Today we are chatting with Elana K. Arnold, author of
Read on for more about Elana, her book and giveaway!
Meet Elana K. Arnold!
Elana K. Arnold is the award-winning author of many books for children and teens, including the middle grade novels The Question of Miracles, Far from Fair, A Boy Called Bat, and The House That Wasn’t There as well as the YA novels Red Hood, the Michael L. Printz Honor book Damsel, and the National Book Award finalist What Girls Are Made Of. She holds a master’s degree in creative writing/fiction from the University of California, Davis, and is a member of the faculty in Hamline University’s MFA in writing for children and young adults program. Elana currently lives in Huntington Beach, CA, with her husband, two children, and a menagerie of animals. You can find her online at www.elanakarnold.com.
Meet Just Harriet!
There are a few things you should know about Harriet Wermer:
She just finished third grade. She has a perfect cat named Matzo Ball. She doesn’t always tell the truth. She is very happy to be spending summer vacation away from home and her mom and dad and all the wonderful things she had been planning all year.Okay, maybe that last one isn’t entirely the truth.
Of course, there’s nothing Harriet doesn’t like about Marble Island, the small island off the coast of California where her nanu runs a cozy little bed and breakfast. And nobody doesn’t love Moneypenny, Nanu’s old basset hound. But Harriet doesn’t like the fact that Dad made this decision without even asking her.
When Harriet arrives on Marble Island, however, she discovers that it’s full of surprises, and even a mystery. One that seems to involve her Dad, back when he was a young boy living on Marble Island. One that Harriet is absolutely going to solve. And that’s the truth.
~ Author Chat ~
YABC: What gave you the inspiration to write this book?
My middle grade novel A BOY CALLED BAT and its sequels have been shared many times as community reads. It has been incredibly gratifying to see a character who is so special to me reach such a large audience. I get letters every week from parents, teachers, librarians, and kids, telling me about their connection to the book.
I knew I wanted to write a new series that, like the BAT books, would be warm, gentle, and full of loving kindness… and animals! Then Harriet showed up, so voice-y and fun, with her own set of challenges and her unique perspective. I fell in love immediately and knew I’d go wherever she led me.
YABC: Which came first, the title or the novel?
The title came pretty early with this one! I’d barely begun to write the first chapter when I knew what I wanted the book to be called. Here’s a little excerpt from the book, which will help you understand both the title and the character:
Maybe you should know just one more thing about me. Mom really did name me after Harriet the Spy, that character from a book. It was her favorite book when she was a kid, and she’d always known that when she grew up, if she had a daughter, she’d name her daughter Harriet.
But whenever anyone says to me, “Hey, your name’s Harriet! Like Harriet the Spy!”, I stop them right there and say:
“No. It’s just Harriet.”
“Okay, Just Harriet,” the grownups always say. (It’s like they’ve all read the same handbook called Dumb Grownup Jokes.)
That’s why sometimes the kids call me Just Harriet. Because they heard our teacher, Mrs. Robinson, make that joke on the first day of third grade, and it stuck. Grownups don’t seem to get that a thing like a nickname can follow a person for a long time. I don’t understand; weren’t grownups kids, before they were grownups? Do they all get, like, grownup amnesia, or something?
When I grow up, I’m not going to forget how icky and uncomfortable and… infuriating it can be to be a kid. That’s a promise.
YABC: What scene in the book are you most proud of, and why?
I’m such a fan of endings. There are many scenes in JUST HARRIET that I’m proud of, and its ending is among them. I nailed it, I think!
YABC: Thinking way back to the beginning, what’s the most important thing you’ve learned as a writer from then to now?
The “beginning” of being a writer for me dates to childhood. Recently I’ve been looking through my early writing, and something I’ve discovered is that the things that interest and compel me today—neuroatypicality, how caring for animals allows us to be better humans, sibling relationships, parent/child dynamics, and more—these same interests appear in simpler forms in the stuff I was writing when I was eight years old. This fascinates me. I think one of the most important things I’ve learned as a writer is that whatever I am drawn to, whatever compels me, I can write about those things. They are interesting and important to me, and therefore worthy of my time.
YABC: What do you like most about the cover of the book?
Dung Ho, who illustrates the book’s interior art as well as the cover, did such a fantastic job. I absolutely love how she’s caught Harriet’s mischievous expression, as well as Moneypenny the Basset Hound’s mournful eyes.
YABC: What’s a book you’ve recently read and loved?
I finally read THE HOUSE IN THE CERULLIAN SEA, and I adored it start to finish. What a creative, warm, wonderful hug of a book.
YABC: What’s up next for you?
I’m working on revisions of the second book in the JUST HARRIET series! Each of these books features a gentle mystery in addition to complex, interesting characters. The character stuff comes naturally to me. The mystery writing is more of a challenge! But, as my wonderful editor Jordan Brown points out, if the book doesn’t come out perfectly the first time, it means you’re trying something new, and that’s a good thing.
YABC: What advice do you have for new writers?
You don’t have to know everything—or even very much—about what your story will be before you start writing. It’s okay to follow just one thing—an interesting “what if” question, a setting that compels you, a character’s voice—and see where it takes you.
Author: Elana K Arnold
Publisher: Harpercollins Kids
Publish Date: February 1st, 2022
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