Today we are very excited to share an interview with Author Carolyn Leiloglou (Beneath the Swirling Sky)!
Meet the Author: Carolyn Leiloglou
Carolyn Leiloglou is the granddaughter of art collectors, daughter of an art teacher, and homeschooling mom to four wildly creative kids. She’s an award-winning author whose poems and short stories have appeared in children’s magazines around the world. Carolyn also reviews her favorite children’s books on her online platform, House full of Bookworms. Learn more at carolynleiloglou.com.
About the Book: Beneath the Swirling Sky
A house full of paintings, a missing sister, and a family secret send a boy and his cousin into a world where art is the key in this fantasy adventure perfect for fans of The Wingfeather Saga and Pages & Co.
After an experience he’d rather forget, Vincent is determined to be done with art. So when he and his little sister, Lili, spend spring break with their art conservator great-uncle, Vincent’s plan is to stay glued to his phone.
That is, until Lili disappears into one of the world’s most famous paintings and Vincent learns his parents have been hiding something from him: Their family is the last of The Restorationists, a secret society with the power to travel through paintings—and a duty to protect them from evil forces.
With Lili’s safety on the line, leaving art behind is no longer an option. Vincent must team up with his know-it-all second-cousin Georgia, wrestle with why his parents lied to him, and confront both his past and a future he never wanted. Young readers are invited into a captivating universe where paintings become a portal—and adventure and danger lurk beyond every canvas.
YABC: What gave you the inspiration to write this book?
Growing up, my grandparents’ house was like a museum. It was stuffed with paintings, sculptures, antiques, and souvenirs from their travels. They even had a whole room in their creepy upstairs filled with stacks of paintings they didn’t have room for. I loved exploring there!
So a few years ago, when I was in a writing workshop where the speaker asked us to think about the most magical place in our childhood, I immediately pictured their house. That upstairs room stuffed with art became the jumping off place for a story about a kid who discovers his ability to go inside paintings. The idea for The Restorationists came together pretty quickly after that.
YABC: Who is your favorite character in the book?
I’m not sure I have a favorite character, but Vincent’s second cousin Georgia was a lot of fun to write, and I think she’ll be many people’s favorite. She’s quirky, opinionated, and homeschooled, and Vincent can’t decide if she’s weird or super cool.
However, I think I identify more with the main character, Vincent. When the book begins, Vincent has given up on painting after an embarrassing experience, and he wants nothing to do with art. His struggle is familiar to me because I gave up on writing around his age and didn’t start again until after I had kids.
I don’t want kids to make the mistake I did of giving up early on something they love just because it’s hard. I hope my readers can find encouragement to keep pursing whatever creative medium they find joy in and not judge their own work too harshly.
YABC: What scene in the book are you most proud of, and why?
Definitely the scene that takes place inside the painting Storm on the Sea of Galilee by Rembrandt. Partially because learning about its theft during the Gardner Heist was such a fun research rabbit hole to fall into. Once you know about this painting, you’ll see it popping up different places in pop-culture (like the villain’s lair in Cobra Kai). But what I really love about that scene is its intensity. Vincent and Georgia face impossible odds, and what happens in that painting creates a real turning point for Vincent. I can’t say more without spoilers!
YABC: What came first, the concept, landscape, characters, or something else?
The concept, in my case, was tied to the location (a fictional version of my grandparents’ house). But I’d say the concept—kids who could travel through paintings—came first. Once I had the idea, I immediately started wondering what kind of character would have the biggest life change by discovering a world where people can travel into paintings. I knew my main character had to be someone with a secret love for art but who had given up pursuing it because it had become painful for some reason.
YABC: If you could only write one genre for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
Middle grade fantasy is my first love! It’s what I’ve wanted to write since I was in fourth grade, and I can’t see myself ever wanting to give it up. I have a pile of picture book manuscripts I’d love to see published some day, but it I had to choose, middle grade fantasy wins hands down.
YABC: What can readers expect to find in your books?
Readers can expect lots of art and descriptions of what being in a painting looks and feels like. Also, readers can expect to find fidelity to where that art is in the real world. For instance, with the exception of paintings at Uncle Leo’s house for restoration (i.e. The Starry Night), all the paintings are shown in the museums where they belong and even on the very walls they were hanging on at the time of research. Also, the paintings owned by the villains in my story are all paintings that have actually been stolen and are still missing.
A lot of art is religious, and I think it would be a mistake to ignore that in a story like this, so readers will also find some Christian themes woven into the story in relation to the art, but in a way that I think is unobtrusive for most non-religious readers.
YABC: What is your favorite snack when writing?
I don’t multitask well, so I don’t usually snack while writing, but I always have to have something to drink. I prefer cold drinks, so I like to have ice water on hand and usually also a Coke Zero, but I’ll also drink tea (hot or iced) or iced coffee. Thirst will distract me from writing, so just keep me hydrated!
YABC: What’s your least favorite word or expression and why?
For whatever reason, I cannot stand the word moist. It grosses me out. Ick! Why did you make me say that?
YABC: What’s up next for you?
I’m deep in the world of The Restorationists for a while! Beneath the Swirling Sky is book one in a three book series. I just wrapped up edits for book two and am gearing up to write the first draft of book three. But I do have an idea for a fairy-tale based middle-grade story that I might pursue when I’ve finished the series.
Book’s Title: Beneath the Swirling Sky
Author Carolyn Leiloglou
Illustrator: Vivienne To
Release Date: Sept. 12, 2023
Genre: Children’s middle grade
Age Range 8-12