Today’s author interview is with debut author, Marcia Wells, who recently released her uber fantastic middle grade series Eddie Red Undercover. We asked Marcia about her inspiration behind the mystery series and her experience with the launch of our her new book.
Middle Grade Mafia: As a debut author, can you tell us your experience with the launch of your first book, Eddie Red Undercover?
Marcia Wells: I was really lucky to be a part of Houghton Mifflin’s “Middle Grade Mania” team. They promoted the book on their website and blog to teachers and librarians. They also sent me on a “Middle Grade Mania” tour with three other fabulous authors. I learned so much. But despite everyone’s best efforts, it is hard for a new MG author to gain steam. Maybe it’s because the kids are not the ones purchasing the books, so you need to reach parents, teachers, and librarians. I’ve travelled to a lot of schools (I do school visits for free in Vermont) and done a few bookstore appearances. I keep an eye out for media opportunities (For example, I was on a local news channel’s “Books Over Breakfast” show). But nothing happens overnight. I think the key is to have a steady amount of activity without overdoing it. I need time to write and time to be with my family. I hope to be promoting this series for decades to come, so I’m pacing myself.
MGM: There has been a lot on social media about the call for diverse books. The main character (and awesome hero) Eddie Red is African-American. What helped you make this decision in your story?
MW: Five years ago I had just written my first book, a fairly bad YA story about kids at a music school. (Let’s just call that a “learning manuscript”). I had no idea what to write next. I was reading a lot of industry articles about a need for more middle grade boy books, a need for more diverse characters, and a need for more mystery books. I didn’t think much of it (I wanted to write YA paranormal!), but I guess my brain really chewed on the information, because a few days later I woke up and Eddie was there, fully formed in my imagination. Making him African American was never a conscious decision. He is who he is, and demanded that I write his story. He can be quite bossy.
MGM: Eddie’s story is not as much about race as it is a story that would appeal to every mid-grade reader, no matter their ethnicity. As you were writing the story, how did you decide how much emphasis to put on the main characters background?
MW: Eddie really dictated the story and action (again with the bossy!). It’s a story about his talent and smarts and how he ultimately defeats an evil mastermind. If he were white, I certainly wouldn’t dwell on his skin color, so why do it if he’s black?
MGM: You really nailed the voice of a six grade boy. How were you able to portray this age so accurately?
MW: Thanks! At the time, I was teaching a group of seventh grade boys at a local private school. They were hilarious and quite inspirational. I think writers need to go where the kids are to really understand how they speak and think and communicate. I also read a TON of middle grade books to see how other authors do voice. It’s such a great age group, where the kids have one foot planted in childhood and one in the adult world. So much can happen in that in-between stage!
MGM: It looks like you are planning at least two more adventures for Eddie Red. Do you have a set number of books in mind, or is this going to be on-going series?
MW: There is no set number of books – I would love for it to be an on-going series! Book 2 comes out this coming April, and Book 3 in April 2016. Currently I am writing Book 3 and plan to end it with a bang that sets up a fourth book. We’ll see what the publisher decides to do with that.)