Today we're excited to chat with Melissa Savage, author of Lemons. Read on for more about Melissa and her book, plus a giveaway!
1. What gave you the inspiration to write this book?
Reading has been a life guide for me ever since I was a young child. It was even a book that I read in elementary school called, Don’t Hurt Laurie by Willo Davis Roberts, a story about child abuse, that influenced my decision to work in counseling with children who have had a history of abuse and neglect. And it is my work with children and love of reading that influenced me to write issue driven books for kids. I love to write stories about adversities that kids are faced with in the world. I think it’s important for kids to understand that they are not alone in their struggles and that others share their experiences and feelings. And mostly that there is hope despite adversity.
Most recently I have been affected by a difficult loss in my own life and have since worked with children grappling with losses of their own and have found that grief and loss is a very difficult subject matter for many people to talk about. Yet it’s something everyone will face in their lives, even losses such as divorce, or a best friend moving away, or even saying good-bye to a beloved teacher at the end of a school year. So, I wanted to write a story about the adversity of loss and how healing can come in the form of the kindness and love and willingness to stand by another in their grief. Because it is with the support from others that can make a real difference in someone’s life when a difficult loss has occurred.
2. Who is your favorite character in the book?
I would say that Lemonade is most like myself, however Tobin is my favorite. He’s a very special character for me in the book and was named after my son, Tobin. My son passed away in 2012 at nine months of age and, just like Lemonade wanting her mother to remain a part of this world, I want my son to remain a part of this world too. The character Tobin is what I imagined the real-life Tobin to grow up to be. Stoic and brave, as he was, but also scientific like his Dad and as big a fan of Bigfoot and cryptozoology as his Mommy! Losing someone you love is an extremely tough lemon, as Lem experiences in the story, and she struggles to find how to make lemonade again. For me, sharing my son’s name and spirit with children all over the world is one of the ways I’ve learned to make my own lemonade.
3. Which came first, the title or the novel?
Definitely the novel. I knew I wanted to write about a little girl named Lemonade who would battle adversity and then the story went from there. I sent the novel in with the title and others were considered, but Penguin Random House stuck with Lemons. Chicken House Books in London purchased the foreign rights for the UK and Commonwealth and chose another name (Bigfoot, Tobin and Me) because I was informed Lemons meant something different there that didn’t fit with the book. I think that is a wonderful title as well.
4. What scene in the book are you most proud of, and why?
One of my favorite scenes is when Tobin and Lemonade come upon the nest out back of Mrs. Dickerson’s house and find Scotty living there. The scene in which Charlie, Debbie, Scotty, Tobin and Lemonade all come to grips with Scotty being alive is so full of all kinds of different feelings all at once. And it also really shows Lemonade’s growth and healing as she reaches for Charlie’s hand just in case he has his own sadness quicksand.
5. Thinking way back to the beginning, what’s the most important thing you've learned as a writer from then to now?
The best thing I have learned along the way is that I can never know enough about writing. I received a Master’s Degree in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Hamline University in Minnesota, however I continue to work on my craft all the time. I read books on writing and attend additional seminars to keep improving my ability. I will never stop learning because I think being open to improving is the best way to be a writer.
6. What do you like most about the cover of the book?
I love the bright cover and definitely the peeking Bigfoot at the top. Although Lemon’s is told from Lemonade’s POV, Tobin is equally important to the story. So, I love that they included Tobin in his safari hat and binoculars as well.
7. What new release book are you looking most forward to in 2018?
Where the Watermelons Grow by Cindy Baldwin; P.S. I Miss You by Jen Petro-Roy and The House That Lou Built by Mae Respicio.
8. What was your favorite book in 2016?
Raymie Nightingale, by Kate DiCamillo. Kate is one of my most favorite authors. She is so masterful in many aspects of writing. I wait with anticipation whenever she has something new debuting.
9. What’s up next for you?
My next book is also a middle grade novel about two ten-year-old boys, Mylo and Dibs, who come upon the 1947 UFO crash site in Roswell, New Mexico. In 1947, the military announced to the world that they had recovered a real flying saucer and by the next day they had retracted the story, stating it was just a weather balloon. To this day, so many years later, many people still believe it was more than a weather balloon and witnesses still swear by what they believe they saw so many years earlier. Some even reporting to have seen the creatures themselves. Another interesting adventure! I thought it would be fun to write a story about kids finding the wreckage in the field, and even more importantly a story aboutwho they find amongst that wreckage!
10. Is there anything that you would like to add?
It has been my desire to become a writer ever since I was in second grade. And it has been a dream come true for me to be working with both Penguin Random House and Chicken House Books on my very first book! I’m so grateful to all the professionals who supported a book about Bigfoot and healing from loss. It’s been a team effort to make this book come to fruition and I’m eternally grateful to everyone who has been a part of it.
11. Which was the most difficult or emotional scene to narrate?
The most difficult scene was when Lemonade finally finds the courage to open the trunk at the end of her bed and look at the items inside it. She finds that there are treasured mementoes from her mother’s childhood, including a blue stuffed bunny inside, a beloved childhood toy of her mothers. The feelings she experiences in that scene are the kind of feelings that come with grief in its deepest most raw form. People have told me they have cried reading it and I have cried many times as I wrote and edited that scene.
12. Which character gave you the most trouble when writing your latest book?
Extraterrestrials 100%! It’s hard to get in the mind of a Martian when you’ve never even met one!
13. Which part of the writing process do you enjoy more: Drafting or Revising?
Definitely revising. For me, the best writing is done in the revising. First drafts are just a guideline to how I initially think the story will unfold. It is the revising that is where I add a more distinctive voice to each character and layer the plot with additional themes. It is where the parts of a story turn into something whole.
14. What would you say is your superpower?
Being a ten-year-old at heart.
15. Is there an organization or cause that is close to your heart?
Great Question! Yes! Children’s Palliative Care and Children’s Hospice. I have a huge heart for these organizations and I’m working to start my own nonprofit right now, working with medically fragile children at bedside on narrative work to help them share their own stories. I’m hoping to get it off the ground very soon! I think it’s important to be a part of positive change in whatever way speaks loudest to your own heart.
Meet Melissa Savage!
Fans of Kate DiCamillo’s Flora & Ulysses and Katherine Applegate’s Crenshaw will fall in love with this charming adventure story about a girl learning to accept her new life, her quirky detective neighbor, and their epic search for Bigfoot.
Lemonade Liberty Witt’s mama always told her: When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. But Lem can’t possibly make lemonade out of her new life in Willow Creek, California—the Bigfoot Capital of the World—where she’s forced to live with a grandfather she’s never met after her mother passes away.
Then she meets eleven-year-old Tobin Sky, the CEO of Bigfoot Detectives Inc., who is the sole Bigfoot investigator for their small town. After he invites Lem to be his assistant for the summer, they set out on an epic adventure to capture a shot of the elusive beast on film. But along the way, Lem and Tobin end up discovering more than they ever could have imagined. And Lem realizes that maybe she can make lemonade out of her new life after all.
By: Melissa Savage
Release Date: May 2, 2017
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