Martin Stewart, aspiring novelist and full-time Scottish schoolteacher, had a literary agent and a manuscript that numerous editors agreed was superbly written, but probably not right for middle grade readers. It was about marionette puppets that had come alive and were trying to kill children. “Does he have anything else?” one editor asked.
If there’s such a thing as a straightforward path to becoming a writer, Audrey Coulthurst didn’t take it. “I actually never meant to be a writer,” she admits. While she wrote as a child, her focus in high school was on music and art, and when she entered college, she quit writing altogether. “I started telling myself this story that I wasn’t good enough,” she reflects. “I wish I hadn’t done that.”
M-E Girard has spent a lot of time thinking about gender stereotypes. She can still remember being a kid shopping with her family when she picked out a She-Ra: Princess of Power figure while her sister opted for a Hot Wheels car. “And I was like, ‘You can’t have that, those are for boys!’ ” she recalls.
Frank Herbert’s Dune came into Jessica Cluess’s life at a pivotal point. At 24, she’d just gotten out of college, and with a recession on, finding a job was easier said than done. She decided that an escape was just what she needed, and it came for her in the form of Dune. “I wasn’t a sci-fi or fantasy person at the time,” she says, “but I’d heard about it and got completely sucked in.”
The Reader (Putnam, Sept.) is both Traci Chee’s first published work and her first attempt at writing a novel. The initial installment in the Sea of Ink and Gold series, The Reader was inspired by “one magical moment walking into a special collections of a library,” Chee’s appreciation of “outlaws with hearts of gold” (think Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen’s The Magnificent Seven), and her interest in grief and loss.