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  • 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.

Debut Author Interview: Sean O’Brien and White House Clubhouse Giveaway

Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author Sean O’Brien here to share about his MG adventure/time travel White House Clubhouse. It sounds like a page-turner, and I love that the kids travel back in time. I’m looking forward to reading it.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

From a former White House a middle grade series following two First Daughters who team up with historical presidential children to save the nation. Marissa and Clara’s mom is the newly elected president of the United States, and they haven’t experienced much freedom lately. While exploring the White House they discover a hidden tunnel that leads to an underground clubhouse full of antique curiosities, doors heading in all directions―and a mysterious invitation to join the ranks of White House kids. So they sign the pledge. Suddenly, the lights go out, and Marissa and Clara find themselves at the White House in 1903. There they meet Quentin, Ethel, Archie, and Alice, the irrepressible children of President Theodore Roosevelt. To get back home, Marissa and Clara must team up with the Roosevelt kids “to help the president” and “to make a difference.” White House Clubhouse is a thrilling and hilarious adventure that takes readers on an action-packed, cross-country railroad trip, back to the dawn of the twentieth century and the larger-than-life president at the country’s helm. Black-and-white illustrations throughout.

Hi Sean! Thanks so much for joining us.

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

I’ve always loved fiction but my first writing opportunities were in politics. I worked in Congress, the White House, and the Pentagon as a speechwriter, but I always looked for good stories to tell, and great history to relate. So it’s a thrill to bring some of those stories from history to life in an adventure story for kids!

2. Where did you get the idea for White House Clubhouse?

My kids and I spent a lot of time discussing the characters that went into this book and the adventures we might take them on. We were particularly interested in the Teddy Roosevelt White House because he had 6 kids and over 20 pets! It sounds like an amazing time and place to be a kid!

Your Writing Process

3. That’s so cool that you involved your kids in creating your story. You were a speech writer for President Biden and Dr. Jill Biden. How exciting! How did working in the White House help you in creating your story, the kids’ exploration of the White House, and their finding of the hidden tunnel?

I got to see up close how the tight knit world of the White House operates, and I also got to see how tough it must be to live in that world all the time. I could go home to my kids and step outside the motorcade. But what if you’re a President’s kid? That helped inspire the story. The physical space of the White House also fascinated me and it helped to be able to walk around with a badge and take the time to really look at things like the wooden eagle table, which is featured in the story as the gateway to the clubhouse.

Working in the White House also helped my journey as a writer because it taught me about working on hard deadlines, handling tough feedback and rewriting effectively. It also helped inspire some of the lessons in the book on how to truly make a difference.

4. Marissa and Clara go back in time to the White House in 1903 and on a train trip across the country with President Theodore and his kids. What research did you have to do to get the historical aspects of your story right?

Online resources from great organizations like the White House Historical Association and the Theodore Roosevelt Center were really helpful, as were the National park Service resources about the Teddy Roosevelt Birthplace, Sagamore Hill, and Yosemite National Park. The Ken Burns Roosevelts series was a great starting point, and I read books by Edmund Morris, Douglas Brinkley, and others to help generate stories and gain insight into Roosevelt, his family, and the 1903 train trip which would change the course of conservation history.

5. You have so much going on in White House Clubhouse. How did you plot out your story? Have you changed your plotting process at all from what you learned from writing this book?


I learned a LOT! Through over 10 rewrites and great editorial feedback from Simon Boughton and Elizabeth Law as well as experienced writers like Peter Lerangis, I learned about the importance of plotting and outlining, character arcs and creating a good balance between description and dialogue. At one point I even wrote plot points on cards and lined them up across my basement floor so I could move things around and see how they worked.

Your Road to Publication

6. What was your road to publication like?

It was long but I’m thrilled with where I’ve ended up. Norton Young Readers is doing a lot of cool things and they’ve really been very supportive and enthusiastic about this project. It surprised me how tough it was to get an agent in the first place – you really have to have something that’s almost publication ready – but I’m so glad I found Reiko Davis of Defiore and Company. She’s been amazing and really helped me figure it all out!

7. What was something that surprised you about working with your editor?

Simon has a great vision for Norton Young Readers and it’s a thrill to be a part of it. It surprised me how much my former speechwriting career helped prepare me to respond effectively to editorial feedback and to find places to trim, and concepts to incorporate. He’s also been very helpful in introducing me to the booksellers and librarians who help inspire young readers across the country.

On Marketing Your Book

8. How did you celebrate the release of your book and what are you planning to do to promote it after its release?

We released it at East City Bookshop in DC, a great place that my kids have grown up in. It was a no brainer where to kick this thing off, since they helped inspire many of the ideas and supplied the books we used as sources! I’m going to be visiting many schools and bookstores across the country, starting with Booked in Evanston, Illinois on 10/7, and Schuler’s in Grand Rapids, Michigan on 10/10, then I’ll be out in the Bay Area at Linden Tree Books in Los Altos, California on 10/21, and I’ll be doing school visits with great stores like Copperfield’s and Book Passage in San Francisco. I’m also looking forward to more DC area events, like the Fall for the Book festival on 10/13, and the Arts Club of DC on 10/25.

9. Too bad you aren’t coming to the Schuler’s in Ann Arbor where I live. You hired a publicist to help you market your book. What made you decide to hire one and how did you find yours? How has your publicist helped you?

Megan Beatie of MB Communications has been very helpful in helping ensure a strong and effective launch, and also in getting me going in critical areas like social media! I would recommend any new author securing a publicist, and I hope yours is as good as mine!

10. What are you working on now?

We plan on making White House Clubhouse a series. The first book was focused on the Teddy Roosevelt Administration. Now I’m working on taking all the War of 1812 stories I learned while a Department of Navy speechwriter and putting together a new adventure for Marissa and Clara beginning with the 1814 burning of the White House!

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Sean. You can find Sean at:


Instagram, Facebook, Twitter: @seanobrienbooks

Giveaway Details

Sean is generously offering a hardback of White House Clubhouse for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower of my blog (via the follower gadget, email, or bloglovin’ on the right sidebar) and leave a comment by October 21st. If your email is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the contest. Please be sure I have your email address.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog and/or follow me on Twitter or Sean on his social media sites, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry for each. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. This book giveaway is U.S.

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

Upcoming Interviews, Guest Posts, and Blog Hops

Wednesday, October 11 I have an agent spotlight interview with Lane Clarke and a query critique giveaway

Monday, October 16 I have an agent spotlight interview with Jane Chun and a query critique giveaway and am participating in the Silly Pumpkin Giveaway Hop

Monday, October 23 I have an interview with debut author Elisa Stone Leahy and a giveaway of her MG contemporary Tethered to Other Stars

Wednesday, November 1st I have a guest post by debut author Mackenzie Reed and a giveaway of her YA mystery The Rosewood Hunt and my IWSG post

Monday, November 6th I have an agent spotlight interview with Morgan Hughes and a query critique giveaway

Thursday, November 9th I’m participating in the Super Stocking Stuffer Giveaway Hop

Monday, November 13th I have an interview with debut author DaVaun Sanders and a giveaway of his MG fantasy Keynan Masters and the Peerless Magic Crew

Hope to see you on Wednesday!






Valinora Troy said...

Great interview! I think this sounds such a brilliant premise for a story, and it seems like it is done really well. It's a great set-up for a story series, and wonderful to have that insider view! Thanks fir the review and interview!

Brenda said...

So happy to hear that there will be more books in the series. Such a fun way to introduce history. Happy MMGM. No need to enter me in the giveaway, Natalie as I have a copy.

Kate Larkindale said...

What a fun-sounding book! Great interview. I just wish I had someone in that age-group to gift it to.

Danielle H. said...

I love reading stories like this, especially when they are so well researched like this one. I shard on Facebook, Twitter, and tumblr and also follow Natalie on Twitter.

Liz A. said...

Being able to just be in the White House must have been a great way to get a feel for the story. I bet that comes out in the book.

Greg Pattridge said...

I've already had the opportunity to read this fun story. The characters keep the plot flowing at a nice pace. Very insightful interview and enjoyable having already finished the novel. Please let someone else win since my copy is already in the hands of a young reader.

DMS said...

This sounds like such a fun and interesting book. I had no idea there was so much going on in the White House when Teddy Roosevelt lived there. Wow! I am so happy to learn about this book and would love to win a copy. Thanks for the chance! :) ~Jess

DMS said...

I tweeted about it too. :)

Carol Baldwin said...

Shared on FB and Twitter. It sounds like a great book!

traveler said...

A captivating, entertaining and lovely series which would be ideal for my 4 grandchildren to enjoy. Thanks for your beautiful feature and giveaway. A most interesting interview. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

Allison said...

Oh, wow! I love the premise of this book! I'd love to win a copy. allison.prueitt@gmail.com. I follow Natalie on Twitter and tweeted about this book.

Rosi said...

Another great interview. What terrific experiences Sean had before writing this book. This was already on my radar. I really want to read it. Thanks for the great post.

Sandra Cox said...

How fascinating that you worked in the White House. Talk about a front row seat to history. I'm sure this series will be a runaway success.

'Lo, Natalie:)