Saturday, June 15

Author Interview: Stacy McAnulty for Moon! Earth's Best Friend

Hooray Stacy McAnulty is back! Which means there is another awesome new book of her's that is being released! In this case, we're referring to the newest in the Our Universe series: Moon! Earth's Best Friend. After writing about Earth, and the Sun, it's time to discuss our closest galactic neighbor (and BFF), the Moon.

Hi Stacy! Thanks for interviewing with me again! I really enjoy hearing about your work. Tell us a bit about how Moon came to be the next subject in your series, how one goes about getting to know her personality, and what you learned about her.

Thank you for having me back!
Earth came first and then Sun, so Moon was the logical next step. They’re a perfect trio and all very important to humans! While researching this third title, it was interesting to learn Earth probably wouldn’t be a perfect habitat for humans without her natural satellite. Moon not only moves the tides, but she also keeps Earth from being too wobbly and thus livable. The personality for Moon really began in the book, Earth! My First 4.54 Billion Years, where Moon was declared Earth’s BFF. I imagined their friendship to be sweet, long lasting, and supportive, but also Moon really admires Earth. Almost like a kid sister.

Wednesday, February 20

Author Interview: Kamilla Benko for The Unicorn Quest: Secret in the Stone

I may be partially biased, but I sure love fantasy authors. So I'm especially excited to have Kamilla Benko on today! She's graced us with her wisdom before, when she shared 5 Tips for Aspiring Fantasy Writers. Now we get to tap into the writing-a-series process, fantasy names inspiration, and all the magic of unicorns!

EA: Hi Kamilla! Thank you so much for doing this interview. Last time on you gave us some great tips for fantasy writing. So let's dig a bit more into that: How did Unicorn Quest come about? Where did the idea spark from?

KB: Six Februarys ago, I was visiting the Cloisters—an extension of the Metroploitan Museum of Art—and saw the famed Unicorn Tapestries that depicted a medieval hunt of a unicorn. While I studied the gruesome scenes I asked myself, “Why would anyone want to kill a unicorn?” and from there my imagination began to gallop ahead.

And because The Unicorn Quest trilogy was inspired by art, I wanted the series to explore the theme of magic in everyday life. My main character, 11-year-old Claire Martinson is an artist who always has a pencil tucked behind her ear, and the world she ends up discovering with her older sister, Sophie, is one where all magic can only be done by creating something with your own hands.

I really want to tap into the process of writing a series. Did you know from the outset that this story would be a series? How do you outline what happens from one book to the next? Does that change as you're writing?

I always knew that this would be a series, because I’ve known the ending to Claire and Sophie’s story! I’ve known the end almost since the moment I thought of their story. Because of this, I know the girls’ ultimate goals: the goals that they may (or may not!) achieve at the end of the series, and I keep those in mind while I write forward. And because those goals haven’t changed, it’s easier to orientate myself in the individual books. Even though the arc may shift within each book—because you always have to allow room for characters to surprise you!— the series arc stays the same and is an anchor for me.

This is kind of specific, but something I really find fascinating: how do you pick names? Especially in a fantasy world: the settings, the Guilds, characters--all sorts! I'm curious about your decision process.

I love names! When I name characters, I often plant little nods to books that I loved as a child. For example, I loved The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, and the first child to enter Narnia is named Lucy. The name “Lucy” means light, and Claire is another name that also means “light” or “clarity.”

I also view names as guides for readers—especially for children who might be experiencing fantasy for the first time. Because fantasy often has so much going on, I want the names to help with the overall understanding of how the world works. So the Guilds names and setting names were chosen to help readers keep straight the different magics, and what place belongs to which guild.

Finally, I pull from older mythology and sciences as well. For readers who have never come across some terms, at one point they might stumble across it again and be excited when they realize they already knew that term from The Unicorn Quest. And for readers who recognize the term, it’s one more bit of familiarity to make an unusual world more navigable. (A prime example is Phlogiston Academy . . . Google Phlogiston, and you’ll see what I’m talking about!)

Which guild magic do you wish you had? Why? 

I wish I was a Gemmer, because I would love to be able to draw! And I’ve always loved sparkly things.

What can we look forward to in the future? What’s next on your writing-idea list? 

Book Three in the trilogy is very much on my writing list, but even sooner is a book that also stars two sisters – Anna and Elsa from Frozen! I’ve been working with Disney and the filmmakers to write a middle grade novel about what happened to Anna and Elsa between Frozen and Frozen 2. It should come out sometime this fall, and I’m so excited for everyone to read it!

Lightning round!
-Favorite dessert: Chocolate fondue!
-Favorite fantasy creature: Unicorn!
-Favorite vacation spot: Seaside!
-Favorite fantasy author: Oh nooooo….I have so many! How about if I share my favorite first fantasy author? That was a husband and wife team named Jahnna N. Malcolm, and they wrote a chapter book series called Jewel Kingdom that I was obsessed with in first grade. (Going back to how I name things, there’s a unicorn named Arden in the Jewel Kingdom series, and I named my land of unicorns after her!)
-Chocolate or vanilla? Swirl!

Kamilla Benko spent most of her childhood climbing into wardrobes, trying to step through mirrors, and plotting to run away to an art museum. Now, she visits other worlds as a children’s book editor. Originally from Indiana, she currently lives in New York with her bookshelves, teapot, and hiking boots.

Monday, December 10

Why I Spoke to the European Union About How My Minecrafter Books Help Kids (By Danica Davidson)

I'm a huge proponent of "reading is reading". What I mean is that parents should give credit to whatever literature their kids are most interested in, especially if it gets their kids excited about reading. Yes, many parents may roll their eyes at a "video game book," but as Danica Davidson points out in this guest post: don't be quick to jump to conclusions. And yes, you read that post title correctly.

Why I Spoke to the European Union About How My Minecrafter Books Help Kids
By Danica Davidson

I love books, and I also love Minecraft. Is it a surprise? So far I’ve written 12 chapter books that take place as if Minecraft is real (Escape from the Overworld, Attack on the Overworld, The Rise of Herobrine, Down Into the Nether, The Armies of Herobrine, Battle with the Wither, Adventure Against the Endermen, Mysteries of the Overworld, Danger in the Jungle Temple, Clash in the Underwater World, Last of the Ender Crystal, and Return of the Ender Dragon). Aimed for ages 7-12, they follow the adventures of Stevie, and 11-year-old Minecraft boy who accidentally finds a portal to Earth. With his Earth friends and his danger-loving cousin Alex, the kids set off on a series of adventures in the different worlds, fighting monsters and saving lives. The books are full of chapter cliffhangers and action.


But I also add a layer of depth under the action, and that’s why I was asked last summer to give a speech on my books to members of the European Union and their kids.

Microsoft, the owner of Minecraft, set up the event and flew me to Brussels, Belgium. There I gave a twenty-minute speech (plus ten minutes of Q&A, mostly from the kids) about how Minecraft and my Minecrafter books can be empowering and educational. The game can help kids with using their imagination and critical thinking, and my books can help with literacy. In the midst of Stevie's adventures, the characters also deal with real world kid issues: going to a new school, making friends, handling bullies. It also talks about the online world, with Stevie noting that the Internet is a double-edged sword, used for good and bad. The kids have to deal with cyberbullies who hack into Stevie’s Minecraft world and make it eternal night, and this fantastic setting allows us to talk about how cyberbullying is an issue for many kids.

The books also talk about thinking for yourself and not jumping too conclusions. I see way too much jumping-to-conclusions on the Internet, and that led me to writing these lines in my book The Last of the Ender Crystal:

     “I think we just need to watch and learn,” Maison said. “My mom always said you can't jump to conclusions and you have to learn all about something before you have an opinion on it.”
     Yancy snorted. “Not in the days of the Internet. The more knee-jerk your reaction, the more the Internet seems to reward you for it.”

Those lines went over especially well during my talk. The parents in the European Union looked intrigued and interested, while their kids were excited and had lots of questions for me afterward. I said I hope these books can empower children in their own lives, to help them become readers, thinkers, and doers. While Stevie sees the world can be cruel, he sees it can also be kind. I want to write these books to be entertaining, but also to have heart.

Danica Davidson is the author of YA and children's novels and graphic novels. She has the Minecrafter novels Escape from the Overworld, Attack on the Overworld, The Rise of Herobrine, Down Into the Nether, The Armies of Herobrine, Battle with the Wither, Adventure Against the Endermen, Mysteries of the Overworld, Danger in the Jungle Temple, Clash in the Underwater World, Last of the Ender Crystal, and Return of the Ender Dragon; the how-to-draw manga books Manga Art For Beginners and Manga Art for Intermediates; the comic book Barbie Puppies: Puppy Party; and "Picture Perfect" in the graphic novel Tales from the Crypt. Her books have been called "EXCITING" by Forbes, "RECOMMENDED READING" by School Library Journal, and have been spotlighted by NPR, Sci Fi Magazine, Barnes & Noble Kids Blog, MTV and other publications. Please check out her site at

Wednesday, November 14

Author Interview: Stacy McAnulty for Sun! One in a Billion

Wow, my first repeat offender! (Wait...that's not the phrase I'm looking for) What I mean is, I get to interview Stacy McAnulty AGAIN (woo!). This time, she's talking about her most recent picture book, Sun! One in a Billion, the second book in her Our Universe series (you can find out about her first book and some awesome writing advice in a guest post back here). And, small sidenote, I totally meant to post this as part of the blog tour a couple weeks back but we have been down and out in my household. Luckily we're on the mend and double luckily, we get to hear from Stacy again.

EA: Hi Stacy! I've had such a great pleasure featuring your books, and I'm pretty excited about your newest--SUN!, a companion to EARTH!. And I understand there's more to come, too--how exciting! Last interview, we talked a lot about your writing process and ideas, but tell me, how did you decide on a series of fun, factual science-based picture books?

SM: I didn’t set out to write a series. But EARTH! was well received, and the publisher asked if I wanted to do more. I took about half a second to think about it before screaming “YES!” I love the idea of entertaining, humorous science books. Laughing and learning are two of my favorite things. (Dark chocolate and coffee are also two of my favorite things.)