Kristin L. Gray and fellow author Victoria J. Coe recently talked about Coe’s middle-grade novel debut, which was just published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.
ABOUT THE NOVEL
Fenway is an excitable and endlessly energetic Jack Russell terrier. He lives in the city with Food Lady, Fetch Man, and—of course—his beloved short human and best-friend-in-the-world, Hattie. But when his family moves to the suburbs, Fenway faces a world of changes. He’s pretty pleased with the huge Dog Park behind his new home, but he’s not so happy about the Evil Squirrels that taunt him from the trees, the super-slippery Wicked Floor in the Eating Room, and the changes that have come over Hattie lately. Rather than playing with Fenway, she seems more interested in her new short human friend, Angel, and learning to play baseball. His friends in the Dog Park next door say Hattie is outgrowing him, but that can’t be right. And he’s going to prove it!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Victoria J. Coe, a member of the Sweet Sixteener debut-author group, grew up a huge fan of books, dogs, and the Boston Red Sox. She went on to major in math, graduate from business school, and work at various non-profits trying to save the world – a goal that has eluded her (so far). True to her first loves, she now also writes stories for children in the voice of a dog named Fenway. She lives with her family in a one hundred year old schoolhouse just outside of Boston.
A CHAT WITH THE AUTHOR
How did you come up with the idea for your novel (i.e. using the delightful perspective of a Jack Russell)?
When my family was in the throes of a big move, our dog really freaked out. He was terrified that we were going to leave him behind. This was the initial inspiration for the character of Fenway, as well as the premise of the story. From that first moment of inspiration, Fenway was a Jack Russell (my dog is NOT a Jack Russell). Only later did I realize that I am the Jack Russell! Without realizing it, I was processing my own feelings about the move by living through my character as I wrote the first draft.
Aw! Well moving is stressful . . . How did you find your agent/editor?
I found my agent Marietta Zacker by querying her through a form on her web site. She really connected with the voice and totally got it.
I can’t imagine anyone not connecting with Fenway! What was your revision process like for this book?
Believe it or not, I completely revised and resubmitted the manuscript to Marietta TWICE over a period of 11 months before I finally nailed it. She encouraged me to dig out Hattie’s story – that it wasn’t just Fenway’s story – and of course she was so, so right.
Wow! Way to persist. Imagine your perfect reader. How would you describe that person?
Great question! My perfect reader is someone who loves to laugh.
What object(s) must you have to write?
Besides my laptop, I must have a pen and notebook with lots of notes for reference – even if I hardly ever follow them.
Oddest job you ever had?
Coat check at a jazz club in midtown Manhattan.
Name a favorite childhood book.
The World of Pooh by AA Milne.
Coffee, tea, or both?
Both, though I literally cannot start the day without coffee.
Favorite flavor of ice cream?
Do you have any pets?
YES! A very insecure dog named Kipper. My followers on twitter and instagram (@victoriajcoe) get to see him every single day!
ABOUT THE INTERVIEWER
Kristin L. Gray drinks coffee (cream, no sugar) and writes books (funny, not sad) from her home in northwest Arkansas. She loves to read, walk her dogs, and eat cake for breakfast. She will also travel any chance she gets. Kristin’s fourth-grade self would never believe she has five children, two dogs, one fish, a bearded dragon, and a shy gecko.
Kristin’s first novel, VILONIA BEEBE TAKES CHARGE, is a contemporary MG novel about fourth-grader Vilonia Beebe. Vilonia’s mama has come down with the Infinite Sadness, and Vilonia knows just how to cheer her up: a dog. But Daddy says no pets until Vilonia learns some responsibility. So Vilonia collects responsibility like night collects stars, never imagining her biggest job, keeping her librarian’s goldfish alive over spring break, could be her trickiest. To learn more about Kristin, or to send her a cake, visit her online at www.kristinlgray.com. VILONIA BEEBE TAKES CHARGE will published by S&S/Paula Wiseman Books in Spring 2017.