Today we're excited to chat with Ruseell Ginns, author of Samantha Spinner and the Super-Seret Plans. Read on for more about Russell and his book, plus a giveaway!
Meet Russell Ginns!
RUSSELL GINNS is a writer and game designer who specializes in puzzles, songs, and smart fun. He has worked on projects for Sesame Street, Nintendo, NASA, UNICEF, Hooked on Phonics, and the Girl Scouts of America. He once had a poem published on the back of an Alpha-Bits cereal box. Russell lives and writes in Washington, DC. Samantha Spinner and the Super-Secret Plans is his debut novel. To learn more about him, visit samanthaspinner.com and follow Russell on Twitter at @rginns
Samantha Spinner’s uncle Paul has disappeared, and here’s what he left:
• Samantha’s sister got a check for $2,400,000,000.
• Samantha’s brother got the New York Yankees.
• And Samantha got a rusty red umbrella with a tag hanging off its worn handle. The tag says “Watch out for the
Thanks a lot, Uncle Paul.
After all the strawberry waffles, stories, and puzzles they’ve shared, how could he just leave without saying goodbye? And what is the meaning of that mysterious message?
The answer is simple. Sam knows in her heart that Uncle Paul is in danger. And if he taught her anything, it’s that not everything is exactly what it seems. Which is why we should pay close attention to that rusty red umbrella, and never trust a monkey at a hula-hoop contest.
The RAIN is coming, and Samantha Spinner is about to find herself mixed up in some super-important, super-dangerous, super-secret plans.
1. What gave you the inspiration to write this book?
When I was a kid, I remember going to see a play in a fancy theater. I kept looking at the sculptures and architectural details, and I started thinking “What if that shape was actually a secret door and there was a hidden tunnel that runs up to that strange shape above the stage?”
Ever since then, I’ve always noticed interesting panels and details on building that could be secret passages in disguise.
I invented Samantha as a way to explore these hidden passages and find out where they go.
2. Who is your favorite character in the book?
I have become very attached to the team of Samantha and Nipper. This is the first time I’ve been able to write a series where original characters come back again and really develop and change.
I wrote the first book, but Sam and Nipper are really writing the others.
3. Which came first, the title or the novel?
The title—based just on a rough idea—was originally Sheila Sargasso and the Ultra- Secret Plans. Then, I changed it to Samantha for my cousin Sammy. I have no idea where the name Spinner came from. Then I changed it to Super-Secret Plans, because here at Spinner HQ, we are all about alliteration!
4. What scene in the book are you most proud of, and why?
I think it’s the scene where Samantha and Nipper are looking for a secret passage in Florence, Italy. They figure out there is a button hidden inside the nose of a horse statue in the famous Fountain of Neptune. Everything stops. Nipper demands that, if anyone is going to stick a finger in a nose, he must be the person who does it!
I love the scene because it is about real-life Florence, and it is a good example of my two main characters and how they work together. It’s also really silly. When I visit schools, it’s the passage of the book I usually read aloud. It almost always gets a laugh.
5. Thinking way back to the beginning, what’s the most important thing you've learned as a writer from then to now?
Wow! It’s important to always keep track of whose chapter it is and to keep writing from that character’s point of view. I have a tendency to write in a passive third person style. I think I watched too much Monty Python.
Every time I get my early draft back from my editor, it’s filled with notes to “bring us closer” and show things the way the character sees them.
And it ALWAYS makes the writing better!
6. What do you like most about the cover of the book?
I didn’t like it at all at first, because I had always imagined that my book would have an ominous object (the umbrella) and nothing else, to give people a sense of mystery--like Hunger Games. I resisted Random House’s design for a long time, and I complained a lot. They pushed back because they really wanted the cover to get across that the book was funny and also that it was a good read for both girls and boys. They added sardines and smelly socks and made sure that Samantha’s brother was visible doing something active.
..and I admit that I was totally wrong!
The cover really captures the mood of the book. I love it. And now I see that there are thousands of book covers out there that look like Hunger Games. So I am delighted that Samantha’s cover looks so unique.
7. What’s up next for you?
I am just getting going plotting out book three of the series. I am also percolating another secret project about magnets, stickers and empathy. Stay tuned.
8. Which character gave you the most trouble when writing your latest book?
It took me a long time to figure out how to write Samantha and Nipper’s encounter with evil clowns while they were in Mali and Indonesia. The people they meet and interact with in those countries wear colorful clothes and are based on real people you’d meet if
you went there. Meanwhile, the clowns that chase Samantha and Nipper wear colorful clothes and they are completely ridiculous characters that I made up.
It took me a long time to balance real and silly just right to make the story work.
9. What would you say is your superpower?
My superpower is that I am interested in many different things. And everything I enjoy—I dump right into my work.
I like puzzles, so I loaded the book with hidden codes. I like to write music, so I made a Samantha Spinner theme song to introduce the story. (You can see it at www.samanthaspinner.com.) I’m learning welding and electronics: I have plans to promote book two with a swarm of robot chinchillas!
10. Is there an organization or cause that is close to your heart?
The Samantha Spinner series is about the fact that there are amazing places all over the world, filled with interesting people, and it is both fun and possible to go and see and meet and explore.
It is too easy to fall into thinking that everywhere outside of the place we live is strange and filled with scary people. It’s too easy to think that other languages and foods and cities are not “normal.” But that is completely backwards and wrong!
I want to be part of encouraging people to read and explore and meet and GO! “No place is in the middle of nowhere!” – Paul Spinner.
Samantha Spinner and the Super-Secret Plans
By: Russel Ginns
Release Date: February 13, 2018