I had an arguement with my 9 year old daughter the other day. The Chronicles of Egg by Geoff Rodkey sat on the counter and we both grabbed for it, wanting to be the first to read it. I tried to reason with her that it was my job to read it. She argued that it looked really interesting and she would absolutely die if forced to wait a moment longer.
While I eagerly waited for her to finish reading book one, I had the pleasure of interviewing the author (Geoff), the agent (Josh) and the editor (Jen). Keep reading to see what all the hub-bub is about, Bub!
Me: Thanks so much for joining us at MUF today, Geoff, Josh and Jen! I’ll try not to get tongue-tied with the alliteration in the room So, Geoff, what prompted you to write a series?
Geoff: I’d been working as a studio screenwriter for over a decade, and I’d gotten pretty burned out, to the point where I was wondering if I still wanted to keep writing professionally. But I had an idea I really liked, for a sort of classic adventure story with a lot of humor –the kind of thing you’d get if you put Raiders of the Lost Ark andThe Princess Bride in a blender and then threw in some pirates.
I knew enough about the studio system to be certain that if I wrote it as a screenplay, no one would buy it, let alone make it (because it was a period piece with a 13-year-old protagonist, which are two things studios hate). But it seemed like it might make for a fun book. So I decided that before I gave up on writing and started applying to grad schools, I should try turning the idea into a novel.
By the time I was halfway through the first draft, I’d realized that not only was writing books much, much more fun than writing movies, but it might be the best thing I’d ever written. And as long as I could get it published, I no longer had any interest in going to grad school and getting a real job.
Me: I’m glad you decided to write The Chronicles of Egg as a middle-grade book – and so is my daughter! Josh, how do you feel about books pitched as a series?
Josh: I am very happy when books are pitched as a series–it’s a good thing to be able to pitch to a publisher. However, it’s very important that book be able to stand alone if necessary. It’s what I’ll be sending out to a publisher, and it doesn’t look good to have to say to a somewhat interested editor “Oh, that extremely important antagonist who is trying to destroy the world? He doesn’t show up at all until the second half of book 2.” Book 1 needs to stand on its own merits. Me: *moves pivitol character to book one* Jen, what about you? Are you more drawn to series than stand alone books? Or does it all just come down to the story?
Jen: It’s absolutely the same ingredients that draw me in – but when I’m working with series it’s important to consider how much room there is for the world and characters to grow. You need to be working with an author who is dexterous enough to keep pushing the boundaries of the story.
Me: When did you know you had a series in The Chronicles of Egg? Was it right away or did it take a completed first draft to see the whole aspect of the world you were creating?
Geoff: Pretty early in the process. All the successful kids’ books I knew of — not just contemporary things like Harry Potter and Lemony Snicket, but the Great Brain books and McGurk mysteries that I’d loved growing up — were series books.
Since it made professional sense to have it be a series, and the world I was creating felt big and interesting enough to contain a multiple-book story, almost from the beginning I was thinking of it as three books rather than one.
Me: At conferences I’ve attended I was always told not to pitch a book as a series. So how do you know when a book should be a stand alone and when it should be more? Do you put a limit on the amount of books in the series?
Josh: Often times, the author already has the number of books at least theoretically in mind (and in fact there are times that an author will have an unspecified, could-go-on-forever idea, where the number of books will be limited only by the market and the author’s own imagination). Certainly there are times when you spend 400 pages with a character and say “Well, the author has really taken this as far as it will go,” and then you know you have a stand-alone (or if a series, one where the episodes will be connected by something other than the protagonist).
Me: You must really love a story in order to read it over and over again. What intrigued you about The Chronicles of Egg?
Jen: For me, the real homeruns start with voice – a character who feels utterly real, who speaks from the heart with authority. Egbert is such a character, plus he’s affable and hilarious and self-deprecating, characteristics that I find appealing in the real world.
Me: Those are great characteristics, ones that definitely draw me to read a story. Geoff, what would you compare your writing experience to?
Geoff: I’ve only written one series, so I don’t actually know what I’m talking about here. Writing The Chronicles of Egg has been much more pleasure than pain — I had as much fun writing it as people have reading it. But now that I’m winding up the Egg books, I’m starting to look ahead to the next series, and I suspect it’s not always going to feel this easy.
Me: As an agent, how is working with a client on a series different than stand alone books?
Josh: Well, the main difference is that if I sell a series, the headaches are different. We don’t need, for example, to worry each year or year and a half about selling a next book—most often, series are sold as two or three book deals, where that is not the case in stand-alones. The headache, of course, is navigating the ups and downs with the publisher over a more long-term relationship in a series contract. You’ve received a commitment, but given up the flexibility of movement. Generally, it’s a perfectly fine tradeoff.
Me: That is a tricky, but good position to be in. I think most authors would be happy to have that problem When working with both an agent and author how do you approach revisions and edits?
Jen: I’ve been lucky in my career, in that I’ve gotten to work with real pros. First, I deliver editorial notes, then the author takes some time to process them, then we jump on the phone or meet to discuss the best way to tackle the challenges. It’s very collaborative.
Me: One final round of questions. Geoff, name your least pleasant odor.
Geoff: My eight-year-old’s feet. He’s a really cute kid, but the stink that comes off his feet is just inexplicable.
Me: Ha! Stinky feet are the worst. *plugs nose politely* Josh, which do you prefer—Aliens or monsters?
Josh: Monsters (but mostly the Victorian types–vamps, werewolves…not so much the bigfoots or Yetis).
Me: *crumples up bigfoot manuscript* Alright, Jen, this is very, very important, so be sure to answer correctly. Unicorns and glitter or fairies and wings?
Jen: Sisters questing for glitter unicorns.
Me: Sweet! That’s exactly what I was thinking. Thanks for playing along.
As luck would have it, you have a shot at winning not one, but BOTH of these books! And for our readers, who are also writers, Josh has offered to crit your query letter! How cool is that?!
If you’re a reader, enter here: a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Amie Borst and her 12 year old daughter, Bethanie, write fairy tales with a twist. Their first book in the Scarily Ever Laughter series, Cinderskella, debuts October 26th, 2013!
As an author who writes books with her daughter, I was thrilled to be able to interview Sheryl and Carrie Berk, mother-daughter co-authors of the yummy The Cupcake Club series!
Me: Hi ladies! Thanks for joining us here at the Mixed-Up Files! We’re excited to have you. As a mother-daughter author-duo myself, I know it can be great fun working together. I’m dying to know what your experience is like writing as a team.
Carrie: FUN! We love dreaming up the crazy cupcake adventures for the Peace, Love and Cupcakes girls!
Sheryl: It’s a great way for us to bond. It’s wonderful to have my daughter truly understand what my job is. Before when I was on deadlines, she would get frustrated. Now she gets it. She now says when she grows up she wants to be a writer like her mom which makes me very proud.
Carrie: I want to be a New York Times Bestselling author, too.
Me: My daughter is learning what it’s like to be on deadline, too! Well, we’re learning it together, so that’s been fun and challenging. When working on new material, we love outlining, coming up with interesting ideas and creating loveable, relatable characters. What do you consider the best part of writing together?
Sheryl: Probably cooking up the story arcs for each book. We love to dream where we can take the characters next.
Carrie: So I love Las Vegas, and we had to put that into Book 4: Icing on the Cake. Jenna’s mom is getting married in Vegas!
Sheryl: We also love coming up with the cupcakes the girls will bake in the book.
Carrie: I watch Cupcake Wars for ideas. They put crazy things in their cupcakes: like pickles, Brussel sprouts and sardines.
Sheryl: Writing together also helps me understand what’s important to her and kids her age. She’s suggested topics ranging from bullying to dyslexia to rescue dog organizations. I love to hear what’s on her mind.
Carrie: I love when I get to edit what my mom writes. I change a lot of the things the girls say in the book because I want it to sound real. I’m 10, so I know how 10 year olds talk.
Me: Ha! My daughter does the same thing! She’s “keeping it real” because I talk like a mom. What would you say was the inspiration for the Cupcake Club series?
Carrie: Well, I couldn’t find any books about girls my age and cupcakes and I wanted to read one. I was in second grade, and I was having a sleepover party with my BFF, and I just sat down and started writing one. I showed it to my mom and she showed it to her literary agent and everyone loved it. But the idea really just came from me loving cupcakes and wanting other kids to share in that.
Sheryl: Many of the things that happen in the book are inspired by Carrie’s real-life experiences and what her friends have experienced. For example, she’s a peer mediator in her school and she gets to mediate kids who are feeling bullied. She wanted to write this into the first book because she felt it was something kids wanted to understand better.
Carrie: I also named the characters after people I know, like Principal Fontina. My principal’s name is actually Ms. Fontana. I also had the girls baking to raise money for an Eco Center which is just like the one in my school, and performing a Shakespeare play–which we just did this year in Fifth Grade. I played Lady Macbeth.
Sheryl: Carrie started her cupcake blog (www.carriescupcakecritique.shutterfly.com) when she was about 7. I think reviewing cupcakes really inspired her. And she always loved to bake with her friends–an unofficial cupcake club!
Me: It really is amazing how kids are inspired to write because of what they want to read. On a side note….we’re fans of sweets in our house. What’s your favorite cupcake flavor?
Sheryl: For me, it’s always anything with banana.
Carrie: Red Velvet. I always taste red velvet at every cupcake store I critique because I can tell how good the baker is by how good the Red Velvet is. The frosting has to be cream cheesy and not too whippy. The cake has to be moist and I want to be able to taste the chocolate.
Me: You’re a smart girl. I have to be able to taste the chocolate, too. Preferrably by licking the batter right off the spoon! Thanks for joining us here on the Mixed-Up Files today! Good luck with your fun series!
Meet Kylie Carson.
She’s a fourth grader with a big problem. How will she make friends at her new school? Should she tell her classmates she loves monster movies? Forget it. Play the part of a turnip in the school play? Disaster! Then Kylie comes up with a delicious idea: What if she starts a cupcake club? Soon Kylie’s club is spinning out tasty treats with the help of her fellow bakers and new friends.
But when Meredith tries to sabotage the girls’ big cupcake party, will it be the end of the Cupcake Club?
When she’s not mixing it up on the basketball court, she’s mixing the perfect batter with her friends in the cupcake club. Sadie’s definitely no stranger to competition, but the oven mitts are off when the club is chosen to appear on Battle of the Bakers, the ultimate cupcake competition on TV.
But the real battle happens off camera when the club’s baking business starts losing money.
With the clock ticking and the cameras rolling, will the club and their cupcakes rise to the occasion?
Meet Lexi Poole.
To Lexi, a new school year means back to baking with her BFFs in the cupcake club. But the club president, Kylie, is mixing things up by inviting new members. And Lexi is in for a no-so-sweet surprise when she is cast in the school’s production of Romeo and Juliet. If only she could be as confident onstage as she is in the kitchen. The icing on the cake: her secret crush is playing Romeo.
Sounds like a recipe for trouble.
Can the girls’ friendship stand the heat, or will the cupcake club go up in smoke?
Amie Borst and her middle-grade daughter, Bethanie, write fairy tales with a twist. Their first book in the Scarily Ever Laughter series, Cinderskella, debuts October 2013!