I'm so excited to have Holly Schindler here for an author interview and a giveaway today! This post is part of the blog tour for The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky, Holly Schindler's new MG.
1. Your previous books, A BLUE SO DARK and PLAYING HURT, are very different in style, but both seem to be written for the more mature YA readership. What made you want to try your hand at MG next? Was it difficult to change your style to match the younger audience?
You’re absolutely right—my YAs really are pretty upper-end YA. Oddly enough, the MG is also pretty upper-end as well! Actually, I initially drafted THE JUNCTION as a picture book. Auggie wasn’t the artist—Gus was. In that first version, Auggie didn’t even have a name. We were simply looking through her eyes as she described her Grampa Gus, the folk artist.
The response I got from editors, though, was that the subject of folk art was too advanced for the picture book readership. I was encouraged to turn the concept into an MG novel. So really, THAT was the biggest challenge—not figuring out how to write a middle grade after devoting my attention to YA, but figuring out how to take a 1,000-word story and turn it into a roughly 45,000-word novel, complete with several main characters and subplots. Finding the right structure was the toughest part of that revision process; Auggie’s voice was the easiest part—it always flowed completely naturally.
2. What does the title THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY mean to you and why did you choose it?
The simplest answer is that Gus and Auggie literally live on the corner of Sunshine and Lucky streets.
But the deeper meaning is that of all the characters I’ve ever written, Auggie is by far the sweetest, most positive, sunniest character of all of them. When she gets sent to a new school, though, she feels anything but lucky. Her heart also breaks when her best friend, Lexie, befriends a junior member of the House Beautification Committee, but that positive attitude of hers still has her believing that she and Gus can turn their house into something beautiful—and show that House Beautification Committee up—all by reconstructing rusted old pieces of trash, turning them into something new.
It’s after Auggie discovers her own artistic talent that she realizes just how lucky she really is to be with a grampa that allows her to explore her creativity in such bold ways.
So on the deeper level, I feel like the title also kind of sums up Auggie’s disposition, and her journey toward feeling “lucky.”
3. What comes easier to you, description or dialogue?
Metaphorical writing comes the easiest—or maybe it’s what I enjoy the most. I can’t say enough about how much I love putting together a pretty turn-of-phrase. Dialogue comes next, after description, in terms of ease of writing.
What comes hardest is physical description of action. When I was in college, “genre” fiction was a bad word. It was considered “lesser” fiction. But I can guarantee that there’s nothing harder than depicting physical action through words in a way that makes a scene come to life. A physical scene that flows easily, without getting bogged down in too much description? Seriously tough.
Comedy’s tough, too—another genre that’s often considered “lesser” when placed next to drama. But comedy is seriously hard. Especially on the page. So much of comedy is timing—you’ve really got to work to make sure your sentences or description are punctuated and phrased in a way that gives them a sense of “timing” as well. Again, tough stuff.
4. Without spoiling anything, can you tell us what was your favorite scene to write in THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY?
It’s not so much a scene but a quirk of Auggie’s. In order to cope when she loses something—whether it’s her best friend or her much-loved school—she pledges to only miss three things about it. If she just misses three things, she says, she’s not overwhelmed by sad feelings. I think that shows a great deal of Auggie’s sweetness and positive energy…
5. How do you go about naming your characters?
There’s no real magic formula for picking a name. When I started writing the picture book version of THE JUNCTION, the name “Gus” appeared just as easily and quickly as the image of Gus’s face. (When you read the book, you’ll find that Auggie and Gus share something in common in regard to their names…)
Naming a character isn’t quite so different as naming a child (or a pet). You just kind of look them over and decide what sounds right to you. You have to be pretty careful with different or unique-sounding names. I think a lot of new authors try to invent names as special as their characters are. But you have to trust that your character’s words and actions will make them far more special than any “unique” name ever could.
6. For someone (like me) who reads mainly YA and only the occasional MG, what MG reads would you recommend (aside from your own)?
I’m the administrator of Smack Dab in the Middle, an MG blog. We have a handful of regular bloggers who are incredible MG authors; we also do guest posts and interviews with MG writers, as well as interviews or posts with other kid-lit pros: we’ve interviewed editors, illustrators, even a PW reviewer! It’s a great place to become acquainted with all things involving middle grade literature. Follow along with us at http://www.smack-dab-in-the-middle.blogspot.com/
As part of the blog tour, Holly is giving away two signed bookplates and bookmarks! This giveaway is open until January 29th. Enter using the form below!
Make sure to check out all the other stops of the tour, and keep your eye out for The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky, which will be released February 6th.