First let me tell you a bit about the book and what I thought of it.
For Halloween 1959, Mike and Timmy try to trick their cousins, Alice and Rose. The trick is on them when a homeless man and their nine-year-old neighbor team up to give them a Halloween scare that they will never forget.
I remember growing up heading out on Halloween planning on scaring some people. I lived in a very (VERY) small town, so we’d run around all evening scaring people, hiding from others and just genuinely having fun. This book reminded me of that time so much!
What I really liked were the voices of the main characters. Sometimes I read a tween book, and the way the young character talk is so completely off. I didn’t find that at all here. Although set in 1959 is still has the true ring of young boys and girls. I could just see these kids carrying out their plans and reacting to what ended up happening. My favorite line that showed how perfectly drawn these kids were was, “Mike was excited. This was going to be so much fun, if nothing went wrong. And what could go wrong?” (pg 30). That just sets up the characters and the events that unfold. Love it!
Final thought: Very cute book about something we all love – pulling a prank on others.
Best stick with you image: Can’t say – too much of a spoiler
Best for readers who: Love Halloween.
Best for ages: 8-11
I was lucky enough to have Charles Suddeth answer a few questions about his writing and life.
Welcome to The O.W.L.
1. For your most current book – what part/character/event are you most excited/proud about?
When you write a story and it clicks it is a really wonderful feeling. I liked the story and my friends liked it, but we were all prejudiced. However, an editor at Random House wanted it. The acquisition committee turned it down because it was seasonal, but they would have just sold it for one Halloween. A second publisher offered me a contract, but they weren’t going to promote it right, so I didn’t sign it. Diversion Press offered me a contract. I took it because I found out that they would have it in print for several Halloweens.
2. Tell about your writing process. How long did it take you to write your current book from idea to finish? Please tell about revision is you can! I’m old fashioned, so I wrote the rough draft on paper. I can be more creative with pen and paper. It took about two years for the book, mostly for editing and the many revisions. I can understand why you’re interested in revision. I think most writers either hate it or they’re afraid of it—or both. Once you get to know revision, it can be a lot of fun. First, you have to be just as creative with it as you are the rough draft. Don’t be afraid to throw out paragraphs or even chapters or at least rewrite them. Always print out your manuscript and edit on paper. It will let you see your mistakes and/or weak sentences. And read it aloud, even if you’re alone, especially dialogue. Again, you can often hear problems that you couldn’t read. Find someone who can give you good advice and let them read it.
3. Is the story and/or characters based on anything/anyone in your real life?
Some of the events are loosely based on things that happened to me or people I knew. Determining where the characters came from is more difficult. Although I didn’t specifically base them on anyone, I’m sure that subconsciously I must have.
4. How much say did you have in the cover of this book? What is the process for creating a cover (my students are always curious about this!)
I was asked for my opinion about the cover, but I have a small publisher. I told the editor what I wanted and she accommodated me. Large publishers don’t often involve the writer in the cover at all. They even change the title to meet their marketing needs. This is the computer age, so I was told that my cover was photo shopped. Even the printers get digital files, so I have copy that was sent to the printer. It has both covers and the dimensions in fractions of an inch along the margins for the printer.
5. What kind of student were you? Was English your favorite subject in school and did you always write?
I was usually a good student, but honestly, not always if I didn’t like my teacher. I didn’t have favorite subjects when I was in school, except I didn’t care much for social studies. My sixth-grade teacher had me write a short story, and I have never stopped writing since. An English teacher in high school helped me appreciate and write poetry. I still write poetry, but just for fun.
6. And because it’s the owl my standard question always is: WHOOO do you admire when it comes to writing? Whoooo are your favorite authors now and when you were growing up?
There are so many wonderful writers that it’s hard to narrow down. Mark Twain quickly comes to mind. He not only used his imagination and came up with fantastic stories, but he was conscious of his writing craft. So his work has survived the test of time. When I was in school I liked to read James Fennimore Cooper and Edgar Rice Burroughs, because their stories were great too. Unfortunately they didn’t pay attention to their writing, so their books have gone out of style and they sound clunky. Some of my favorite authors today: JK Rowling because her stories are believable fantasies and she has made readers out of countless kids. Charlaine Harris writes a series of books about Sookie, a young woman fighting vampires. Although they’re too extreme for those under eighteen, Sookie has a tongue-in-cheek attitude that reminds me of young adult books. Another writer I like is Mo Willems. He writes a picture book series about a pigeon, but he drags the reader/listener into the story. When I was younger I liked John Steinbeck, because he was such a marvelous storyteller. Another one I liked was A. A. Milne and his Winnie the Pooh, because of his absolute whimsy. And of course, Tolkien who created a magical world like no other. Instead of super heroes, Tolkien’s tales involved little people doing super things.