the Esther who I imagined had yearned for proof that she was loved combined to "grow" the seed of this idea into a full-fledged novel.

3. Cool how your mother’s relationship with your grandmother was the spark for this story. What historical research did you have to do to get depression era life in both Chicago and Wisconsin right? What tips do you have for those of us wanting to write historical fiction?

I began by reading books about the Depression for an overall sense of the time and for the major events
that were happening just before and during the year of the story--1930. And I read books about Rin Tin Tin and about superstitions and about life on a Wisconsin farm. I asked my mom quite a few questions, but sometimes her memory wasn't as clear as I would have liked, so I ended up double checking any "facts" she gave me. Despite all this research, when I began to actually write the story, I bumped up against question after question about tiny but important details--about electricity and telephones and radios and stoves and books and the size of the average farm and what crops were planted and when in Southern Wisconsin, what girls wore to school, how much a stamp cost, and on and on. That's when I went to the internet. With enough determination, I'm convinced you can find just about anything on the internet. I was amazed when I even found a site that featured actual footage of the Rin Tin Tin film Esther watches in chapter one of the book! (I put a link to it on my website.) My best tip to someone writing historical fiction is this: Never ever assume; always verify what you think is correct to make sure that it is.

4. Sounds like you did lots of research. And great advice to check your facts. What was a challenge you faced craft-wise in writing WHAT THE MOON SAID and how did you overcome it? 

Initially, there wasn't enough tension in the manuscript. My editor loved the character of Esther, and the time period and the overall storyline, but she said it was too "quiet". She pointed out, however, that by increasing the presence and significance of the superstitions I could change that. The superstitions were there, but I hadn't made the most of them. Once she pointed this out to me, I did one more pass at the manuscript with greater emphasis on the superstitious elements and guess what? I got a contract!

5. Yes, the superstitions make me really curious about your story. Share about Esther, your main character. Did she come to you as a character or did you struggle more to get to know her as you wrote her story? 

I originally envisioned Esther as my mother at age ten, but of course I didn't know her then, so I began with a character who embodied my adult mother's major character traits--intelligence, a lively sense of humor, a loving heart and, occasionally, stubbornness.  As I began to write about her, though, I found some of myself slipping in--my love of horses, and my love of imagining things, for example. But over the course of the book, Esther evolved even further, and she became what I can only describe as "herself", because just as we all are shaped by our experiences, the character of Esther was ultimately shaped by her experiences within the story.

6. I’ve read that you sold your book without an agent. Tell us about your road to publication.

I participated in a small writing retreat for children's novels and the mentor for this retreat was Susan Kochan, an editor at Putnam Young Readers. She fell in love with Esther and ultimately offered me a contract for the novel. Call it fate or luck or destiny. All I know is I met the right editor at the right time with the right manuscript--which is the magic formula for publication--and I will be forever grateful that I attended that retreat!

7. What an amazing publication story. And it’s one we’d all love to have. I know you’re a part of ONEFOUR KIDLIT, a 2014 group of debut authors. How did you find out about this group and how has it helped you as you navigate through your debut as an author?

It's a little scary to realize in hind sight that finding OneFourKidLit was a happy accident. I had no idea there was a support group for new children's authors! I stumbled on it when I was researching debut children's books. It has since proven to be an invaluable source of information about every aspect of the publishing experience. It's an awesome support group, too, if disappointments or problems happen along the way. I've been fortunate. I haven't had any bad experiences, but some writers have had their publishing dates pushed out another year, or they've gotten covers they really hate, or they've received a hurtful review. Fellow members are swift to share information, suggestions, or soothing words--whatever is needed. The months before publication are a very happy-yet-stressful time for most debut authors and it's a brand new experience for all of us. Knowing you're not alone is a tremendous comfort and I have been repeatedly impressed by the incredible kindness and generosity of spirit that has unfailingly been demonstrated by the members of this group. I strongly advise every debut children's author to join KidLit just as soon as they have a publication year. It costs nothing but small amounts of time, but it gives back immeasurable rewards in terms of knowledge, support and friendship.

8. That’s great how supportive the group is and I definitely would want to join a group if I ever debut. Spreading the word about middle grade books through blogs can be more challenging than for YA novels. What blogs are you using to help shout out about your book and how did you find them? Do you have any advice for other MG authors looking to go on a blog tour?

You're right about there being far fewer blogs focused on middle grade books than YA, but once you begin looking for them, you can find some great ones. To begin with if you do join a group like OneFourKidLit, sometimes bloggers approach the group with offers of interviews. And often there are people in the group who have blogs and will offer a review or an opportunity for you to blog on their site. In the case of OneFourKidLit, the next year's group (2015's) will review the 2014's groups titles and interview the authors around their debut date. (One more advantage to being a part of this group.) And of course there is SCBWI (Society for Childrens Book Writers and Illustrators). My Wisconsin group is amazingly supportive and members are sometimes bloggers as well. Now that my pub date is rapidly approaching, I've been approached by bloggers who have come upon my title somewhere--on Twitter, Goodreads, Amazon, or in a review in PW, Booklist or Kirkus. Most blog interviews or reviews don't fall into one's lap this way, though. They're the result of some diligent online searching. I found a site that lists links to book blogs for various children's age groups, but I discovered that many of the links led to blogs that were no longer active.

HOWEVER, if you look around long and hard enough and keep your ears open to other writers, you can find some good ones. Here are some of the ones that I've discovered. Thanks to them my book will be featured online beginning the day before its publication and sporadically though the entire month following:

Cynsations; Middle Shelf; Whimsically Yours; Middle Grade Minded; Middle Grade March, From the Mixed Up Files of Middle Grade Writers; Letter to Teen Me; as well as these sites that are primarily YA but provide quality reviews of select MG novels: WhoRuBlog, Novel Novice, YA Reads, and Kidliterati, as well as this lovely site, of course!

9. Thanks for sharing all the sites. I know some of them, but will check out the rest. And I find a lot of the authors I interview through debut groups like OneFourKidLit. What are you working on now? 

I'm working on edits for my next book with Putnam, tentatively titled Joanna's Cold War. It's another middle grade historical fiction, but this story is set in Chicago, in 1962, during the week of the Cuban Missile Crisis. It's slated for publication in the summer of 2015.

Your new book sounds awesome. Thanks for sharing all your advice, Gayle. 

It's been my great pleasure, Natalie. I hope my experiences prove helpful to your readers. Thanks so much for inviting me!

You can find Gayle at her author website : http://www.gaylerosengren.com/ on Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Gayle-Rosengren-Author/312876032187451 and on Twitter: @GayleRosengren 

Gayle has generously officer an ARC of WHAT THE MOON SAID for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through March 1st. I’ll announce the winner on March 3rd. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, please leave it in the comments. This is for US/Canada only.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. You must be 13 or older to enter.

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday was started by Shannon Messenger. You can find all the participating blogs HERE .

Here’s what’s coming up:

Next Monday, I’m interviewing a college student who blogs and is an aspiring writer and giving away a copy of PANIC by Lauren Oliver, ELUSION by , or HALF BAD by Sally Green, and and THE SHADOW THRONE, the final book in THE FALSE PRINCE series by Jennifer Nielsen that I love.

The following Monday I’m interviewing Natalie Lloyd and giving away an ARC of A SNICKER OF MAGIC, a contemporary magical realism MG story I loved. The characters are so well developed and the setting is a vivid, small town set in Tennessee. This is one of my favorite reads of 2014.

And Wednesday that week I’m interviewing follower Kelly Polak and giving away ROCK 'N' ROLL PRINCESSES WEAR BLACK, her new MG contemporary story.

Friday that week I’ll be participating in the Lucky is Reading Giveaway Hop. I’ll have lots of new YA releases to choose from.

And don’t forget Casey’s Agent Spotlights.

Hope to see you on Monday!


Beth said...

The book sounds charming, and I love how she took inspiration from her own life. I started writing as a child, too, although I lost a little time studying Economics and Business in university. Congratulations to Gayle!

Donna K. Weaver said...

That cover is delightful! I want to keep looking at it. lol One of the things about writing historical fiction is trying make sure the facts are right. Even simple phrases we think are old (but not old enough for our story) can trip us up.

Kim Van Sickler said...

Gayle, your book sounds fantastic! Definitely a must-read for me. Congrats! Natalie, I tweeted about the giveaway.

Jess said...

Love this interview and I seriously adore Gayle's book (no need to enter me in the giveaway as I've read it!)~ it took me back to the types of books I loved as a child (reminded me of the All-of-a-Kind Family books).

Greg Pattridge said...

The cover is well done and grabs your attention. So does the story premise. I'll add this one to my TBR list. Add me to the list of bloggers talking about middle grade (Always in the Middle) @ gpattridge.com. I always have a review or a writer's tip several times a week.

Christine Rains said...

Wonderful interview. I absolutely love that cover and the blurb. Thanks for sharing your publication story with us.

Valerie said...

The cover is beautiful! Thanks for sharing!

Barbara Watson said...

Really looking forward to reading this one! It's already on my to-read list.

Carina Olsen said...

Not entering the giveaway, since I'm international, but ohh. I just had to comment about that cover! It is beautiful :D This sounds like a great book. <3 thank you so much for sharing about it :)

Brenda said...

Wonderful interview, so nice to see some historical MG fiction coming out. Love the cover and the premise sounds lovely. Adding it to my TBR list!

Crystal Collier said...

Ooh! I love the cover. I would pick it up just for that if I was passing it on an aisle.

Carol Riggs said...

Definitely a beautiful cover! and intriguing, your thoughts about people and how they show (or don't show) their affections. I've had some similar experiences! Fascinating. Nice interview; thanks, Natalie!

Jenni said...

I've been hearing a lot about this book, and I can't wait to read it! I love that your story is based on your family history, Gayle. I also liked your advice about "not assuming" anything in historical research. Great interview!

Tyrean Martinson said...

Supportive groups are super important to have! It was good reading about your experiences with historical research. I've started and stalled in a few historical fiction projects because I was terrified I wouldn't find the answers to all those questions that kept popping up. Way to see it through!
Congrats on your book!

jpetroroy said...

Looks so thoughtfully researched.

Tammy Theriault said...

she's so right. not of a lot of people's blog gear towards MG. loved the interview!

Rosi said...

I HAVE to read this book. It sounds so great. Thanks so much for the interview. I relate to so much of what Gayle has to say. I'm also working on a historical, though a little earlier. I Tweeted and posted your link on Facebook. And, Gayle, if you are reading this, I would be honored to review your book on my blog!

Danielle H. said...

I enjoy historical fiction and hope to win this book! I love that you researched well to honor your readers' trust. Thank you for the great interview and chance to win your book. I have already shared on Facebook.

Manju Howard said...

Gayle, I look forward to reading your historical MG. I really like the cover for WHAT THE MOON SAID.

Unknown said...

This is a lovely interview and the book sounds wonderful. I wonder if my grandmother's mother was reticent about vows of love. It's so strange growing up that way, since my mother was a woman who was loving - her mother was not at all loving towards her. It really makes me think. Thanks for sharing with us. michelle_willms at yahoo dot com.

Sam (Realm of Fiction) said...

I'm really curious about this book. I've heard good things about it today and will be sure to check it out in the future! It's also incredible to hear that Gayle was offered a contract straight from an editor. That's amazing! :)

Natasha said...

Great interview!
I love the cover and this one sounds like an amazing read!!
Thanks for the chance to win!
natasha_donohoo_8 at hotmail dot com

Unknown said...

Esther's story sounds amazing. My family were from undemonstrative German stock, and it rubbed off on me, which is especially embarrassing because all my friends are European ex-pats and like to kiss hello on both cheeks. Eek! lol I love the idea of re-writing this part of the past. Wishing Gayle huge success with her fabulous new book!! :)

Jemi Fraser said...

Sounds like a fabulous book! I love how Gayle came up with the idea and I'm so glad Gayle's mom didn't listen to her mom! :)

Heather Villa said...

I look forward to reading the book!

Leslie S. Rose said...

Yay, Gayle. As a fifth grade teacher I say, "Bring on the historical fiction." Love the title.

Anonymous said...

It was interesting reading about the inspiration behind the story. I have this on my wish list and would love to read it.

DMS said...

I love this cover- it just speaks to me. :) It was also wonderful to learn about the inspiration behind the story and I definitely will be picking this one up. Best of luck to Gayle and thanks so much for the chance to win a copy!

DMS said...

Oh- and I tweeted and Google+d it. :)

Victoria J. Coe said...

Thanks for the great interview, Natalie! I'm thrilled to read Gayle's personal story and can't wait to get hold of her book. The reviews sound awesome. And I love the cover!