Author Interview Kristin L. Gray

Kristin has a new middle grade novel coming out in just a few weeks called Vilonia Beebe Takes Charge. I can’t wait to read this book. It looks like such a sweet story. Kristin and I also have the same editor! {Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books} Which makes this interview even more exciting for me!

You have an awesome new book coming out this year called VILONIA BEEBE TAKES CHARGE. Can you tell us about it?

Sure! Fourth grader Vilonia hasn’t lost her rain coat in the three weeks she’s had it and she’s brushed her teeth every night and she’s volunteered to be the Friday Library Helper. But all that hard work is worth it if it means she can get a dog. Besides, this dog isn’t just because Vilonia has wanted one for pretty much ever. It’s also to help Mama, who’s been lost in one, big sadness fog for forty-three days—ever since Nana died. But Vilonia read that pets can help with sadness. Now all she has to do is keep the library goldfish alive over spring break, stop bringing stray animals home, and help Mama not get fired from her job. And she’s got to do all of it before the Catfish Festival. Easy as pie, right?

How did you come up with the idea?

Vilonia’s story morphed over time. I had the idea of a young girl adopting and nurturing a puppy born preterm. But once I began researching, I came across fascinating articles about pet therapy and how dogs actually help us. So Vilonia’s story quickly evolved into one of a dog helping her family overcome their grief. So yes, dogs can be therapy. (Though sometimes, my dogs drive me bananas, but I love them anyway.)

When is it released?

March 7. Soon!

What made you decide to start writing, and why did you choose children’s books?  

I distinctly remember falling in love with the humor in the CLICK CLACK MOO series as I read them aloud to my son. I thought I’d like to try that. So when I came across an ad for the Institute of Children’s Literature, I signed up. A few years later, I joined SCBWI (The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) which helped me tremendously. If anyone is serious about writing for children, my first suggestion is to join a local SCBWI chapter.

Tell us about your experience getting into publishing. How long did it take you? 

Oh boy. I started with picture books for a handful of years while my children were small. I got close to landing a contract a few times, but for whatever reason – it never panned out. Then one day, an editor who liked my voice wrote back and asked if I’d ever thought of trying anything longer, like a novel. So I did. And two manuscripts later, I had a first draft of Vilonia. Or put another way, I began dabbling in writing when my oldest son was in kindergarten. He is now a teenager and can drive a car! Publishing is definitely a marathon, not a sprint. Also, I’m old!

What writing advice do you have for someone trying to breakout in the market?

Read widely and read what’s new in stores. Libraries are wonderful of course, but to stay current, you need to be aware of what is selling into today’s market. But even then, listen to you heart. Write the book you want to see on the shelves. That passion will shine through.

When you’re not writing, what do you enjoy doing?

Reading! Sleeping! Traveling with my family and exploring new cities. I also like cooking. Okay, baking. I really like baking.

Do you listen to music when you write, if so, what’s your playlist like?

If I listen to music, it’s usually Adele. I love her. But I am a huge fan of the Coffitivity app which provides background noise as if you’re in a coffee shop. It’s so soothing to me. I sometimes use it even when I’m sitting in an actual coffee shop. Is that weird?

If you had to live inside one story’s universe, which would it be and why?

Oh man. Harry Potter. For its delightful magic, amazing friendships, fascinating creatures, and okay, the Burrow (the Weasley’s cozy home).

Everyone writes about people they know. Who shows up in your books over and over?

I think there’s a little bit of myself in Vilonia. I was a preemie and so is Vilonia. My dad is a fisherman, like Vilonia’s dad.

Who do you think your reader is?

I would like to imagine Vilonia being enjoyed by anyone no matter their age, but I especially hope she resonates with kids ages 8-12 who have a lot of moxie and compassion. Kids who love the outdoors, love to run barefoot in the summer, and who aren’t afraid to roll up their sleeves and get stuff done.

What are you working on now?

A quirky middle-grade mystery and a handful of picture book texts.
Where can we find out more about you and your upcoming book?

Thanks so much for having me!


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