Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Author Interview with Wendelin van Draanen!

You may know her from her fantastic YA novel Flipped. But today, author Wendelin van Draanen is stopping on my blog for a blog tour to promote the next book in her middle-grade Sammy Keyes mystery series. Welcome, Wendelin, to Steph Su Reads!

1. Hello Wendelin! Could you tell us something funny/unusual/quirky about yourself that few people know?

Hi, Steph! Thanks so much for asking me to stop by. This blog-tour idea is pretty cool, and it’s nice of you to invite me in.

Now, about my quirks. Boy, you’re starting off tough! I mean, maybe people don’t know about them because I want to keep them secret? Okay, okay I agreed to do this, so here we go—some quirks:

  1. I can’t let a jigsaw puzzle go unfinished. My kids find great joy in this because they get away with all sorts of stuff when a puzzle’s open. It’s terrible.
  2. I’m obsessed with the moon. A moonrise is mesmerizing. Don’t even try to talk to me when I’m watching the moon.
  3. I like to ride shopping carts through parking lots. You know, run, hop on, ride? There is something truly joyful about riding a shopping cart. People think I’m crazy about this now? Just wait ‘til I’m 90. “Outta my way sonny! I’m comin’ through!”

2. You've been writing about Sammy Keyes for over 10 years now. What are some things about her or the series that have changed since you started?

She is growing up a month at a time from book to book, so she’s trying to learn from her mistakes and apply those lessons to new situations. It’s tough to pull the punch when you’re dealing with Heather Acosta, but she’s learning to take her down in other ways.

What’s been a challenge for me over the course of the series is keeping the stories up-to-date regarding kids’ use of technology. When I started the series, kids didn’t have iPods or cell phones. Fortunately, Sammy can’t afford those things to begin with, but they need to exist on the periphery, and slipping in these changes needs to feel natural to the reader. Plea to techno companies: Stop inventing new stuff!

3. I just wanted to say that I've reread Flipped dozens of times and it's still one of my all-time favorites. So thank you! What inspired you to write Juli and Bryce's story?

Flipped is the book I wish I’d had when I was growing up. I think it would have helped so much in my view, not only of my crushes, but of my friends. It took me forever to learn to see “past the surface,” and Flipped is my way of presenting the importance of that concept without preaching it. All the “telling” in the world is not going to dissuade a teen from their crush…but somehow Flipped manages to break through.

4. If you could bring one of your characters to life, who would it be?

Sammy. And I would be willing to relive the dark days of junior high just so I could hang out with her. And man, that’s saying something.

5. It certainly is! So you run a literacy/fitness campaign called "Exercise the Right to Read." Can you tell us a little about that, and one memorable experience from the program?

The Exercise the Right to Read program is my effort to help schools raise funds while instilling good fitness and literacy habits in students, and also serving the community. Everything’s free and downloadable at www.exercisetherighttoread.org.  Schools that have participated have had really good success. I just returned from visiting Central Middle School in Edmond, Oklahoma—this year’s ETRTR challenge winner. Part of my visit involved walking the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon 5-K with students, parents, and staff. I got on a school bus with a bunch of them at five in the morning and it was such an uplifting, moving experience for me to see how much participating in this program had impacted them.

6. You've written a variety of books in many different genres. Are there any other types of books that you'd like to write in the future?

The unexpected seems to happen to me in writing. I’ll get a little seed of an idea, tell myself, No way—you don’t have time for that! But that little seed takes root and before you know it I’m watering the darn thing, thinking about it all the time. At that point, it’s too late to turn back. Last year was the first year in ten years that there was no Sammy Keyes book published. And that was because this little idea I had consumed me. There was a tremendous amount of research involved in developing the idea but I was obsessed with the story and everything else got put on hold. The book is titled The Running Dream and will be out in January 2011, but because of it there was a delay in writing Sammy Keyes and the Wedding Crasher (which, ironically, comes out before The Running Dream, in October 2010). I started getting people writing me asking, Are you writing any more Sammys? Please, please, please? And then there were the ones who wondered if I was dead. Can’t have that! So no matter what little idea floats into my head, I am now focusing on Sammy. From here to the end of the series, it’s Sammy Keyes all the way. After that? We’ll see what takes root.

7. Outside of writing, what are some of your favorite things to do?

I love playing chess with my sons. We have a Burger King crown that we’ve turned into the Chess Champion crown, and it rotates among the three of us. Who has the crown? I want to play! (My husband won’t play me, ‘cause he can’t beat me, but the boys are starting to do so routinely, which give me great pleasure.)

My favorite thing in the world is playing raucous rock ‘n’ roll guitar…something I do with my husband (who is an awesome drummer), and now also our sons who (incredibly enough) don’t think it’s awkward to play in a band with their parents.

8. And finally, can you give us a small hint as to what will appear in the upcoming Sammy Keyes book?

Sammy Keyes books are never easy to sum up, and Sammy Keyes and the Wedding Crasher is no exception. This is the first Sammy where the mystery occurs at school. Someone’s threatening Mr. Vince, and because of his sour attitude toward his students, the field of suspects is wide open. Also, Sammy’s ditzy mother is back in town causing trouble, Officer Borsch is getting married (or at least trying—after all, Sammy’s in the wedding party, so you know things are not going to go smoothly), and Heather’s up to evil. And then there’s Casey. Poor Sammy and Casey. Sigh.

So that’s it? Okay! Well, thanks again for inviting me to stop by. I hope your readers will follow me to my next tour stop which will be at Through a Glass, Darkly (www.throughaglass.net) tomorrow. I understand a middle schooler who is a big Sammy Keyes fan will be in charge of questions. Should be interesting!


Thank you so much for stopping by, Wendelin! Be sure to visit the other stops on Wendelin's tour if you're interested, in order to learn more about her, Sammy Keyes, and her other books!

May 31st: Where the Books Are – http://wherethebestbooksare.blogspot.com
June 1st:  Steph Su Reads - http://stephsureads.blogspot.com
June 2nd: Through A Glass, Darkly – www.throughaglass.net
June 3rd: Mrs. Magoo Reads – www.mrsmagooreads.com
June 4th: The Children’s Book Review – www.thechildrensbookreview.com
June 5th:  Write for a Reader – www.writeforareader.blogspot.com
June 6th: Mundie Moms - http://mundiemoms.blogspot.com/
June 7th: Library Lounge Lizard - http://www.libraryloungelizard.com/
June 8th: Wendelin’s Jog Blog - http://etrtr.blogspot.com/


  1. The Q/A session with Wendelin was great fun to read, and I enjoyed learning about her secret quirks and interests beyond writing. I would encourage your readers to convince their schools to participate in her ETRTR program. My school has participated the past three years, and it has made a very positive impact on our students and staff. It gave us a sense of community as we came together to participate in various activities and charitable projects, culminating in an amazing, unforgettable author visit with Wendelin, culminating with the OKCity Memorial 5K walk. One student said, "It was the best experience I have ever had."
    I recommend readers of all ages to read her books this summer. They are a reflection of her warm, quirky, witty, one-of-a-kind personality.

  2. Great interview. I love Sammy Keyes, but my favorite is Runaway. Loved hearing about Wenelin's quirks too.

  3. Wendelin and Sammy are my favorites, too. I can't wait for Wedding Crasher. It's been too long between Sammys. I agree that Runaway is great also. What a talent Wendelin has for expressing the middle school mind! And she's only like that herself a little.

  4. Poor Sammy and Csaey! I will freak out whn that book comes out! I was actually one of the people who thought you were dead. I was in mourning. Then CHC came out and I threw a party for my book club. I remember when I used to ride on a shopping cart. Then I crashed my lip on it and I learned MY lesson.

  5. Diego (7) loves to play "chest". It won't be long before he beats me. Raffy (4) and I have our own game that's over in two minutes because we break all the rules and go for the jugular.

    Fun interview! I enjoyed finding out more about you, Wendelin. I'll put Stephsureads on my blog.

  6. This is such a great idea! Not only do I get to learn more about my favorite author, but also find fun new reading sites to explore. Thank you all! Can't wait to read Wedding Crasher AND the Running Dream! (btw, Wendelin, this is my year of the ny marathon!)

  7. It was so cool to read your responses, and the questions were great! I thought I was the only one obsessed with the moon, other than Elyssa and I don't share her reason :). Flipped is one of my favorite books because it is about so much more than the romance. Even though it doesn't apply to anyone I've had feelings for, it applies to so many people I know. There is so much more beyond what seems to be, and I wish more people could understand that. I hope those who haven't read the book itself are inspired and touched by the film as many have been by the book. "Poor Sammy and Casey. Sigh", you do know how to scare your fans, don't you?!?! lol. Now slightly worried.... Thank you Steph Su Reads for being a host on the tour, and for your other reviews. I love the site!! You have a new follower :)

  8. Fun interview! Thanks, Wendelin. Thanks, Steph. I'm enjoying the blog tour; what a great idea.
    Donna :)

  9. Wendelin is the coolest lady around. No wonder Sammy Keyes is such a fun character. They have a lot in common!

  10. How nice! I'm enjoying this blog tour, and I love this site. Thanks, Steph for inviting me, and thanks to everyone who checked in. Hope to see you tomorrow!

  11. Fabulous interview! I laughed over the jigsaw comment and smiled about the rising moon. I’m currently working on a YA novel with alternating boy-girl narration. I’m drawing on the lessons I learned from reading Flipped a while ago. A YA author friend recommended it me as one of her favorites.


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