Monday, February 6, 2017

It’s a Mystery, Pig Face! Author Interview and ARC Giveaway

In Wendy McLeod MacKnight's It's a Mystery, Pig Face! eleven-year-old Tracy Munroe has three goals to accomplish:

1. Figure out an end-of-summer adventure with her best friend Ralph.

2. Make sure her little brother Lester, aka Pig Face, does not tag along.

3. Get the new boy next door to realize she exists.

But when Tracy and Ralph discover a bag full of money in the baseball field dugout, (and Lester forces them to let him help) they have a mystery on their hands. Did someone lose the cash? Was it stolen? Can the truth be discovered before they are accused of the crime themselves?

Wendy, I absolutely loved this fast-paced middle grade mystery! Where did you get the idea for this book?

Thanks! When I was a kid, my friends and I were always looking for mysteries to solve. We had a bit of a Harriet the Spy thing going – keeping tabs on everyone – but we were always thwarted. The first draft of the book was a real throw-back, the bad guys were grown up, lives were in peril, but thanks to some good advice, I went a little more nuanced. Not that this is a nuanced book by any stretch of the imagination… As for the name Pig Face, I may have called my brother that a few times when we were young a few times and when I was trying to think of a name Tracy might call Lester when he’s being particularly annoying, it popped right into my head.

Tracy and Ralph have a strong friendship. Their relationship faces some tests, yet survives. How do you develop such realistic, well-rounded characters?

I liked the idea of what happens when relationships are tested. Tracy makes some bad decisions, and who hasn’t made bad decisions in their life? And Ralph isn’t immune to making the odd mistake himself. I think that friendships are so important and sometimes so fragile in the upper elementary/early middle grade years, and kids often stumble around because they are afraid of speaking their truth.

I worked a lot on all three of the characters – back story, what they liked and disliked, their private hopes and dreams, most of which didn’t make it into the book, but by the time I was writing in earnest, I knew who they were and how they would react to what was happening around them. Forgiveness and acceptance is a huge theme in this book, and that comes from the characters, not the plot. I will say that my agent, Lauren Galit, and my editor, Alison Weiss, both pushed me to dig deep.

Can you tell MG Minded readers about your publication journey? Is this your first book? How many drafts did it take you to land an agent and then a publisher?

I’m the poster child for IT’S NEVER TOO LATE! I wrote the first draft of this book in 1986 (yes, dinosaurs walked the earth and we had just discovered fire!) I am embarrassed to say I did one revision and then sent it to a Canadian Publishing House, who were very enthusiastic and asked me to send them other things. But I never did. I put it in a drawer and got a job and had a great career for the next twenty-five years, rising to the level of Deputy Minister of Education and Early Childhood. Then one day I woke up and got brave enough to leave to pursue the one regret I had in life – not pursuing my writing career. I took some courses, immersed myself in the MG world again (well, truth be told, I never left it!) and pulled out that old manuscript. And polished and rewrote completely. I think I’d done six drafts by the time I landed my agent, Lauren Galit of LKG Agency. By then I had queried 48 agents. I could tell I was getting close because after the sixth draft, I got all kinds of requests for full manuscripts and the week I signed with Lauren I had two or three agents interested in signing me. The lesson I learned through the process of selling the first book is this: good enough is NOT good enough. Until you can say in your heart that it is as excellent as you can make it, there is no point in submitting. I am still mortified about the first 15 queries I sent out…

Any advice for blog readers wanting to write a middle grade mystery?

Ah, that’s a hard question! I struggled with the mystery aspect for so long: not giving too much away, tossing out lots of red herrings, ensuring it all makes sense. I think you can’t ‘pants’ a mystery, which I am sorry to say I did for my first couple of drafts, and it was a disaster! I would map the mystery out very carefully in advance. You can always tweak it as you’re writing, once your characters come to life and start sending you places you never thought you’d go, but thinking of things on the fly is usually not very successful, I am sorry to say. Unless you are a genius, then have at it! Oh and one more thing: I heard a lot of “There are too many mysteries out there” when I was writing and submitting, but kids love a mystery (as do adults) and there will always be room for mysteries in middle grade fiction!

Thanks so much, Wendy! Great advice!
For a chance to win an ARC of It's a Mystery, Pig Face! leave a comment and your email address below. A winner will be drawn at random.


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  2. I saw the title for this book before I knew what it was... glad to have a solid explanation to go with the "pig face"!
    I enjoyed reading about your publication journey the most. I'll be sharing this post with my wife, who hopes one day to write as well.

    (reposted for typo, sorry!)

  3. Great interview! Thanks, Wendy and Stefanie. :) I always enjoy hearing about other writers' publication journeys.

  4. Great advice about mystery writing and your road to publication story is an inspiration!