Friday, May 8, 2015

Interview with David Fulk

Ooooo...guys. GUYS. You're in for a huge treat today, because right here, on my humble little blog, I'm interviewing my fellow Fearless Fifteener, David Fulk, MG author of RAISING RUFUS, which is releasing June 9th by way of Delacorte Books for Young Readers. 

(cue the excited gasps)

    Martin Tinker may be the smartest kid in the sixth grade, but who cares?  His classmates just think he’s weird.  To the good folks of Menominee Springs, Wis., he’s practically invisible.  Even his dad has a hard time relating to his bug-collecting, woods-exploring, maddeningly oddball ways.  But when Martin accidentally unearths an ancient, frozen egg in a local quarry, he’s in for whole new dimensions of oddness.

    When the egg thaws and hatches, he finds himself surrogate mom to a bright-eyed little lizard with a voracious appetite for meat and a tendency to GROW at an alarming rate.  Pretty soon Martin figures it out:  What he's got is a living, breathing, honest-to-carnivorous baby T. rex.  Martin bonds with his prehistoric pet, but knows this outlandish creature must be kept a secret.

    Teaming up with Audrey Blanchard, another misfit from school, Martin struggles to keep “Rufus” fed, entertained, and hidden from the world.  But when Rufus grows to 7 feet tall—and starts getting in touch with his inner primeval predator—the secret is blown, and all Martin’s worst fears come to pass.

    Somehow he will have to find the strength and self-confidence he’s never had to save Rufus (or the town?) from an unthinkable fate—and finally, maybe, win a little acceptance from his peers and his dad.

Preorder RAISING RUFUS on Amazon, B & NIndiebound, and Porter Square Books
Add it to your to-read list on Goodreads
Read the first chapter 

Can you tell us a little bit about your background?

I suspect my journey has been a bit different from most other middle-grade authors'. For one thing, I have a Y chromosome, which makes me an outlier from the get-go. For another, I'm sure I'm quite a bit older than your typical debut novelist (I could give you a number, but then I'd have to kill you). And I never really set out to write books for kids until very recently. My previous writing has been for stage and screen.

What drew you into the middle-grade genre?
That's actually kind of interesting, because RAISING RUFUS started out as a screenplay that I developed with the help of a producer friend. But we couldn't quite get it to the big screen. It was what you'd call a "family" movie. But when I decided to do it as a book, I quickly learned that from a business standpoint, there's no such thing as a "family" novel (even though there are plenty of novels that appeal to all ages!). You have to pick an age range. So I decided middle grade would be best.

What is your writing process like?
Very painful! At least in the early stages. When you're first fleshing out your story, there are so many decisions to be made, any one of which can take it in a whole new direction. And if it turns out to be not a good direction, the rewriting and rethinking process gets all the more drawn-out and frustrating. So I tend to work slowly and deliberately, trying to dodge as many of the land mines and pitfalls as I can before they gobble the whole thing up.

Where is your favorite place to write?
I like to write longhand, so I guess I would have to say my soft blue easy chair. For me, there's something about working directly on a computer that gives it too much permanence. I like to tweak and revise as I go along, and I prefer to do that on paper. So I've got a whole bunch of notebooks filled with cross-outs and arrows and scribbles all over the place, illegible to all but me. And even to me, sometimes.

Do you ever get writer's block? Any tips to get past it?
Do I ever not? It's the bane of my existence! It's that early-in-the-process paranoia again. Writing a novel is such a huge investment of time and energy, I want to feel absolutely sure I'm on a good path before embarking on it. Probably the best advice I've heard to confront it is to just start writing. Write something, write anything, even if it has no chance of becoming your next project. Get in the habit of moving thoughts from brain to page.

Who are some of your favorite authors?
Wow, so many. Since we're talking middle grade, I guess I'll stick with that. Neil Gaiman. Rebecca Stead. Sharon Creech. Avi. Kate DiCamillo is a master storyteller. For me, Gary D. Schmidt can do no wrong. He has a way of grabbing you by the heart and not letting go.

What inspired you to write RAISING RUFUS?
Well, I was brainstorming with my producer friend about my next screen project, and I said, "Wouldn't it be cool to have your own pet T. rex?" It clicked for us immediately, and it was off to the races.

What was the hardest part about writing this particular book?
Going from screenplay conventions to novel conventions involved a bit of a learning curve for me. In a movie script, "POV" means camera angle. In a novel, it's a character's figurative point of view. There are usually multiple character POVs in a movie, and that's the way I did my early drafts of the book―which my critique group tactfully pointed out was verboten. So I had to do a lot of reworking, which wasn't easy, but I eventually got it. I would have to say, though, that since then I've read several highly acclaimed books where the POV jumped all around―so I'm still a little suspicious of that rule.

Can you tell us a little bit about your hero?
As a committed science geek, Martin is a social misfit―partly because of the way his peers treat him, and partly because of his own social inhibitions, So when he suddenly gets hit with the challenge of raising a T. rex from birth, it forces him to approach life in a whole new way. He has to find his own inner T. rex, you might say.

Did you base your characters on anyone in particular?
Not any one particular person, but Donald, the stinker from school who torments Martin, is sort of a composite of a few guys I went to grade school with. Our class was famous for being the worst bunch of snakes ever to slither through white suburbia! (Not me, of course. I was a model child.)

What other projects do you have coming up?
Here's a minimalist answer: It will be another middle-grade story with a boy hero and a fantasy element. But no T. rexes. Dang! Now I've given away too much...


About the author:

David Fulk is an award-winning playwright, screenwriter, director, and (now) novelist living near Boston. He grew up in the Chicago area and has lived in Missouri, Louisiana, Michigan, California, Pennsylvania, New York, Texas, Belgium, India, and Wisconsin.  He used to own a T. rex, but he had to return it to the pet store after it ate his labradoodle.

Say hi to David on his website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Interview with Kelly Jones

Today we're hanging out with Kelly Jones, author of UNUSUAL CHICKENS FOR THE EXCEPTIONAL POULTRY FARMER. Which I would buy because of the title alone. Because really. It's so awesome. Also, check out the cover and blurb and et cetera, all of which equally awesome: 

Twelve-year-old Sophie Brown feels like a fish out of water when she and her parents move from Los Angeles to the farm they’ve inherited from a great-uncle. But farm life gets more interesting when a cranky chicken appears and Sophie discovers the hen can move objects with the power of her little chicken brain: jam jars, the latch to her henhouse, the entire henhouse....

And then more of her great-uncle’s unusual chickens come home to roost. Determined, resourceful Sophie learns to care for her flock, earning money for chicken feed, collecting eggs. But when a respected local farmer tries to steal them, Sophie must find a way to keep them (and their superpowers) safe.

Told in letters to Sophie’s abuela, quizzes, a chicken-care correspondence course, to-do lists, and more, Unusual Chickens is a quirky, clucky classic in the making. 

Sounds amazing, right??! 
Preorder at Amazon or B & N and 
add it to your Goodreads 

And now....(drumroll): a few words with Kelly:

What is your writing process like?

I almost always start with a character and something they care strongly about. But when it comes to writing their story, I’m an under-writer: I write a skeleton version of the story for my first draft, and then go back and give it layers of detail and depth until it makes sense. (It’s more common for my editor to ask me to add more than to delete sections.) Then, somewhere along the way I try to make sure it has a plot. That’s the hardest part for me, and often involves shuffling bits around until they’re in the right order.

Was there ever a time that you considered giving up on your aspiration to write?

Yes, I did give up writing for about three years while I was earning a master’s degree in library sciences and working full time. Back then, it felt like the end of my writing dreams, but now it feels more like a hiccup along the way. If it happens again, I hope now I’d tell myself to enjoy the break and not worry about it so much! If writing is truly important to you, I think you’ll come back to it when you’re ready.

What advice would you give your younger self?

To spend more time watching how people live in the world, all the details that make them individuals, and much less time worrying about which font to use and how hard it is to be a professional writer.


Getting my first chickens! Apparently most people enjoy the eggs and go about their regular lives. I sat in the backyard and watched mine for hours, thinking up superpowers that would be useful to chickens.

What was the hardest part about writing this particular book?

I knew exactly who Sophie was from the beginning of this story – and that was an enormous gift and also a huge writing challenge for me. I’m white, Irish-American, and I didn’t know if I could write a Latina character’s experience that would feel authentic to readers. There were so many details I didn’t know, or wasn’t sure of. So, I did the best I could, and then I asked for help. That was hard too – it felt awkward and uncomfortable to ask Latina writers to see how my words felt to them, if Sophie’s experiences and reactions made sense to them. But it made the book much stronger, and was the best thing I could have done for this book -- and it made me much more confident about asking for help when I need it. 

Can you tell us a little bit about your hero/heroine?

Sophie Brown, age twelve, moves from Los Angeles to a rural farm with her white father and Mexican-American mother. She misses living in a diverse urban community and finds it hard to fit in to her new town, but she especially misses her grandmother, who died recently. Sophie’s quiet and shy, but she has a strong commitment to doing the right thing. So, when chickens with superpowers turn up and it’s her job to protect them, she’ll do whatever it takes. I would describe her as a quiet, brave, steadfast person, with a great sense of humor.

What other projects do you have coming up?

My second book is a YA Regency costume drama with magic called GLAMOUR, about Miss Annis Whitworth, who, when orphaned at sixteen, decides she’d much rather be a spy like her father than a governess. (Unfortunately, the War Office does not agree.) 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kelly Jones ( is a curious person, interested in chickens, magic, farm life, spies, sewing, the odd everyday bits of history, how to make sauerkraut, how to walk goats, superheroes and what makes them so super, recipes to make with a lot of eggs, anything with ghosts (particularly friendly ghosts), how to draw chickens that actually look like chickens, and any story she’s never heard before.

She’s also a writer: Her debut novel (Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer ( , about twelve-year-old Sophie and her magical chickens, is forthcoming from Knopf Books For Young Readers in May of 2015. It’s for kids ages 8-12.

Her second book, Glamour (, is set in 1818, England, about sixteen-year-old Annis, who would like to become a spy like her father and who does not see why the War Office should put up such a fuss (with bonus magical dressmaking!) is forthcoming from Knopf Books for Young Readers in Spring of 2017.