Author Chat with Denis Markell (The Ghost In Apartment 2R), Plus Giveaway! ~ (US Only)
Today we're excited to chat with Denis Markell author of
The Ghost In Apartment 2R
Read on for more about Denis and his book, plus an giveaway!
Meet Denis Markell!
Denis Markell has written all sorts of things, from sitcoms to off-Broadway musicals, but nothing has given him as much enjoyment or satisfaction as writing novels for kids--the puzzle-packed mystery Click Here to Start and the Dungeons & Dragons-inspired adventure The Game Masters of Garden Place. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife, illustrator Melissa Iwai, and his son, Jamie. Although their apartment is not haunted, they suspect their Shiba Inu puppy, Nikki, might be demonically possessed. You can find Denis on Twitter at @DenisMarkell, and yes, he'd be happy to do a Skype author visit for your kid's class.
Meet The Ghost In Apartment 2R!
It stinks that Danny's older brother moved out and went to college. But you know what's worse? He left behind an angry ghost in his room! With the help of his friends Nat and Gus, Danny interviews everyone his Brooklyn neighborhood to find out about spirits. Is it an Arabian ghoul? A Korean gwishin? A Polish haunting? Maybe the answer lies with Danny's own bubbe and her tales of a dybbuk, a Jewish mythological ghost. Regardless of its origins, what does the spirit truly want? And can Danny manage to bring the phantom to rest?
~ Author Chat ~
YABC: What gave you the inspiration to write this book?
I live in Brooklyn Heights, which inspires me both because it’s a landmarked neighborhood, (which means you can find many areas where every house is a hundred and fifty years old or more), and because it has a long history of different ethnic groups passing through and living here as they worked towards a better life.
When you walk the streets after twilight, it’s hard NOT to feel the ghosts of past neighbors and families around you, swirling in the mist. But our neighborhood isn’t a museum piece, it’s also forward looking, and welcoming to new arrivals who bring something new to our community, and that diversity is something I wanted to celebrate as well.
Also, I wanted to scare kids.
YABC: Who is your favorite character in the book?
That’s a hard one. As much as I love Danny and the humor and strength of character he shows as he faces his challenges, I have to say I loved writing his grandmother, Bubbe Ruth. She is such a tough lady, who with all her complaining and needling of Danny’s poor parents, has a heart filled with love and an ability to accept those things she can’t understand. Or as she might say, “So? Einstein said he couldn’t understand everything, and who am I to argue with Einstein?”
YABC: Which came first, the title or the novel?
I need to quote Bubbe Ruth again when it comes to titles and just say, “Oy.” So far, anything I write is handed in with a “working title” since I know no one is going to like what I came up with.
Typically, my editor, my agent and my family all weigh in on what might be good for a title, and I come up with a bunch of lousy ones, and somehow among them we find something which seems to work pretty well. But just once I’d like to start with a great title!
YABC: What scene in the book are you most proud of, and why?
There are scenes I’m proud of for different reasons – well, not really proud of as much as happy that they turned out pretty much like I had hoped they would. The scene where the family meets Mrs. Sarah Delano Cabot makes me laugh even though I wrote it – and the scene where the kids meet Sari (no spoilers!) is one that is a little out of my comfort zone, so that’s also something I’m glad I tried to do.
YABC: Thinking way back to the beginning, what’s the most important thing you've learned as a writer from then to now?
This isn’t just about being a writer, but it’s something that I wish I heard years ago. My very wise agent Holly Root tells all her clients “Eyes on your own paper.”
The idea of not wasting the emotional and psychic energy on comparing your journey with others is something we all wrestle with, and it can really eat you up if you let it. Our culture is so obsessed with measuring ourselves against other people’s success that I have to constantly repeat that advice to myself. When I follow it, I find I’m happier and more productive!
YABC: What do you like most about the cover of the book?
Gosh, there are so many things I love about it that it’s hard to narrow it down to one thing. The amazing artist, Marco Guadalupi, was given quite an assignment. Because this is a ghost story for kids as young as ten it can’t be too scary but it has to evoke that something scary is going to happen in the book, while at the same time conveying that there’s humor as well. And suggest the Brooklyn setting. I think he did all that brilliantly.
I also love the ghost!
YABC: What’s up next for you?
I’m delighted to be able to say that I’m doing another middle grade book for Delacorte titled (well it’s the title for now anyway – see answer 3 above!) THE FINAL CUT.
It’s about three kids who are making a movie for their film class, but for some reason it seems someone does NOT want this film to get made or shown. So it’s a mystery, but with lots of humor coming from three very different kids who have to learn to work together and listen to each other if they’re ever going to make the movie they want to make!
YABC: Which character gave you the most trouble when writing your latest book?
Danny’s friend Natalie. Nat is fictional, but the store her family owns, and her grandfather Sammy are inspired by a real place, Sahadi’s and its patriarch Charlie Sahadi.
Charlie’s adult children now run the store, but he is in there all the time, and is such a welcoming presence that I wanted pay tribute to him, and by extension, all the merchants who stuck it out through Brooklyn’s lean times and have made themselves neighborhood fixtures.
Because Nat is from a Christian Arab background, something I hadn’t seen represented in middle grade, I really wanted to show her and her family. Any time you are writing about a culture that isn’t yours you have to make sure you get everything right. Fortunately for me, Christine Whelan (Charlie’s daughter) and Ronnie (his son) were generous with their time and helped me to make sure I wasn’t misrepresenting anything.
YABC: Which part of the writing process do you enjoy more: Drafting or Revising?
Definitely drafting. It’s scarier, because you’re putting it down on paper for the first time, but it’s also so great when things begin to fall into place and the characters come to life and you start to hear them in your head. I don’t do ‘character sheets’ like some writers, who sit down and write long back stories for their characters before even starting. I like meeting them as I write, and finding out things along the way. I figure if I’m surprised the reader will be too (or at least I hope they will).
Revising is essential of course, but I find that part is about problem solving and finding more interesting ways to say something, or avoiding repetitive beats, stuff like that.
It’s kind of like filling in a crossword puzzle. Not that it isn’t creative, but if I’ve done my homework with the outline (I do write a basic outline of the story before I begin a draft) the revision process is more about cutting and improving than wholesale throwing out huge chunks of the story and changing it.
YABC: Is there an organization or cause that is close to your heart?
Purely out of self-interest, I am obviously drawn to the cause of literacy and fostering the love of reading in young people, especially with so many other diversions that can capture their time, from social media to video games and the ability to binge watch TV shows right on their phones. Can you tell I have a teenage son? In total fairness, I need to say that we grown-ups need to set good examples and too many of us are guilty of not practicing what we preach!
I’m not going to advocate for a particular candidate or party but I am also passionate about young people getting involved in the political system and helping make sure that every American is allowed to vote for the person of their choice. When young people speak out (whether on climate change or other causes that directly affect them) and actually vote (or get their older friends and siblings to), their power is so inspiring!
The Ghost In Apartment 2R
By: Denis Markell
Release Date: November 12th, 2019
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Five winners will each receive a copy of The Ghost In Apartment 2R (Denis Markell) ~ (US Only)
*Click the Rafflecopter link below to enter the giveaway*