Today I am happy to welcome Holly Schindler to discuss her upcoming middle grade debut, THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY (Dial). THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY will be released February 6, 2014—just in time for Valentine’s Day!
Debby: Holly, thank you for joining me today. I am so excited to read THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY. My fourth grader and I are counting down the days! Can you tell us a little bit about your inspiration to write this story?
Holly: I’m so glad to hear your fourth grader’s looking forward to the book! In my previous YAs, I started with a concept—in A BLUE SO DARK, I played with the possible correlation between mental illness and creativity; in PLAYING HURT, I started with the difference between loving someone and really being IN love with someone. With THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY, it all began with character. I saw Grampa Gus as clearly as I’ve ever seen anyone on my life! And I heard this voice—I swear, it seemed like Auggie was in the room talking to me herself.
Debby: It seems that finding your voice through art is a central theme in the book. How did art come to play such an important role in Auggie’s story? Are you an artist yourself?
Holly: A bit of backstory here: I got my master’s in ’01, and was encouraged to stay home and devote full-time attention to getting a writing career off the ground. I’d had some success publishing shorter work when I was in grad school, and was under the grand delusion that publishing a book-length work would be easy.
It wasn’t—it took seven and a half years of full-time effort (and too many drafted manuscripts to count) to snag my first book deal. Four years into it, I hit a rough patch. Looking back, a big part of the reason for it was that I had a school-related marker for how much time had passed (graduation season), and because many school-related achievements had taken four years (four years to get out of high school, four years to get my undergrad degree). Four years into the pursuit of publication, I hadn’t gotten very far—meanwhile, my friends from college were wrapping up PhDs, moving on with their lives. I began to question what I was doing, whether I was going to stick with it.
In the end, I obviously decided to put my rear in the chair and get back to work. The first book I drafted after that make-or-break moment was THE JUNCTION, a book about a girl standing up for her art. In many ways, I feel like I was standing up for my own art in THE JUNCTION, insisting that I wasn’t going to back down from the writing life.
Debby: What a wonderful message for your readers—to stand up for your art and not give up on your dreams. You went from writing that first book to having a number of YA books out there, including the upcoming release, FERAL (Harper Collins). What made you want to switch to middle grade?
Holly: Actually, the first books I drafted were all adult books. Though I had the kind of financial support that meant I didn’t have to seek full-time employment, I still wanted to pay my own bills—so I started teaching music lessons out of the house in the afternoons. My students were shockingly similar to the kids I’d known when I was in school—they actually inspired me to try my hand at writing juvenile work! When I started writing for young readers, I tried my hand at all age groups—MG, YA, even picture books. I was actually learning to write for all age groups at the same time.
Debby: I know you have started a website for your MG readers, called Holly Schindler’s Middles. http://hollyschindlermiddles.weebly.com/ What made you want to start a separate website? And what can your readers find there?
Holly: The best part of being a published YA author was interacting with my readership—usually through FB or Twitter. But I needed to create a space where I could talk directly to MG readers—so I created Holly Schindler’s Middles. At this site, MG readers can view some videos I created for THE JUNCTION, read some tips I have for young readers (I was already writing when I was a young reader), and—I’m MOST excited about this: they can send me their reviews! Use the Contact Me page to get your review featured on the site.
Debby: It’s such a good idea to have a site for MG readers to interact with you and share their reviews. I know your readers will love it. Here’s my favorite question: can you share your favorite sentence in the book?
Holly: Auggie has such a unique way of looking at the world; I love the “Auggie-isms” that run throughout the book. Here’s one of my faves: “Courage, I think as I stare at Chuck, can sometimes be like when you’re dying for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but there’s only a skiff of peanut butter left on the side of the jar, and no matter how much you scrape, you begin to wonder if you’ll ever get enough on your knife to cover an entire slice of bread.”
Debby: I love Auggie already. I think I might already know the answer to my next question, but I am going to ask it anyway. Which character in THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY is most like you? Which is completely the opposite of you?
Holly: I think we all hope that we’re the opposite of Victoria Cole—and we all also hope we have a bit of Auggie in us!
Debby: You have several websites of your own along with your own blog, a YA group blog that you run as well as Smack Dab in the Middle, the MG group blog that I am part of, too. And you write both MG and YA. How do you switch hats? Do you have a set schedule?
Holly: I do have the luxury of being a full-time author. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that I just get to write all day. As authors, we have to be our own publicists, too! Of course, my favorite days are those when I do get to spend a solid eight hours writing. When a book’s about to hit the store shelves, I have to balance between promos and writing new material. I do enjoy promotional work, especially when it’s creative (putting together a trailer, etc.), but you can’t get so involved in your own publicity that you lose sight of writing the next book. I work pretty hard at time management; my daily planner has so many notes and scribbles, it looks like a WIP!
Debby: Can you give us a sneak peek as to what we shall expect next from the amazing Holly Schindler?
Holly: FERAL, my next YA, is going to release in August ’14! To say it’s completely different from THE JUNCTION is an understatement. To get in on the blog tour, please contact me at writehollyschindler (at) yahoo (dot) com!
Debby: Holly, thank you again for being here and sharing your thoughts. Best of luck with the new release. I am so looking forward to reading it! For more information about Holly and her books, visit her website http://www.hollyschindler.com/