What is your middle-grade novel about?
The Tantalizing Tale of Grace Minnaugh (Fitzroy Books) is about an eleven-year-old girl who reluctantly moves from the Midwest to Southern California. One fateful morning, while taking a predawn swim, Grace is caught in a thunderstorm. Without the ocean skills to survive, she’s sucked below the surface, convinced she will drown. Instead, a new life begins. Gills rip open from behind her ears and her legs fuse together to form a fishtail. Grace Minnaugh is a mermaid, and a gorgeous one at that.
On land, Grace is still the same walking, talking social misfit she’s always been. But when fully submerged in the salty sea, she’s an underwater marvel. Not sure what to make of this fantastic conundrum, Grace decides not to tell a soul about her flip-floppy, double life. Keeping her secret, however proves a tad more difficult than she imagined, and therein lies the fun!
What were your book launch plans pre-Covid?
I’d planned to travel to San Diego to launch at the Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore, an amazing indie bookstore that specializes in Sci Fi and Fantasy books. Because my story takes place in a fictionalized town in that area (‘La Toya’, based on the real town of La Jolla) it was going to be extra fun to be in that area to celebrate my book baby. Alas, I was even going to wear my mermaid tail.
Where were you when you heard your book tour/ launch was cancelled?
Home, here in my house in Brooklyn where I’ve been holed up for what feels like centuries. I knew the bad news was coming, it was just a matter of time, so I wasn’t at all surprised when the store made the actual call to cancel.
Are you and your publisher doing anything special/ different to promote your novel?
Later in the month, folks can hear me on a pre-recorded podcast with Jedlie at Reading With Your Kids (https://readingwithyourkids.com/). And I will do a reading for my publisher’s Youtube series as well, hopefully up sometime in May. And at some point, I’ll be chatting with the marvelous Ben Tanzer on This Podcast Will Change Your Life.
Can you tell us bit about the path to writing and selling your book?
The original draft of my book began over fifteen years ago, when I knew absolutely nothing about fiction writing. There have been at least ten version of “Grace” over the years, but generally the story remained the same. I sent out the original story to publishers and agents (back then you sent things through regular post with SASE’s!) and got some early positive responses, but no bites. I did a few writing workshops after that, attended SCBWI conferences, which were somewhat helpful, but I think reading other middle grade novels helped me the most. I’d put the manuscript away but never gave up on it. And then I signed my deal with Fitzroy books for my YA novel Wavehouse. After having such a great experience working with Fitzroy, I sent them “Grace”, which to my delight, they decided to publish as well. The story was originally called “Grace Under Water”, then in subsequent drafts it was changed to “Saving Grace”, and then my editor at Fitzroy Books came up with the current title, which I absolutely adore.
On a lighter note, do you have any quirky writing rituals?
I’m most comfortable writing while facing a wall. No distractions. I can’t write when listening to music or having a pleasant view. So, it’s just me and my twisted and sometimes amusing thoughts, a few of which make it to the page.
What was the hardest cut you made from your book, your favorite Dead Darling?
A whole chapter took place in an aquarium. Grace communed with fish without really knowing what was happening to her. Instead, to make up for it, I had my book jacket designer use that chapter for her inspiration. Check out Grace’s expression as all the fish come swimming up to the glass to meet her. I adore my cover, maybe even more than I do the dead, darling chapter. So, a win-win?
Where can we buy your novel?
At Regal House: