Monday, September 14, 2015

Random House Guest Post: Twist My Charm: The Popularity Spell (Toni Gallagher)

Twist My Charm: The Popularity Spell (Twist My Charm, #1)Published 2015 by Random House

Middle school can be tough, especially when you have to go to a new school. But what if there was a magic charm that gave the wearer popularity . . . that is, until the charm gets twisted. In THE POPULARITY SPELL Cleo Nelson just started sixth grade at a new school, where all the kids seem a lot cooler and older than her. But luckily she becomes fast friends with Samantha. So when a mysterious gift arrives in the mail, Cleo can’t wait to share the voodoo doll with Sam. But as the charms get bigger, the girls start to realize that happy charms can be twisted. . . . 

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TONI GALLAGHER earned a journalism degree from Northwestern University and has had a successful career in reality TV. She began as a story editor on the early seasons of MTV's "The Real World" (LA, San Francisco and London) and was a producer on the beloved and respected Disney Channel show "Bug Juice," about real kids at summer camp. Currently she serves as Co-Executive Producer of "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" on Bravo. Toni lives in Los Angeles and loves finding the magic in it.

What gave you the inspiration for this book?

I’ve been inspired to write for kids ever since I was a kid myself. And that’s a long, loooooong time. 

It began with a second grade non-fiction epic on the subject of deer (complete with illustrations). By fourth grade I had written The Five Tiny People Who Lived in the Washbasket, which was typed up, bound, and put in the school library. Kids checked it out – for real! Just look on my website ( for the proof.

Then I got more serious: a Nancy Drew style mystery in sixth grade, a co-authored “novel” with my cousin in junior high, followed by newspaper stories in high school and college. 

Despite a journalism degree from Northwestern University, I moved to Hollywood the day after I graduated to make it as a writer. And I did write – a lot. Screenplays, TV scripts, even a novel for grown-ups. I got paid a few times for random projects that didn’t air, and one ridiculous kids’ show that did (Big Bad Beetleborgs – please do not find it online!). 

As with most writers, a “real job” started to take up a lot of my writing time. Luckily my career is creative and based in storytelling, though some people might dispute both. Since the early ‘90s I’ve worked in reality TV, beginning with The Real World on MTV. Currently I’m one of the executive producers on Bravo’s The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. 

One of my favorite reality TV projects was Bug Juice, on the Disney Channel. It was about real kids, ages 12 to 14, going to summer camp. I loved telling their stories, which were funny, sad, joyous, and sometimes heart-wrenchingly dramatic.

So despite not having children myself, I have had some experience with them.

And that brings me (at long last) to my inspiration for Twist My Charm: The Popularity Spell. 

It was early in 2011, and a friend’s 11-year-old daughter was at my house, playing with a voodoo doll my father had given me. Now, this isn’t a spooky, dark doll; it’s a funny one, with ailments written on it like ‘stubbed toe’ and ‘heartburn.’ She was saying she’d like to use the doll to cast a spell on someone at school. Being a wise adult, I advised against it…but I did think, this could be a good story!

Thanks to my background in reality TV, it wasn’t too hard to come up with the plot (though many things changed over the next few years). I saw potential in Cleo’s adventure and the things she could learn along the way. Thank goodness an editor, then a publisher, saw the promise as well. 

Inspiration can strike in a second, or it can over build your whole life. The important thing is to always be open to it. As I’m about to embark on a potential third book in the Twist My Charm series, all I can say is, “Universe, I’m listening!”

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by Toni Gallagher
Random House Young Readers
Hardcover: 978-0-553-51115-4 | On sale September 22, 2015| $16.99 | $17.99 Can. | 272 pages | Ages 8-12
Hardcover Library Binding: 978-0-553-51116-1 | $19.99 | $23.99 Can.

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