“Middleview” Interview with Debut Author Kristen Kittscher

Posted by Tamera Wissinger

Today, Kristen Kittscher is joining Smack Dab In The Middle Blog for a guest “middleview” interview. Kristen’s debut middle grade novel THE WIG IN THE WINDOW, HarperCollins Children’s Books, released recently, on 6/18/2013! Congratulations, Kristen!

Here is Kristen’s Biography:

Kristen Kittscher was a neighborhood spy as a child but (allegedly) grew up to be an upstanding citizen, seventh grade English teacher, and writing tutor. A graduate of Brown University, she lives in Pasadena, California with her husband, Kai, and their hyperactive lab mix. The Wig in the Window is her first novel.

Here is the description of THE WIG IN THE WINDOW:

Fans of the humor and clever clues in the Sammy Keyes books will enjoy this first in a funny, new middle grade mystery series.

Best friends and seventh graders Sophie Young and Grace Yang have made a game of spying on their neighbors. But on one of their late-night pretend stake-outs, the girls stumble across a terrifying, bloody scene at the home of their bizarre middle school counselor, Dr. Charlotte Agford (a.k.a. Dr. Awkward). At least they think they do…the truth is that Dr. Agford was just making her famous (and messy) pickled beets!

But when Dr. Agford begins acting even weirder than usual, Sophie and Grace become convinced that she’s hiding something–and they’re determined to find out what it is. Soon the girls are cracking codes, being followed by a strange blue car, and tailing strangers with unibrows and Texas accents. As their investigation heats up, the girls start to crack under the pressure. Even if Sophie and Grace uncover the truth about Agford in time, will their friendship survive?

Here are the links to Kristen online:

1. What does your main character, Sophie Young want?

Sophie Young wants to believe in herself more and be as bold as her best friend, Grace Yang. She also wants to unmask her school counselor as the dangerous fugitive she suspects her to be!

2. What is in Sophie’s way?

Her self-consciousness and doubt, primarily — but also her very shrewd and hypocritical school counselor, Dr. Agford (aka Dr. Awkward), who always seems to have another trick up her sleeve.

3. Did you know right away that this was your story, or did you discover it as you wrote? How did the story evolve?

The story began as a writing exercise, really. A voice came to me, and I just played around with it for a while. I also relied on a few early memories of my own pretend spy exploits with a sixth grade best friend. Those memories never ended up in the final story, but it got me going.

The story evolved over so many rewrites, it’s hard to say exactly how it developed — but it certainly got a good deal shorter. It used to have many more twists and turns, which is hard to believe, as quite a few remain! WIG was the first thing I’d ever written; I was winging it. It hasn’t been until now, as I write my second book, that I’m more aware of story structure and rely on outlines. It’s much better this way, but I enjoyed the adventure of making it up as I went along.

4. Was THE WIG IN THE WINDOW always for middle grade readers or not? If so, why did you choose middle grade? If not, what had to change for it to be considered a middle grade novel?

I taught middle school English for a long time and wrote WIG with my seventh graders in mind. However, the students at the all girls’ private school I taught at in Pasadena were very precocious – and while my early drafts might have been in line with where they were, there was definitely plenty in the book that would have made it a tough sell to parents and librarians. I did a lot of cutting! I also had to be ruthless about keeping the action going. The book isn’t just a mystery; it’s also a story about friendship. It was hard sometimes to strike that balance.

5. What is the best part of writing for middle grade readers?

The best part of writing for middle grade readers is also the best part of teaching middle school: kids are playful and funny and still enjoy silliness, but they’re also interested in big ideas and crave complexity and high stakes. I find it a tremendously entertaining mix! I gave Sophie Young her wise-young name because she straddles the worlds of childhood and adolescence, just like my readers.

6. Is there any downside?

None! There’s wonderful freedom in writing for a middle grade audience — and it’s a time kids can be tremendously excited about stories and their own potential. I can’t think of a single downside, and I hope to be writing middle grade for a long time to come.

Thanks for the chance to visit Smack Dab in the Middle!

Thank you for joining us for a Middleview at Smack Dab Blog, Kristen. Again, congratulations on the release of THE WIG IN THE WINDOW! We’ll look for it on bookshelves!


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