March 4, 2010

In Which my Children Fan-Pester Julianna Baggott

My blog is being taken over by the very bestest of all my best beloveds, aka my loinspawns. They are QUITE EXCITED to see how this is received when they get home this evening after ballet and piano, so it would be delightful of you if you had time to comment, and, should you choose to comment, this would also be an excellent time to restrain yourself from explaining how the eff word is SO fantastic because it can be every part of speech, EVEN A GERUND. (And here we all turn together and fix Karen Abbott with a steely gaze.)

If you have kids in the proper age range and you read my friend Lydia’s review of Julianna Baggott’s latest release for young readers, you probably have already gotten your kids a copy of The Ever Breath.

I, of course, got it for mine. Sam read it in a day and then passed it down, his highest praise for a book, to try and make everyone in the house read it. Maisy was so taken with it she has renamed her American Girl Bitty Baby doll after one of the main characters, Camille. However she is convinced you pronounce the name like “CAH-mih-lay.” I told her how to say Camille, but Maisy is not interested. Her way is better, she says, so we all bowed to it. The upshot is, when I interact with my pretend granddaughter, I have to call HER CAH-mih-lay, and MEANWHILE she is running around calling ME Mee-Maw. Yes. Mee-maw. I am unamused.


Sam: I love your book, the way it combines some real world elements, like how Camille is focused on survival, with mythical ones, such as the dragons and giant spiders. I particularly enjoyed how you scattered the clues to who the villain was around the story.

Maisy: Hello. I wanted to tell you I loved your book very much, and it was one of the first books that was really Sam’s book that I read all by myself!

Sam: My favorite part is how you left it open for another book. Did you base any characters off of real life people?

JB: My characters are always conglomerations of people I know. I take notes all the time. I'll jot down one person's weird snore, another's dithering (danseyheadedness), another's badly knit hat, another's sad expression, another's queasy car-sickness. This way, I never have to invent a character from nothingness. I try to pay close attention to the world all around me while jotting all my little notes -- how one of my uncles always gets cheeze doodle fuzz in all of the buttons of the remote control, like an orange exoskeleton, for example -- and when I write, I lay out all my notes and see how I might stitch them together to make a good story with cool characters. So yes, my characters are based on little bits of people, taken apart, and then made into someone new.

Sam: How long did it take you to write it?

JB: THE EVER BREATH was originally called Truman and the Great Vootery. It was an idea that I pitched to an editor along with 25 pages. She loved the pages and bought the book and its sequel just on those pages alone. But then I realized that the pages didn't make as much sense as I'd hoped. For one thing, I really didn't know what the Great Vootery was. So I rewrote those pages and then a whole draft of the book. And then THAT wasn't quite right either ... and so I rewrote the book one more time! It took about a year to write a draft that really buzzed. Writing this book often felt like bear wrestling. And sometimes the bear seemed gigantic and big-toothed and large-of-claw. Eventually, the bear and I came to an agreement. We ate cookies in a civilized fashion and decided how the book should go ...

I'm at work on the sequel now -- THE EVER CURE -- and that bear is back and acting surly!

Maisy Jane: Do you have any kids and if so are they named Truman and Cah-mill-ay?

JB: I have four kids. Their names are Phoebe, Finneas, Theo, and Otis. The oldest is fifteen and the youngest is two. For Theo we had three names picked out and one of them was Truman. But it got out-voted. And if Otis had been a girl, Camille was in the running. So both of these names are ones I've loved.

My daughter Phoebe once demanded to have her name in one of my books -- tricky business because you wouldn't want to be Milta in this book, would you? So, if you ever get into THE ANYBODIES series (written under my pen name N.E. Bode), you'll find a Phoebe in Book Two. She's one of the good guys!

Maisy Jane: What is the being whose breath is in the Ever Breath?

JB: See! This is the kind of question an interviewer should ask! I can't wait for you all to grow up and start making the world smarter.

Listen, inside the amber orb called the Ever Breath, there is an actual breath -- a living, breathing breath. This is what makes the Ever Breath mysterious and sacred, what gives it the power to keep a balance between our world and the world that belongs to all the magical creatures. My characters don't even really know what to call the Being whose breath is in this amber orb. They try. Swelda goes back centuries and uses a really ancient term: A Being than which nothing greater can be conceived. I never use the word God. But this is the term that ancient philosophers used for God. And, well, I believe in God. I know not all my readers do, so I didn't come out and say God. But hopefully I talk about the breath within the amber orb in a way that people who do believe in God can think of it as the breath of God. And what I like about the being than which nothing greater can be conceived is that it's not just a dusty God, no, but one who breathes, who lives.

And this isn't an answer to a question, but, Maisy, I totally love YOUR pronunciation of Camille! From now on, I'll think of her as such!

Me: Fine. As long as you do not think of me as Mee-maw.

Posted by joshilyn at March 4, 2010 11:22 AM

Sam and Maisy,

Thanks for introducing me to a book that I evidently NEED to read. And. . .since I'm a reading teachers. . .I can suggest it to my students as well. Books you WANT to share are the best kind. Like me telling the librarian at my school about your mom's book, gods in Alabama. I suggested it to her (along with your mom's other books), and she read it and told me how much she loved it. I said, "I am so glad you liked that book." And she said, "No. I did not LIKE that book, I LOVED that book and was really sad when it was over."

Sounds like The Ever Breath is the EXACT SAME kind of book. . .one you don't want to end. Can't wait to read it.

Posted by: Roxanne at March 4, 2010 1:07 PM

What great questions Maisy and Sam came up with! And their excitement about this book makes me think it might be a perfect one with which to snag my seven year old son!

Posted by: Leandra at March 4, 2010 1:14 PM

What a great interview! I am going to have to find the book, and I was terrifically impressed by both the author and her fan/interviewers!

Posted by: redzils at March 4, 2010 1:16 PM

Great interview! It makes me want to get this book for my daughter, and also now I want to read it myself!

Posted by: Laura F at March 4, 2010 1:21 PM

HOW did I not know that Julianna Baggott is N.E. Bode??? Must tell children.

GREAT interview, Sam and Maisy (and Julianna)! Thank you!!

Posted by: Mir at March 4, 2010 1:22 PM

Fabulous interview to all involved. Thank you. I know a certain 9 year old that would love this.

Posted by: heidi at March 4, 2010 1:33 PM

Are these not THE most brilliant children with the most refined taste in literature?

I'm very impressed (and biased).

aka N.E. Bode

Posted by: Julianna Baggott at March 4, 2010 1:47 PM

Maisy and Sam, you did a GREAT job on the interview! And it sounds like a wonderful book. I don't have any kids, but I want to check it out anyway.

Posted by: Julie G at March 4, 2010 2:00 PM

Great interview! I think my 7-year-old niece would love this one. After that intriguing answer about the amber orb, I'm tempted to read it myself, too.

Posted by: Holly at March 4, 2010 2:36 PM

Sam and Maisy - Great questions! Julianna - Great answers!
I once read a story about a girl named Foob, which my mother explained, might, also be called Feebee or Phoebe, but I still like Foob.

Posted by: RandomRanter at March 4, 2010 3:11 PM

Dear Sam and Maisy,

Thank you for this informative interview. Your questions were thought provoking and they allowed Julianna an opportunity to describe her book to us in a way that makes me want to run to the nearest bookseller and buy it, which is exactly what a literary interview should do.


Posted by: Kim at March 4, 2010 3:16 PM

I am inspired by this interview to run to amazon and buy this book. Seriously. I think my daughter might love it.

Posted by: Jenn at March 4, 2010 3:35 PM

I read a short story when I was a kid (I don't remember what it was called) and the main girl's name was Camille and I pronounced it Camill- eeeee. I like your version much better, Maisy :)

This sounds like a book I'll have to read and pass along to the niece!

Posted by: Dani at March 4, 2010 3:45 PM

That book sounds fantastic! Thanks for a great review, Sam and Maisy. Do you think my kids would like it? They just turned 13 on Monday.

Posted by: edj at March 4, 2010 4:30 PM

Great work, Sam and Maisy! I particularly liked the question and answer about the orb. Very cool.

Posted by: Heather at March 4, 2010 5:46 PM

I loved this interview, Sam and Maisy. You guys are great. I would love to have this book for my grandchildren - they just need to grow up a little first.

Posted by: Pamela L at March 4, 2010 5:49 PM

Great interview guys! I think you guys have excellent taste in books so I can't wait to go out and buy this one!

Posted by: Allison at March 4, 2010 6:04 PM

Fantastic interview! Can't wait to pick this up for my 9 year old daughter.

You asked all the right questions to make me want to read the book and buy the book without giving too much story away.

Great job! Thanks, MeeMaw, for letting the kiddos take over.

Posted by: Jen at March 4, 2010 6:41 PM

Great interview! It made me want to read the book. I loved the Anybodies series.

Posted by: Jill W. at March 4, 2010 6:44 PM

Sam and Maisy,

Wow, what fine book reviewers you both are! Your words make me want to read this book. Did you ever think of writing books yourself? Because I would read them and then pass them on to all my friends!!

Posted by: Glory Words at March 4, 2010 8:07 PM

Hmmm...I bet my nephews would like this book. Must keep in mind for Christmas! Nice work, guys! Also, what other books do you love, and why? Could you make a list, and what kind of kid you think would be interested in each title? I would really love that information (if Memaw will share the blog with you again).

Posted by: elizabeth at March 4, 2010 8:31 PM

We are huge fans of N. E. Bode and The Anybodies series. I was just asking my daughter this morning if she had any book requests (since I noticed a sale on children's books) and The Ever Breath was the first one she mentioned!

Thanks for the great interview!

Posted by: Carol at March 4, 2010 10:15 PM

Wow! I think Sam and Maisy should be hired. Very good interview kids, and I used to be a reporter for a living, so I am pretty picky.

I will look forward to Ever Breath. I might even let my own kids read it. :)

My name issue was "Yoesmight" Sam. And, at almost 45, I just realized Fort "Tingranada" was "Ticonderoga." Huh.

Posted by: JulieB at March 4, 2010 10:26 PM

What grand and insightful questions and observations! Thank you!

Posted by: Fran at March 4, 2010 11:26 PM

Great interview! The questions dug a lot deeper than you usually see. Thanks for the good insight.

Posted by: Nikki at March 5, 2010 2:58 AM

Looking at the SLJ review on the Amazon site, maybe they should substitute kid reviewers for all the kid books! Obviously, kids have a MUCH better idea of what is fun and engaging to read than some stuffy, old person, as all the actual reader reviews are glowing!

Ah, Joshilyn, you can never be my meemaw, as you are younger than me . . although there was a young fella back in college days that we'd call "Grandpa", hmmm.

Posted by: Brigitte at March 5, 2010 7:07 AM

A most excellent interview! I had not heard of this book but I think my girl child would like it, so I will seek it out.

Posted by: Badger at March 5, 2010 8:28 AM


Posted by: fTReREbr at March 5, 2010 9:01 AM

sam and maisy,
you conducted a first-rate interview. i thought your questions were thoughtful and your love of the book came through. i look forward to reading more of your interviews, sam and maisy.

btw maisy jane, i have my own maisy. she is mazie bell though. she has a bitty baby too, though you seem a little more advanced than my mazie. when i asked her what she wanted to name her bitty baby she said "santa" or "grandpa". i don't think she gets the concept of naming. i love cah-mill-ah. fabulous name.

Posted by: katie@agraciousplenty at March 5, 2010 10:30 AM

Dear Sam and Maisy,

You are both very awesome and I love this interview. This book sounds like it would be just perfect as a gift for some kids I know, and it really helps to hear what other kids think of it. Julianna is right: you are both going to make the world smarter when you grow up. Actually you already are!


Posted by: Aimee at March 5, 2010 11:04 AM

Great interview Sam and Maisy! Remind me again how old you guys are? This sounds like a book that two of my kids would like - Rory is 14 and Kate is 10. Do you think Rory would enjoy it or is he too old for it? Kate has read many of her big brother's books, Maisy - it's a treat for her to be allowed into his room to pick a book. Her twin sister, Laura, likes different sorts of books so she's mostly on her own. Thanks for telling us about the book, Carrie

Posted by: Carrie (in MN) at March 5, 2010 11:43 AM

A lovely interview! It makes me wish I still had a child the right age to share the book with. Since I don't, I shall read it for myself.

Posted by: Meg Moseley at March 6, 2010 12:06 PM

This book sounds like one both my son and I would enjoy. Thanks for the recommendation.

As for the interview, I would say the questions themselves were "big-toothed and large-of-claw". Awesome job, Sam and Maisy! You both have bright futures as reporters, if Mee-maw doesn't make you do something else. ;-)

Posted by: hope101 at March 10, 2010 11:40 AM

Great interview, Sam and Maisy! And thanks to you I have another book to add to the list, one that I can share with the boys (I'll use CAH-mill-ay when I read it aloud!)

Posted by: PattiH at March 12, 2010 11:58 PM