“Middleview” Interview with Debut Author Kate Hannigan

Posted by Tamera Wissinger

Today, Kate Hannigan is joining Smack Dab In The Middle Blog for a guest “middleview” interview. Kate’s debut middle grade novel CUPCAKE COUSINS, Disney-Hyperion, released on 05/13/2014! Congratulations, Kate!

Here is a bit about Kate:

Kate Hannigan is a former newspaper journalist who now writes for children. Her first book in the CUPCAKE COUSINS series was published May 13th with Disney-Hyperion. Look for Book 2 in Summer 2015, and Book 3 in Fall 2016. Kate's debut historical fiction for middle-grade readers, THE DETECTIVE'S ASSISTANT, comes out Spring 2015 with Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. Kate lives in Chicago with her husband, three kids, two frogs, and one noisy dog. Say hello online at http://KateHannigan.com or visit her blog at http://AuthorOf.blogspot.com.

Here’s a description of CUPCAKE COUSINS:

Cousins Willow and Delia can't wait to spend a week vacationing together with their families. Their aunt is getting married, and Willow and Delia are hoping their tasty baked goods will be enough to get them out of being flower girls in the wedding.

But with a mischievous little brother, a bacon-loving dog, and a misbehaving blender in the mix, their treats don't exactly turn out as planned. When a real emergency threatens to ruin the wedding, will their baking skills be enough to save the day?

Join Willow and Delia in the kitchen by following their scrumptious recipes for whoopee pies, peach pancakes, and other tasty treats!

And now it’s time to hear from our guest:

Smack Dab Middleview with CUPCAKE COUSINS author Kate Hannigan

1. In a nutshell, what do your main characters, Willow and Delia, want?

Willow and Delia are almost 10 years old. But when they get together each summer with all the aunts and uncles, cousins and grandparents, they're still treated like little kids. They're at that age when they want to break away from being "the little ones" and be recognized for something more.

In this case, they believe they're pretty good with a whisk! So they want spend their time in the kitchen whipping up delicious cupcakes and cookies, the desserts for their aunt's wedding. They DO NOT want to be flower girls. They feel they're much too old for a task like that.

Willow wants to be a chef when she grows up, so she takes their opportunities for cooking very seriously. And Delia just wants to make everything work out for her family.

2. What is in their way?

The obstacles keeping Willow and Delia from their goals are plenty. First up would be the girls themselves. While they THINK they have mad cooking skills, the evidence splattered on the walls and all over the kitchen would say otherwise. There are lots of kitchen disasters in this book, which I hope young readers will find hilarious! 

They are also up against the new caterer on the scene, the formidable Cat Sutherland, who thinks maybe the girls are trying to make her look bad. And there are also big sisters around who make life difficult. Throw in a little brother they're supposed to be keeping an eye on and a bacon-loving Bernese mountain dog, and things get challenging.

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 had a pretty good sense early on what I wanted to do. Our family heads off to Michigan each summer for a getaway so our kids and their cousins can spend time together. I love the cousin dynamic – closeness without the drama that siblings can develop. So on one of our long drives from Chicago to the beach towns along the western and northern coast, the story sort of came to me.

I wanted to accomplish two particular things with the story. I wanted to write a book that my daughter (then 10 as I drafted an outline) would read. I wanted to write something that captured the carefree joys of summertime. I wanted the parents ALIVE. No dead dogs. I wanted a multicultural family. And I wanted to write something where the stakes were high enough, but not too high. So there is some excitement around the wedding cake, and a question of whether the girls can save the day.

4. Was CUPCAKE COUSINS 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?

Yes, I cherish middle grade. It's where the heart is. Not to take away anything from YA or other genres; I read and enjoy lots of memoir, adult books, picture books, non-fiction. But for me and where I want to write, it is solidly in middle grade. What an honor to be able to reach a reader at such a huge period of development! Books have lasting impact; they'll outlive us. I have always wanted to write to the 8-, 9-, or 10-year-old I remember being.

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

For me, I am still trying hard to figure it all out – the big Life questions. I don't feel so far removed from these years. So when I write, I am looking for the same truths and explanations that I was when I was in fifth grade. 

While we can develop so much cynicism as we age and experience the world, for middle-grade readers, there is still room for wide-eyed wonder. And that's what I want to hold onto and cherish. That's the place I want to remember and return to, and what I want to celebrate in my books.

6. Is there one question you wish you could answer about writing, your book, or the author's life, but have never been asked? 

What is the best piece of advice you received about the writer's life?

A wise friend and critique partner wrote about her experiences publishing one of her children's books, and she shared some tremendous advice. She said it's not about the publicity your book gets or award nominations, it's not about the hoopla that surrounds a book's release or a glowing review. It is about the writing and the pleasure of being able to sit down and create a story. And that has stayed with me. The joy for me comes in the quiet moments of writing and researching, and that's what matters. I get up every day and love what I get to do. And I feel so grateful that I can do it.

Thanks for joining us at Smack Dab in the Middle Blog, Kate. Again, congratulations on the release of CUPCAKE COUSINS!


  1. I really enjoyed this interview and look forward to reading the CUPCAKE COUSINS series. Congratulations Kate!

  2. ps - it's in the mail to me right now :)


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