It’s time for my weekly debut author interview! Today I spoke with Robin Herrera, debut author of the contemporary MG HOPE IS A FERRIS WHEEL from Amulet Books. It’ll be out March 11th, so mark your calendars!
Ten-year-old Star Mackie doesn’t have a mullet, even though everyone at her new school seems to think so. She doesn’t have any friends, either, so she decides to start a club, like her older sister Winter did at her old school. And she doesn’t have a father, though that changes when Winter reveals that she knows where he lives, and offers to take Star with her to see him. Filled with hope for the things to come, Star prepares for her Emily Dickinson Club and her upcoming visit with her father. But the visit doesn’t go as planned, and the Emily Dickinson Club is more trouble than Star thought. Despite everything, Star continues to hope. But will that be enough when things get even worse?
Can you tell us a little about the inspiration for your debut book?
Star Mackie, the main character, came to me during a computer science class I was taking in college. I have the tendency to doodle on my class notes, and I drew a girl with a very strange haircut in the margin of my notebook paper. I decided that in real life, her hair would look like a mullet. So then I asked myself what kind of kid would have this huge, David Bowie-esque mullet, and the rest of the novel grew from there. (Eventually. It took a couple years before I had enough bits to write the story.)
How did you come up with your title? Were there any you considered first?
I’m terrible at titles! At least sometimes. The original title for this book was Star Mackie: Queen of Fifth Grade. It was definitely a working title, something I imagined Star mockingly calling herself. Then it was (my favorite) Star Mackie Vs. The Fifth Grade. THEN it became In the Words of Star Mackie, which is what it sold as, and over the course of editing, my editor at Amulet and I brainstormed some titles. She came up with Hope Is a Ferris Wheel, though for a while I wanted to call it Hope Is the Thing. (Hope Is a Ferris Wheel is a much better title, I now realize!)
What was the hardest part of writing this particular book?
I use music when I’m pre-writing and brainstorming, and it helps me play out scenes and think of different plot points. Every draft of my novel has had a different “theme song” that I listened to a lot while combing out the plot details. The final version’s theme song is “Grow Up and Blow Away” by Metric.
What is it about young adult fiction that draws you in as a writer?
I’ve been asking myself this for years. One thing I like about young adult fiction is how inventive it is. When you’re writing for kids, the sky’s the limit. Your audience has the whole world ahead of them and they’ll go along with whatever you say, as long as you can convince them! I also think childhood is a much more exciting time than adulthood. It’s cool when something fantastic happens to a kid, but it’s odd when it happens to an adult. The wonderment isn’t there, and the adult’s often just like, “Okay, this is happening.”
Was there ever a time when you seriously considered giving up on your writing dream?
Not really, although for a time I had to put writing aside while I got my life together. This was around the end of 2011, a pretty bad year for me. I stopped writing altogether while I figured out what I wanted and how I was going to get it. A year later everything had fallen into place for me, so I slowly began to get back into writing. It was hard, and I’m still not all the way there, but I’m getting back to it!
Do you have any advice for writers trying to get published?
My best advice is to keep working at it. It REALLY helps to have a friend/teacher/cheerleader who tells you to keep going. I can’t imagine what I’d do without mine!
Can you say anything about your next project/s?