Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Interview with Jennifer L. Gadd, author of Millie McLendon: Jayhawker!

1. Can you tell us a little about your book?

Millie McLendon: Jayhawker! is my latest book. It's a middle grade historical novel set in Lawrence, Kansas, at the time of Quantrill's Raid. Ten-year-old Millie is overwhelmed with a fault-finding stepmother, a fussy new baby brother, all her chores on their farm, and her schoolwork. It takes an event of historic proportion to help her learn what's really important. On August 21, 1863, William Quantrill and his bushwhackers ride into town and start shooting and burning everything in sight. It will take all of Millie's courage and cleverness to save her friends and family.

2. Is it the first book you’ve had published?

Jayhawker! is my first historical fiction novel and my first for middle-grade readers. I have three Young Adult books and two children's picture books also available. They range from paranormal to fantasy/mythology to science fiction.

3. What’s your writing process like?

When I get an idea for a story to write, I tend to sit with it for a while and maybe jot down bits and pieces as they come. The bits and pieces might wind up in the story, or they might be just back story. I listen to the characters and see what they do. I'm not one of those writers who has everything planned out in a detailed outline and who knows the ending before even starting. I have a general idea where I want to wind up, but oftentimes, the characters won't do what I want them to do and then go off and do things that completely surprise me!

4. What piece of advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Read. Read everything you can get your hands on. Good stuff, bad stuff--read it all. That's how you learn how stories work. And then you have to write. You actually have to sit down with pen and paper or computer and manifest words on the page. Writing is like anything else you want to get good at. You can't just read advice about how to do it. You have to practice.

5. What are you currently reading?

I'm a reading interventionist at a middle school in Kansas City, Kansas, and I read YA lit voraciously. Right now, I'm focusing on #ownvoices books by authors of color and other marginalized groups.I'm enjoying works by Mark Oshiro, Justina Ireland, Jason Reynolds, Tom Ryan, Christine Day, and Tomi Adeyemi at the moment. But what's on my nightstand right at the moment is one of my perennial favorite murder mysteries, Agatha Christie's The Seven Dials Mystery.

Jennifer L. Gadd is an American author of books for children and young adults of all ages. Her books include Millie McLendon: Jayhawker!, Cat Moon, The Second Battle, and Space Bugs. She is also the author of the Finn the Hero picture book series, illustrated by Adam Clark. Jennifer is lives in Kansas City, Kansas, with her husband of over thirty years. She is a reading interventionist at an urban middle school in KCK.

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