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Monday, June 12, 2017

An Interview with Jenn Bishop, author of 14 Hollow Road

I'm thrilled to welcome middle grade author Jenn Bishop to The Hiding Spot to chat about her new novel, 14 Hollow Road! Read on for Jenn's thoughts on books set during the course of one summer, romantic plotlines in MG, and more!

Your debut book, The Distance to Home, and this second novel, 14 Hollow Road, highlight a pivotal summer in your respective main characters’ lives. What is it about the summer season and the middle grade experience that so appeals to you? 

To be frank, I live for summer. Maybe that comes from growing up in New England and having to suffer through winter, but there’s just something magical about summer. In my later elementary years and especially as we got into junior high, it seemed like a person could change so much over the summer. You’d see them at the end of the school year, and maybe not so much over the summer, and then return in the fall to a vastly changed person. As a writer, I have a special appreciation for summer because it’s a time where anything can happen—you’re freed from the constraints of the school year. I also find it easier to manage a smaller time-frame; my early readers will let you know that in early drafts, passage of time is always sort of . . . muddy. 
Many kids experience their first crushes in upper elementary and middle school, but, in my experience, there isn’t a large number of MG novels that venture into discussion on this experience. Can you speak about including crushes and budding romantic relationships in your novels and MG generally? 
This is such a great question. You’re certainly hitting on the truth, Sara. I think what’s tricky with middle grade novels is that the readership can really range. You have third and fourth graders who are advanced readers, but then the actual experience of sixth and seventh and eighth grade can also be almost like early high school, depending on the kid. And then you throw in the fact that for many of these readers, the gatekeepers (parents, teachers, librarians) are trying to shield and protect them from certain aspects of growing up and the real world. It can make it hard sometimes. In writing this book, I realized that the themes and experiences made it more of an upper middle grade book. As far as romance goes—haha. Maddie has about as much luck in that front as I did as a 7th grader, which is to say, none at all, so it’s much more about the feelings of a crush than it is about anything actually transpiring between Maddie and Avery, her longtime neighbor and crush. For me, this was more about how the overwhelming feeling of a crush can obliterate the ability to recognize that your crush is a person. When I look back on those years in my life (especially sixth and seventh grade), I can see that I completely lost sight of that. I wanted to give Maddie the epiphany that for me came several years too late. 
Tell me a little bit about your writing process: Do you outline? Start at the beginning? The middle? The end? 

Well, I think my agent would love for me to start outlining, but I’m settling into the reality that my process is what it is, and that, for me, outlining or really any kind of big picture organization can only happen later in the process. When I write, I begin with a character and a scenario. It’s only in the fleshing out of the scenes (usually in order) that I know what’s going on and where the heart of the book lies. I’m truly unable to sit down and write out even a detailed synopsis or future scenes until I have at least 50 or so pages written. Often, once I’m at that stage, I begin to see glimmers of future chapters and moments, which come to me at odd times—often when I’m driving or reading a published book—and I have to cross my fingers I remember the thought or toss my book aside and run to my laptop. 
Inspiration comes in many forms. Share three people, places, or things that inspire your creativity. 
Running, time outside, and a good TV show. 
My blog is dedicated to my personal hiding spot, books. Name a notable book that provided you with a hiding spot. 
As a kid, I cherished the Baby-sitter’s Club books by Ann M. Martin. Those characters were nearly real people as far as I was concerned. I remember making my parents take me to neighboring town’s libraries because I’d read all the volumes that my local library had. There’s a certain comfort to series books, to the formula of them, and though I don’t think there are any series that I read now (okay, exception—I do keep up with the Wimpy Kid books), I can why they are perennially popular for so many readers. 
What can readers look forward to next? 
I have two WIPs cooking right now—both middle grade—so we’ll see which one sticks. One is about a boy yearning for a connection with his deceased father, whose summer is upended when an old friend of his mother’s comes to town, making him question everything he thought he knew. And the other is about a girl who is sent to stay with family friends in Wyoming for the summer so her parents can focus their energy on her sick brother. Yeah, I guess you could say I do like writing things set in the summer.

About the Book
The night of the sixth-grade dance is supposed to be perfect for Maddie; she'll wear her beautiful new dress, she'll hit the dance floor with her friends, and her crush, Avery, will ask her to dance. Most importantly, she'll finally leave her tiny elementary school behind for junior high. But as the first slow song starts to play, her plans crumble. Avery asks someone else to dance instead--and then the power goes out. Huddled in the gym, Maddie and her friends are stunned to hear that a tornado has ripped through the other side of town, destroying both Maddie's and Avery's homes.

Kind neighbors open up their home to Maddie's and Avery's families, which both excites and horrifies Maddie. Sharing the same house . . . with Avery? For the entire summer? While it buys her some time to prove that Avery made the wrong choice at the dance, it also means he'll be there to witness her morning breath and her annoying little brother. Meanwhile, she must search for her beloved dog, who went missing during the tornado. At the dance, all she wanted was to be more grown-up. Now that she has no choice, is she ready for it?


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