Kate Beasley here, and I’m the author of Gertie’s Leap to Greatness, just released this month! Gertie’s on a mission to become the best fifth grader in the world to prove to her estranged mother that she doesn’t need her one bit.
And I’m going to call and wake up my sister, Cassie Beasley, to interview her. Cassie is the author of the middle grade fantasy Circus Mirandus (a New York Times bestseller!!! GO, CASSIE). She’s also the author of the forthcoming Tumble and Blue (Dial, 2017), and she is not a morning person.
Kate Beasley: Hello, Cassie. Okay, are you ready to talk about Gertie’s Leap to Greatness and writing and sisterly bonding and things like that?
Cassie Beasley: Well we have to talk about Gertie first, obviously! She is finally in bookstores, next to Circus Mirandus!
KB: Oh my gosh, I know. It’s exciting. I started writing Gertie in 2011, so I’ve lived with her a long time. I guess we’ve lived with her a long time because you had to hear about all the Gertie struggles and read all the drafts.
I’m so happy for the book to be officially out and in the world because I want readers to meet my characters. And because I want to feel finished. You know?
CB: I do! As for reading your drafts, it’s something I always enjoy. We’re both big fans of revision, and it was fascinating to see how Gertie’s story developed during rewrites. And I’m glad you’re my first reader too. Having a sister who is also a middle grade writer is the best.
KB: So, the book I’m working on now. Book 2. It’s been a challenge for me, as you know! But then I got an idea for a story that made me think, “Oh, Cassie would love this.” And I started writing it with you in mind. It gives me so much more focus when I sit down to write. It’s Stephen King’s idea of an Ideal Reader.
And then you can critique it when I’m done, which is the best!
CB: YES!!! I love your new story. I love it, love it, love it. You owe me a new chapter today, in fact.
KB: Oh, thank you! I love your Book 2 as well. You’re a lot farther along than I am. You’re working on a final revision right now, yes? Or close to final.
CB: Yep, yep! And I’m over the scary doubts you run into in the middle of a project. I’m in that wonderful place where I know the story, and I know it will be a lovely story, and now I’m just trying to get it there.
KB: Yay! That’s a great feeling. And completely earned. You worked HARD getting to the heart of this story, and I’ve been impressed watching the narrative develop and become clearer over the various drafts.
CB: I know you know what it’s about, but for everyone else – I’m writing a new middle grade novel. It’s set in the Okefenokee Swamp, and it involves two brave kids, a madcap family, curses, and a mysterious alligator. And it’s called Tumble and Blue, and I adore it.
KB: It’s fantastic and voice-y, and I ache for Tumble and Blue and their struggles.
CB: Thank you!! I’m so excited about it.
I think Book 2 may be the hardest. It’s the first time you’re writing with that odd feeling that everyone is watching you and waiting on you. It’s so different than writing your first book. Do you have that feeling too?
KB: Yes, Book 2 is hard! There are different pressures. But even when I was writing Gertie there were so many times when it felt completely impossible, and I was sure it was never going to be finished.
I find a weird comfort in remembering just how difficult it was to write Gertie, because I got through that. So when the writing feels impossible now, I’m not quite as worried, because I know it’s normal.
It also helps that I can complain to you when the writing gets tough! We don’t let the other one give up.
CB: We do help each other! Having a sister as a critique partner has some pretty great benefits. You’re never afraid to tell me when my writing isn’t good enough, and you’re also there to act as a cheerleader when I need you to. And, of course, there’s the fact that I have 24/7 access to you.
KB: Lately I’ve been asking you a million questions about school visits. You just got back from a (very successful!) school visit tour, and I am in the midst of a two-week tour.
CB: Yes. The tour for the Circus Mirandus paperback was fantastic. I got to meet so many kids! And some of the best people in the world are hiding in school libraries and bookshops. I’m convinced of this.
KB: I was so excited to hear that I would get to go on a school visit tour, too! I love to meet readers and kids, but I was also nervous, because when you’re writing a book you aren’t planning on ever standing in front of a group of people talking about it. At least I never thought about that while I was writing.
CB: I know! I think we both thought it would be pajamas all the time.
KB: I know! Pajamas, all day every day!
It’s so gratifying that you get asked to speak to a group of students, but at the same time the thought running through my head is, “What on Earth do I have to say to anyone?”
But I’m really enjoying it so far!
CB: I think the big thing to remember is that your audience really is interested in what you have to say. It’s a weird feeling to be asked to talk about yourself, but as long as you’re sharing the interesting parts, the parts people can apply to their own writing or reading lives, I think it always goes well.
I think Q&A is my favorite part of school visits. Kids are always bursting with questions.
KB: As an audience member, Q&A is my favorite part, too.
CB: One of the questions I actually get a lot is whether you and I have similar writing styles. And I’m never sure how to answer! I mean... I do write fantasy, and Gertie is set in the real world.
KB: Well... we both write MG novels. But, I tend to go slightly deeper into character. You favor more lyrical writing. Not that you don’t do character, and not that I don’t ever write pretty sentences.
CB: I like that you just called me lyrical. It makes me feel very fancy.
KB: So fancy! And, yes, of course, Gertie is realistic; Circus is fantasy. I think we could both cross into different genres, though.
CB: Your characters are THE BEST. I’m in awe of how well you capture them on the page. They feel like people I’ve known forever, and I know that’s something you’re naturally good at. It’s something I tend to improve on in revisions instead.
KB: Oh, thank you! Yes, with Tumble and Blue, I watched the characters get deeper with each draft. So I think we both get there, but in different ways. I have to know the characters from the first draft.
CB: Yes, I’m not sure how much readers will notice a difference. I think we do a good job of shoring each other up during revisions. Your fingerprints are all over my work, and vice versa.
KB: Thank you so much for chatting with me!
CB: You are so very welcome! Remember, you owe me a chapter.
KB: Okay!!! I’ll squeeze in some writing time today! Promise!
CB: And I’ll be revising. I think we’re finally getting the hang of this.