One of my most anticipated middle grade books of 2016 is coming out tomorrow!
I had the opportunity to read this book several months ago and I adored it! This is a witty, subversive, clever book, and I see so many middle grade readers gobbling this up and asking for more (which thankfully we will get!)
Here's the description:
A thrilling debut novel where fantasy and science fiction meet, dragons aren't as innocent as they look, and nothing is quite what is seems.
Anne has spent most of her thirteen years dreaming of the day she and her best friend Penelope will finally leave Saint Lupin's Institute for the Perpectually Wicked and Hideously Unattractive Children. When the big day arrives, a series of very curious happenings lead to Anne being charged with an epic quest. Anne, Penelope, and new questing partner Hiro have only days to travel to strange new locales, solve myriad riddles, and triumph over monstrous foes--or face the horrible consequences.
Then Adventurer's Guide to Successful Escaptes (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, September 13, 2016) is written by Wade Albert White.
Wade hails from Nova Scotia, Canada, land of wild blueberries and Duck Tolling Retrievers. He teaches part-time, dabbles in animation, and spends the rest of his time as a stay-at-home dad. It is also possible he has set a new record as the slowest 10K runner. Ever. He owns one pretend cat and one real one, and they get along famously.
Recently, I harassed the good-natured Wade into answering a few questions for me:
I started laughing on page one of The Adventurer's Guide to Successful Escapes and didn't stop laughing until the last page. So my very first question is: Were you the class clown? And it's corollary: Monty Python, SCTV, or Saturday Night Live?
First of all, I’m so glad you enjoyed it! That’s always wonderful to hear. As for being the class clown, I’d have to say not really—although I did once convince a number of my elementary school cohorts (in Grade 5 or 6, I think) to throw some paper airplanes during class so I could photograph the teacher’s reaction (it was for a school project! honest! Also, my apologies again to everyone who got detention!). Maybe that makes me more of an evil mastermind? Not sure. As for the second part, while I have enjoyed all three, there’s no denying British comedy has been a major influence on me.
There is a proud history in children's literature of witty, clever tales. Who were some of your literary heroes growing up?
The first that leaps to mind is the Canadian classic Anne of Green Gables, a book full to the brim with good humor and an engaging main character. I also remember enjoying the cleverness in certain older classics like Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. And who could forget the fantastic Ralph S. Mouse in The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary.
At the beginning of the book, we realize that Annie is very clever, but Penelope, not so much. She kind of reveals herself to us over time. Can you talk about how you developed these two girls into such well-rounded characters?
When I’m writing characters, I try to think about both their inner and their outer conflicts.
Inner conflicts make a character more complex and multi-dimensional. They might really desire to make a certain choice, but their sense of duty (or fear of another person’s reaction, or simply feeling they have no other options) might compel them to make a different choice instead. That sort of inner turmoil can add a lot of depth. So in the case of Anne, for example, she sneaks into the library to find books to read even though it’s against the rules. She knows if she gets caught there will be consequences, but she also feels strongly that she and her friends have a right to this knowledge that’s being arbitrarily withheld from them.
Outer conflict makes for a more interesting mix of characters—and here I don’t just mean conflict between heroes and villains. I like bringing together a group who might work towards a common goal yet have very different ideas about how to go about it. This creates a lot of interpersonal tension and keeps things interesting. So for example, Penelope usually prefers to dive headfirst into a situation, whereas Anne (and even more so their other friend, Hiro) feels there’s merit in taking a moment to think things through first.
There's a quest in the book (and who doesn't love a quest?) but it's not like your typical quest and it requires the reader to really think in places. Was it difficult to decide how to manage the quest and develop Anne's tests?
It did require a bit of back and forth, mostly in getting the exact wording of the quest just right (which, as readers will see, the wording is essential). One of Anne’s primary traits, though, is her keen intellect, so I never worried about making the quest too difficult for her. Perhaps the most difficult part was making sure the quest flowed logically and that at each point along the way there was a solid reason for Anne and her friends to move onto to the next part (that is, for them to want to continue forward by choice, not simply because that’s where the story needed them to go next). I tend to write and edit in layers, and it definitely took multiple passes before everything came together.
There are definite nods to Sci-Fi here, but a kid doesn't need to be familiar with the genre to get it. Are you a big Sci-Fi fan? Recommendations for our readers as to other books a kid who now wants to read Sci-Fi could read next while they wait for your next book?
I enjoy science fiction and fantasy equally. For middle grade readers in search of a good science fiction story, I would recommend The Boy at the End of the World by Greg van Eekhout, Time-Traveling with a Hamster by Ross Welford, Bounders by Monica Tesler, and The Fog Diver and The Lost Compass by Joel Ross.
Like me, you live in Atlantic Canada, which is a LOONG way from New York City! Can you share how you went about acquiring an agent and how long from then until your deal with LB Kids?
After researching the publishing landscape, I decided I wanted to try to break into the American market, and thus it made sense to try to find a literary agent based in the US. Once I had polished the book to the absolute best of my ability, I began my search, and it took about nine months to sign with my agent (during which time I did two more rounds of editing based on feedback I received while querying). We did yet another round of editing, and then it was deemed ready to submit to publishers. I was extremely fortunate at that point in the process, because once my agent did send the book out to various editors the deal part happened very quickly.
What's the most surprising thing that you've experienced on the road to publication?
Probably the aspect of publishing that has surprised me the most is just how much non-writing work is involved. It’s not that I didn’t know this going in, but like always it’s one thing to hear about it and quite another to be doing it. It makes purposefully carving out actual writing time all the more essential, because one’s inbox fills up quickly. Perhaps the second biggest surprise was just how many times I would reread my own book during the editing process (for those who are curious, I’m pretty sure the answer is somewhere north of a bajillion).
This is the beginning of a series. Did the book sell as a series or was that decided mid-way through the process? How soon till we get to read book #2?
The contract I signed was for two books, and Little Brown expressed interest in the project as a series from the very beginning. In fact, I have just recently finished the second draft of Book 2, so it’s well on its way. The tentative release date for that book is September 2017, roughly one year after the release of the first volume. The working title is The Adventurer’s Guide to Dragons (And Why They Keep Biting Me).
Last question: I knew as soon as I read this book that this was something special; that mix of great story, great characters and spectacular, hilarious writing that makes it a hit with kids and the gatekeepers in their lives: parents, teachers, librarians. So inquiring minds want to know: what have you got planned for September 13th and have you figured out yet how you'll handle all the accolades?????
Again, you’re very kind (I might be blushing now as I type)! The book’s launch party is set for the release day (September 13th) and is taking place at the Box of Delights bookstore in Wolfville, Nova Scotia (7-8pm). It’s open to the public, and all readers both young and old are welcome to attend. Beyond that, requests for appearances are starting to roll in, so it looks like I’ll be doing a little bit of travelling this fall to meet readers and help promote the book.