May 20, 2009
Being the mother of two boys keeps me on my toes. From bullfrogs to mud pies, there is never a dull moment. Despite the gender difference, we’ve come to an understanding. Dirty socks, loud music, and sporting events are par for the course. Neat rooms, manners, and a mutual respect for family members are non-negotiable expectations in our home. Together, we have created a harmonious family life.
This month’s Jen’s Jewels touches upon the hilarious adventures of boyhood, a topic which my husband and I know all too well! In her latest release, MELONHEAD, Katy Kelly chronicles the daily mischief and mayhem of a delightful ten-year-old boy named Adam Melon and his comical group of friends in the Nation’s Capitol. Laugh-out-loud funny, this book is sure to be a big hit among young readers everywhere!
As part of this interview, Delacorte Press has generously donated five copies for you, my lucky readers, to win! So, don’t forget to look for the trivia question at the end of the column. And as always, thanks for making Jen’s Jewels a part of your reading adventure.
Jen: Since you belong to a family of prolific writers, I guess you could say writing is a part of your genetic make-up! So that my readers may have a better insight into the path that led to your career, please tell us about your educational and professional background.
Katy: I learned to tell stories at our family dinner table—four kids, two parents, all talkers—but I went to college to become an artist. A summer internship at People magazine showed me how much fun writing is once you get past the term paper stage of life. A few years later, when I was working as an illustrator, People offered me a job. I stayed for six years before leaving to become a feature writer for the Life section of USA Today. Almost a decade later I left to be a senior editor at U.S. News & World Report.
Jen: As you mentioned, your career began as a journalist. What then was the driving force behind your decision to switch gears and become a children’s author?
Katy: As a reporter I got to do incredible things, go amazing places and meet extraordinary people. After I’d written well over a thousand stories, I wanted to see what I could create in my own head. I wrote fact by day and fiction by night until 2006. Now I write at home.
Jen: Many of my readers identify your name as being the author of the highly popular Lucy Rose series. To date, you have written four Lucy Rose books. How did you arrive at the premise? And, what makes Lucy Rose such a lovable character? (I think she’s one in a million!)
Katy: Thank you! I grew up on Capitol Hill- a place many people assume is made up entirely of government buildings. I wanted to introduce readers to the real neighborhood.
I gave Lucy Rose the characteristics that I was raised to think were important-- being an original thinker, a storyteller and a problem solver, having a love of words, a curious mind and a kind heart. She’s also outspoken, can be bossy and not inclined to consider consequences.
Jen: Your latest endeavor is a spin-off called MELONHEAD, a hilarious tale of a ten-year-old boy named Adam Melon. I understand that your nephews have provided much fodder for Melonhead’s mischievous adventures. Isn’t it wonderful to have such fresh material at your fingertips? Is Melonhead an agglomeration of the group or is he more of a product of your imagination?
Katy: Two days ago I looked up and saw one nephew standing on the carriage house roof, about to jump down onto the top of our neighbor’s garden shed. ‘What are you doing?’ I yelled. “What?” he said. “Nobody told me I couldn’t jump off the roof.” My nephews are great people and provide fodder, and then I stretch it as far as it will go. How lucky can I get?
Jen: In technical terms, what was the most challenging aspect of developing a storyline, which would appeal to boys?
Katy: It was hard to think like a boy. I would ask myself W.W.M.D.? What would
Jen: The setting of the story is Washington, DC, which is also your residence. Since the inauguration of President Barack Obama, what changes have you personally experienced on a day to day basis in relation to the city’s new energy?
Katy: It’s amazing. The city feels fresh and exciting. There is a sense that the Obamas are accessible. Mrs. Obama is all over the place, dropping into public schools, dropping Sasha and her friends (and the Secret Service) off at the movie theater near our house. My Louisiana cousins recently took a White House tour. The First Lady was on the lawn, training their puppy, Bo. The girls take turns walking the dog on the grounds.
Jen: Let’s talk about the book’s secondary characters. First of all, Lucy Rose does make an appearance (for all her fans!), but the book really centers on the escapades of Melonhead and his best friend, Sam. At times, I felt as if these two were like Zack and Cody from The Suite Life. What makes them such a comical yet compatible pair?
Katy: Lucy Rose’s best friend, Jonique, is, loosely speaking, the voice of reason. Sam and Melonhead are both go-go-go boys, full of ideas and quick to try them out. There is no voice of reason. I love that about them.
Jen: Without giving too much away, the snake episode is my favorite part of the book for a couple of reasons. First of all, Melonhead’s scheme is brought to fruition due to the collaborative efforts of his friends. Quite simply, it shows kids the importance of teamwork even if its outcome is not so favorable. Secondly, it demonstrates for us parents how easy it is to miss what’s happening right under our noses. Is our society creating a family environment similar to two ships passing in the night? Why or why not?
Katy: I think we should all be doing less. Families need hanging out time more than the kids need another activity. You can strengthen family connections fairly easily. Eat the same meal at the same table. Don’t make kids’ bedrooms more fun than the common areas. If they have a computer or TV in their room, that is where they will spend their time.
Jen: I have to admit, after reading MELONHEAD; I went to the grocery store and bought a box of Cap’n Crunch! Your mentioning of it brought back fond childhood memories. I thought it was interesting how Melonhead always kept his pocket full of it. Would you say that he used it as a sort of security blanket? Why or why not?
Katy: Like many boys Melonhead is rarely full. Cereal is his snack between snacks. Having a pocketful is a comfort. Allowing sugar-laden, marshmallow filled, magically delicious cereal is one of the few areas in which Mrs. Melon is more relaxed than Sam’s parents.
Jen: What has been the most rewarding part of embarking on this new series? What has surprised you the most?
Katy: The first time I read Melonhead to a roomful of fourth graders, a boy sitting on the floor at my feet looked up and, in an awed voice, whispered, “I am a Melonhead.” I have been delighted at how many boys—and some girls—claim the honor. Today’s kids live in a structured, monitored world. I think they like picturing themselves as brave independent and funny. Teachers tell me that their most reluctant-to-read boys have tuned into Melonhead. That thrills me.
Jen: What does the future hold for Melonhead? And, when can we expect to read about his next adventures?
Katy: I just finished Melonhead and the Big Stink. It comes out in May 2010.
Jen: Please tell us about your website. Do you have e-mail notification of upcoming releases? Do you participate in author phone chats? And if so, how would my readers go about arranging it?
Katy: I am in the throes of creating a new website. You’ll be the first to know when it’s up. For now I can be found at www.randomhouse.com/kids/lucyrose/author.html .
I send out Breaking Book News when I have a book on the way. Readers who would like a heads up, can message me at AskKatyKelly@gmail.com. That’s also the place to send questions and to request an author phone chat for your book club or class.
Jen: Thank you so much for stopping by to chat with my readers. This fabulous new series is a must-read for all boys and girls! I wish you only the best.
I hope you have enjoyed my interview with Katy. Please stop by your favorite bookstore or local library branch and pick up a copy of MELONHEAD today!
Better yet, would you like to win one? Be one of the first five readers to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the correct answer to the following trivia question and it’s yours!
Name the title of the sequel to MELONHEAD.
In June, I will be bringing to you some fabulous interviews including Bethenny Frankel of The Real Housewives of New York City! You won’t want to miss it!
Until next month…Jen