Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

  • Bethany Weaver Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 6/26/2024
  • Rebecca Williamson Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 7/8/2024
  • Sheila Fernley Agent Spotlight Interview, Critique Giveaway, and One-Hour Zoom Call on 7/29/2024
  • Erica McGrath Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 8/12/2024

Agent Spotlight & Agent Spotlight Updates

  • Agent Spotlights & Interviews have been updated through the letter "K" as of 3/28/2024 and many have been reviewed by the agents. Look for more information as I find the time to update more agent spotlights.


 Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author Rebecca Caprara here to share about her MG fantasy THE MAGIC OF MELWICK ORCHARD. It sounds really interesting because it combines some elements of fantasy with really contemporary MG themes.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

After more moves than they can count, Isa's family finally puts down roots. People in town are afraid of the abandoned orchard behind their home, but Isa and her sister Junie are happy to have acres of land to explore.

But when Junie gets sick, Isa's mom falls into a depression, and medical bills force Isa's dad to work more. No one notices that Isa's clothes are falling apart and her stomach is empty.

Out of frustration, Isa buries her out-grown sneakers in the orchard. The next day a sapling sprouts buds that bloom to reveal new shoes. Can Isa use this magical tree to save her family?

Hi Rebecca! Thanks so much for joining us.
Thank you so much for having me!

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

I came to writing from a background in design. I studied architecture at Cornell and went on to design schools and libraries, which happen to be wonderful places full of books! I always wanted to write, but it took a while to work up the nerve to give that dream a fair shot. During a travel sabbatical in 2010, I finally had the time and space to focus on writing. Once I started, there was no turning back. It’s been a long and circuitous route transitioning from architect to author, but there are a lot of similarities between the two disciplines. Basic principles of structure, tension, rhythm, etc. are important when creating both buildings and books, although the medium is obviously very different. Architecture school teaches you to push creative boundaries, to think critically, to be open to constructive criticism. All these things inform and enrich the way I write.

2. That's cool how you see the similarities between architecture and writing. Where did you get the idea for THE MAGIC OF MELWICK ORCHARD?

The idea for this story came to me when I was in Big Sur, California six years ago. I was at a writing retreat and I was stuck on another project. I went for a hike through a Redwood forest to clear my head. All of a sudden, this silvery fog rolled through those massive trees and POOF! A new idea sprouted about an invisible girl and a magical tree. I ran back to my cabin and typed up what became the first chapter of The Magic of Melwick Orchard.

3. Your book deals with issues of childhood cancer without being preachy. Share how you weaved this into your story in a realistic fashion without being preachy.

This piece of the book was inspired by family members who were coping with a serious childhood illness. They bravely shared parts of their medical and emotional journey, and I was struck by the way a diagnosis of this magnitude affects not just the patient, but the entire family. I also asked a sensitivity reader named Kati Gardner to look at the manuscript. Kati is a childhood cancer survivor, a gifted writer, and a dear friend. Her feedback was critical, and helped me shape the story in an accurate and sensitive manner.

4. I love the magic of the tree that blooms shoes. What made you decide on this magical element and what was the magical aspect world building like for you?

This magical element was inspired by my own childhood. When I was a kid, I used to plant things at the base of a huge pine tree in my backyard, hoping it would sprout candies, jewels, and other goodies. Of course, it never did. So creating the chance seedling in Melwick was a bit of wish fulfillment. In addition to shoes, the tree yields all sorts of interesting (and unexpected) crops. It was so fun to imagine the possibilities! One of my favorite questions to ask kids who have read the book is what “seed” they would plant. So far, the number one response is money, followed by potato chips—haha!

I set the book in an orchard because I grew up in a small New England town that had more apple trees than people. I loved exploring the orchards around my home, and have always felt a special connection to trees. There is a calmness and a beauty to that landscape that helped me balance some of the heavier things going on in Isa’s life, and also helped reinforce a subtle thread about environmental stewardship that runs through the book.

5. I love where your inspiration for the magical tree came from. From reading reviews, it sounds like you have a great MG voice and the way you’ve dealt with the issues of sister love, family, and friendship pulls at readers’ hearts. What has helped you develop these aspects of your writing?

Thank you! I read voraciously—everything from MG to picture books, YA, nonfiction, poetry and
more. I think reading is one of the most important things to do as a writer at any stage. I also work with kids from time to time, teaching creative movement classes and storytelling, which helps me tap into that very specific and delightful MG voice.

When I started this book, I knew I wanted to tell a story about sisterhood, even though I never had a sister of my own. During the course of writing and editing, I had my first daughter, and then a second. Watching the bond my girls share definitely impacted my writing, and helped me deepen some of the family dynamics in the story.

6. Your agent is Christa Heschke. How did she become your agent and what was your road to publication like?

I queried a MG adventure series, plus countless picture books before signing with Christa. I amassed 50+ rejections over a few years. There were definitely times when I doubted my sanity, and wanted to give up, but instead I took a break from querying and focused on learning—honing my craft, connecting with other writers, understanding the publishing industry. I worked hard and finally felt ready to dive back in. When I sent out Melwick (which was originally titled Chance Seedling) I quickly got several offers of representation, but Christa’s editorial eye is what sealed the deal. We have a collaborative relationship, and she is very supportive of her authors trying new things, experimenting, and growing in new directions. It took nearly a year to sell Melwick, but Christa believed we would find it the right home eventually, and I’m so thankful that we did!

7. Glad you and Christa persevered. Your book was released on September 1, 2018. What have you been doing to promote your book? How do you think your marketing plans worked out? Would you have done anything differently?
I’ve been trying a little bit of everything! During the 3 months leading up to publication, my publisher and I reached out to teachers, librarians, reviewers and other readers, circulating ARCs and eARCs of the book. Connecting with ARC tour groups such as #BookPosse through Twitter was great, as well as my debut author group, the Electric18s. I attended BookExpo in NYC, pitched articles to various bloggers and websites, and connected with a few booktubers. I ran a charity preorder campaign to benefit Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, a nonprofit that raises funds for childhood cancer research and care. This caught the eye of actress and activist Italia Ricci, who graciously helped spread the word.

We celebrated release day with a launch party at a local independent bookstore in my area. I also lined up a variety of events during the months following release date. These ranged from bookstore signings, to panels with a group of authors, and larger book festival appearances. Two of the highlights were participating in nErDcamp in Maine and Long Island, as well as presenting at NCTE’s annual convention in Houston a few weeks ago. I left those events buzzing with inspiration and deeply grateful to be a part of such a vibrant and supportive community of book-enthusiasts.

I don’t think I would have done much differently—it’s been a fun ride so far, and I’m soaking it all up. I’ve learned that it can be hard to say no to things, but being selective with your time and energy is important, especially when juggling work and family and everything else going on in life. I’m glad the book tour was spread out over several months, so I’ve had time to recharge and “introvert” a little between events. 

8. Great to see what you did. What do you think has worked and not worked in your gearing up for the release of your book? What advice do you have to other writers who just signed their book contract on how to prepare for their debut?

It’s still so early, so it’s hard to say what has worked with regard to sales. I place a lot of value in the connections and relationships that I’ve made, especially with educators and young readers.

As for debut advice, try your best to keep things in perspective to avoid burning out. Give your debut novel its best shot, but don’t stress over the things you can’t control (granted, this is much easier said than done). Cultivate a community of fellow writers. My critique partners, debut group pals, and other writing friends have been absolute lifesavers. Keep writing, keep reading. Take time to celebrate the small victories along the way.

9. What are you working on now?

I’m hoping the news will be officially announced soon, but for now I can say that I have 2 forthcoming MG novels. Both are contemporary, written in verse, and tentatively scheduled for 2020 and 2021. I also have several picture books making the rounds with editors. Fingers crossed!

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Rebecca. 
You can find Rebecca at https://www.rebeccacaprara.com/
Twitter & Instagram @RebeccaCaprara

Rebecca has generously offered a hardback of THE MAGIC OF MELWICK ORCHARD 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 December 22nd. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter either contest.

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 years old or older to enter. This giveaway is U.S.

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is hosted by Greg Pattridge. You can find the participating blogs on his blog.

Here's what's coming up:

Friday, December 14th I'm participating in the Midwinter Eve Giveaway Hop--my last post of the year

Wednesday, January 2nd I'll start 2019 with an interview with debut author Gita Trelease and a giveaway of her YA historical fantasy ENCHANTEE and my IWSG post

Hope to see you on Friday! And have a Happy Holiday Season!


nashvillecats2 said...

A wonderful post about a great writer and book.
Thanks for sharing Natalie.

Have a good week.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Sounds like an extensive promo campaign with a lot of different facets! Those booktubers are especially great for getting the word out. Love that you used a sensitivity reader for feedback, too.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

They would plant potato chips? Do you tell them they could really plant a potato?
Congratulations, Rebecca!

Jemi Fraser said...

Sounds great! I love how the walk inspired the ideas!

Danielle H. said...

This book sounds like a wonderful read and I love the inspiration of the magical tree. Because you had an actual childhood cancer survivor read it means this book be authentic as well as magical. I shared on tumblr: http://yesreaderwriterpoetmusician.tumblr.com/post/180989602777/rebecca-caprara-interview-and-the-magic-of-melwick

Greg Pattridge said...

I love the cover and the story sounds just as good. Rebecca seems to be on the path to success in what she's done so far. Thanks for another inspiring interview.

Patricia T. said...

What a beautiful story. I love magical realism, because of the balance of tough topics and the hope for something magical to happen. This story also appeals to me because of the childhood cancer. It's hard to find stories that aren't preachy. Excellent interview.

Donna K. Weaver said...

Love the cover, and the premise of the story sounds fun. It's amazing when an idea for a story leaps out at you like that.

Rosi said...

I like the idea of the magical tree. Nice interview. Thanks for this. I'll pass on the giveaway.Buried in books.

Debra Branigan said...

I enjoyed reading the interview. Thanks for posting.

Tyrean Martinson said...

I loved reading this interview - I don't know why, but it stands out to me as just wonderful. I liked reading about the transition from architect to writer, the work done in marketing, and the process of writing (sorry I'm listing these out of order).
I would love to get a review copy.
tyreantigger@gmail.com (or, I'll just add this to my wish list for Christmas)

Tonja Drecker said...

Lovely interview, and the story sounds very interesting. Who wouldn't want a garden like that?

Nanc said...

I love that you have developed stamina for the writing/publication process. Congratulations...it sounds like a book I would have loved reading when I was a middle grader...and now! xo

jean602 said...

Sounds good can't wait to read itagain

jean602 said...

Sounds good can't wait to read it.

Jessy Yarrell said...

I love the cover. yarrelljessy@gmail.com

Sherry Ellis said...

I wished for a tree that would grow gold bars. Never got it, though. :) Sounds like a cute book. Congratulations!

cleemckenzie said...

Hers has been an interesting journey from design to writing for kids. I liked her story about the fifty rejections and how she dug in and learned more about her craft while networking with others. That paid off very well.

Tanza Erlambang - Every Day Issues said...

thank you for well written interview.
have a great day

Pat Hatt said...

Those connections sure can be key indeed. Some thing do pay off better than others.

Stephen Tremp said...

It's great to meet Rebecca and best wishes for THE MAGIC OF MELWICK ORCHARD in 2019!

Angie Quantrell said...

Oh, this sounds like a great book! I love the tree connection. It sounds like many of your background experiences came together in this book. Yay! Congratulations!