Thought for the Day:
“The difference between the precise word and one that comes close is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.” ~Mark Twain~
Gifts for My Writer Friends:
Writer’s Rumpus has a good post called Quick and Easy Revision Strategies for Days Your Brain Isn’t Working. HA! I know about that. Click HERE to see it.
K. M. Weiland’s eighth post in her Helping Writers Become Authors series on the character arc is terrific. Take a look HERE to get some great pointers.
I have a million ideas for things to write about, but can’t figure out which one? Steven Pressfield has a post HEREcalled Write Your White Whale that might just help you out.
New Book on My TBR List:
Shannon Messenger revealed the cover for the new book in her fun Keeper of the Lost Cities series: Everblaze. I loved the first two books. You can see my review of Keeper of the Lost Cities HERE and Keeper of the Lost Cities: Exile HERE. We will all have to wait until November for Everblaze, but it will be worth the wait. In the mean time, if you haven’t read the first two, what are you waiting for?
Last week, I offered a copy of Ice Dogs by Terry Lynn Johnson to a follower or subscriber who left a comment. Congratulations are in order for a new follower, Suzanne Warr! WooHoo! Suzanne has had magazine articles and stories published and is polishing a novel. You can find her blog and find out more about her by clicking HERE. Suzanne, I’ll be sending Ice Dogs to you this week.
Every couple weeks, I receive a list of books available for review from San Francisco Book Review. I have to admit, it’s like loosing a chocoholic in Ghirardelli Square. I first look for authors I love, then titles that grab me, and start looking at the books on Amazon. Sometimes a cover makes me want to read and sometimes it’s the blurb. When I ran across Saving Lucas Biggs, I think it was both. You can’t look at that cover and not want to open the package and see what’s inside. But the blurb also grabbed me. I am not a fantasy person, I keep saying, until I read a really good one. I think what I like about Saving Lucas Biggs best is that it is part historical fiction, part mystery, part contemporary novel, and part fantasy in that it has time travel. Those of you who have been reading my blog for awhile know that I love historical fiction, but you probably don’t know that time travel is something I really hope is possible and my wish for it is very strong. I am also what my husband calls a Murder and Mayhem junkie. This book had just about everything I love.
Margaret listens incredulously as Judge Biggs sentences her father to death for murder. Her father is a gentle, kind person completely incapable of such an awful thing. It seems, though, her father has made some powerful enemies in little Victory,Arizona, a town named for and basically owned by Victory Fuel. Margaret’s father makes her promise she won’t use the special power his family has and that she has inherited. Margeret’s best friend, Charlie, is by her side through it all. When Charlie tells her his grandfather, Joshua, needs to see her, she goes. Joshua tells her there is only one way to save her father and only one person who can do it. Margaret knows time travel is dangerous and that history tries very hard to deny change, but she takes on the task without hesitation. Her father needs to be saved. It is a difficult journey and history fights back in ways one cannot imagine.
The story is told in first person by Margaret, by Joshua, and even by Charlie. It was absolutely seamless. That is an extraordinary accomplishment. I had noticed two names on the cover, Marisa de los Santos and David Teague, but didn’t really think about it as I read the book. But when I finished (and, believe me, I was not ready to be finished — I wanted more), I wanted to know about these people and how they had accomplished this amazing feat. I started poking around the internet and found that they are married, and David is a literature professor and picture book author (see my review of Franklin’s Big Dream HERE) and Marisa is poet and novelist. They are married and have two very talented children, according to what I’ve read. I wanted to know about their process and how they came to write a middle-grade novel together and a whole lot more. I contacted David and asked if they would be willing to do an interview. I’m happy to say they did. So here we go.
It’s not often we find novels written by two people and even less often the two are husband and wife.
|David Teague & Marisa de los Santos
How extraordinary that one of you writes picture books and the other adult novels and poetry. How did the idea to collaborate on a middle-grade book come about?
We once did another project together—a screenplay. It was a romantic comedy based on Middlemarch. In our opinion, it turned out pretty well, although in the end no moviemakers shared our enthusiasm. Still, both of us learned a lot about pacing and storytelling from that project, and we came away realizing that we like writing as a team and we wanted to do it again sometime. Once Marisa’s career as a novelist took off, and David had finished a few picture books, we sort of met in the middle with middle-grades Saving Lucas Biggs.
How did the idea for Saving Lucas Biggs happen? Did you agree on most of the story, or was it a struggle to agree on the direction of the story? Who had the final say on details?
Marisa was interested in a time-travel story. And David had always remembered a specific historical event from American history and wanted to write about it—the Ludlow Massacre in Colorado. So we built a story where one of the characters needed to travel back to a fictional version of Ludlow. After we established this, the direction of the story seemed to dictate itself in the course of a few conversations—and since Marisa wrote Margaret in the present and David wrote Josh in the past, we had the luxury of being in charge of our own details and time periods until the point in the book where the storylines cross—and even then, we only really had one big conflict between us about the direction of the story, and of course we did it Marisa’s way.
Since Saving Lucas Biggs is written in first person from three points of view, I couldn’t help but wonder as I read if you, David, voiced Josh and Charlie, while you, Marisa, voiced Margaret. Could you tell us a little about how you structured the writing and who was responsible for what parts of the book?
Marisa wrote Margaret, and David wrote Josh and Charlie. Initially, that meant Marisa was in the present and David in the past. It also meant that Marisa wrote the voice of a 13-year-old girl, and David wrote the 13-year-old boys. And although it might have been an interesting stretch to criss-cross, we feel in the end like it was better for us to write from perspectives we knew best.
I’m not a huge fan of fantasy, but I really liked the way you wrote with just a touch of fantasy – the time-travel element within very “normal” settings – which somehow makes it more believable than a full-blown fantasy with an “other” world, at least for me. Did you find it difficult to keep the fantasy thread from taking over the reality of Saving Lucas Biggs?
Neither of us is a die-hard fantasy fan either, though David went through a science fiction phase, and always liked The Dark is Rising series, Marisa grew up loving Madeleine L’Engle’s books and of course we both are fans of Harry Potter. But in the world of Saving Lucas Biggs, despite the fantastical element of time travel, you could say it’s like the old song: “the fundamental things apply.” You believe in your friends, you stand up for what’s right, and you always look for the best in people. That, to us, is what seems most “real” about Saving Lucas Biggs.
I know you live in Delaware. The setting for Saving Lucas Biggs is today and 1938 in Arizona, a long way from Delaware. Why Arizona? Did you have to do a good deal of research for this book? How did you divvy up research duties?
We took real events that happened in 1914 in Ludlow, Colorado and moved them to 1938 in “Victory,” Arizona, where we felt like they could still have occurred. David had studied the Ludlow Massacre in school, and so we understood the basic historical pieces. Geologically speaking, it’s plausible to think that coal mining, and later fracking, could be taking place in this part of the world. But it’s historical fiction, so we mixed creativity and research in equal measure . . .
I loved the characters so much, I didn’t want Saving Lucas Biggs to end, yet the story is satisfyingly complete. Any chance there will be more stories with these characters?
Yes. We have talked about two possible stories with Margaret and Josh. The most likely one takes place in the future, and will also involve bending some of the rules of time travel, in this case, requiring Margaret to travel within her own lifetime. We also thought about having her try to go way, way back and change Aunt Bridey’s past, but we feel like Time will take a very dim view of this, and might not let us. So it will probably be “back to the future” for our outfit. Hopefully in the near future.
What do you hope your young readers will take from this book?
We want readers to realize that history is always alive in the present, always evolving, in our friends and in our enemies, and that people who are brave enough and who believe in their friends enough stand a chance at changing history for the better. Right now.
What was your favorite book as a child?
David: In Search of a Sandhill Crane by Keith Robertson. It’s not even in print any more. But I read it in sixth grade and I admired Link Keller as he took his camera on a quest through the wilderness of Michigan to photograph this elusive bird, and became more grown up and self-sufficient with every challenge.
Marisa: The Four-Story Mistake by Elizabeth Enright. It’s about the four Melendy kids who move to a big, old, rambling house in the country. I felt like I was personal friends with every member of the Melendy family. It’s also beautifully written, as are all Elizabeth Enright’s books. I think I learned more about how to write a sentence from those books than from any others.
What is the last book you read?
David: Mrs. Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. Eerie and great.
Marisa: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell. I’ve never read a book that captures first love so perfectly. I cherished every single moment, every single sentence. I want to be Rainbow when I grow up.
Pantser or Plotter?
David: was a plotter, now is REALLY a plotter. We could not have written two storylines invented by two authors set in two different times and ended them in the same place without a VERY GOOD OUTLINE. And now I’m sold on outlines.
Marisa: I was much more of a pantser for a long time, but I’m a total outline convert now. I can’t imagine going back to my pantser ways, even on solo projects. Having said that, I also know that an outline is just a guide; I still have to be flexible and listen to my story. If the story says to veer from the outline, I do it.
Chocolate or vanilla?
David: What’s vanilla?
Marisa: Vanilla, forever and ever.
Coffee, tea, or something else?
David: Coffee. Delivered continuously by transcontinental pipeline to my writing desk.
Marisa: Coffee, coffee, coffee. With a splash of skim milk so it won’t burn my tongue as I greedily gulp it down.
Thanks so much for answering all these questions. Is there anything you would like to add?
David: I would like to thank Rosi Hollinbeck for casting my mind in all these intriguing directions, which were quite enjoyable to visit, because even though I thought I knew all about this book, since I wrote half of it, turns out I didn’t!
Marisa: I never had as much fun writing anything as I did writing this book with David. Thanks for asking us about it!
The book releases on Tuesday, so you don’t have to wait much longer to get yours. You can preorder it now!!
One other thing I mentioned to David and Marisa was that there was no way I could bring myself to give away my copy of Saving Lucas Biggs. I asked if their publisher, Harper, might be willing to contribute a copy of the book for a giveaway. Harper stepped up and I’m happy to say one of you will be able to receive a copy. If you are a subscriber or follower and have a U. S. address, please leave a comment and your name will go into my hat. If you would like extra chances, please blog or Tweet or post on Facebook about the giveaway with the link to this blog. Let me know what you have done and I will give you extra chances.
Don’t forget to check out Shannon Messenger’s wonderful blog for more Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday links. Click HERE to see it.