Author Kimberley Griffiths Little and Holly Schindler chat about Kimberley's latest MG release, THE TIME OF THE FIREFLIES:
What was the inspiration? Where did the idea for this book come from?
Larissa Renaud, the scarred girl from my novel, Circle of Secrets, only got a couple of very small scenes with Shelby Jayne, the main character. But those scenes were crucial because of her accident and because of her connection to the antique doll owned by her mother. The scene also contained a twist that tied Gwen, the girl from the past who drowned in the bayou, and her beloved doll to the present.
I found myself wanting to know more about Larissa, how she got the scar and why her family is living in an antique store. The question of where the doll originally came from was never answered, either. My daydreaming evolved and suddenly there was a curse in the history of this family from 1912 to the present, and Larissa needed to break the curse to prevent the 5 generations of tragedy from repeating once again by saving her mother and baby sister. Once I had that premise, the story contained high stakes and a ticking clock.
My family’s been involved in the antique business for years—are members of your own family—or are you—a big collector?
How cool that your family is surrounded by antiques and all that history on a full-time basis! Nope, nobody in my family has ever been in the antique business, but I adore antique stores and I own several antiques, including my dining room table and chairs, plus my gorgeous entryway table that was the first *big* item I ever bought with one of my first writing sales—a story in Family Circle eons ago. I love anything old and dusty and musty with a story behind it!
How did you come to choose Louisiana as the setting?
My first three novels with Scholastic are all set in the swamps and bayous of Louisiana (and I’ve traveled there so much it’s practically my second home now.) Oh, the mystery of that setting! The spooky aura! And the darling, friendly people I’ve grown to love and call friends. I created a fictional town in The Healing Spell and found myself returning to Bayou Bridge for Circle of Secrets and When the Butterflies Came, each from a different viewpoint character, and each a completely different story and character arc. But all four books have little *connections* to the others which the discerning reader will discover and enjoy—and my fan mail certainly proves that, which gives me great pleasure to see readers latching on to those connections.
I loved the way you jump straight into the “creepy” on page one. That first phone call is bound to hook readers immediately. Did you already know where your book was going when you drafted the first page? Do you outline, or is drafting a process of discovery?
I was experimenting to see how fast I could get to the big story question, or mystery, and still ground it in character and setting – all in just a few pages. Plus end the first chapter with a great cliffhanger, of course!
I did know the basics of where the story was going—I work better that way—but it’s usually just the bare bones of an outline I jot down using 3x5 cards. (If you go to my Youtube channel under my name there’s a video I created explaining my 3x5 Card Plotting.) I only scribble a couple of lines or ideas for each scene or chapter, but I know the direction I’m headed—like seeing a goal far away in a tunnel—and it keeps me from getting stuck or going off on tangents. But drafting is still a surprise as far as specific dialogue and character details, the story growing and developing, often twisting and turning as I write.
Larissa finds herself traveling back in time, to 1912. What kind of research did you have to do on this time period?
I’ve always been a huge historical fiction reader, ever since I was a kid. During elementary school my best friend, Starr, and I dressed up in old clothes almost every afternoon after school and played what we called the “Olden Days”. We made up characters and stories and hardships for ourselves.
I love nonfiction historical reading and reading about other cultures as well as watching movies set in various time periods. One of my all-time favorite movies, Somewhere in Time, is set in 1912. Of course, Fireflies is partially set in an old plantation home and my oodles of research the last ten years came in very handy. After three contemporary novels I just had to set a book in the past.
Family Bibles were once a family’s reference books, and included family trees. My own great-grandmother treasured such a Bible. Does your own family have such a historical treasure?
I do not and always wished our family did. Sometimes we put our wishes in our books! All four of my grandparents as well as my father died either before I was born or when I was young, but my mother has a few Army mementos of her father when he was in the cavalry during World War I in England. I adore seeing old things and picturing what it was like to have lived then. Museums are fascinating and I’m one of those patrons that has to read all the little cards with the history and details for each display.
What is your own writing schedule? Are you an early bird? Night owl? Do you write each day?
I’m an early bird in that I take a 3-mile walk first thing each morning before 7:00, although it’s really hard to get up if I stay up late reading! After a bit of breakfast and a shower, I tend to get sucked down the rabbit hole of the internet, responding to emails, fan mail, business stuff, current marketing projects for the upcoming book or workshops to write, school visits, etc. (I create my own bookmarks, book trailers, teacher’s guides, mother-daughter book club guides, book-based jewelry, and I’m currently experimenting with brownie recipes from The Time of the Fireflies for my book launch party next week). I still love to read blogs about writing and keep up with the online friends I’ve made over the years, plus I love Facebook and Twitter, and I’m a news junkie, too. I’m also the co-founder of the YA Series Insiders (www.yaseriesinsiders.com) cross-promotion for my upcoming YA trilogy, Forbidden, with Harpercollins.
The short answer is “no” I do not write every day. But I’m doing research or promotion or revision work or book planning/brainstorming of some kind every single day.
The business side of writing takes at least 50% of my time so I usually end up drafting in the afternoons. If I’m under a super tight deadline I write in the evenings as well, and almost every Saturday—but never Sundays. I definitely need a day of rest! I squeeze in my pleasure reading whenever I can, before bed, on long car trips, Sundays, etc.
What do your own kids read? Does that influence what you write?
I have three sons and they tend to love action stories, high fantasy, science fiction, etc. Also a bit of mystery like The Bourne Identity or other spy thrillers—at least the middle son, who is my biggest reader (and a fantastic brainstormer for me when I need him!)
My own childhood reading influences me more since I was a huge historical fiction reader, who also adored mysteries and read them by the dozens.
Larissa is an outsider, having attended several different schools and moved frequently. (Her best friend is also off in Paris during her adventurous summer.) Have you ever experienced being an outsider? How did that affect your depiction of Larissa?
I didn’t have to move around as a child, thankfully (although I have as an adult), but I was horribly shy. I rarely spoke (my parents were worried about me!) and kept very much in the background at school. I was often part of a threesome friendship—and sometimes felt like a third wheel, left out and alone since the other two girls were more the BFF’s. So I was a loner in many ways and a total, addicted bookworm. I often lived vicariously through books—which greatly worried my 5th grade teacher who wrote a note home to my parents expressing his concern. “But books are better than real life!” (And that’s a direct quote I heard the famous Richard Peck say once many, many years ago at my very first writer’s conference in Santa Fe, New Mexico).
Grandma Kat says that scars inside and out fade with time. Do you think kids of today believe this to be true? Or do you think this is a message most people come to believe as they age? (Younger people are more apt to believe that what is in the mirror will never change?)
Heck, I often think my mirror image will never change—and now it keeps changing much faster than I want it to! Where are those gray hairs coming from? Banish!
I don’t believe kids of today believe scars, either emotional or physical, will ever fade. . . and that’s one of the painful things about growing up. We fear we will be this skinny, or short, or tall, or zit-faced, or suffer weird hair with cowlicks, or whatever. I have a lot of scars that took decades to heal and I wish I hadn’t worried so much about them.
How’d you come up with the doll’s curse?
I kept thinking about Gwen’s doll from Circle of Secrets in the back of my mind and wondering about the phenomenon of a doll being passed down through the generations of a family—and stolen to boot. A few years ago I heard about a place called the Island of the Dolls in Mexico – extremely creepy – with very disturbing stories of people visiting the island and seeing the dolls move. It didn’t take more than that to weave my story . . .
The title seems to have several different meanings, as the book progresses. What does it mean to you?
That’s actually kind of funny since the title didn’t come to me until I was finished writing the book and I was doing revisions with my editor. And then, when I sent her the potential title, I worried it was silly or boring. She loved it immediately. Time, of course, plays a huge role in the story. The past, the present, and the future, all intertwined.
Finally, have you ever wished you could reach back in time and talk to your younger self? If so, what would you say?
I’d say, “Chillax”! Have more fun. Laugh more. Go places. Try new things. Join clubs and groups, reach out and make friends. That’s probably good advice no matter what our age! We often let our fears, frustration, and perceptions about our short-comings and inhibitions prevent us from enjoying this big beautiful world and the intriguing people who inhabit it.
Kimberley Griffiths Little is the critically acclaimed author of several MG novels with Scholastic and an upcoming YA trilogy, FORBIDDEN, with Harpercollins in 2014. She has won the Southwest Book Award, the Whitney Award for Best Youth Novel of 2011, starred choice on the Bank Street College Best Books of 2011 & 2014, a Crystal Kit runner-up, and a New Mexico Book Award Finalist. Her books have sold several hundred thousand copies in the Scholastic Book Fairs and have been chosen for several state reading lists. She makes super cool book trailers and her first one for The Healing Spell garnered over 8,000 views despite the fact that she was/is a total unknown. Kimberley lives on a dirt road in a small town by the Rio Grande with her husband, a robotics engineer, and their three sons.
Social Media Links:
- Website: http://www.kimberleygriffithslittle.com
- Blog http://www.kimberleygriffithslittle.blogspot.com
- Twitter @KimberleyGLittl
- Facebook: Find me at "Kimberley Griffiths Little"
- YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/KimberleyLittle1?feature=watch
Kimberley's hosting an amazing giveaway! One lucky winner will receive a
signed hardcover of FIREFLIES, a firefly necklace that glows in the dark and Book Club Cards with a fun Book Club Guide. 5 additional winners will receive a set of Book Club Cards with the Guide. a Rafflecopter giveaway