Posted in Meet the authors

Amy Cesari

– hi Bridget! I’m Amy, I might be a little different from some of the other authors that you interview because I’m an “indie author,” or independently published. I’m also a “kid at heart” and enjoy books and other entertainment on the younger side, (Disney films, Harry Potter and Lemony Snicket books, and playing “cute” Nintendo games like Mario and Animal Crossing!).
But that doesn’t mean I’m not serious about my job as an author. I also have my master’s degree in business! I’m a bit nerdy, and a bit cartoony and a lot of goofy all at the same time.
1. Did you read a lot when you were 9? When I was 9, I loved to read books by Joan Aiken. Especially the “Wolves Chronicles,” a middle-grade series written in the 1960’s. They were the perfect amount of spooky, spirited, adventurous—but still had a lot of heart and great characters. I recently asked my mom if I can have all of them back—they are in her basement and I want to re-read them (and thanks for keeping all of my books, mom!)
2. What was your favorite story? My favorite story ever of all time would have to be “Harry Potter.” It just makes me feel like life can be magical, and I can do anything.
3. How do you get story ideas? I decide that I want to tell a story, and then I look and listen for ideas coming from everywhere. Once I start to get ideas, I follow the ones that excite me and make me feel curious. I also like to “flip” ideas and things around to see if that gives me a new perspective.
For example, I got the idea for Lilac Skully at Disneyland because it’s one of my favorite places that makes me feel super inspired. I was waiting excitedly in line to get IN to the Haunted Mansion… and I flipped that around and thought, “I’m excited to go IN, but what if you already lived there, and you weren’t very happy about it at all? Who would that be? What would that be like?”
4. What author do you like right now? My favorite recent books are the first two in the “Apprentice Witch” middle grade series by James Nicol. I love that the protagonist is shy and not confident to start out—in fact, she feels like a failure and like she’s barely making a passing grade.
5. Do you have any new or lesser known authors to suggest? Lesser-known authors, I’m going to go again with Joan Aiken and another “vintage” author that I loved as a child, Zilpha Keatly Snyder (author of the Egypt Games) because I think it’s great to keep the old books alive as well as bringing new ones to life.
6. What advice do you have for kids who want to be a writer? My advice to kids who want to be authors—don’t give up! I gave up way too early, I didn’t believe in myself and thought I’d never make it as an author so I didn’t try. Long story short—I ended up working in a corporate sales and marketing career for 13 (mostly miserable) years before finding my own confidence and path to becoming an author.
The good thing about this was that I learned a lot of super-useful skills about marketing and business that have helped me immensely in being an author. The bad thing was I wasn’t happy because I had given up on my dreams and wasn’t listening to my heart.
My second piece of advice is… learn a little about marketing and business! Even if you’re a writer and creative first, you don’t want to be lost or left behind in business and marketing. Whether you are “indie” like me or “published” with a publisher, you have to do a lot of the promotion and marketing around your books yourself. And you’ll want to know a bit about business so you know what you’re getting into if you sign a publishing contract.
And—math. I struggled terribly with math for my entire childhood. It wasn’t until college that I kept trying and started to really understand the important stuff. You don’t need to know advanced math to be an author—but you should know the basic math of percentages, finance and money, and how to use a spreadsheet to analyze basic data and do calculations. This stuff won’t help you be an author—it’ll help you be a successful author with a sustainable career.
7. Do you hear from readers? Yes, I do hear from my readers, mostly on Instagram! I love it, and I think it’s really awesome to hear that someone enjoyed what I wrote, and that they took the time to read it. It doesn’t feel as great when someone doesn’t like your book—but that is the reality of being an author so it’s something that you’ve also got to accept and be ok with! You have to be proud of your books first and foremost.
However, most of the feedback I receive is positive 🙂 It’s also a lot of fun to see common interests and get new book recommendations from people who’ve read my books. They usually like a lot of other cool books that I might like, too!
8. If you could portal into any book, which would you? I’d definitely go to Hogwarts! I love Hermione and I’d go to the library straight away!
Posted in Meet the authors

JA White

Author website/social media:
Twitter: @jawhitebooks
Instagram: @jawhitebooks
Tell me a little about yourself:
I’m the author of The Thickety series and Nightbooks, all published by Katherine Tegen Books.  I’ve also been a teacher for 20 years! My wife and I live in New Jersey with our three sons: Jack (16), Logan (10), and Colin (8).   My favorite dessert is pumpkin pie, and I’m really bad at fixing things around the house.
  1. When you were my age did you like to read?
I was a VORACIOUS reader!  My parents took me to the library every Saturday morning and I used to come back with piles of books.  I would then sit on my bedroom floor and read until it was dark out!
2.  What was your favorite story?
Such a tough question!   I liked anything scary (no surprise there), but also fantasy, fairy tales, and mystery novels.  I used to especially love the Prydain novels of Lloyd Alexander and a mystery series called The Three Investigators.  
3. How do you get your ideas?  How do you write spooky vs. scary?
Some of my ideas come out of the blue during times when I let my brain wander, like during my commute to work.  Other ideas take a little work, and I have to sit at my computer and try out some bad ideas before figuring out a good one.  I think “spooky” is more like the tone of a story, and I usually convey that through the setting and description. “Scary,” to me, is when a character is in peril.  There are only a few scary parts in my books, but they pretty much have a spooky tone at all times!
4.  How does being a teacher help your writing?

I write about children, so it definitely helps that I’m around kids all day.  I hear how they talk and see how they act, so that (hopefully) helps me create more realistic characters.  Another part of my job is reading lots of children’s novels, so I always stay immersed in that world.


5. What author do you like right now?

I think Jonathan Auxier is a splendid writer.  I’ve just begun his new one–Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster–and it’s top notch, as always.  Kate DiCamillo and Katherine Applegate are always sure bets as well.

6. Do you have any new or lesser known authors you would suggest?
John Bellairs.  He might not be as well known to children since he wrote a long time ago, but hopefully the recent film version of The House with a Clock in its Walls will help young readers discover his novels.  I’ve been re-reading his books recently, and I like them every bit as much as when I first read them as a child.
7. What advice do you have for a kid who wants to be an author?

Read, read, read.  Not just novels–short stories, too, since that’s what you’ll be writing at the start.  And make sure you write every single day, even if it’s just for 10 minutes. It’s like exercise!

8.  As an author, do you hear from your readers?  What do you like about that?

Social media is great for interacting with readers, and I’m also lucky enough to get emails as well. It’s especially touching when the email comes from somewhere far away, like England or Australia.  I’m always flattered when any reader takes the time to reach out and contact me, because that means they really loved something I wrote.  That makes all that hard work worth it!

9.  If you could portal into any book, what book would it be?

It definitely wouldn’t be one of my books–too scary!  I’d have to say Harry Potter. It’s such a rich and varied world, and I’d love to explore it.  (But only if I get to be in Ravenclaw

Posted in Meet the authors

Christina Soontornvat

Soontornvat 2_24Sep15_Cathlin McCullough Photography.jpg

When you were my age (9), did you like to read? 

I loved magical fantasy stories, like Matilda or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I also loved comics! My favorite ones were Calvin and Hobbes and The Far Side.

What was your favorite story?

I read The Hobbit about a hundred times!

How do you get your ideas? 

I get some of my best ideas when I have to make up a story on the spot for kids. The Changelings books came about when I made up a story about two sisters for my nieces. Somehow when I am telling a story out loud, my imagination really takes over and goes to some wild places.

Why do you think diverse/multicultural books matter? How would 9 yr old you react to the books? 

I think diverse books matter because we live in a diverse world. For a long time, books featured only one type of character, which is a shame because our world has so many different types of people in it. All those different people deserve to be heroes in books! And personally, I don’t want to read books about one type of person all the time. I want to read books that show me the whole wide world.

What author do you really like right now?

I love so many authors, how could I choose just one? One of my favorite authors is Lindsay Eager. Her book Race To the Bottom of the Sea is one of my favorite magical adventures. There are pirates and candy and sharks and heartaches. It has everything.

Do you have any new or lesser known authors you would suggest?

There is a new book coming in December, called Blizzard Besties written by Yamile Saied Méndez that is about a girl who has to save her little brother during a snow storm (with the help of a lovable dog). I love snow survival stories so I’m really looking forward to it!

What advice do you have for a kid who wants to be an author?

Now is the time to try out writing whatever you want. Don’t worry about anyone reading it, don’t worry about being perfect. You don’t have to show anyone if you don’t want to! But the more you can practice and stretch your writing muscles now, the better you will get.

As an author, do you hear from your readers? What do you like about that?

I do! I love getting emails from kids or their parents telling me they read the book. I never, ever get tired of it. My Changelings books have big twists at the end, and I love hearing from kids who never saw it coming!

If you could portal into any book (yours or another person’s), what book would it be?

I’d portal into Middle Earth (from the Lord of the Rings books). Hopefully not during a battle. I would prefer to portal straight into an Elvish feast with lots of singing and good food!

Posted in Meet the authors

Gareth Wronski

  • Author website/social media:
  • Tell me a little about yourself: I’m a Canadian writer of science fiction and fantasy. My first book, HOLLY FARB, was published last year by Simon & Schuster. I also write screenplays, and spend my free time avoiding the terrifying swans that live nearby.
  • When you were my age (9), did you like to read?
  • I actually wasn’t a huge reader as a child. I mostly watched movies and played video games, and the only books I read were ones I was forced to read in school. When I was a bit older I got more into it and started reading for pleasure.

  • What was your favorite story?
  • The one book I remember really liking as a kid was Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, about a boy who is stranded in the wilderness and has to find a way to survive. It also made me afraid of camping.

  • How do you get your ideas? Will there be a second Holly Farb book?
  • I’m not sure exactly where I get my ideas from — they just sort of pop into my head! I’d love to write another book about Holly, but that’s up to the publisher and whether they want to.

  • What author do you really like right now?
  • The last book I read was The Witch Apprentice by James Nicol, which I really enjoyed.

  • Do you have any new or lesser known authors you would suggest?
  • I can name a bunch of new authors people should check out: Wendy McLeod MacKnight, Heidi Lang, Kati Bartkowski, Beth McCMullen, Alexandra Ott, Sarah Cannon, Supriya Kelkar, Patricia Bailey, Melissa Roske, Lindsey Becker, Katie Slivensky, Jarrett Lerner, Darcy Miller, Rob Vlock, Sally J. Pla, and many others I’m probably forgetting.

  • What advice do you have for a kid who wants to be an author?
  • Don’t let anyone discourage you! Take time to have fun and figure out what sort of books you want to write. The good thing about writing at a young age is you have a lot of freedom to just enjoy the process and whatever you’re creating.

  • As an author, do you hear from your readers? What do you like about that?
  • I hear from readers from time to time, either by email or on Twitter. It’s always nice because one of the strange things about writing a book is you create this thing that then goes off into the world and you have no idea how anyone is reacting to it, or if they’re reacting to it at all. It’s like 70,000 words of talking to yourself, so it’s nice to have other people talk back.

  • If you could portal into any book (yours or another person’s), what book would it be?
  • Harry Potter. I’d play Quidditch by day and solve magical mysteries by night.

    Posted in Meet the authors

    Debbie Dadey


    Author website/social media:;;
    1. When you were my age (9), did you like to read?
    Yes! I read under the covers at night, at the supper table with a book in my lap (makes for sticky books), and even in the bathtub (definitely not recommended-unless you like wet books!)
    2. What was your favorite story?
    My fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Forker, read aloud to us every day. It was the best part of school (that and recess). She read the Little House on the Prairie books to us. To this day I still like books about westward expansion, but now I know how much that cost American Indians. Since I have a tiny bit of Cherokee Indian in me, the story Trail of Tears has always hurt my heart. In fact, I wrote a story called Cherokee Sister about two friends caught up in the forced Indian removal from their land, spurred by President Andrew Jackson.
    3. How do you get your ideas?
    I get ideas from everywhere. My friend Marcia Thornton Jones and I had the idea for our first published book from a really bad day at school. We jokingly said that if we were monster teachers all the kids in our classes would behave. What did we do? We created a teacher in Vampires Don’t Wear Polka Dots who just might be a vampire! It turned into a series of over sixty books called The Adventures of the Bailey School Kids, with the two spin-off series of Bailey School Kids Junior Chapter Books and Bailey City Monsters.
    I have a fairy garden in my yard and that gave me the idea to write Fairy Chase (Mermaid Tales #18), where Echo wants to find a fairy. She gets a little help from some stinky fairy juice and her friends.
    My children have also given me great ideas. My daughter was in lots of schools plays and gave me the idea to write Once Upon A Star Fish (Mermaid Tales #12). My youngest son loves to skateboard, so I’ve been working on a skateboarding book. My oldest son, Nathan, and I wrote two books together, Slime Wars and Slime Time. We didn’t have an idea for a story at first, but we brainstormed to come up with ideas. We just said, “What would be fun to write about” and went from there.
    4. What author do you really like right now?
    I am lucky enough to belong the Midsouth chapter of the SCBWI (Society of Children’s book writers and Illustrators) and have met many wonderful authors and illustrators through that organization. Currently, I am rereading a book by Tracy Barrett called Anna of Byzantium.
    5. Do you have any new or lesser known authors you would suggest?
    There are so many wonderful authors. Last summer I went on a Girls Read Tour with Stephanie Faris and Gail Nall and we had a great time. They both write really fun books for girls. They wrote one for older girls with other friends called Best.Night.Ever.
    6. What advice do you have for a kid who wants to be an author?
    I have two words of advice for anyone who wants to be an author: read and write. Okay, that is officially three words, but reading a lots and writing a lot are keys to developing into being a better writer. And they’re both fun! My website,, has a writing page that has some activities, videos, podcasts, and tips you might like to try.
    7. As an author, do you hear from your readers? What do you like about that? It is the most wonderful thing! Just this morning on Twitter ( I received an amazing letter from a mom who read my books when she was young. She totally freaked out when her son brought home Werewolves Don’t Go to Summer Camp from his school library. She sent me a picture and told me how much the Bailey School Kids books meant to her when she was growing up. I hope her son will enjoy them too!
    8. If you could portal into any book (yours or another person’s), what book would it be?
    Ha! I think it would be totally fun to be a mermaid in Ready, Set, Goal! and visit the lost city of Atlantis!

    Posted in Meet the authors

    Molly Muldoon


    Author Website/Social, @passingfair on Twitter

    When you were my age (9), did you like to read? loved to read! In fact, I was rarely doing anything else. I’ve been a regular at my local library since I was three and you were always most likely to find me curled up with a book somewhere.

    What was your favorite story? That’s a hard question. I was always reading so I probably had a new favorite every few weeks. I read the entire Sherlock Holmes series when I was probably around ten and that has been one of my favorites since then, nevermind it inspiring me to write mysteries myself so I think it makes a fairly good case for being my favorite.

    How do you get your ideas? All sorts of ways. Sometimes I think of a cool idea and I write it down somewhere to remember or expand on later and sometimes something pops into my head out of nowhere and I have to write it all down right away. Talking to friends about ideas and stories is also another good way to think of new ideas. My first book was based on an idea of my friend Terry’s that we wrote together.

    Your book was done with multiple authors. Was that easy or hard? I think it was a lot easier than it should have been! Everyone was incredibly nice and professional, so it was easy to work with them. We also have a Facebook group just for us where we chat all the time so even though we’re all over the country, it felt like we were in the same room. Chad did a good job of wrangling us and everyone was so excited about the book, it was easy to come together to work.

    What author do you really like right now? David Mitchell and Bill Bryson are two of my all time favorite authors but they’re a little old for this blog. I’m always happy to read a new book by Meg Cabot, Raina Telegemeier, or Shannon Hale.

    Do you have any new or lesser known authors you would suggest? She’s not new but Juliet Marillier is one of my all-time favorites that a lot of people haven’t read. She does retellings of fairy and folk tales with really great female characters. I reread her Sevenwaters series every few years.

    What advice do you have for a kid who wants to be an author? It’s pretty simple but just do a lot of reading and writing! Write anything and everything. Writing is a skill you practice like anything else and the more you write, the more you get comfortable with it. Reading gives you an idea of what you like and don’t like in stories, how stories are shaped and all sorts of other ideas. If you already like reading and writing, you’re well on your way!

    As an author, do you hear from your readers? What do you like about that Sometimes I do and I always love it. Writing is a pretty solitary job and you work on something special for years, sometimes, without knowing if people are going to like it or not. Hearing from someone that they enjoyed it or recommended it to a friend is a lovely feeling that makes you feel like you did something worthwhile. There’s nothing better.

    If you could portal into any book (yours or another person’s), what book would it be? That’s such a hard question! It’s pretty cliché but honestly, I think I’d have to go with Harry Potter. Being able to do magic would be cool, and as a Hufflepuff, my room would be near the kitchen!

    Posted in Meet the authors

    Jacqueline West


    • Author website/social media:; Instagram: jacqueline.west.writes; Facebook: Jacqueline West, Author


    • Tell me a little about yourself:

      Hi! I’m Jacqueline, and I’m a writer. My middle-grade fantasy series, The Books of Elsewhere, began in 2010 and got a bunch of lovely accolades, including a CYBILS award and a spot on the New York Times bestsellers list. My new middle-grade fantasy, The Collectors, will be released on October 9, 2018, and I’ve got two more middle grade novels and one YA novel coming out in 2019. I live in Minnesota with my husband and our son, plus one bouncy brown dog named Brom Bones. 


    1. When you were my age, did you like to read?

      YES. I was the kind of kid who got in trouble for reading too much—like when I was supposed to be paying attention in class, or when it was two hours past my bedtime, or when I completely missed my bus stop because I was so absorbed in my book. But it was all worth it!


    2. What was your favorite story?

      As a young reader, I loved stories that mixed fear and funniness, mystery and magic. Some of my very favorites were The Hobbit, the Bunnicula series, Alice in Wonderland, and everything by Roald Dahl.  


    3. How do you get your ideas?

      I’m an idea collector. Everywhere I go, everything I read, everything I see or hear or overhear becomes material for the story collage. The real trick is putting those ideas together… 


    4. What author do you really like right now?

      Oh, I love SO MANY authors, I can hardly choose. I’ve never read anything by Kate DiCamillo that I didn’t think was fantastic. Same goes for Jewell Parker Rhodes and Laurie Halse Anderson. 


    5. Do you have any new or lesser known authors or illustrator you would suggest?

      Diane Magras’s MG debut, The Mad Wolf’s Daughter, just came out this spring, and it’s one of the best middle grade books I’ve read in a long time: breathtaking adventure, a fascinating historical setting, and a main character I adored. 


    6. There is a lot of talk about the need for multicultural books. What do you think about this?

      I think the discussion is long overdue, and I’m glad it’s happening. Readers of all backgrounds need and deserve to see themselves reflected in the books they read, and authors of diverse backgrounds deserve the chance to tell their stories. On top of that, reading creates empathy. When you read a story, you’re stepping inside of someone else’s life for a while—and what a world-changing experience that is! We might never be able to completely understand the experiences of someone whose life is very different from our own, but the more stories we share, the closer we get. 


    7. What advice do you have for a kid who wants to be an author/illustrator?

      Read like crazy. Write like crazy. Repeat. 


    8. As an illustrator/author, do you hear from your readers? What do you like about that?

      Yes, I get a lot of mail from readers, and it’s incredibly cool! Most of a writer’s work is pretty isolated—in my case, it’s usually just me, in my house, in my wrinkled pajamas, scribbling or typing away. Hearing from readers reminds you that your books are traveling all around the world to places where you’ve never been, that your stories and characters exist in the imaginations of people you’ve never met. And that’s like magic. 

      The Collectors Cover 

    Jacqueline West
    The Collectors (Greenwillow/HarperCollins, 2018)
    Candle and Pins: Poems on Superstitions (Alban Lake, 2018)
    Dreamers Often Lie (Dial/Penguin, 2016)

    The Books of Elsewhere (Dial/Penguin, 2010 – 2014)