Yesterday was too busy, so in the spirit of better late than never, this week's Friday interview comes on Saturday evening. Today I'm excited to welcome Gillian McDunn to the blog. Gillian is the author of Caterpillar Summer (see my review here) and has another novel releasing soon!
Author Interview: Gillian McDunn
For starters, thanks for talking to me. I’ll never forget your book because it was the first I ever reviewed for Kid Lit Exchange.
Thanks so much for reading CATERPILLAR SUMMER and for having me here today!
Your first novel released this year! Can you tell us a bit about your process of writing and publishing it?
Writing for kids has been my dream my entire life, but for a long time I felt afraid to pursue it. Instead I had lots of different writing jobs—technical writing, public relations, grant writing etc.
An idea started to grow about a girl, her younger brother, and a trip to coastal North Carolina. When I sat down to write, the draft came together quickly. I had no idea how much revision would be in my future! I ended up doing an r&r before signing with my agent. I did multiple rounds of revision with my editor. It was tough but exhilarating, and helped me grow a lot as a writer. I’m forever thankful for each bit of feedback that helped make CATERPILLAR SUMMER what it is today.
I’ve had a wonderful publishing experience and feel very fortunate to have support from lots of people—my agent, the entire team at Bloomsbury, and my friends in the writing community. I couldn’t ask for anything more!
Your (very adorable) characters are biracial. I point this out because I authored biracial kid characters myself. As you looked at the middle-grade shelves, did you notice a lack of representation?
Making Cat and Chicken biracial was a decision that felt right for their characters. I’m really happy to see an increase in representation of all kinds of kids and families, although I think we still need more. I love the diversity of the world I live in and love seeing it reflected in what I read.
The imagery of Caterpillar Summer—from San Francisco to North Carolina—is beautiful. You’ve lived in both places. What is your advice for capturing the essence of familiar areas?
My advice is to write about places you love and/or are very interested in. When a writer appreciates a place, I think that tends to come through and makes it more fun and immersive for the reader.
Any fun facts about Caterpillar Summer you haven’t been able to share?
The island in the book—Gingerbread Island—is based on a real place in North Carolina called Topsail Island. Kids always want to visit the ice cream shop and mini golf course from the book and are sometimes disappointed to learn they are both imaginary. But the real island does have sea glass, shark teeth, and even a real sea turtle hospital ... there’s plenty to explore!
You have another book releasing next year! Congratulations, and can you tell us anything about it?
Thank you! I’m very excited about this story because I think a lot of kids will relate to it!
THE QUEEN BEE AND ME is about a girl named Meg who is in that tricky situation of having a best friend who’s sometimes nice—and sometimes not so nice! When Meg has a chance to take a science elective (her favorite subject!) she connects with quirky new kid Hazel. But when Meg’s best friend starts to target Hazel, Meg has to decide what kind of person (and friend) she wants to be.
It’s a book about science, beekeeping, and the sweetness and stings of middle school friendship. It will be out March 3, 2020.
Finally, any advice for new writers?
Besides the all-important advice to keep writing, I encourage writers to make friends with other writers. My life has been enriched by friendships from my local writing community, my debut group, and authors I’ve met through my publisher. I feel so lucky to have them in my life!