Something fishy is going on today... It has come to our attention that a new middle grade mystery novel, THE WIG IN THE WINDOW, was released in bookstores across the nation this morning. Preliminary investigation has revealed this summary:
Best friends and seventh graders Sophie Young and Grace Yang have made a game of spying on their neighbors. But on one of their late-night pretend stake-outs, the girls stumble across a terrifying, bloody scene at the home of their bizarre middle school counselor, Dr. Charlotte Agford (a.k.a. Dr. Awkward). At least they think they do…the truth is that Dr. Agford was just making her famous (and messy) pickled beets!
But when Dr. Agford begins acting even weirder than usual, Sophie and Grace become convinced that she’s hiding something–and they’re determined to find out what it is. Soon the girls are cracking codes, being followed by a strange blue car, and tailing strangers with unibrows and Texas accents. As their investigation heats up, the girls start to crack under the pressure. Even if Sophie and Grace uncover the truth about Agford in time, will their friendship survive?
Verrrry curious... We've tracked down the author, Kristen Kittscher, for a quick inquiry into her recent activities. Here's what we've been able to pry out of her so far:
Kristen Kittscher was a neighborhood spy as a child but (allegedly) grew up to be an upstanding citizen, seventh grade English teacher, and writing tutor. A graduate of Brown University, she lives in Pasadena, California with her husband, Kai, and their hyperactive lab mix. The Wig in the Window is her first novel.
That's a good start, but I think we should ask her a few more questions. She's waiting in the interrogation room for us now. Don't forget to shield your eyes as we go in; those lights are blinding!
For years, I wanted to write fiction, but I lacked the confidence. I’d dabble here and there, jotting down notes for story ideas and writing character sketches. Inevitably, though, I’d put my scribblings aside. I told myself I was not creative enough — that my seventh grade English students needed all my time and attention.
One day, though, I stumbled across a free-writing exercise based on my exploits as a middle school “spy” with my best friend in my seaside suburb of Los Angeles. It struck me: why hadn’t I ever thought of writing for kids? That tiny paragraph had all the makings of a story that would entertain the funny, precocious students I taught. I scrawled a note: “Rear Window meets (updated) Nancy Drew?”
With my students as my muses, it was so much easier to forge ahead. It’s no surprise I ended up writing a story about a kid who has so much self-doubt to overcome!
2. What is the most challenging thing about writing a mystery for young readers? What's the most rewarding part?
It's a challenge to develop mysteries that are age-appropriate but are nonetheless thrilling and high-stakes. While it's certainly possible to make mysteries about missing dogs or stolen school property seem thrilling; the kids I know crave reading about kids taking on "real" cases. Sadly, most real crime is far too sordid to use as inspiration. So, finding the right mystery to solve can really take some thinking.
I love middle grade readers' enthusiasm and sense of awe. It's such a delight to be writing for kids at that moment they are starting to take themselves more seriously and discover their own talents! In a mystery, I can really tap into that sense of wonder and wild imagination. I love that.
3. What is your writing process like?
4. What have been some of your favorite mysteries, real-life or fictional?
In real-life, I'm positively obsessed with the case of Amanda Knox - the American exchange student in Italy who was charged with murdering her roommate. During a dark period of procrastination years ago, I literally read all 900 pages of Italian court documents (Italian was one of my majors:-). Such a puzzling case! I've been holding off reading her new autobiography because I don't have time:-)
When it comes to mysteries for adults, I really like Kate Atkinson and Tana French. I have almost too many middle grade mystery loves to count, but I'm an especially big fan of Kirsten Miller's Kiki Strike series. In fact, it was partly what inspired me to write for the age group in the first place.
5. What is something that no one knows about you?
6. What writing secret will you reveal only under the harsh glare of the interrogation room lights?