Welcome Kami Kinard to the Mixed-Up Files! Her debut middle-grade novel, THE BOY PROJECT (Notes and Observations of Kara McAllister), came out on January 1. She’s a teaching artist on the SC Arts Commission’s Roster of Approved Artists, and writes from Beaufort, South Carolina where she lives with her husband and two children.
About THE BOY PROJECT: Wildly creative seventh grader Kara McAllister just had her best idea yet. She’s going to take notes on all of the boys in her grade (and a few elsewhere) in order to answer a seemingly simple question: How can she get a boyfriend?
But Kara’s project turns out to be a lot more complicated than she imagined. Soon there are secrets, lies, and an embarrassing incident in the boy’s bathroom. Plus, Kara has to deal with mean girls, her slightly spacey BFF, and some surprising uses for duct tape. Still, if Kara’s research leads her to the right boy, everything may just be worth it. Full of charts and graphs, heart and humor, this hilarious debut will resonate with tweens everywhere. (From IndieBound)
Kami, in THE BOY PROJECT, Kara McAllister uses the scientific method to figure out the mysteries of boys for the noble cause of getting her first boyfriend. Genius! Do you think the scientific method could help guys understand girls too?
Any time you analyze data, it can help you figure something out. The trick is to think about things from different angles, which is what Kara learns to do in the novel. However, using the scientific method doesn’t guarantee that you’ll find a girlfriend or boyfriend in real life. (I’ve already been asked that by a few readers!)
Kara tells us her story in diary format. What’s special about the diary novel that has made it so popular with the middle-grade crowd?
Actually, I just wrote an article about diary format books for THE 4:00 BOOK HOOK! Here’s what I said about diary format books then, and I can’t say it any better now!
“These books employ first person narrators who share feelings with their diaries, and thus their readers, that they don’t share with anyone else. This creates a sense of kinship between reader and narrator that is almost immediate.”
A lot of girls who have read THE BOY PROJECT have told me that it is like Kara is talking just to them. If your character pours real feelings into her diary, the middle grade reader is going to identify with her.
In addition to Kara’s passion for correcting the horrible never-been-kissed situation that is her life, she also creates some unique crafts (like using duct tape to transform a Depends). Are you a crafty gal?
Yes, I am crafty and always have been. When I was a kid I made a duck out of toilet paper with yellow Ginko tree leaves for feet. My mom thought it was great and she showed it to everyone. But I don’t know what happened to that TP duck. I hope he didn’t meet with a bad end.
Now, I occasionally teach art classes and I help my daughter with her craft blog. So far, every idea on the blog is something one of us made up. And a few of them, like the Altoids Box Suitcase, are featured in THE BOY PROJECT.
Were you, like Kara, busy with pie charts in your quest for the love of your life?
No. But some of the advice Kara gets along the way was. For example, Bebe Truelove’s tip number six is find common interests. I definitely did that. When I met my husband he was a smart art major who liked to play spades as much as I did. So we played a lot of spades, and talked about a lot of art, and because he was brainy too, we had a lot of academic conversations that I couldn’t have had with some of my other boyfriends. Over the years we’ve combined our interests in arts and smarts and renovated five houses. This has helped us tremendously financially, but we also enjoyed every project because we were both interested in working together to create something cool. (Sharing interests and goals also helps when you are trying to raise two wonderful children, too.)
You’re from South Carolina, yet I didn’t hear a single y’all in your novel. Any plans to write a novel set in the South?
Ahhhhh y’all. Such a useful word. But, nope!
What’s your writing process like? How long does it take you to finish a novel?
I approach writing like a job, not a hobby, and I try to write every day while my children are in school. Sometimes, I have to do other writing related things, like answer interviews, but that’s all part of the job! Different novels take different amounts of time to finish. I wrote THE BOY PROJECT in a relatively short amount of time. Including revisions for my agent, I wrote it in about eighteen months.
What’s next for you?
Now I am working on a novel that has taken me a relatively long amount of time to write. I started it about ten years ago. It has changed dramatically over the years, and I’ve put it aside to complete other projects several times. This novel is a fantasy, and when you write a fantasy, you have to create whole worlds, so it takes more time. Also, I’m working on another humorous MG because they are so much fun to write!
The Mixed-Up Files has to know, what’s your fave MG book?
Well, I don’t really have a favorite MG novel, but I am a big fan of Jeff Kinney’s WIMPY KID series and I loved PRINCESS ACADEMY by Shannon Hale, oh, and also HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERERS STONE, and THE TIGER RISING by Kate DiCamillo is just beautiful, but it would be a shame to forget THE NAME OF THIS BOOK IS SECRET… see what I mean?
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Karen B. Schwartz writes contemporary middle-grade novels and raises contemporary middle-grade kids.