Friday, September 16, 2016

Interview Session: Kate Beasley, author of Gertie's Leap to Greatness

Many months ago, I was sent a manuscript with a request to blurb the book. The title was Gertie's Leap to Greatness, and it had to do with a little girl named Gertie who was on a quest to become to the greatest fifth grader around. Did I laugh? Did I cry? Did I keep turning pages until very late in the night? Yes. Yes, I did. This is what I had to say about it:

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It has been a long time coming, but I am so excited to share this interview with Kate Beasley, the author of Gertie's Leap to Greatness. Look for the book on October 4th! 

Author Kate Beasley
Where are you from? Where do you live now? Do you do anything else in addition to writing great books?

I’ve lived in Claxton, Georgia, all my life. It’s a small town about an hour west of Savannah. A lot of people want to escape from small towns, but I like living here! I’m a country mouse for sure. My parents farm in Claxton—cows, cotton, pecans, peanuts. I help out on the farm a little bit, but mostly, I write full-time right now, which is a dream come true!

When did you get your start as a writer? How long have you been writing?

I always liked writing in school…mostly essay writing. I started studying and writing fiction when I started college. That was in 2007, so I would say that I’ve been writing seriously for nine years. Gosh, it doesn't feel like it’s been that long. Time flies!

What were some of your favorite books as a child? Authors, illustrators, you name them. (And any current authors who inspire you as well!)

Oh my goodness. How many do I get to name?

Longtime Favorites:
From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
Holes by Louis Sachar
Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary
Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
Matilda by Roald Dahl.
And of course, Harry Potter!

More recent books that I’ve admired are
Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo
Cilla Lee-Jenkins: Future Author Extraordinaire by Susan Tan (coming out in 2017)

Right now I’m in the middle of reading Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girls Series, and I’m hooked!

In your own words, describe what “Gertie’s Leap to Greatness” is about.

Gertie Reece Foy is on a mission to be the best fifth grader in the universe. Her mother, who abandoned Gertie when she was a baby, is now leaving town for good, and Gertie will use this opportunity to prove that she doesn’t need a mother anyway. Gertie’s plan to be the best goes awry when the daughter of a famous Hollywood director moves to town. Both girls can’t be the best.

Please describe your creative writing process.

Hmmm. It involves a lot of pacing. And snacking. And rewriting. And green tea.

I rent a house from my parents, and I go there to write. So, I have a dedicated writing space. It’s in a pecan orchard, which is very nice when I’m staring out the window.

I go there every day, and I try to get it right. That’s the best way I can think to put it. It’s like I know there’s a story in my head, and I’ve got to get it exactly right. “It” being everything—the characters, the setting, the rhythm of the words. I throw away a whole lot. And I’m very slow. But I keep going.

Illustration by Jillian Tamaki

What was your favorite scene to write in GERTIE?

Gertie and her great-aunt Rae babysit a younger girl named Audrey. At one point in the story, Gertie says something to Audrey without really thinking. She says something quite cruel and hurtful actually. She regrets it, of course. Gertie’s not a mean girl! But I think sometimes good people mess up, and that’s really hard. It was my favorite scene to write because I mess up, too, and I think readers mess up, and I want them to see that it’s something that we have to accept and move past.

Illustration by Jillian Tamaki

Who was the inspiration for Gertie Reece Foy? / Do you hope children identify with her?

I didn’t have a specific person in mind when I was writing Gertie, but I definitely hope children will identify with her! The problems Gertie has are both big (her mother abandoning her) and small (struggling with jealousy and losing friends), but she feels all of her problems keenly. Every difficulty she encounters is large and personal to her. I think—I hope—that children will relate to Gertie’s struggles, because I know that all children have problems of their own, no matter how easy their lives may seem or how much adults might wish it were otherwise.

What was the inspiration for the opening line of the book: “The bullfrog was only half dead, which was perfect.”

The first sentence of the book was the very first line I wrote, and it hasn’t changed from the beginning! I was writing beside a pond, and a bullfrog jumped into the water. I wanted to write a sentence with a frog.

Illustration by Jillian Tamaki

What do you love about writing books for children?

Writing for children is a tremendous privilege. My readers are smart and sensitive and have a well-developed appreciation of humor. Child readers are the best and most important, and I have to work so hard to produce work that’s worthy of them!

What is next? Any future projects for us to look forward to?

I’m working on another standalone MG novel! Stay tuned!

Thank you for stopping by Twenty by Jenny, Kate! 

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