About the book:
Gianna Zales has a lot on her plate this fall – a father who drives her to school in the family hearse, a mother who’s turned into the junk food police, a little brother who thinks he’s a member of the paparazzi, and a grandmother who leaves false teeth in the refrigerator. Worst of all, she’s left her 7th grade leaf collection to do at the last minute. It’s a monster project, and Gianna will miss cross-country sectionals if she doesn’t meet the deadline. She’ll need the help of her geeky friend, Zig, and some brilliant ideas of her own to pull it off.
An Interview with Kate Messner:
Me: What were your favorite books (or types of books) as a teen, and what was it about them that appealed to you? What, on the other hand, would make you put a book down?
Kate: I loved Judy Blume's books because they felt so real and true. (I still love her work, so getting to meet her at the American Library Association Conference this summer was absolutely incredible.)
I'd be turned off by books that seemed to talk down to teenagers. I still don't like books that don't give kids enough credit.
Me: Have your reading tastes stayed the same, or have you discovered new loves and peeves (and if so, what are they)?
Kate: My reading tastes are similar, though they've certainly expanded as I've gotten older. I wish the Harry Potter books had been around when I was growing up; I would have loved them just as much as a ten-year-old as I do now.
Me: What was your favorite part of writing THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z, and what was the hardest?
Kate: My favorite part of writing THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z. was researching and writing all the scenes take place outside. I'm a big setting person and spent hours in the woods with my notebook when I was writing this book, searching for that perfect detail that would paint the setting and also reveal something important about my characters.
The toughest part was facing the reality of what's happening with Gianna's grandmother and her health. The family in the book has a tough time with it, too, and maybe in some ways, I'd gone easy on them in my early drafts, backing off from the tough emotions. I had a particularly rough revision -- there were tears involved -- where I felt like I finally hit the emotional core of the story and understood what these characters were facing.
Me: Did you draw on any people/places/experiences from your life while writing?
Kate: Definitely! Since THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z. is set in Vermont in autumn, I spent lots of time in the woods with my notebook. There's a scene that takes place on the Robert Frost Interpretive Trail in Ripton, Vermont, where you can walk a trail and see plaques with Frost poems posted at spots that match the poems. And there's a scene at my favorite public market in Montreal - the Jean Talon Market.
The big project in the book, Gianna's leaf collection, is based on a leaf collection that students at my school have had to complete for years. It's become sort of infamous, and many of the details in the book (including the...er...fence jumping) are based on actual students' stories from that project!
Me: What was the most exciting moment during the publishing process? The scariest?
Kate: The most exciting moment has been finding out that THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z. was selected for the Fall Kids Indie Next List, a selection of the top books for kids in each season, chosen by independent booksellers. I love indie booksellers - the way they work so hard to promote books in their communities - so that was like the ultimate honor for me.
The scariest moment? Maybe right now...as the book is making its way into the world, and I'm wondering what people will think!
Me: What are you working on now?
Kate: I'm finishing up revisions for my next middle grade novel with Walker/Bloomsbury, called SUGAR ON SNOW. It's about a girl from a small-town maple farm who earns a scholarship to figure skate with the elite in Lake Placid, and it's scheduled to be released in fall of 2010.
Hope you enjoyed getting to know Kate! Another interview to come later this month. :)