Today I had the awesome opportunity to interview Rebecca Behrens, author of debut upper MG contemporary WHEN AUDREY MET ALICE, which just came out on Feb 4th from Sourcebooks Jabberwocky!
First Daughter Audrey Rhodes can’t wait for the party she has planned. The decorations are all set, and the pizza is on its way. But the Secret Service must be out to ruin her life, because they cancel at the last minute for a “security breach,” squashing Audrey’s chances for making any new friends. What good is having your own bowling alley if you don’t have anyone to play with?
Audrey is ready to give up and spend the next four years totally friendless—until she discovers Alice Roosevelt’s hidden diary. The former first daughter’s outrageous antics give Audrey a ton of ideas for having fun . . . and get her into more trouble than she can handle.
Rebecca grew up in Wisconsin, studied in Chicago, and now lives in New York City, where she works as a production editor for children’s books. Some of her favorite things are: the beach, bright shoes, running, doughnuts, em-dashes, and laughing.
Can you tell us a little about the inspiration for WHEN AUDREY MET ALICE?
I’ve always been fascinated by first daughters—particularly Alice Roosevelt, who was a real White House wild child and one of the first national celebrities. When the Obama girls moved in, I started to wonder what White House life would be like for first daughters in the age of blogs and Twitter. What would happen if a first kid got into Alice-like hijinks? A first daughter finding Alice’s (fictional) long-lost diary seemed like a great way to bring contemporary and historical fiction together into a fun middle-grade story.
How did you come up with your title? Were there any you considered first?
Normally, I come up with titles easily when developing a concept. That was not the case for this book, and I completed a full first draft without a title. While brainstorming, I kept getting tripped up by trying to incorporate “first daughter” into a fun and unique title. Finally, I asked myself: What is this book really about? Well, it’s about when Audrey met Alice. And there was my title!
What was the hardest part of writing this particular book?
Writing a real person was tough! I’m not a historian, and my book is fiction—but I wanted to make my Alice Roosevelt character as historically accurate as possible, and create a voice that would do the amazing real Alice justice. There were so many juicy details about her life that I wanted to work into the story; I could’ve written a dozen books about Alice. Figuring out which facts to include—and when to veer into fiction—was tricky.
Is there anything that helps you get into the writing zone—music, for example?
It kind of depends on my mood and where I’m at in writing. If I’m feeling stuck, I switch up where I’m writing—at my desk, the kitchen table, on the couch, at a café, etc. Sometimes a change in place is just what I need to get in the zone. I’m also a definite night-owl author. Even when I try to spend a whole weekend day working, I find that it’s only after the sun goes down that I start to feel creative and productive.
What is it about middle grade fiction that draws you in as a writer?
I love the way that middle-grade characters (and readers) look at the world: with wonder, optimism, and curiosity. Growing up, I was always a reader, but it was as a middle-grader that I truly fell in love with books. I suppose I like to write MG partly because I can recapture the excitement and creativity I had at that age.
Was there ever a time when you seriously considered giving up on your writing dream?
Not really. There definitely were times when I realized that traditional publication was not necessarily something in my control—i.e., when, or if, it would happen. Even though that was very frustrating, I still wanted to keep creating and storytelling—even if it would be just for my own enjoyment.
Do you have any advice for writers trying to get published?
Read! One of the most important parts of being a writer is reading widely both within the categories and genres you write and outside them! For every MG book I read, I try to read one YA or adult book. Being exposed to different styles, voices, and genres can be really inspiring (and educational)!
Thank you so much, Rebecca! I can’t wait to read WHEN AUDREY MET ALICE.