Thursday, July 11, 2013

Interrogation Room #32: Erin Dionne, author of MOXIE AND THE ART OF RULE-BREAKING

It's that time again... We've caught another author! Erin Dionne thought she could slip beneath our notice with her release-day shenanigans, but she thought wrong! We took her into the Interrogation Room (dun dun DUN!) to grill her on her latest mystery, MOXIE AND THE ART OF RULE-BREAKING -- and just to be sure she isn't concealing any million-dollar pieces of stolen art. 

Here's a little about today's awesome new release, MOXIE AND THE ART OF RULE-BREAKING:

Moxie Fleece knows the rules and follows them--that is, until the day she opens her front door to a mysterious stranger. Suddenly Moxie is involved in Boston's biggest unsolved mystery: The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum art heist. Moxie has two weeks to find the art, otherwise she and the people she loves will be in big-time danger.
Her tools? Her best friend, Ollie, a geocaching addict who loves to find stuff; her Alzheimer's suffering grandfather, Grumps, who knows lots more than he lets on; and a geometry proof that she sets up to sort out the clues.

It's a race against the clock through downtown Boston as Moxie and Ollie break every rule she's ever lived by to find the art and save her family.

And a bit about the suspect herself:

Erin Dionne is a writer, teacher, reader, and watcher (of TV, movies, and people) who lives outside of Boston with her fabulous husband, daughter, and dog. She writes books for teens, tweens, and anyone who survived junior high. MOXIE AND THE ART OF RULE-BREAKING is her fourth book. 

Okay, Erin -- better get chatting if you want to enjoy your release day! We will not hesitate to detain you all day if we must!

What is something that no one knows about you?

I can recite the lyrics to any song by The Cure and Depeche Mode on command.

What do you find to be the hardest part about writing mystery novels for a younger audience? What is the best part?

The hardest part is definitely the writing! I love revising, and I love coming up with ideas, but the actual drafting is really, really hard for me. I'm not a good planner, so I need to do a bunch of revisions to get the story where I need to be (which is fine, since I love revising). Getting to a finished draft is tough, though. The best part of writing is connecting with readers. I love doing school visits, Skyping...any way I can talk to readers is fabulous!

The novel features smart, ambitious teens who are bullied and could be classified as minor social outcasts. Why did you choose to present Moxie and Ollie in this manner?

Hm. That's funny. I don't see Moxie and Ollie as bullied at all. Moxie is a step out of traditional junior high society, but she's tough and street smart, and gives as good as she gets. Ollie is a quiet kid, but he's not being persecuted. I look at them as independent thinkers. They need to be self-assured to get through the problems in this book, and they work well together.

I found it very interesting that a close and beloved relative of Moxie's was complicit in the original crime. Were there any challenges in portraying her grandfather as a good man with a bad past? 

I love Grumps' character, and this is a great description of him. People are complex, and I wanted to create this morally compromised person who loves his family and did what he had to do to provide for them. It was also important to me that he was honest with Moxie about his past--I didn't want them to have secrets (well, about THAT, anyway...)

Your protagonists display an array of unique interests from geocaching to geometry. Art and architecture/carpentry are obviously given special attention as well. Do you have a special personal interest in any of the hobbies you spotlight in the story?

One of my favorite parts of writing novels is what I learn while I write them. I'm not a math person, and I wanted Moxie to embrace math. So I had to relearn how to do geometry proofs. My husband works with a Boy Scout troop, and a bunch of the kids are into geocaching--which I'd never heard of, and immediately became fascinated by. Although these aren't my passions, I got to learn about them and can see why people are into them. 
As for architecture/carpentry--Boston is comprised of such important historical buildings, those elements seemed like natural fits to the story. I did a lot of research about the specific places that the characters visit.

What are some of the things you learned from the process of writing and publishing MOXIE AND THE ART OF RULE-BREAKING?

MOXIE is my fourth book, but each one feels like my first! I love working with my editor, Liz Waniewski, who teaches me to think about my manuscripts in unique ways. With this book, it was my first mystery, so although I'm a fan of the genre as a reader, I had to learn how to execute one as a writer. This is also a faster-paced book than my others, so that was a challenge, too.

If you had millions of dollars worth of stolen art to protect, where would you hide it?

Someplace climate controlled, so it wouldn't get damaged, and someplace unexpected, so no one would think to look for it there. I'd probably crate it and put it in a climate-controlled storage facility. Um, not that you're going to check into any storage facilities that I've rented--right?!

Hmm... I'll take note of that... Moving on! The premise for your story comes from an actual historical art robbery. What do you want people to know about the actual Isabella Stuart Gardener Heist? 

This heist is a total anomaly--people who steal art usually ransom it for insurance money. So the fact that it hasn't turned up is strange. The heist is the biggest single art theft in history. Thirteen pieces of art were removed from the museum in 1990, and haven't been seen since. The stolen art is worth over $500 million, and the FBI is still actively investigating it. 

Have you ever solved a "real life" mystery?

Only if you count where my car keys disappear to! When I was a kid, I wanted to be a detective. Harriet the Spy, Nancy Drew, and The Three Investigators Series were some of my favorite books. Unfortunately, my parents never let me install a crime lab in our house, so I was left with writing as a career path. : )

What writing secret will you reveal only under the harsh lights of this interrogation room?

Like Harriet the Spy, I carry a notebook everywhere I go. I jot down ideas, bits of dialogue, etc.

Thanks for having me in the interrogation room! Can you untie me now?

Grumble... I suppose. I can't very well go buy MOXIE AND THE ART OF RULE-BREAKING with a suspect to supervise. Thanks for your cooperation and congratulations on your release! (Haha, get it? Oh come on, what's a sleuth without a few lame puns?) 

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