Monday, April 16, 2012

MG Author Spotlight & Giveaway: Interview with Lizzie K. Foley

Friends, I am remarkably thrilled to bring you today's interview with Lizzie K. Foley, the hilarious author of the stunning middle-grade novel, Remarkable. It's one of my very favorite reads of all time. OF ALL TIME. And you really don't have to take my word for it because...

Kirkus "The World' Toughest Book Critics" Reviews say, "Foley tightly weaves the outlandish threads into a rich, unforgettable story that’s quite simply—amazing."

And The New York Times (!) calls the book, "a cascade of intrigues that suggest a broad theme: Gifts get labeled eagerly and early on, but it’s more fun if characters can elude expectations."

You may be wondering to yourself what on earth the supremely talented Lizzie K. Foley is doing on my little ol' blog. Rest assured that I wonder the same thing. Regardless, here she is! AND to celebrate that fact I am giving away a signed copy of Remarkable. Just scroll down after the interview for the giveaway.

A wonderfully whimsical debut that proves ordinary people can do extraordinary things

In the mountain town of Remarkable, everyone is extraordinarily talented, extraordinarily gifted, or just plain extraordinary. Everyone, that is, except Jane Doe, the most average ten-year-old who ever lived. But everything changes when the mischievous, downright criminal Grimlet twins enroll in Jane's school and a strange pirate captain appears in town.

Thus begins a series of adventures that put some of Remarkable's most infamous inhabitants and their long-held secrets in danger. It's up to Jane, in her own modest style, to come to the rescue and prove that she is capable of some rather exceptional things.

With a page-turning mystery and larger-than-life cast of characters, Lizzie K. Foley's debut is nothing short of remarkable.

Photo Credit: Ana June Creative
To borrow (and modify) a question from James Lipton, what’s your favorite middle-grade appropriate “curse word” or insult?
Lizzie K. Foley: One of the best parts of writing Remarkable was learning pirate curse words. “Spog” is delightful. It’s an insult for a new pirate recruit, but I think it has real possibilities for other situations as well. “Scupperlout” also has a nice impertinent ring to it. “Argh!” is always a good standby curse word for a number of situations. And apparently “bink” is a piratey expression of surprise, but I’ve found shouting “Bink!” just confuses people.

If you could pick one thing to be remarkable at, that you consider yourself mediocre in now, what would it be?
LKF: Cooking! I am the worst cook ever. And it’s not just that whatever I cook tastes bad (because believe me, it does), it’s that I’m actually dangerous in the kitchen. I’ve set fire to both grilled cheese and pancakes on several occasions (and am no longer allowed to make either one). I’ve melted spatulas on the stove (and no one wants soup with melted spatula in it). And just recently, when I finally thought I was going to successfully grill vegetable in the oven, the pan I was cooking them in exploded in my hands and sent hot shards of glass all over the kitchen. I dropped a phone in a boiling pot of spaghetti once too – which didn’t do the phone or the spaghetti much good. Right now, people ask me NOT to make cupcakes for their birthdays because my cupcakes always end up tasting like frosted evil. I once had one of those (non) brilliant early morning flashes of (non) genius about writing a bestselling cookbook centered around making ice – but I have to be honest with myself here. I am not even that good at ice.

There are a surprising number of pirates in your book. If you had a pirate name, what would it be? Also, be honest, no landlubber could capture the pirate voice so well. Are you actually a pirate?! And, if not, what sort of shenanigans did you get up to do research?
LKF: I think my pirate name would be Squint, because I am big on squinting – especially with my right eye. And let’s be honest, nobody squints enough these days, what with all the fancy sunglasses, Lasik surgery, and contact lenses in the world.

And yes, I am actually a pirate. It’s true I don’t like boats or water or even stealing stuff very much, but I don’t let that stop me from being one. And I conducted the research shenanigans to prove it, too. I actually drank orange juice so I wouldn’t catch scurvy (true story!) and I thought about keeping a library book out past its due date (I chickened out on this one, though – I’m not actually brave enough to anger a librarian – no pirate is).

As far as the pirate voice goes, however, I think you should cast a suspicious eye on my editor Nancy. She is the one who kept sending back my manuscript with notes saying things like “A pirate would not say this!” or “Pirates would never eat that!” or “Seriously, this is not how pirates deal with things!” In every single instance, she was right – and I’ve always wondered how she got to be such an expert…and don’t even get me started on my copy editor Rosanne. I made up a type of nautical knot called a “bowline quintey.” I thought it sounded pretty convincing, but Rosanne called me out on this immediately (“That is not a real pirate knot!”). It’s suspicious, I think. And Rosanne is just as good a pirate name as Nancy.

You thank your writing groups in your acknowledgments. Could you give us some of your thoughts on writing as part of one and what the benefits are?
LKF: For me, writing groups are a great way to gain confidence in my work. And while I feel like most people seem to use them as a way to find out what’s not working in a story, I tend to use them as a way to find out what is. I tend to over-revise. I will work and rework a scene into oblivion if left to my own devices. The wonderful people in my writing groups have been instrumental in teaching me how to stop this process before I drain all the life out of something I’m working on. Without the encouragement and support of my writing groups, I would never ever ever stopped revising long enough to finish a book and send it off into the world.

What are two MG books you'd recommend and why?
LKF: Well, you know I recommend yours every chance I get (and I'm not just saying that to kiss up to the interviewer here or to make her blush). I loved Mapmaker and the Ghost, and my son (who is nine) has read it at least four times. He’s even talked about some of the situations he’s seen at school in terms of situations that Goldenrod went through in your story. To me, this is the mark of an excellent kid’s book. It works on a level that kids really relate to – and this isn’t an easy thing to accomplish. Also, he’s tried to bribe me with a sandwich (a technique of parental management he learned from Goldenrod) and any book that encourages someone else to make food for me is brilliant as far as I’m concerned.

The other book I’m going to recommend is called Run Away Home by Elinor Lyon. The book was originally published in 1953, and I was lucky enough to find a copy at my local library growing up. It’s the story of an orphan living in Birmingham, England who is inspired by a faint memory of seeing the ocean to run away to Scotland and attempt to connect with her past. I must have read this book approximately 10 kajillion times. It’s got a great protagonist (named Cathie), who is incredibly resourceful as she tries to piece together her past. She’s got a great set of sidekicks (named Sovra and Ian) who help her. And there are actual adults involved in the story too – and the way that the kids interact with the adults is satisfyingly tense and realistic. Oh yeah – the writing is also amazing. One of my happiest days was when I was able to buy a copy off of eBay. I was also thrilled when I found out that it (along with a lot of excellent British children’s books) was being reprinted by Fidra Books in Edinburgh, Scotland.

1) I think I need to pick up Run Away Home ASAP. 2) After that interview, you want to read Remarkable ASAP, too, right? I think I actually want to read it again right now. 

The giveaway is now closed. Thanks so much to everyone who entered and the lucky winner of REMARKABLE: Lori!

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  1. The synopsis certainly sounds fun.
    You most certainly do have a lot of pirate experts around you.
    My friend Mari is having a pirate themed 40th Birthday Party later this week but don't say anything OK, it's a surprise.

  2. What a fun book! My daughter would love it. Thanks for the giveaway!

  3. I am looking forward to this book, my granddaughter had a "Pirate" party for her 3rd birthday.

  4. All the tweets last week about this book made me so very much want to read it! Thanks for the giveaway opportunity.

  5. Great interview! I've been hearing a lot about this book, it looks fantastic! Thanks for the giveaway opp! :)

  6. REMARKABLE sounds, well, remarkable. Thanks for the contest, Sarv. I think I'm going to have to do some recommending to the middle school my kids attended ... back when they were in middle school.

  7. Thanks for the fun interview, and the chance to win a copy! I wanted to read this book even before I knew that there were pirates, but now I'm really SPOGGIN' excited. (Did I use that right? Probably not. Argh!)


  8. Great interview, and this sounds like a fun read. Love me some MG, and I can't wait to add this one to my collection!

  9. I keep hearing about this book. Gotta read it!

  10. I was already looking forward to reading this one, but hearing there are pirates?!? I'm even more excited!