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.

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