Monday, April 17, 2017

Author Chat with Laurie B Arnold (Hello There, Do You Still Know Me?)

Hello There, Do You Still Know Me?
Author: Laurie B Arnold
Published Date:  March 7th 2017
Publisher: Prospecta Press




In this sequel to the popular kids novel, Hello There, We’ve Been Waiting For You!, it’s summertime and Madison McGee’s best friends, Violet and Noah, join her in Costa Rica, where she’s staying with Rosalie Claire. Their dreams of lazy sunny beach days come to a screeching halt when Madison’s grandmother, Florida Brown, unexpectedly shows up on their doorstep. Dangerously ill with a mysterious ailment, Florida needs help. But the magic in Rosalie Claire’s fanny pack has stopped working. Only one person knows how to revive it - Grandma Daisy. The only problem? She’s been dead for five years.
Enter the MegaPix 6000. Together, Madison and her friends have to figure out a way to turn the magic TV into a time machine so they can visit Grandma Daisy and save Florida. Once the intrepid trio hurtles into the past, a dizzying adventure unfolds, filled with heart-filled, unexpected consequences.









Laurie B. Arnold has two grown sons and lives with her amazing husband and perfect fuzzy dog on a rocky beach on Bainbridge Island in Washington state. When she’s not on Bainbridge Island, she spends a lot of time in her home-away-from-home, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Laurie has worked as a seedling planter in a nursery, an assistant teacher with developmentally disabled children, and a video producer. Laurie has written and designed countless children’s interactive games, a trio of picture books, and scripts for animated kids’ TV shows, including “Dragon Tales.” Her first novel, Hello There, We’ve Been Waiting for You! – the first in the Hello There trilogy – was a finalist in the Foreword Reviews 2013 Book of the Year Awards for Juvenile Fiction and was a New Mexico Battle of the Books pick for 2015-2016.















What gave you the inspiration to write Hello There, Do You Still Know Me?? 

Hello There, Do You Still Know Me? is a follow-up to my first MG novel, Hello There, We’ve Been Waiting for You! I hadn’t committed to writing a sequel until my early readers pestered me, wondering what happened next to Madison McGee. It was particularly the kids who struggled to find the “right” book and clicked with Hello There, We’ve Been Waiting for You! that spurred me on. I have a son who was once-upon-a-time a struggling reader, so getting kids to read became one of my big motivations. Plus, I missed hanging out with those characters and wanted to spend more time with them!




Who is your favorite character in the book? 

Ooh, that’s like asking to choose my favorite child. Ask my kids. It can’t be done. If I had to choose, I’d pick two. Madison McGee, the main character, is an indomitable optimist with great resilience and a big heart. In the first book she was dealt a double-whammy with her single mom dying and having to move in with her wacky grandmother who she barely knew. In this second book, Madison travels back in time and meets her mother, Angela, when she’s also a kid. I loved writing Angela because I sometimes imagined what it would be like to meet my own parents when they were children. Would I have liked them? Would they have liked me? Would we have been friends? What would it have felt like to be equal to them? Madison gets to play out my own childhood fantasy with her mother, who is dealing with some hard issues. Eventually Madison helps her kid-mom to see the world with a brand new perspective. I’m always a sucker for a character who transforms enough to see the light. 




And which character gave you the most trouble when writing this story? 

That would have to be “Bad Guy” Walter Brinker, but in the end he was a blast to write. I struggled with how bad to the bone he should be given I was writing a middle grade novel. It was also a delicate balance to create someone who seemed just on the edge of dangerous, but wasn’t so black and white that he still believably had room for redemption. 




 What scene are you most proud of, and why? Which was the most difficult or emotional scene to narrate? 

The scene I’m proudest of was also the most emotionally challenging. It’s when the kid-version of Angela is missing and Madison’s intuition and memory of something her mom told her nearly twenty years in the future, helps her track her down. It’s a pivotal moment when Madison helps her mom see that her life has possibilities beyond the tiny town of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. All the while Madison knows she can’t reveal that she knows what lies ahead in her mother’s future, both good and bad. She carefully guides her to embrace a new vision, trying not to spill the beans that in the future Angela will grow up to be Madison’s mother. 




 Why do you think your book would be a great choice for Summer Reading? 

Hello There, Do You Still Know Me? (just like Hello There, We’ve Been Waiting for You!) is an adventure set during the carefree days of summer vacation. They’re the kind of books that appeal to boys and girls, avid readers and those who have a tough time finding the “right” book. Maybe the secret sauce to getting kids to keep turning the pages - and to read them over and over - is the humor, heart, fast-paced adventure, and whopping dollop of new-fangled magic. Not to mention a sprinkling of a few lessons along the way. At least it would have been the perfect summer fare for me when I was young! 




What do you like most about the cover of the book? 

How can I not love a scruffy dog hanging out on the beach under a palm tree wearing shades?




Your Hello There series is written for middle grade readers, how did you decide to write for this age level? Was it a choice, and how did you find it different than writing for other ages?

As a lover of happy endings, I now can’t imagine writing for any other age group. Prior to writing novels for MG, I wrote for preschoolers: picture books, computer games for young children, and animated TV shows, like “Dragon Tales.” While I loved that and it fit my “happy ending” criteria, I longed for something with more breadth, depth, and meat. With middle grade, I now have the freedom to write more complex stories with more fully drawn, complicated characters. Plus it gives me a chance to subtly impart some important lessons along the way.




Thinking back to the beginning, what’s the most important thing you've learned as a writer from then to now?

Writing is just like playing an instrument. The more you do it, the better you get. I think the most important thing was gaining a better understanding of pacing and to be able wordsmith sentences down to their bare bones. As Polonius famously said in Hamlet, “Brevity is the soul of wit.” 




Which part of the writing process do you enjoy more: Drafting or Revising? 
And will you describe your method for each?

They each have their rewards, although revisions are more challenging. Writing the original draft is a joy because of the Zen experience of total immersion. The times when unexpected surprises tend to pop from my brain. And I love the mental stimulation of figuring out the puzzle of a story. How it all fits together with the goal of not losing any pieces! The revision phase appeals to the detailed, dare I say, nitpicky side of me, but I find it challenging to step back, critically analyze it, and second-guess how other people might see it.

When I begin the initial writing process, I spend a long time just thinking about the story, without writing much down. Then I write pages of notes about my story and my characters. Before I write a word of the book, I want to know my characters as if they’re real people. Then I create an outline, imagining the story as if it is unfolding like a movie. I use my outline as a guide to write the book and while I’m not 100% faithful to it, I really don’t stray far. And the revision? I read it all the way through. I double-check the flow and make sure something crucial happens in each scene. I read it aloud. And I pass it along to friends I trust to give me good honest feedback. After that I dig in, move things around, make sure I’m not repeating the same words, and reduce, reduce, reduce. 




 What were some of your favorite children’s books or authors when you were growing up? Do you feel they influence your writing in any way?

I was a big fan of Roald Dahl, a series by Noel Streatfield called The Shoes books, anything Nancy Drew, and Harriet the Spy (who in retrospect was more snoop than spy). It’s those indomitable, plucky characters – kids who took on adult-sized problems with aplomb – that spoke to me and influenced me the most. 




Will you share a sneak peek of what’s up next for you? 

I’m working on Madison’s story for the final book of this trilogy, Hello There, I’m Coming Home. I also have a little more work to do on a MG mystery called Superhero & the Comeback Queen, inspired by my childhood love of Harriet the Spy, although my main characters, Albert Einstein Goldstine and Dot Baker, are real spies, rather than snoops like Harriet. ☺ 




Is there anything else that you would like to add?

I always love to share one of my mantras with kids during author visits (which I love to do as much as I love to write). Keep on reading, keep on writing, and when you hear that voice in your head that says, “I can’t do that!” turn it into “I can’t do that YET!” 








Praise for Hello There, Do You Still Know Me?



“A riptide of a magical adventure! Hello There, Do You Still Know Me? pulled me in and took me on a delightfully engaging ride with some well-crafted characters. Kids'll adore this book!”—Alan Katz, award-winning author of Take Me Out of the Bathtub and Other Silly Dilly Songs, Where Did They Hide My Presents?, and The Day the Mustache Took Over



“A magical book that has so many wonderful elements. I really thought the book was well written, well plotted and so original. There are important lessons in this book that are great for younger readers to learn. Plus, there is magic around us all the time, we just need to take time to notice it.”—Mrs. Mommy Booknerd’s Book Reviews







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