Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Interrogation Room #42: Marcia Wells, Author of EDDIE RED UNDERCOVER

Here's some "uber"-exciting news to kick off April: EDDIE RED UNDERCOVER: MYSTERY ON MUSEUM MILE, a new middle grade mystery, is on sale in stores today!  To mark the occasion, we've tracked down author Marcia Wells and taken her in for questioning in our notorious Interrogation Room. Set those lights to "blinding!" 
Here's a quick synopsis of EDDIE RED UNDERCOVER: 
Sixth-grader Edmund Xavier Lonnrot code-name “Eddie Red,” has a photographic memory and a prodigious talent for drawing anything he sees. When the NYPD is stumped by a mastermind art thief, Eddie becomes their secret weapon to solve the case, drawing Eddie deeper into New York’s famous Museum Mile and closer to a dangerous criminal group known as the Picasso Gang. Can Eddie help catch the thieves in time, or will his first big case be his last?
And here's a little about Marcia: 

Marcia Wells taught middle school students for more than a decade before becoming a full-time writer. She lives with her husband and two kids in Vermont, where she knows entirely too much about chickens, pigs, and sword fighting. Eddie Red Undercover is her debut novel, winner of the Indies Introduce New Voices award, Spring 2014.

Now for the interrogation! And Marcia, in case you're having any thoughts of making a run for it, be informed that we have a highly trained sketch artist with a photographic memory on staff. (We also have your photograph... but the point is, we'll find you!) 

1) What is EDDIE RED's genesis story? Where did you find your inspiration to write this story?

During the summer of 2010, I was preparing to teach an AP Spanish high school class in the fall, so I was reading some short crime mysteries by Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges. He had one mystery in particular where the detective and the bad guy chased each other using alphabets and geometric patterns. I had also just finished writing my first manuscript (a very mediocre YA story) and was wondering what to write next. I read some industry articles about the need for more boy mysteries. I visited relatives from New York City. After mixing all of that together in my brain, I woke up one morning and Eddie was there!

2) Eddie and Jonah aren't exactly your typical middle-grade heroes, but they are "uber" unique, charming, and likeable. What kind of process went into their development? How have they changed, if at all, throughout your revisions?

The two boys came to me very clearly. I had just taught a Spanish class of all seventh grade boys, who were equally unique and charming  they provided great inspiration. Eddie originally was shyer and less proactive in solving the case. But his humor has remained constant. Jonah has always been the same – very hyper and funny. He’s the character I have the most difficulty with. He’s such a force on the page that he’s constantly hijacking the story. I have to make a real effort to tone him down, and in the end, I always have to knock him out at the climax so that the spotlight remains on Eddie. The three of us have a lot of fun together.

3) What kind of research was necessary to write EDDIE RED? Did it involve any trips to New York or skulking around in museums?

I did A LOT of internet research, and pestered my NYC relatives about what it’s like to be a New York kid. After the story took shape, I visited Museum Mile and Central Park. I also took drawing lessons and chess lessons from my fellow teachers. Details are so important, especially in a mystery.

4) If you could have one super-sleuthing ability (such as Eddie's photographic memory and drawing skills), what would it be?

I would love to have a photographic memory  it would be so nice to remember things as a picture, to know all the details. Instead I rattle around my house with a bad case of Mommy brain most of the time…

5) What is your personal background as a writer? What led you to writing? What was the first story you ever wrote?

All of my writing classes in college and grad school were in Spanish. I love studying literature, but it was always Spanish literature. When I turned 35, I was teaching middle school kids and decided to just start writing for fun. I discovered a whole new wonderful world of YA and MG lit. My first manuscript was terrible! But a great learning experience. I then attended conferences and took online writing classes – I really dedicated myself to the craft. And I read hundreds of books  reading is such an important part of the process! Eddie was my second manuscript  after I wrote the story, it took two years of editing and revising to land an agent.

6) What is the most rewarding aspect of writing mystery for kids? The most challenging part?

The most rewarding part is the characters  they come to life and direct the action. They make me laugh! There are two challenging parts for me with this series – one is knowing how and when to reveal information (and having that reveal be natural) and the second is being funny. When I wrote the second book, it was hard to sit down and force the silly 11-year-old humor to come. It’s a process that takes months.

7) Did you learn anything about yourself as a writer while penning EDDIE RED?

I learned that plotting a mystery is an amazing writing exercise. I think if you can plot a mystery, you can plot anything!

8)  Have you ever solved a "real-life" mystery?

Ever since I became a mom, my life has become a series of real-life mysteries! Questions like, “Why is the baby crying again?” or “Where is the sponge? Oh…I put it in the freezer.” I think parents have to be the most creative sleuths of all.

9) Can you share a fun fact that your readers may not know about you?

I know how to tap dance :)

10) Can you tell your readers anything about Eddie's next adventure?

Eddie and Jonah go to Mexico on a two-week family trip. When Edmund’s father is accused of stealing a priceless artifact from the hotel, Eddie Red must save the day. The boys get tangled up with a Mayan god, a teenage street gang, and a 30 year old unsolved mystery. Tagline: Never underestimate the power of projectile vomit.

11) What one writing secret will you reveal only under the harsh lights of this Interrogation Room?

Never, ever, ever give up. I almost gave up on Eddie  I was so tired of rejection and I had moved onto other projects. I told myself I’d query one more agent  she was the agent who said yes, thank goodness, but what if it had taken five more agents? Or ten? I never would have gotten him published. Believe in yourself and your work, and don’t get discouraged!

Thanks, Marcia, and congratulations! 

Want to learn more about Marcia and EDDIE RED UNDERCOVER? 

Follow her on Twitter @WellsMarcia

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