“Middleview” Interview with Debut Author Laura Marx Fitzgerald

Posted by Tamera Wissinger

Today, Laura Marx Fitzgerald is joining Smack Dab In The Middle Blog for a guest “middleview” interview. Laura’s debut middle grade novel UNDER THE EGG, Dial/Penguin, releases in just two days, on 03/18/2014! Congratulations, Laura!

Here is a bit about Laura in her own words:

Where are you from?
We moved around a lot growing up. I lived in Nashville, TN; Norman, OK; Oxford, MS; and ended up in Pensacola, FL. I had a Southern accent until college.

And where was that?
Harvard. I think they were looking for "geographical diversity". Later I got a Rotary Scholarship to study art history at Cambridge University.

Where do you live now?

My husband, two sweet kids, and probably a dog if the two sweet kids keep nagging.

Who's your agent?
The incomparable Sara Crowe (Harvey Klinger, Inc.)

What's your favorite middle-grade book?
A tie between The Westing Game and From the Mixed-Up Files . . . , of course

What's your favorite picture book?
Anything by David Wiesner

Ever been on a game show?
Yes, as a matter of fact, I have: Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? (Not me, apparently.)

Here’s a description of UNDER THE EGG:

Only two people know about the masterpiece hidden in the Tenpenny home—and one of them is dead.

The other is Theodora Tenpenny. Theo is responsible for tending the family's two-hundred-year-old town house, caring for a flock of unwieldy chickens, and supporting her fragile mother, all on her grandfather’s legacy of $463. So, when Theo discovers a painting in the house that looks like a priceless masterpiece, she should be happy about it. But Theo’s late grandfather was a security guard at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and if the painting is as valuable as she thinks it is, then her grandfather wasn't who she thought he was.

With the help of some unusual new friends, Theo's search for answers takes her all over Manhattan and introduces her to a side of the city—and her grandfather—that she never knew. To solve the mystery, she'll have to abandon her hard-won self-reliance and build a community, one serendipitous friendship at a time.

Here are the links to Laura online: Website, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads

Now it’s time to hear from our guest:

Smack Dab Middleview with UNDER THE EGG author Laura Marx Fitzgerald

1. In a nutshell, what does your main character, Theo, want? 

Theo wants to solve the mystery left to her by her grandfather. In his dying words, Jack told Theo to look "under the egg . . . for a letter . . . and a treasure." Theo is flat broke, so a "treasure" sounds promising. But the closer she looks, the more she sees that the real mystery is who her grandfather really was.

2. What is in her way? 

No money. No guidance. No technology. And a museum curator who wants whatever she's got.

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

I knew I wanted to solve some kind of historical mystery, where the clues lie in the past. An early version included time travel, and an editor friend very kindly (and rightly) told me to kill that aspect. I had another idea about art forgery at the time and was reading a wonderful book called The Forger's Spell. In it, the author notes that new oil paint (as in less than 100 years old) will smudge under rubbing alcohol, but old paint will stay intact. That sparked the idea of one composition painted over another--with the intention of its future removal. And that sparked UNDER THE EGG.

4. Was UNDER THE EGG 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? 

In my mind, Theo's literary soul mate was fourteen-year-old Mattie Ross from True Grit, so I made Theo fourteen too. My editor felt that the tone and feel of EGG was middle grade and suggested making Theo a bit younger to better resonate with my audience. Once I did that, I saw that Theo's real soul mate is Turtle from The Westing Game, one of my middle grade heroes.

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

I love writing in the genre that formed the happiest moments of my childhood. I can still pick up The Borrowers, or Anastasia Krupnik, or Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry and laugh in the same parts, cry in the same parts, feel my heart beat faster as danger approaches. I can only dream my book inspires the same feelings in my readers. 

6. Is there any downside?  

Sometimes historical subjects can be too intense or upsetting for the younger reader--for example, UNDER THE EGG touches on the Holocaust. The challenge is to find an appropriate way into the topic that meets the reader where he or she is.

7. What's your favorite reading memory? 

When I was a kid, there was a two-foot space between my bed and the wall. On cold winter afternoons I would pile up all my pillows, bring my favorite doll and two or three books, and billow my blanket over the heater vent. Reading all afternoon in that cocoon of pillowy warmth -- heaven!

Thanks for joining us at Smack Dab in the Middle Blog, Laura. Again, congratulations on the release of UNDER THE EGG!


  1. This book sounds like a winner...and will definitely go on my ever-growing list of must reads. Congrats, Laura!


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