Last month, we met author Tricia Springstubb and talked to her about her writing process and her book What Happened on Fox Street (Balzer & Bray, 2010). Click on Part I to view our interview here if you happened to miss it. Today, she joins us for part II of our interview. Welcome back, Tricia!!
Congratulations on the upcoming release of Mo Wren Lost and Found (Balzer & Bray, Aug 23, 2011)! What can readers expect from Mo Wren in this adventure?
So many readers asked me what happened after Fox Street, and this is that story. You can expect to see all the Wrens, including Mr. Wren, change, and for a new member to join the family!
What are the challenges in writing a sequel?
The challenges were much bigger than I expected. For one, I wanted to make the second book a stand-alone, but not disappoint readers who knew all the characters from FOX STREET. As always when writing for children, I didn't want too much backstory, but I also needed to convey all that Mo was giving up by leaving her home. It was a real balancing act--and that's not even mentioning the surprises my characters threw at me along the way!
Like in the first book, you’ve created a strong sense of place in LOST AND FOUND with “Wren House” and “Soap Opera.” What were the inspirations behind these places? Did they come from your past? Were they fictional? Did you do any research?
Thank you, thank you! Sense of place is very important to me. It was harder to evoke in LOST AND FOUND, since Mo's new world is so much wider than back on Fox Street. I was thinking of a neighborhood on Cleveland's east side when I wrote, but all the places are fictional. My husband and I rented for many years before we bought our house, so I've spent plenty of time in laundromats. And Cleveland has lots of cozy, neighborhood holes-in-the-wall where people nurse a beer and commiserate over how badly the Indians or Brown are playing.
One of the things I admire about Mo Wren is her independence? Were you independent as a child? What was your childhood like and did that inform this character?
I was never as independent as Mo. She's based more on kids I knew when I worked in a public library children's room, kids with responsibilities beyond their years--babysitting siblings, making meals, keeping a lot of things together. That said, I did grow up back in the day, when children were supervised far less than now. Summer mornings we'd "go out to play" and not come in again till supper. My fiction is really all about what kids are capable of, how brave and resilient they often have to be, like it or not.
I was laughing out loud in various scenes especially the driving scene with Mo’s father. Does writing humor come naturally to you? Do you have any suggestions for how writers can interject more humor into their stories?
I come from a big Irish family that highly values a sense of humor. Shakespeare said it was sleep that knits up the raveled sleeve of care, but for us it has always been laughter. So thank you again--making other people laugh is one of my life's greatest pleasures! I'm not sure it's something that can be taught, but being careful never to take yourself or your characters too seriously is a good start. Life is full of absurdity--be on the look-out for it.
There were moments in the story when Mo second-guessed her decision or action and felt responsible for the outcome. Were these scenes hard to write? Has this ever happened to you before?
Mo is a thinker, and has always had an active conscience. She feels responsible for her father and for Dottie and now for Carmella, the laundromat lady. But in this second book she also feels the tug to lead her own life. She begins to feel some resentment over how many things seem to be her fault, and how unfair that is. Writing some of those scenes surprised me--I realized Mo was growing up. She even hates her hair now!
Did you know the ending when you started writing LOST AND FOUND? Or were you surprised in the journey of writing it?
I always knew Mo was going to find a home by the end of the book. How that home was defined changed a number of times. At first, the Wrens lost the Wren House due to poor Mr. Wren's incompetence! In another version, Mr. Wren found a girlfriend. Again, poor Mr. Wren--my editor Donna Bray thought the family should find its way without someone from the outside solving their problems, and she was right. (But readers will guess who that girlfriend was supposed to be--and I still believe she and Mr. Wren get together after the book ends!)
Do you ever get stuck in the writing process? If so, what do you do to push forward? Do you advance to a different scene? Eat 4lbs of chocolate? Drive around aimlessly at 2am?
Stuck? I get mired! It happens with every book, and every time I'm sure it has never been this bad before. I have a few techniques that help. I give myself permission to write really terrible, this-will-never-see-the-light-of-day first drafts. Because plot is so hard for me, I work till I have at least an armature I can twist and bend. Then I revise and revise and revise. When I get stuck in a section, it can help to go back a couple of chapters and re-read--often the clue I need is hiding there in plain sight. And then there are the eternal questions: what does my character want? What is standing in her way? What am I trying to do in this scene and does it advance the plot? When I'm really at a loss--when I just keep making characters walk in and out of rooms for no discernible reason--it's time for a clear-the-head walk, always with a notepad in my pocket.
When I create my characters, they usually have several foods they love and hate? Can you list a couple of things Mo loves to eat? Can’t stand? What about Tricia Sprinstubb?
Mo loves everything her dad cooks, with the notable exception of meatloaf. I hated meatloaf as a child and still do! I have to say I'm an obnoxiously healthy eater who loves all vegetables except lima beans. I really don't know who decided lima beans are edible.
What can eager fans look forward to next?
I'm working on a new middle grade novel for HarperCollins, a sort of mystery set on an island in Lake Erie. I've also just finished the first book in a series for younger readers. It's about a very, very helpful girl named Cody and her big brother Wyatt, whose special talent is the Houdini headlock. Candlewick will publish it, along with my new picture book PHOEBE AND DIGGER.
Thanks so much for the Texas hospitality here, Carmen! Readers can visit or contact me at www.triciaspringstubb.com
Thanks, Tricia!! We look forward to reading your upcoming new titles!