JONATHAN AUXIER: Tell us about your book in the length of a Tweet (280 chars):
Every Shiny Thing is a half-prose, half-verse contemporary middle grade novel about two seventh graders who team up to enact a Robin Hood scheme to right some societal wrongs and learn lessons about family, friendship, and justice in the process.
AUXIER: What other books inspired this story?
Cordelia and I drew inspiration from Jessica Leader’s Nice and Mean, a dual POV story about unlikely friends, and Coe Booth’s Kinda Like Brothers, which features a boy in foster care. We were also influenced by emotional stories about family and friendship by authors like Lisa Graff, Erin Entrada Kelly, and Erin E. Moulton, so it was an honor to have Lisa, Erin, and Erin read Every Shiny Thing and give us some lovely blurbs!
AUXIER: Do you hide any secrets in your book that only a few people will find?
Yes! People who know Philadelphia will recognize lots of real-life places in the book, and my friends will realize that Lauren’s brother’s interest in fish is inspired by my husband, a proud fish parent…and they might remember that when my husband and I first started dating, I gave his fish people names, which is something Lauren also does.
AUXIER: What book in your personal library holds the most sentimental value?
I’m very attached to my copy of Judy Blume’s Just as Long as We’re Together. I read it over and over as a kid, and it has my precise middle-school handwriting on a “this book belongs to” bookplate in the front. It’s the book that inspired me to write my first (completely plot-less) middle grade novel, which will thankfully never be published but was an important jumping-off point for me.
AUXIER: Tell me about one darling you had to kill in order to make your book better.
I cut the whole first scene. The book used to open just after Lauren’s brother Ryan had left to attend a therapeutic boarding school for autistic teens, when her dad had bought a giant new TV. The TV infuriated Lauren and made her believe that her parents were “living it up” with Ryan gone, because in the earlier version of the book, they had limited his screen time when he was at home. Lyn Miller-Lachmann gave me invaluable feedback about the depiction of autism in the story and pointed out that it made Lauren and Ryan's parents very unlikable if they excluded Ryan in this way. I wanted the parents to come across as flawed and a bit materialistic but also loving and genuinely trying to give their son what he wanted, so I got rid of that aspect of the set-up and changed it to something that I think works much better.
AUXIER: What’s your favorite under-appreciated MG or YA novel?
Speaking of Lyn Miller-Lachmann, I’m a huge fan of her MG novel Rogue. Rogue is an #ownvoices story about an autistic eighth grade girl named Kiara, who is obsessed with the X-Men and yearns to find a friend. Several of my former middle school students also loved the book, and it was an incredibly important novel for a few of them in particular, who told me they saw themselves in Kiara’s story.
AUXIER: When you sold your first book, did you buy or do anything to celebrate?
You know, I don’t think I did! I’d better buy myself something now, huh? I had a very small baby when Every Shiny Thing sold, so I was a bit overwhelmed. Although I was so sleep-deprived that it’s possible I did something to celebrate and just can’t remember…
AUXIER: What is the last book that made you cry?
I recently read an ARC of Mae Respicio’s The House that Lou Built, a really lovely middle grade novel that comes out in June. It’s a completely original book about family, friendships, Filipino culture, and a strong girl who builds tiny houses, and the ending really got me.
AUXIER: Name one movie or TV show that you think is better than the book? What makes it better?
I was going to say Friday Night Lights because I loved that TV show so much that I’m convinced it must be better than the book…except that I haven’t actually read the book, so that feels like cheating. Instead I’ll go with The Devil Wears Prada. Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway’s performances made the movie more entertaining than the book for me.
AUXIER: You co-wrote this book with Cordelia Jensen. Can you tell us a little about how that worked? Who did the most typing???
Well, my sections are in prose and Cordelia's are in verse, so I definitely typed more words...but her typing was more artistic since she played around with space on the page throughout her poems. We each took on one narrator and our characters' chapters alternate, so we took turns writing new chapters in a Google document in the drafting stage. And then we actually took turns with revising: first based on each other's suggestions, then based on suggestions from critique partners and our agent, and finally based on our editor's notes. Each time we'd discuss our vision for all of the changes and make sure we were both on board since the whole book really belongs to both of us, but then I'd do a pass through to make all of the changes in my narrator's sections and then she'd do a pass to address all of hers. It's been an energizing and fun collaboration that's worked out fairly seamlessly!
AUXIER: Can you show us your best monster face?
Gladly! And anyone who reads Every Shiny Thing will recognize that my monster look is a riff on one character’s Halloween costume.
AUXIER: Going above and beyond with a COSTUME -- I love it! What’s the one question you wished I had asked?
I’m deep in edits for my second book, so I’d love to tell you about that. My solo middle grade debut, Up for Air, will come out in spring of 2019. It’s about Annabelle, a thirteen-year-old struggling student and swimming star, who is thrilled when she gets called up to swim on the high school team and gets a lot of attention from older teens but has to navigate some social situations she isn’t quite prepared for. Annabelle was a secondary character in a YA novel I wrote several years ago, and I never forgot her but feared her story might fall into the unmarketable gray area between middle grade and young adult. I’m glad I kept faith in her story and can’t wait to share it with readers next year!
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