Q&A with Jane Smith

Chloe Zoe is a sweet young elephant who loves celebrating the holidays and trying new things! Along with her friends Mary Margaret the crocodile and George the giraffe, Chloe Zoe learns important lessons about getting along with friends, enjoying new experiences, and most of all, having fun! Join Chloe Zoe on two new adventures this season, It’s Halloween, Chloe Zoe! and It’s Thanksgiving, Chloe Zoe!

9780807512104_Halloween ChloeZoe_border.jpg

9780807512128_It's Thanksgiving Chloe Zoe_border.jpg

We were lucky enough to sit down with author-illustrator Jane Smith to chat about inspiration, holiday celebrations, and the Chloe Zoe series.

Q: What was your inspiration for your title?

A: It’s Halloween, Chloe Zoe! is inspired by the classic childhood experience of being “scared of the creepy house down the street.” I know I certainly had a house like that on my block growing up! I was too creeped out to knock on the door during Girl Scout cookie selling season, let alone in the dark on Halloween night!! Chloe Zoe is braver than I was! (But, of course, it always helps to have awesome friends like Mary Margaret and George!!)

It’s Thanksgiving, Chloe Zoe! is inspired by a favorite family Thanksgiving memory. When my nephew was very small—about 2-3 years old—he really, really, really wanted to decorate the holiday pumpkin pie with rainbow sprinkles. And so, my sister let him go for it! The pie looked super gross, covered in melty sprinkles, and tasted kinda funny, too, but it was super awesome nonetheless. Just as Chloe Zoe and Grammy Ella discover, it’s all about just being together, making funny, happy memories.


Q: What makes your books stand out?

A: The whole Chloe Zoe picture book series, including the two newest titles, It’s Halloween, Chloe Zoe! and It’s Thanksgiving, Chloe Zoe!, stand out because they speak directly to kids’ very real experiences in the world and honors their emotional reactions to those experiences. This is so meaningful to young kids as they grow and begin making sense of their world and their place in it.

Q: What comes first—text or art?

A: For me, it depends—sometimes a manuscript comes first and sometimes an illustration of a character does and sometimes they kind of just happen together.

In the case of Chloe Zoe, she and her friends began as collage spot art paired with a very short story about the first day of preschool, originally designed as a novelty board book! The creative team at Albert Whitman saw this and was inspired to envision a whole picture book series—Chloe Zoe!


Q: What’s the easiest and hardest part of creating a book?

A: For me, the easiest part of creating a book is coming up with ideas and characters. Those always come out of playing with art materials and enjoying everyday life. (I’m pretty much inspired by everything from a walk at the beach to hanging out with my kiddo to eating out at a fabulous restaurant to traveling to new places to everything else in-between).

The hardest part, for me, is the sketch stage. This is when the manuscript is really solid and it’s time to make the plan for the whole visual experience of the book. It requires a lot of thinking and paying close attention to details, working to really enhance the narrative that is in the text and being diligent about consistency. And often it also includes a lot of erasing and stopping and starting all over again!!

But it’s all worth it, because when the sketches are fully thought out and are as solid as the text, it makes creating the final art so much more fun! The pressure is off because there is a plan that you can trust!


Q: What was the process of working with your editor like?

A: It has been a dream! Over the course of creating the Chloe Zoe series, which currently includes six titles, I have had the pleasure of working with two different, but equally fabulous, editors and the superstar art director, Jordan Kost. All of them have given me a lot of freedom to bring my vision of Chloe Zoe and her world to life, all the while providing support and direction along the way.

With each title, my editor gave me a holiday or a big moment, like the first day of kindergarten, from which to begin. I would draft a manuscript with loose, rough thumbnails and we’d noodle it from there. Sometimes, a book came together quickly, while others required a lot of back and forth. Through the process, the manuscript would get tighter and more concise, while the art would become realized first through sketches and then through final art. It was amazing to see how each title finally came together as one complete, exciting package!


Q: What books did you like to read as a kid? What type of books do you like to read now?

A: I loved reading as a kid! My favorite book when I was little was Watch Out for Chicken Feet in Your Soup by Tomie de Paolo, and my second favorite book was the Russian folktale, Baba Yaga. I was lucky enough to have a librarian for a mom, so our house was always filled with books, books, books!

These days I love scary, creepy books and read a lot of mysteries, thrillers and horror stories! And I am also obsessed with magazines—National Geographic, Yoga Journal, Vegetarian Times, and more!


Thanks so much Jane! Find out more about the whole Chloe Zoe series—and download fun activities to go along with each book—over at our website. Join Chloe Zoe for fun adventures this Halloween and Thanksgiving!

Q&A with Jane Smith

Q&A with Ronald Kidd

Ronald Kidd has written several books for Albert Whitman, but it’s his latest novel, Room of Shadows, that is perfect for Halloween. Here’s a brief synopsis: Ever since his dad left, David Cray has had anger issues. So after he beats up school bully Jake Bragg, his mom grounds him in their creepy new house. Bored, David discovers a secret room with an old-fashioned desk, a chest, and a carving of a raven. Suddenly he’s having strange dreams about the room and the house, and violence seems to follow him wherever he goes. Who is the Raven who is taking responsibility for these violent pranks? And why do the pranks resemble Poe’s stories?

9780807568057_Room of Shadows

We were lucky enough to chat with Ronald about Edgar Allan Poe, writing children’s books, and Room of Shadows.

Q. What inspired you to write about Edgar Allan Poe?

A. Poe was amazing! He invented three genres: mysteries 50 years before Arthur Conan Doyle, science fiction 50 years before Jules Verne, and horror 100 years before H.P. Lovecraft. He lived so long ago that when he was born, Thomas Jefferson was president.

But what fascinated me the most about Poe was his death, which itself was a mystery. Found in a Baltimore tavern, sick and incoherent, Poe was taken to a hospital, where he died muttering the word “Reynolds.” That’s all we know. It was a sad, squalid death. I decided to resurrect Poe, take him to modern-day Baltimore, and give him the glorious death he deserved. The result was Room of Shadows.

Q. How does Poe come back to life?

A. Ah, but you see, he never died. Using a method he discovered when researching his horror stories, Poe suspended himself between life and death, where he ended up trapped for 150 years. Then one day, in a rickety house with a secret room, his spirit is summoned by the anger of a young man named David Cray. Just a quick preview: When Poe returns, David isn’t the only one who’s angry.

Q. You write in so many different genres. How do you decide which one to work in next?

A. I love reading about music, history, sports, all kinds of things. Typically I’ll stumble across something in a book, and it will send me spinning off into a story. So I guess you could say that I don’t pick the genre; it picks me. With Poe, I had thought I would write a historical novel and was surprised to find I was writing a horror story.

Q. Why write children’s books?

A. I once read that we’re shaped by what happens when we’re thirteen—no longer children but not yet adults, in that awkward and exciting time when we become ourselves. It was that way for me, and it’s that way for my characters. We meet them at a turning point, faced with a decision or a crisis that crowds in on them, grabs their attention, and forces them to act. It’s that way for Billie with the Freedom Riders in Night on Fire, Callie and Jeremy and their rigid dystopian world in Dreambender, Frances and the Scopes Trial in Monkey Town. I guess in some way, deep down inside where writers live and work, I’ll always be thirteen.

Q. Are you working on any other projects?

A. Funny you should ask. I’m just finishing up Lord of the Mountain, in which Nate Owens (yes, he’s thirteen) witnesses the birth of country music in 1927 in his hometown of Bristol, Tennessee. Nate’s father is a sad, wild-eyed preacher, and his mother hides a secret melody that drives Nate into the mountains, where he catches up with the Carter Family and uncovers his own family’s musical heritage.

Q. Writing is such a solitary activity. Do you really enjoy it?

A. The answer is an enthusiastic yes, for two reasons. (1) I’m not alone! I’m surrounded by my characters, and through them I experience colorful people and places. (2) When I write, I take my readers with me—the kids, parents, teachers, and wonderful librarians who enjoy my work and keep it alive. I love staying in touch with them through my books, website, Facebook page, and email newsletter.

Thanks so much, Ronald! To find out more about Room of Shadows and Ronald’s other novels, check out our website.

Q&A with Ronald Kidd

Q&A with Catherine Holt

Join Midnight Reynolds on her first adventure in Midnight Reynolds and the Spectral Transformer by Catherine Holt. When twelve year-old misfit Midnight Reynolds takes a job helping out eccentric Miss Appleby in the mansion down the street, she never imagined her work would involve battling ghosts. But as it turns out, Midnight and her new employer have quite a bit in common—they were both born on Halloween and have the power to see spirits of the dead. But when Midnight learns more about the history of her town, she starts to wonder if she’s fighting on the right side.

9780807551257_Midnight Reynolds Book1.jpg

We were lucky enough to sit down with Catherine Holt to chat about writing habits, ghosts, and the Midnight Reynolds series.

Q. What was your inspiration for your title?

A. I was toying around with a book idea when the name, Midnight Reynolds, popped into my head. I was immediately intrigued and started to try and figure out a plot worthy of such a cool name! That took some time, and during this process the book was called Midnight Reynolds and the Lost Librarium, Midnight Reynolds and the Emerald Tablet, and Midnight Reynolds and the Book of Life. However, it wasn’t until I finally decided to make Midnight a ghost hunter that I finally figured out the title (with the help of my agent!).

Q. Do you have a regular routine while creating a book?

A. No, my writing habits are very erratic. One week I can burn through the words like a crazy person and the next week I’ll be lucky if I can write a paragraph. Of course my love of watching Netflix can sometimes get in the way as well! In fact, I’m probably the reason that writing deadlines were invented, because if left to my own devices, not much would get done!

Q. What’s the easiest and hardest part of creating a book?

A. For me the easiest part is actually getting the idea and writing the blurb and the outline—probably because it doesn’t take long! As for the hardest part, it’s taking that outline and turning into a story that makes sense. I find about halfway through I end up in a real tangle of ideas and plot threads and then I have to spend far too long getting myself back on track.

Q. Why write children’s books?

A. The short answer is that I don’t think I’ve ever really grown up! I’ve always read YA and MG books (and watched the movies and TV shows) so writing for kids was a natural progression. And because I don’t do things by halves I’m also a children’s librarian, which really is as cool as it sounds! I think I love the genre so much because anything goes and because no one blinks if you bring in a zombie or two!

Q. Do you have any writing quirks?

A. I don’t have my own office—kids are so annoying how they want their own bedrooms. As a result I tend to do most of my writing wherever I can find a sunbeam (I think I was a cat in my previous life). In winter, that’s in the bedroom and in summer it’s somewhere in the garden. Oh, and there must be coffee, because who in their right mind would write a book without caffeine?

Q. Are you working on any other projects?

A. I’ve just finished the second Midnight book and am about to start book three, plus I also write romance and YA under another name and I’ve got a few books in the works there.

Q. What books did you like to read as a kid? What type of books do you like to read now?

A. When I was a kid I read everything I could get my hands on. My father was a huge Tolkien fan so I’d read The Hobbit by the time I was ten, along with many of his old favorites like Swallow and Amazons and William. I was also a huge Trixie Belden fan, along with Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys, and Three Investigators. Oh, and my all time favorite children’s book is the first three Earthsea books by Ursula Le Guin.

Q. Do you believe in ghosts?

A. Actually I do! I’ve always been fascinated by the supernatural and anything ghost related, and while I’m not sure that spirits look like what we see in the movies, I absolutely believe they exist. My husband grew up in a house that had a ghost and some of the stories he and my mother-in-law have told me were more than a little scary. Then again, I’m the wimpiest person in the world, so I am very easily scared!

Q. How do you like to celebrate Halloween?

A. Confession. I grew up in Australia and now live in New Zealand and traditionally Halloween isn’t such a big deal over here. When I was a kid no one did anything remotely related to Halloween, though over the last ten years, more and more people have embraced it. However, because it’s our spring time, and it doesn’t get dark until seven o’clock, some of the spookiness is lost in the blue skies and bright sunshine!


Thanks so much, Catherine. To join Midnight on her ghost-hunting adventures, check out our website.

Q&A with Catherine Holt

Q&A with Caroline Starr Rose

According to legend, Will Cody (later known as America’s greatest showman, Buffalo Bill) rode for the Pony Express at the age of fourteen. His most famous ride, recounted in the lyrical verse of Ride On, Will Cody! by Caroline Starr Rose and illustrated by Joe Lillington, covered 322 miles, required 21 horses, and took over 21 hours to complete.


We were lucky enough to sit down with Caroline Starr Rose to talk about writing for children, historical fiction, and Ride On, Will Cody!

Q. What’s the easiest and hardest part of creating a book?

A. Drafting, the “something from nothing” phase, is always hardest for me. Setting limitations on my writing—rhythm, rhyme, and repetition in the case of Ride On, Will Cody!—actually helps me find my way into the work. Somehow knowing the structure and specific words to tell my story are out there for me to discover makes drafting less daunting. The writing becomes a puzzle with a solution I trust I can find, if only I jump in and explore.

Q. Why write children’s books?

A. So many reasons. First, children’s books are the ones that made me into a reader, the ones that often stir the most passionate bookish memories in readers of any age. I want to be a part of that. I also want my work to honor young people. It’s not often kids are told their experiences and emotions count. Children’s books validate. They allow readers to feel heard.

Sometimes well read and well-meaning grown ups ask if I’ll write for adults someday, as if writing for kids were somehow practice for more important work to come. Children’s books aren’t a means to an end. Kids don’t deserve second best. I want the best I have to offer to be for young readers. I can think of no higher privilege.


Q. What makes your book stand out?

A. There are a handful wonderful picture books about the Pony Express: They’re Off!: The Story of the Pony Express, Whatever Happened to the Pony Express, and Off Like the Wind: The First Ride of the Pony Express come to mind. I wanted to write a book that went beyond the history and created an experience, that thrust the reader right into the ride alongside Will Cody. I hope readers feel energy, surprise, fatigue, and courage in the rhythm and movement of the words and art as they turn each page.

Q. Do you have any writing quirks?

A. Well, I always start picture books in a journal. Pencil only, please!

9780807570685_INT2Q. What interests you about historical fiction?

A. Historical fiction allows readers to see people of the past as fully human. Flawed and wonderful. Short-sighted and brave. Their experiences might have been different than ours, but their emotions and motivations are things we recognize in our own lives.

Historical fiction was my true entry point into understanding the past. It went deeper and wider than a handful of paragraphs in a textbook and made history come alive for me. I hope my writing might do the same!


Thanks so much, Caroline. To find out more about Ride On, Will Cody! check out our website.

Q&A with Caroline Starr Rose

Q&A with Cheryl Lawton Malone

As calves, Asian elephants Precious and Baba roam the wild together, curious and proud. But when they get captured and are split up, their time together seems like a distant memory. Still, separated by many miles and over many years, their friendship remains, and there’s hope they will once again roam wide open spaces together. Elephants Walk Together by Cheryl Lawton Malone and illustrated by Bistra Masseva (the team that created Dario and the Whale) share this sweet friendship inspired by a true story.


Elephants Walk Together_CVR

We were lucky to sit down and chat with Cheryl about finding inspiration, handling sensitive information, and Elephants Walk Together.

Q. What was your inspiration for your title?

A. The story of Precious and Baba is inspired by the amazing lives of two wild Asian elephants. I first heard about Wanda and Gypsy in an HBO documentary narrated by Lily Tomlin titled An Apology to Elephants. The fact that these lovely ladies were able to spend their last years in a safe environment, free and walking together, is what inspired the title.

Q. Do you have a regular routine while creating a book?

A. To tell a heartfelt story with a beginning, middle and end, populate that story with lovable, unforgettable characters, and entertain a four to eight year old audience plus parents in less than 500 words is a challenge to say the least. Sometimes my stories take years to develop. Typically, I experience an event. In Dario and the Whale, it was seeing the whale myself. In Elephants Walk Together, the HBO documentary opened my eyes to the plight of elephants in captivity. I know I’ve stumbled upon a good story idea when I can’t stop thinking about the event. I think about it at the grocery store. I think about it at night. I think about it until the door to the either the characters or the structure opens. For example, the HBO documentary depicted all kinds of elephants. It wasn’t until I narrowed my focus to Wanda and Gypsy that I knew I’d found my way in. The challenge then is to research the topic well enough so I can write with confidence. If the words don’t come, I know I have to go back and read more. In addition to actual research material, I always work with mentor texts. Once I start the actual writing process, I give myself permission to try multiple POV, multiple main characters, multiple voices until I think I find the tone and combination that works best. Then I show the manuscript to my writing group and start again!


Q. What inspired you to write these specific elephants in captivity?

A. The story of Precious and Baba is inspired by the amazing lives of two wild Asian elephants. Like the majority of elephants in captivity today, Wanda and Gypsy were captured in the wild and sold to a circus. Their story becomes extraordinary when, after decades of separation, they reconnected at the Performing Animal Welfare Society’s (PAWS) elephant refuge in San Andreas, California. The amazing people who run PAWS pieced together the historical facts about the real elephants and published the information on their website. My agent, Clelia Gore, believed the plight of captive elephants could be brought to children in a heartfelt and appropriate way. I couldn’t have agreed more.

Q. How did you tackle such sensitive material?

 A. The HBO documentary highlights the poor treatment and difficult living conditions of captive elephants in North America so intensely that I spent months sifting through different story options before I found a friendship angle that I thought would be appropriate for children. I fictionalized the elephants intentionally in order to distance my young readers from the difficult parts of the story. I was pleased when Kirkus complimented the way the text and the illustrations (kudos to Bistra Masseva) handled sensitive scenes like the elephants’ capture and their treatment in the circus.


Q. What’s the easiest and hardest part of creating a book

 A The hardiest part of creating a book is finding the story’s emotional core. Once you do that, the rest may take a while but it’s relatively easy.

Q. Why write children’s books?

 A. I was a corporate attorney for 22 years. While I loved the law and had an amazing career, I’d always wanted to write fiction. I made the switch about seven years ago and now write, teach, and consult full-time. Children’s writing, specifically picture books, appeals to my love for poetry and for stories well-told. It doesn’t hurt that I love interacting with kids, too.

Q. Are you working on any other projects?

A. Currently, I’m obsessed with another fascinating, endangered species—wolves!


Thanks so much, Cheryl! Find out more about Elephants Walk Together on our website.

Q&A with Cheryl Lawton Malone

Q&A with Megan E. Bryant and Katherine Locke

At AW Teen, we’re lucky to have two great YA novels—both which put a spin on history—publishing this fall. In Glow uncover the secrets of the Radium Girls one hundred years later with a contemporary teen. In The Girl with the Red Balloon a contemporary teen time travels to 1988 East Berlin and discovers a plot to alter history with dark magic.

We were lucky enough to have Megan and Katherine sit down to chat about writing historical fiction, revising, and being debut YA authors.


Megan E. Bryant: Hi, Katherine! Congratulations on The Girl with the Red Balloon—the best book I’ve read this summer. What a stunning book!

Katherine Locke: Hi, Megan! I am obsessed with Glow and I’m excited to reread it—my mom read my ARC after me and now she’s obsessed too! What made you decide to write about the Radium Girls and specifically using two timelines?

Megan: Thanks so much for your kind words, Katherine. I stumbled across an article about the Radium Girls in the summer of 2010, and was immediately captivated by their story. I was also shocked, and even horrified, that I’d never heard of them before—especially because I adore history and science, and I’m even married to a history professor. It seemed so terribly unjust that their story had been largely forgotten, when they sacrificed so much—truly, they were just as much casualties of World War I as the soldiers who fought on the front lines. At the same time, the Radium Girls’ determination to learn the truth behind their illnesses, and to make sure no one else would suffer as they did, has impacted many generations, including our own. So I felt called to tell their story and to help bring wider recognition to this remarkable group of young women. However, their stories were so heartbreaking, and so distressing, that it felt too hopeless, almost, for YA novel. A dual perspective with a modern-day narrator brings in some relief from the relentless suffering of the Radium Girls and allows for some hope (at least, I hope it does!).


Katherine: I think it worked! It was definitely a tearjerker, but it was also hopeful. And interesting, and complicated. I really loved the relationship between Julie and her mother and how that developed. Job well done.

Megan: Thank you! Tell me where the idea for The Girl With the Red Balloon came from. What inspired you?

Katherine: Is it cheating to say 99 Red Balloons on the radio and driving alongside a median on my way to work? I feel like it should be more inspiring than that, but that’s what happened. I’d been wanting to write a book about forgiveness, and then when I heard that song, I had a mental image of a girl floating over a wall, holding onto a red balloon. I thought, ‘Oh, that’s interesting. What wall? Why a balloon? What’s she leaving?’ And when I got to work, I sat down and quickly wrote the first chapter of the first draft. That’s now the second chapter, and from a different point of view than the first draft, but the heart of it is still there. Did Glow change a lot in revisions?

Megan: I love that the song was part of your inspiration. It’s basically been in my head since I first held my ARC! Yes, Glow definitely changed a great deal during revisions. There was an entire supporting character who was chopped—along with the 10,000 words he occupied! —just last summer. My writing process is very revision-based because I like to layer my work, and for me, the layering mainly happens once a working draft is in place. In fact, the layering for Glow was one of the most challenging aspects, because there was so much to keep track of: when Julie found the paintings, and what Lydia wrote in particular letters that related to them, and the related artifacts that Julie finds during her search for paintings. I have several notebooks and charts from the years of revision—fond memories now, thankfully!

I’m curious if you have any particular writing rituals or routines.

Katherine: I almost always write out of my house. If my couch or my bed is within reach, I’ll probably take a nap instead. So I usually work out of my house, with a chai latte, and headphones on, even if I’m not listening to any music. And like you, I think that my books are born in revisions. I really like tinkering with them, layering on different aspects, pulling one plot thread through and tugging at another. If it wasn’t for deadlines, I’d tinker with a book forever.

I think the other thing about writing historical fiction is that it’s very easy to fall into a black hole of research. I usually start by reading a few books that give me a broad overview, and then doing some research on the internet before I begin writing. But I also research as I write, check street names and maps, making sure I had the Berlin Wall on the correct side of the river and the right distance of the death zone or the correct spelling of a subway stop. I layer in things like slang, dialect, clothing, and food of the time in revisions. Is that how you did research?

9780807529379_Girl with the Red Balloon PB

Megan: Yes. I was slowly plotting and processing, writing bits here and there—sometimes actual scenes, sometimes just notes for scenes—while I researched. I read several secondary sources to get a better understanding of the time period, and of course many primary sources, including newspaper articles chronicling the Radium Girls’ struggles, as well as a wonderful book of World War I-era letters called Letters from a Lost Generation. I also conducted several in-person interviews as part of my research and managed to get myself kicked out of a hospital when I investigated their radiation-exposure protocols and viewed their decontamination room (one of the lines in the book—“She shouldn’t even be here!”—was actually spoken about me! I had to use it.). My favorite part of the research is the fascinating little tidbits that are uncovered—searching for recipe cards and restaurant menus from a hundred years ago; period valentines and typical holiday gifts. All the tiny ways in which we express our humanity from generation to generation.

And while we’re on the topic of research, I can tell how exhaustive yours was just from reading your book. Are there any fascinating things you discovered that didn’t make it into the final draft?

Katherine: I love that hospital story! I definitely have a tendency to over-research, so I can go down some really fun rabbit holes. Because of food shortages, East Germans almost always carried a shopping bag with them so they could jump into line as soon as they heard about the availability of a rare product. And they used shopping bags made out of Dederon, which was the East German equivalent of nylon. This was just a way of life. And I learned a lot about feminine hygiene product availability in the GDR (spoiler alert: they were hard to get). But I also learned a ton I didn’t know prior to the book, like the ghost stations. The subway trains in Berlin used tracks that went through East German, but after the wall went up, they couldn’t stop at those East German subway stations. They were patrolled by soldiers and remained empty for years. I used one of those for the magical underground guild’s hideout. I love finding gems like that in history, something that I can share with others that they might not know.

What surprised you the most about writing Glow?

Megan: Those are wonderful pieces of knowledge! You did a great job subtly incorporating the history so that it’s an organic part of the story and never a distraction. As for Glow, I was stunned to learn that the Radium Girls were put in deliberate danger. Even after the (male) managers and company owners were aware of how deadly exposure to radiation can be—and even after the men issued themselves protective gear—they took no steps to protect the women who were using powdered radium every day. And there were no legal protections at that time, either. One of the reasons I find the story of the Radium Girls to be so compelling is because one hundred years before “Nevertheless, she persisted” became a rallying cry for women, the words could just as easily apply to them. No one wanted to acknowledge what was happening to the girls; no one wanted to help them—even doctors and dentists turned them away; in some cases, their own communities shunned them—and yet they didn’t give up until the whole world knew about the dangers of radium, which led to safer practices and protocols, including workplace safety requirements that we all benefit from today. The Radium Girls didn’t have to die, but they used their activism to save countless lives. In fact, one of the most heart-wrenching facts I learned in my research is that radium dials were used during World War II as well, but no one died, and no one got sick, because of basic safety protocols that were enforced thanks to the Radium Girls and their fight.

I’d like to talk a little about the ways in which you combine historical fiction and fantasy. How do you manage to bring two distinct genres together without, say, disrespecting the real experiences and tremendous suffering of those who experienced persecution and genocide? This was really beautifully nuanced in your book and I’m curious about what led you to this approach and how you executed it so successfully.

Katherine: I don’t know what made me decide there’d be magic in the book, but my first love has always been fantasy books. And specifically, I think I’ve always loved books that felt like one genre, with splashes of magic (I’m thinking of A Wrinkle in Time, which felt contemporary—for its time—with a fantastical element, and Bridge to Terabithia, which was contemporary, with a fantastical element). I think it provides a gateway to looking at difficult times in our history, especially times we might not learn about in school. I didn’t learn about East Germany until I was in college, and I know many people who didn’t grow up in Jewish communities don’t learn about the Holocaust until middle school. Those are big events, big ideas, and sometimes it’s easier to get access to them through magic. I wasn’t a huge fan of history in school and I really fell in love with it later when I started learning individual stories and how they fit into a bigger picture. There’s a line in the book where Kai says, “The people never mentioned in history books still made history.” And I think that’s what guides the historical fiction I write, magic or no magic.

Are you working on any other projects at the moment?

Megan: Yes, I have a series for younger readers coming out from Scholastic next year; it’s called Pocket Geniuses and it’s about a boy who is struggling in school and makes a wish for extra help only to have his miniature set of “Heroes of History” action figures come to life to help him, with unexpected consequences! So it blends some history and some magic in a modern-day context, and has been just tremendous fun to write—a lot more light-hearted than Glow, that’s for sure! I’m also starting work on a new YA, but it all feels so early and fragile that I’m too superstitious to say anything else.

What have you been working on lately?

Katherine: I’m about to start edits on the second book in the Balloonmakers series! It’s a companion novel, set in the same universe (Ballooniverse? My friend Paul Krueger, also an author, came up with that) but with a whole new cast of characters. It’s about a sister and a brother who are both recruited to use magic on different facets of the Manhattan Project. The Manhattan Project was the super top-secret project to build a nuclear bomb during WWII before anyone else did. It was so top secret that the Vice President didn’t know about it. When Roosevelt died, Truman was sworn in and had to be told about this enormous moral, financial, and political power he’d inherited. All from splitting an atom. It has a big, dynamic cast and I am really excited for it! It’ll be out Fall 2018.

This was fun, Megan. Let’s do it again sometime.

Megan: Yes, absolutely! You’re an incredible writer, Katherine, and a fantastic person to explore Chicago with during the ALA Annual conference. I’m so glad that our books brought us together. Best of luck with the release of The Girl with the Red Balloon and all your upcoming books!

Katherine: Same with you! I’m so excited for people to meet Julie and Lydia.


Thanks, Megan and Katherine! To find more about Glow and The Girl with the Red Balloon check out our website.

Q&A with Megan E. Bryant and Katherine Locke

AW Teen Twitter Chat

Want to win this fun prize pack? Participate in our #AWTeen Twitter chat on Sept. 12 at 8 p.m. CDT!

Have you ever wondered what being an author is really like? Do you have a burning question about our young adult novels?

On Tuesday, September 12 at 8 p.m. CDT, you will have a chance to ask ten of our authors questions during our Fall ’17 #AWTeen Twitter chat, moderated by Stacey from Page Turners! One participant will be randomly selected to win a set of AW Teen novels along with a special prize pack!

Time: 8-9 p.m. CDT

Hashtag: #AWTeen


Authors participating:


One participant will be randomly selected to receive our two brand-new young adult historical fiction novels along with a prize pack, which includes a candle, phone case, speakers, lights, nail polish, and more!

AW Teen Twitter Chat Prize Pack



AW Teen Twitter Chat