I am very excited because today I am hosting the fabulous middle grade author Kate Hannigan for an interview! I enjoyed her debut novel, Cupcake Cousins and can read my review of Cupcake Cousins, find the Goodreads page or purchase it on Amazon.
Q. Your novel is for the middle grade audience. What made you desire to write for a young audience instead of teens or adults?
A. I really like this age group, maybe because I’m still about 10 years old in my head! I am very much in touch with the kid I used to be, the shy tomboy who hated wasting time on bathing and spent summers tearing around the neighborhood with a few other crazy kids and playing kickball into the night.
Also, I think middle-grade is where the truths are. Readers at this age are trying to figure out friendships and parents and the world, but mostly themselves. There is so much heart in middle-grade.
Q. That is so true. Who are your favourite childrens’ writers? Any particular authors who inspired you to write?
A. I’m a complete Jeanne Birdsall groupie. I love her Penderwicks books, and I had them nearby as I wrote mine. She’s so talented. I aimed for my book to be a sort of multi-cultural Penderwicks in that it shares the same spirit of family and fun and timelessness, but with kids of color there too. I would call her an inspiration, completely.
And I adore the humor in Anne of Green Gables, so Lucy Maud Montgomery is a favorite. And the late Barbara Park’s Junie B. Jones books are completely hilarious. That kind of funny isn’t easy, though Barbara made it seem so. I still crack up when I think of Handsome Warren.
Jennifer Holm is a real inspiration as well. She mines her family history for many of her novels, and I’m a sucker for historical fiction. She’s amazing in the way she brings her characters to life and really beats them up! I mean, she makes those kids go through so much! But they learn and grow because of it. And as a reader, I can’t put it down! Come on, the scene with her brother’s hand in The Trouble With May Amelia! I felt like I inhabited May Amelia’s world in both her books, as well as Penny in Penny From Heaven and Turtle in Turtle in Paradise.
Q. Great choices! Cupcake Cousins is your debut novel. How long did it take you to complete your first draft? Can you share your journey through the publishing process?
A. I worked on this book for a few years! It began as a rough outline, then I fleshed it out into a first draft over about three intense months. Soon after that, I landed an agent who saw some promise in it. I can’t say that it went from that to finished manuscript, easy-peasy!
Once I landed an agent, she made suggestions and I rewrote parts of it over the next six months. It took a while to shop it around to publishing houses, so about six more months went by! Then once the editor at Disney-Hyperion was interested, she had suggestions too! So I revised it again. Revision is a concept most writers have to get comfortable with!
When my Disney-Hyperion editor liked it and acquired it, she found an amazing new artist named Brooke Boynton Hughes (http://www.brookeboyntonhughes.com/), so it took another year for the book to be in production, with Brooke illustrating the story and me cleaning up any last bits. Finally, it’s so exciting to see it coming out into the world!
Q. I adored the recipes scattered throughout Cupcake Cousins! Is cooking something that you enjoy?
A. It’s funny, I used to be scary in the kitchen. A true hazard! Fires, plague, the whole bit. But eventually I stopped fearing recipes and began trying to understand cooking. I think the cooking shows on TV helped open up whole new frontiers for lots of people. And now I love to cook savory meals and bake sweet desserts – it relaxes me. And food brings people together, friends and family and even new acquaintances. My three kids all enjoy cooking, especially when I am testing recipes for the Cupcake Cousins books!
Q. I love your writing style. Do you have any advice for teen writers?
A. Read. You might have heard that one before, but it’s true. And read everything you can! Whether it’s gardening catalogs (you never know when you need to come up with flower jokes!) or memoir or fiction or restaurant menus or the newspaper, read anything and everything. Because then you’ll start to understand what appeals to you, what good voice sounds like, how you respond to pacing and tone, whether tidy endings satisfy you or not.
And read passages out loud. They take on a whole new dynamic as spoken word.
And eavesdrop. Writing dialogue is hard, so really listening to the way people speak will help in that area. Plus, it’s fun.
And write. Have a journal so you can get used to the idea of putting thoughts down. And DO NOT self-edit. That’s a creativity killer. Have a journal that’s just for you, nobody else will see, and treat it like a meadow of flowers. Let yourself run wild. When you’re ready to share your writing with someone else, you’ll know.
Q. Thanks for your advice, Kate. Can you tell us about your current/ upcoming projects?
A. I am incredibly grateful to my editor and the folks at Disney-Hyperion for asking for two more books in the Cupcake Cousins series. So I’m working on Book 2 right now (or at least I should be this afternoon!).
I have a historical fiction for middle-grade coming out next April in time to mark the 150th anniversary of President Lincoln’s assassination. It’s a story about America’s first female detective, who helped thwart a plot to kill Lincoln in 1861. Nobody knows about this remarkable woman! So I’m telling about her through the eyes of a fictional niece named Nell who comes to live with her.
It’s set in Chicago just before the Civil War, and I’m a Chicago gal. So I am really proud of this project and so excited to see it coming to life. In fact, I’ve visited this woman’s grave here in Chicago twice, sort of for spiritual strength. It’s called The Detective’s Assistant, and it’s publishing with Little, Brown Books for Young Readers in April 2015.
Thanks for having me stop by!
Thanks for dropping by, Kate and thanks for the interview! Looking forward to your next books. They sound delightful!