I’ve always wanted to be one of those authors who gets to go on a book tour to celebrate a new release. But tours are rare, and I never actually thought it would be ME hitting the road to talk about a book I wrote. In three weeks, though, a publishing dream is coming true: I’m going on tour!! The first book in my new middle-grade series (THE QUIRKS) is launching on June 4, and my incredible publisher – Bloomsbury – is sending me all over California to meet with schools, libraries, and bookstores. I’ll also be doing a ton of stuff at schools around Minnesota – check www.erinsoderberg.com for all the details.
Here's the plan for public events:
June 4: 5 pm: Mrs. Nelson’s Toy and Book Shop (La Verne, CA)
June 5, 7 pm: Barnes & Noble (Huntington Beach, CA)
June 6, 4:30 pm: Yellow Book Road (San Diego, CA)
June 7, 7 pm: A Great Good Place for Books (Oakland, CA)
June 9, 2 pm: Red Balloon Bookshop (St. Paul, MN)
June 15, 11 am: Wild Rumpus Books for Young Readers (Minneapolis, MN)
Simon & Schuster/Aladdin M!X
Isabella Caravelli is beautiful, stubborn, and perfect...or so people say. But she's actually a lot less confident than people think, so the idea of spending a month at a lakeside resort with her parents and some of her dad's new coworkers and their families is really not in her comfort zone! But it's even worse when she discovers that two of the kids, Bailey and Ava, go to her school. Truth is, she hasn't always been...well...nice to them.
Izzy quickly discovers that the other kids aren't impressed by her, and she's going to have to change if she wants to fit in. She even begins to realize that Bailey and Ava are nice and could be great friends. Izzy knows that things are probably going to be different when they're back home. Can the three be forever friends? Or is Izzy stuck playing the mean girl forever?
Last week, I was tagged by my brilliant illustrator, Kelly Light, to take part in the Next Big Thing, a global blog tour about children’s books—so here I am, answering some questions about my next book: THE QUIRKS: Welcome to Normal (out June 4, 2013). I wrote this book as Erin Soderberg, since it's so different from my tween and teen books (for more info about my books for younger readers, including THE QUIRKS, head over here).
Where did the idea come from for the book?
I love writing about lovable and silly families…but in my teen and tween novels, I often write about dysfunctional families who don’t get along very well. So I wanted to write a book about a family that loves and supports one another, people who are there for each other no matter what. The Quirks (who were originally called the Martins!) hatched from there. Every one of the Quirks (except Molly) has a special, magical power—something that makes them very unique. These "Quirks" make it difficult for the family to fit in with the rest of the world, so they're extra close to and supportive of one another. (Fun fact: I actually created the book's characters and their personalities first, and came up with their "Quirks" second...so that their magic would match their personality!)
What genre does your book fall under?
The Quirks is a middle-grade chapter book—perfect for kids who love books like Junie B., Judy Moody, Stink, Ivy & Bean, and other fun early chapter books, but are ready for the next step. The Quirks books are a little longer and more complicated than early chapter books—but the themes are not difficult or scary (ideal for 8-10 year olds who aren’t yet ready for older middle-grade titles)!
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
The thing I most love about the Quirk family is their uniqueness—in the way they look, and the way they act. (Their differences are what make them so special!) I can’t think of any actors who would be perfect for nine-year-old twins Molly and Penelope, but their five-year-old brother, Finn, reminds me a lot of my own son (who also has crazy blond hair and chocolate-colored eyes). I sometimes picture Finn as a younger, chubbier-cheeked Macaulay Culkin from Home Alone.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
I’m stealing this one-liner from The Quirks’ illustrator, Kelly Light: The Quirks is a funny, heartwarming story about a family of outsiders who are trying to find a place to call home…with a touch of silly, quirky magic.
Who is publishing your book?
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the book?
The first book in the series took more than three years to finish, which is a long time considering the length of the finished book. I rewrote the second half of the book three times, and had about seven false starts on the story! I just finished the second book in the series, and the first draft of that one (The Quirks in Circus Quirkus) only took me about three months—of course, there was a lot of revision after that!
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
These books are ultimately about family, and about fitting in. The themes are classic middle-grade—figuring out what makes you special and unique, and finding a place where you fit in with your family and the world…but the themes are, of course, amped up because of the Quirks’ special powers.
There’s sweetness and friendship in the book that reminds me a tiny bit of Ivy and Bean by Annie Barrows. Some of the chapters are a bit episodic—and Finn gets in quite a lot of trouble!—like Ramona. And there’s a lot of reality and family drama, like in Judy Blume’s Fudge books. But I like to think the series is something new that will fill a need for second, third, and fourth graders who are looking for slightly longer stories with sweeter themes and a lot of humor (no death or scary stuff!).
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I’ve been writing young adult and tween novels for a while, but I really wanted to write something my own kids would enjoy. I wrote a story that I hoped they would adore—and they do! They’re my best brainstorming partners, and the perfect first readers for these books. It’s great to have my target audience sitting at the dinner table with me!
What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
The Quirk family has a pet monster—who is afraid of everything. He takes on a much larger role in the second book (due out in February 2014), since he’s just so cute.
Now I’ll tag a couple of my favorite authors (and friends) who have books coming out soon—check their blogs next week for their answers!:
Jennifer Echols: One of my favorite young adult romance authors, who also just released her first adult novel. She has two new books releasing in the next couple of months!
Stephen Shaskan: A picture book author and illustrator whose new book, The Three Triceratops Tuff, came out this week!
Suddenly, someone hollered and Johnny Rush came barreling through the crowd of guys. He stopped only long enough to yell, “Clear the decks!” and to check to make sure there was no one under the protruding rock. Then he unceremoniously lobbed himself off the edge minus frills and animal calls and without a puffed-up chest.
My stomach flipped nervously when I realized he was there. He seemed to be everywhere lately. Just when he was supposed to disappear forever, as my brother had done, Johnny was suddenly ever present. I held my breath as his body dropped and twisted before landing with a huge splash in the water below. I continued to hold it as I waited for him to pop back up to the surface, to prove that he had survived. I knew Johnny and Peter and a lot of the other guys in the sporty crowd did this all the time, but I couldn’t prevent myself from worrying. There was a reason I’d never jumped off Hanging Rock. The chance of death, specifically.
Johnny’s head popped up, and I could see his huge, silly grin in the middle of the swimming pond. He looked back up at the guys still standing along the edge and yelled, “Come on down. The water’s perfect.”
One by one, they all jumped as Johnny swam to shore and climbed out. He wrapped a towel around his waist and shook his head to dry his hair, like a dog might do—if a dog were like, I don’t know, a completely sexy, blue-eyed guy. He looked around with the confidence of someone who’d never worried about what anyone else was thinking about him—and eventually, his eyes settled on me. It seemed like his grin got wider when he looked my way. But maybe it was just the light.
I swallowed and tried to smile back. I’d never been totally comfortable around guys, and expected that a simple smile at Johnny would be just as daunting as a smile that was directed at any guy would. But instead, I found myself grinning easily and naturally, with no concern about what I might say to him or any worry about whether or not I’d be interesting enough to hold his attention. I hadn’t been that comfortable around a guy since, well…since my brother. Or Peter and the other boys who had lived in my neighborhood—but that was years ago, before boobs and other complications got in the way.
I didn’t know if my comfort was a good sign, or an absolutely terrible one.
Just as he began to make his way toward me, all confident swagger and wet torso, I realized I’d lost Ella altogether.
“Why does it seem like you’re everywhere lately?” I asked when Johnny was close enough to hear me. I smiled again and tried to keep my eyes off his lean body. His tan had only faded slightly, and droplets of water sat temptingly on skin that looked like it was probably warm, despite the chill of the swimming water. “Aren’t you ever at school?” I asked this teasingly, not expecting the answer I got.
“No, I’m not ever at school,” he said, and let his eyes dance across the rest of the crowd that had gathered at the beach. He smiled at me, but it didn’t reach his eyes. “I’m not going.”
“What happened to Madison?” I asked.
“Nothing happened,” he said. “I already told you—it wasn’t a valid choice.” He sat down on the rocks and toweled off his legs. I noticed that he didn’t wipe off his chest, and I was finding it increasingly more difficult not to stare.
“Wait…you’re saying that your parents told you Madison wasn’t good enough? So you decided to go nowhere instead?” I couldn’t keep the disbelief out of my voice. It seemed ridiculous. I mean, that’s taking rebellion to a whole new level. At least, for me it would be.
“I guess that’s sort of it, yeah.” He smiled at me. “So I’m one of those guys.”
“One of what guys?”
“One of the losers that sticks around here, waiting for people to come home from college to play with me over winter break and stuff.” He looked down and started to rearrange the rocks between his body and mine. “Admit it, that’s what you’re thinking.”
I stared at him. “Um, it’s not actually. But I am sort of wondering why you didn’t just say you weren’t going to college when we asked you about it last weekend,” I said, trying to think back to our conversation on pizza-and-camping night. “Are you intentionally misleading people?”
He looked at me, and I suddenly saw a little bit of the fear that I thought didn’t exist for people like Johnny Rush. “Yeah, I guess I sort of am.” He shrugged. “Not my good friends, but people like you.”
“People like me?” I wondered.
“Why broadcast my lack of ambition?” he asked, offering no further clarity. “I figure people will eventually realize I haven’t left. Until they do, I’m not going to announce that I’m one of the few sad sacks that didn’t go anywhere.”
“You couldn’t find anywhere else you wanted to go?” I asked, my voice ringing with disbelief. “It just seems so unlikely that your parents would rather you not go to college than go to Madison.”
He shrugged, and I could tell he was done talking about it. “Well, it is what it is. And it looks like I’m here for the long haul.” Johnny looked up at Hanging Rock, but no one was jumping. The sky had started to fade into the deep blue of twilight, and wisps of pink lined the edges of the clouds. “Aren’t you going to jump?” he asked. “I thought that was one of your big life goals. One of your dares, right?”
I’d completely forgotten that we’d talked about some of the dares the night of his party. But he hadn’t. Was that significant, or was he just good at making people feel special? I knew it was the latter. “Yeah, it is one of the things I want to do. Sometime.”
“Sometime?” He gave me a funny look. “There’s no better time than now.” Then he hopped up and reached for my hands. I let him take them, because I wanted to touch him, and he pulled me to my feet. I looked over at Ella, but she was too busy talking to Peter to notice me. Grace was off in her own little world, with Ian and no one else.
I’d always thought it was funny how the rest of the world seemed to drop away when guys entered the picture. It was like all clarity got washed away in a wave of lust or something.
Even though I knew he was an expert flirt, I felt special when Johnny lightly tugged at my left hand with his right and pulled me up the hill. I forgot what we were doing, and focused only on the way his fingers wrapped around mine—his index and middle finger were looped around my pinkie and ring finger. His hands were colder than I would have expected, and I wondered if maybe I’d been wrong about his chest. I almost reached out to touch the skin that wrapped around his shoulder blade and ran down his back to the top of his shorts. But instead of touching, I let my eyes go there—and then immediately regretted it.
My stomach knotted and my heart sped up, and that’s when reality hit. I dropped Johnny’s hand, wondering how I could have let myself get sucked into something so stupid. I wasn’t going to be his girlfriend, and I certainly wasn’t going to let him convince me to jump. “It’s almost dark,” I said, knowing how weak it sounded. “It’s cold.” I stopped walking up the trail, but he didn’t notice right away.
When he finally looked back, I was at least fifteen steps behind him. That distance was enough that I could hold onto my wits and say again, “I can’t jump in the dark.”
“It’s not dark,” he scoffed, then stepped back down the hill. He stopped right in front of me and put his hands on his hips. “You’re just making excuses.”
That was true. “No, I’m not,” I insisted. “I can’t do it today.”
“Then when?” he teased. “I’ll hold your hand. It won’t be scary, I promise.”
Holding your hand, or jumping? I wondered. Both sounded scary. “I don’t know…” I said, my resolve wavering.
“If you really don’t want to do it,” Johnny said, his hand outstretched, urging me up the hill. But his words were calming, absent of any pressure. “I’m not going to make you. It’s your call. Your life.”
There it was. My out. I could just turn around and tromp back down the hill. But then I thought about the list, which was still in my pocket, and how I’d made promises to myself to go for things. To try. To let myself take risks, even if it meant failing. “Okay,” I said finally, grinning. “I’ll try.”
Then I took Johnny’s hand, still outstretched for me, and climbed.
I will be releasing None of the Regular Rules on B&N, Kobo, iBooks, etc. on Monday, February 18, so if you don't have a Kindle, Monday's the day! Happy Valentine's Day, everyone.
I spent all day, every day, in California revising the second book in my middle-grade series (The Quirks). Some time away from my kids really did wonders. I'd been feeling stuck, but I'm finally unstuck! I wrote about silly monsters and circus acts all day long, while eating donuts and drinking chai. Usually, my midday routine involves feeding kids mac and cheese or dealing with someone who just puked in the living room. Somehow, some time away from my full-time mom duties makes my other life as a full-time novelist feel glamorous again. Look how relaxed Robin and I look, strolling through the Venice canals:
Los Angeles is both beautiful and weird. Check this out:
That kid was driving a motorized car right down the middle of the sidewalk! They really do drive everywhere in LA.
Now I'm back home and trying to finish up my revision by tomorrow. It's probably not going to happen, because it's my big kid's 7th birthday, but I will be done on Monday...and then, it's on to the next project - my next deadline isn't until September 1! True luxury. So maybe, just maybe, I can afford a short break. Woo hoo!
None of the Regular Rules is hitting the (virtual) road. Bloggers: please join the Book Review Tour that is happening February 25-March 2! I'm going to be offering a really cool prize as part of the tour, too...I'm not telling what it is yet, but I will say this: it's more than a few free books. It's something REALLY good.
Here's a picture of the moment of glory, just to prove it:
Thank you to everyone who's buying it and reading it and reviewing it and recommending it to others. This is such a fun month for me, and I could not be enjoying this book release more.
"The heat between [Sophie and Johnny] is so great that if it wasn't an e-book, I'd be expecting the pages to catch fire. Sophie is a wonderful main character but Johnny is seriously swoon-worthy, and gets more so every time he's on the page." - YA Yeah Yeah
"A refreshing contemporary YA that makes for a great light read with a lot of realness to it." - Love, Literature, Art, & Reason
"Johnny is simply crusherific! His quirky personality and escapades are different from the typical 'hot macho bad boy' lead males we get to love so often. You will fall in love with Johnny Rush, I promise." - SupaGurl Books
I mean, come on - do quotes get better than that?? Don't they make you want to read the book?
Because good reviews (and Christmas songs!) put me in a great mood, I'm going to give away a free copy of the book to the first ten people who get in touch with me on Twitter, Facebook, or here at my blog. If you've already bought and read this book, you can still get in touch with me on behalf of a friend and I'll send it to them as a gift from you! Tis the season for sharing.
Thanks for buying (and reviewing) my book! It means a lot to me.
NONE OF THE REGULAR RULES will be published as a Kindle Exclusive sometime in the next few weeks, and will roll out to all other e-book distributors sometime after the New Year. I decided to publish this book as an e-book, because the majority of my YA sales have been online in the last few years - I apologize to any of my readers who don't have e-readers (your phone works for e-books, too!). I don't want to exclude anyone, but I'm trying something different this time and hoping for the best!
If you are an e-book reviewer/blogger and would me to send you a review copy of the book, please be in touch via email (check my contact page for how to reach me!). I'd be happy to get you a copy.
Please join me on my Facebook page for more updates about this book, contests, and other updates!