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Happy Flag Day! Let’s celebrate with an interview with award-winning author Kate Messner and a giveaway!

Authors, Book Lists, Giveaways, Holiday, Interviews, Librarians, Teachers, Writing MG Books

 

Happy Flag Day!

flag

 

What better way to celebrate than to talk to award-wining author Kate Messner        

kate

  

about her middle-grade mystery book, Capture the Flag!

 

Kate’s newest middle-grade novel series has it all – excitement, intrigue, high-stakes action, and best of all it centers on the stolen American flag! What a great idea and a fun topic for our Flag Day post!

 

 

A stolen flag, a secret society, and three complete strangers . . .
Capture-the-Flag
Anna, José, and Henry have never met, but they have more in common than they realize. Snowed in together at a chaotic Washington, DC, airport, they encounter a mysterious tattooed man, a flamboyant politician, and a rambunctious poodle named for an ancient king. Even stranger, news stations everywhere have just announced that the famous flag that inspired “The Star-Spangled Banner” has been stolen! Anna, certain that the culprits must be snowed in, too, recruits Henry and José to help find the thieves and bring them to justice.
But when accusations start flying, they soon realize there’s even more than a national treasure at stake. With unexpected enemies lurking around every corner, will the trio solve the heist before the flag is lost forever?

 

 Praise for CAPTURE THE FLAG
A Junior Library Guild Selection
“A fast-paced mystery . . . a sparkling start for a promising new series.” –KIRKUS REVIEWS
“A novel as cinematic in execution as it is patriotic in theme.” –PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

 

I just finished reading your delightful book, Capture the Flag, I was wondering – where did you get the inspiration for this story? Did you visit the actual flag in the Smithsonian?

I did visit that flag – but not until I already knew I was going to let it be stolen in this book!  The inspiration for CAPTURE THE FLAG was actually the setting — I love airports and thought it would be great fun to set a mystery in one during a snowstorm. I love the super-charged atmosphere…everyone coming or going someplace. In airports, everyone has a story.  And I loved the idea of the snowstorm keeping everyone stuck there for a short period of time so my kids could investigate the crime, knowing that if they didn’t solve it, all the evidence and suspects would fly away as soon as the storm let up.

 

Much of the book takes place in an airport and the baggage area underneath. Were you able to go behind the scenes of the baggage handling area to do research for this book?

That’s the one thing I wasn’t able to explore firsthand in my research. Not surprisingly, airport security in a post-9/11 world doesn’t make exception for children’s authors.  However, I was able explore those under-the-airport worlds virtually, since most companies that build baggage handling systems have videos online showing how they work.

 

How much research, if any, do you do for your fiction books? Do you think this is  important?

I do extensive research for my books, especially when it comes to making sure I have the setting just right.  For CAPTURE THE FLAG, that meant spending a day at the Smithsonian, exploring behind the scenes with the curator of the flag exhibit and talking through just how those fictional bad guys might get out of the museum with the flag.

 

This book is your first mystery. Did you have fun writing it?

Great fun – but it was a great challenge, too, and taught me to plan in much more detail than I’d been accustomed to with my previous books.

 

Any tips aspiring authors should be aware of when writing mysteries for middle grade readers?

When I teach mystery writing workshops, I focus a lot on planning – the idea that suspects aren’t the only ones who need motives; investigators do, too.  It takes a lot of playing around with ideas to make sure all the details end up fitting together just right. And I think setting is huge in mysteries, too. The place can be a huge part of the story, and I encourage writers to think of it as the playground for their characters. What adventures can happen in a museum? In an airport, or a rainforest, or at the World Series?

 

Do you tend to stick with one writing level at a time or go back and forth depending on what inspires you?

I write across genres — middle grade, chapter books, and picture books – both fiction and nonfiction – and I love them all, so I couldn’t choose just one as a favorite. Most often, it’s my deadlines the determine what any given writing day looks like. The book that’s due first gets first priority, and when I’m not on deadline, I tend to play a lot, working on whatever seems to be calling me that day.

 

Your characters are ethnically diverse. How important do you think it is to have ethnically diverse characters in middle grade  books?

Very much so – and I’ve actually been quite involved in providing input for the covers for this mystery series. Scholastic has been amazing about asking for feedback, and we’ve talked about just this topic – the importance of not only including kids from different backgrounds on the covers but also showing their faces.  When I was teaching 7th grade, it was important to me that all of my students could find books with faces on the cover that looked like theirs. It was frustrating to me when most of the books I could find with brown faces on the covers were historical or issue books, where the story was about the character’s race.  In real life, it’s not like that — kids of all different backgrounds go to school and play lots of different sports and solve mysteries and have adventures, and I feel like we need to be mindful of that when we write and market books, too. I’ve been thrilled with the covers for the books in this series!  (And I can’t share the cover for book 3, MANHUNT, quite yet, but I can tell you that I think it might be the best of all!)

Many thanks!  ~Kate

 

And many thanks to you, Kate, for giving us a peek into your writing process. Mysteries are my favorite and I really loved this book! Can’t wait to read the new one in the series.

To learn more about Kate’s many amazing books, see her website http://www.katemessner.com/

Now, for what you’ve all been waiting for,  Kate has generously offered to donate an autographed copy of Capture the Flag to one lucky reader!  Simply leave a comment below and you will be entered in the giveaway.

 

****

Jennifer Swanson is a life-long mystery lover. Some say she was born with a magnifying glass in one hand a Nancy Drew book in the other.

16 Comments

16 Comments

  1. Krista  •  Jun 14, 2013 @8:03 am

    I love this book! I had many students who loved this mystery as well. I also love how Kate is so gracious in helping teachers become writers.

  2. Jen Swanson  •  Jun 14, 2013 @8:24 am

    I agree, Krista! This book is such fun! I was able to meet Kate at a writers conference and also attend one of her sessions. She is an amazing teacher for all writers!

  3. Jill  •  Jun 14, 2013 @8:28 am

    I would love to read this book. Lately I’ve been wanting to read some more kids mysteries — any more recommendations?
    Great interview also. I visit Kate’s website also and am so impressed that she ranges in a wide range of genres. Wish I could sit down for a few days and pick her brain :)

  4. Sandy  •  Jun 14, 2013 @10:23 am

    Thanks for a terrific interview. I met Kate at our February reading conference here in Milwaukee- a true inspiration for sharing great books and for writing them, too.

  5. Amber Houck  •  Jun 14, 2013 @1:03 pm

    I am a new teacher to the mid level age group, and this book sounds like the kids would be thoroughly engaged and interested while reading. I will be promptly picking up a copy for my classroom library! I am beginning to understand why Kate is such a wonderful resource and guide. I cannot wait to participate in her “Teachers Write” online workshop this summer!

  6. Lynnette  •  Jun 14, 2013 @4:47 pm

    When I asked my 5th graders for their favorite books, this was near the top of the list. I’m looking forward to Manhunt.

  7. JenP  •  Jun 14, 2013 @5:17 pm

    I adore both Kate’s books and her generosity to other writers.

  8. Ann Marie Meyers  •  Jun 14, 2013 @6:11 pm

    Great interview Jen!!!! The book sounds intriguing so I will put it on my reading list. All the best to you, Kate!

  9. Sophia Malloneé  •  Jun 14, 2013 @7:04 pm

    Great interview and what a fun book!

  10. D. Lee Sebree  •  Jun 14, 2013 @7:37 pm

    I appreciate Kate’s comments about diversity. I teach in a very diverse small city. Whatever color, gender, religion, ability level – kids are kids; they all need characters they can relate to. Thanks Kate, now my TBR pile is taller! :-)

  11. Stacey  •  Jun 14, 2013 @8:07 pm

    I love Kate Messner and her dedication to helping teachers and writers. Thanks for a great interview.

  12. kimc  •  Jun 14, 2013 @11:38 pm

    This Q & A got me thinking about how to talk with students about mystery writing. A workshop on the topic sounds great. Thanks, Kate, for the insights into the writing process, and thanks Jennifer for the topical post.

  13. saputnam  •  Jun 15, 2013 @7:47 am

    Great interview! I love Kate’s books and would love to win Capture the Flag

  14. Annette Pimentel  •  Jun 15, 2013 @8:01 pm

    The snowed-in airport is a great mystery setting. I’m looking forward to reading this one!

  15. PJ  •  Jun 15, 2013 @10:29 pm

    Right up my alley..history and mystery and middle grade. I am aspring author of middle class books and would love to have the chance to read a great novel that pulls that all together!

  16. Melissa  •  Jun 17, 2013 @8:31 pm

    Oh, this book has been on my mind! I was traveling across the country this weekend, and the airport setting made me wonder during layovers just what adventures might be happening in the cargo areas!

    This is a great book. Perfect cross between adventurous fiction and historical background.