Monday, December 14, 2015

Fall Fifteeners Talk Genre: Mike Grosso, author of I AM DRUMS


Hello, all! Anna-Marie McLemore here, author of THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS, stopping in with 2015's last installment of Fall Fifteeners Talk Genre. Over this year, I've chatted with a few of my fellow Fall Fifteeners about their genres. To wrap up 2015, today I’m chatting with Mike Grosso, author of I AM DRUMS.

1. What genre(s) do you write?

For the past few years I've stuck mostly to contemporary middle grade, and I think my writing voice is custom built for that genre. I do have a bizarre middle grade fantasy with a plot that's pretty bananas, but it's in need of serious revision.

2. What do you love most about your genre?

The voice, hands down. Middle grade feels particular lyrical to me. Kids speak in a fascinating, chaotic cadence.

I also love the honesty of the target readership. Middle grade readers don't sugarcoat things any more than teens do, so you have to write to them at their level in much the same way, as equals, without talking down to them. When you don't succeed, they spot it right away. They know when a story is lying to them.

3. What genres does your genre sometimes get confused with? Where are lines drawn, and where is there genuine overlap/blurring between genres?

I suppose the most obvious blurring is between young adult and middle grade. That's not a bad thing -- there are plenty of books that cross over, and I've found it's good for the publishing industry when we let that happen. Carl Hiaasen, for instance, is technically YA, but tons of middle grade readers eat his books for breakfast. And teens shouldn't be any more embarrassed to dip into middle grade than I am as an adult. These are the stories that begin our careers as readers (and yes, I do see reading as a career, even if it doesn't earn you moolah).

There's also a blurring between middle grade and chapter books. This is a little harder to define, and I only mention it because it sometimes causes the misconception that middle grade can't handle heavy issues.

4. What are some of your favorite books in your genre?

I just finished a fantastic book -- HOUSE ARREST by K.A. Holt. I also love STARGIRL by Jerry Spinelli, and WHEN YOU REACH ME by Rebecca Stead. There's also a book called CALL ME HOPE by Gretchen Olson that is criminally under-read.

5. How did you come to write in your genre?

I can fake like I have manners most of the time, but the truth is I'm repulsively immature. Naturally, this led to me becoming an elementary school teacher, so I gobbled up a lot of modern middle grade books in an attempt to lead by example. I didn't want to preach about being an active reader without putting my money where my mouth was.

I'd written novels in other genres before, but the words came naturally when I put them in the voice of a middle grade character.

6. Regardless of whether you write them, what are your favorite genres to read? 

Anything that engages or catches me with its voice. I have to hear sentences that comes together correctly and make sense in the order they are presented. I don't know exactly what this means, but I feel it when I read it.

Thanks for talking genre, Mike!

I also want to say a thank you to all of you wonderful readers who've stopped into the Fall Fifteeners blog throughout the year, and to my fabulous Fall Fifteeners! It's been a privilege sharing a debut season with you.
 
About Mike: Mike Grosso is the author of I AM DRUMS, a debut contemporary middle grade for musicians of all ages. It was orphaned due to the closing of Egmont USA, but has found a new home at Clarion Books and an updated release date of September 16, 2016. The Fall Fifteeners have been nice enough to let him hang out even though he's technically a sixteener now. You can visit Mike's website here or follow him on Twitter @mgrossoauthor.

 
 Anna-Marie McLemore writes from her Mexican-American heritage, and her love both for cultures she grew up in and others she’s learned about along the way. Among her favorite things are fall leaves, Irish dancing, and lesser-known fairy tales. Her YA debut is THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS, a magical realism story of traveling shows, girls who can make anyone believe in mermaids, and tightrope-walkers who wear wings.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Things Never Go the Way You Planned, and That's Cool

Lots of stories have morals, but lately I've been wondering if the moral of every story should be "Things Never Go the Way You Planned, and That's Cool." Authors work hard to keep their readers guessing, even though there are far more patterns on the page than in real life.

People who live great lives never know what they're getting into ahead of time -- they just manage to exist in a way that fascinates other people.

Whenever I've dreamed ahead, or looked forward to something, it never turns out like I imagined. Real experiences don't care what we want.

And here comes the close-out for the year 2015. My debut year that wasn't. A year that did not go as planned, so much so that I made a list:

1) I had a bizarre and random health scare that directly impacted work.

2) I lost my son's day care through particularly unfortunate circumstances.

3) There has been a lot of loss around me -- the kind that would have broken lesser humans, including myself. And it brought back some feelings from the past that I'd much rather have kept back there.

4) I bounced between feeling like the best and worst father on a daily basis.

5) Oh yeah, there was that one thing about my book losing its publisher. That hit me like a bag of poop to the face.

So yeah, 2015 threw me a lot of surprises. And these weren't so much surprise-party-on-your-multiple-of-ten-birthday surprises so much as pigeon-dumped-on-your-shoulder-while-walking-under-the-El-tracks surprises.

I got to thinking about that list. I drew an imaginary T-chart in my mind's eye, and put it in the left column. Then I added things to the right column to balance it out.

1) I'm still standing at work and giving all I can to my students. Parents had kind words for me at parent-teacher conferences. How bad can things be when people are going out of their way to assure you things are okay?

2) My parents jumped in to help with daycare, and my son is doing better than ever with so much individual love and attention. Many parents can't afford daycare, and don't have parents capable of helping.

3) The people I've watched experience loss are healing in their own personal ways. They will make it through the darkness, and while they won't be unscathed, none of us are at the end of the day.

4) Maybe it's possible that I make both good and bad parental decisions sometimes, and that's the best parents can expect from themselves.

5) It sucks to lose a publisher, but it's really great to land a new one. It makes for a great debut story. And I still have the Fall Fifteeners, and Fearless Fifteeners, and Sweet Sixteens backing me up every step of the way. The kidlit community rocks my face off.

Maybe 2015 didn't go the way I wanted it to at all, and that's okay.


Mike Grosso is the author of I AM DRUMS, a debut contemporary middle grade novel for musicians of all ages. It was orphaned due to the closing of Egmont USA, but has found a new home at Clarion Books and an updated release date of September 6, 2016. The Fall Fifteeners have been nice enough to let him hang out even though he's technically a sixteener now.

You can visit Mike's website here or follow him on Twitter @mgrossoauthor.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Fall Fifteeners Talk Genre: Amy Lukavics, author of DAUGHTERS UNTO DEVILS



Hello, all! Anna-Marie McLemore here, author of THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS, stopping in for this month’s installment of Fall Fifteeners Talk Genre. Throughout this year, I’m talking with a few of my fellow Fall Fifteeners about their genres, and today I’m chatting with Amy Lukavics, author of DAUGHTERS UNTO DEVILS.

1. What genre do you write?
Horror

2. What do you love most about the horror genre? 
I love how deeply horror explores uncomfortable realities within the human race, and then emphasizes them by adding in other-worldly or extreme elements. 

3. What genres does horror sometimes get confused with? Where are lines drawn, and where is there genuine overlap/blurring between genres? 
Horror often gets confused with paranormal, I think. It's an easy mistake to make since they have the potential to overlap in subject matter, but in my opinion the biggest differences show themselves in the tone and/or motivations of the characters.

4. What are some of your favorite horror books? 
Pet Sematary by Stephen King, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz (with illustrations by Stephen Gammell), The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon.

5. How did you come to write horror?
I knew that I'd want to try my hand at horror once I started writing seriously, as it was my favorite genre to read since I was young.

6. Regardless of whether you write them, what are your favorite genres to read? 
I'll read anything with an intriguing and compelling voice. 

Thanks for talking genre, Amy!