Kami Kinard’s The Boy Project: Notes and Observations of Kara McAllister was re-released in paperback in July 2016. Middle Grade Mafia is excited to talk to Kami about her publishing experience and learn more about Kara McAllister’s quest for a boyfriend. Kami is graciously offering to give away a free copy of The Boy Project. Stay tuned to Middle Grade Mafia for contest details.
Middle Grade Mafia: It’s been four years since we first saw The Boy Project. Were you surprised to learn it was coming out in paperback or was that part of the plan all along?
Kami Kinard: Well, it came out in paperback earlier for Scholastic Book Clubs before the release of The Boy Problem in 2014, but it was not available in trade stores in paperback. Now it’s part of Scholastic’s WISH line with a new cover and it’s on the shelves in Barnes and Noble, Target, and independent book stores. I did not expect it to be released again, so it was a very nice surprise.
MGM: As one of Scholastic’s WISH books, how does The Boy Project fit into that line?
KK: The tagline for the WISH novels is “Irresistible Stories of Friendship, First Crushes, and Fun.” Although The Boy Project is a story about first crushes, it’s more a story about friendship, and it’s light and humorous, so that makes it fun. It seems like a great fit for the line.
MGM: In The Boy Project, Kara McAllister decides to use the scientific method to get a boyfriend. Instead of chapters, the book is broken out into journal entries, charts, graphs, and research reviews. Why did you choose this format?
KK: The Boy Project was inspired by my own middle school diaries. I didn’t have the same experiences Kara had, but going back and reading the diaries reminded me of my middle school feelings, and my middle school voice. So many things have changed since I was in middle school, but kids’ feelings stay the same. I thought writing in the diary format would allow me to give Kara an authentic, conversational voice, and because she’s writing in a journal, it’s a safe place to reveal her feelings.
Regarding the charts and graphs… my old diaries had little drawings, stickers, poems, etc in them, so I had included things like that from the beginning. Then I took my manuscript to an SCBWI conference and had a critique with an editor who suggested that the manuscript could benefit from “more stuff” like graphs. I went back through the manuscript and looked for places where I could present information visually and found quite a few! Now I tend to look at all of my manuscripts that way. It’s perfect for me because I’m very much a visual learner.
MGM: You obviously understand the mental state of middle schoolers very well. How and when did you gather the data on these subjects?
KK: In addition to reading my own diaries, I had a child in middle school and was actively involved in helping with some middle school clubs while writing this book. I asked kids a lot of questions and even went and talked to a couple of classes to get feedback. The internet provided a lot of great information as well. Many middle schools post student newspapers and magazines online. Reading through those is a great way to “hear” a middle school voice. Also, I watched a fair amount of tween TV shows and kept up with tween magazines like YIKES when I was writing both The Boy Project and The Boy Problem.
MGM: One of Kara’s sources is a website called, “Bebe Truelove’s 10-week guide to Finding a Soul Mate.” Fess up. You are the real Bebe Truelove, aren’t you?
KK: No, I’m really not Bebe! I’m Bebe’s filter, you might say. Bebe Truelove is what we call a composite character. She was created from little pieces of many real advice columnists. I read many many many many articles on how to find love and how to find a soul mate as part of my research. (This might have freaked my husband out if he’d looked at my Google history back then.) Anyway, I wanted Bebe’s advice to be real, but I also wanted it to be responsible and appropriate for middle graders. So I selected bits of advice from different places – gravitating to the advice that leads toward self-revelation instead of advice that pushed toward needing another person to feel complete. Even though Kara is in search of a boyfriend, it was important to me for the overlying (not underlying) message of the book to be that you need to be find confidence in yourself first.
MGM: There are so many funny scenes in this book. Especially when Kara and Chip change the names on the substitute’s roll call to fake names such as Marcus Absent and Stu Pitt. How important is humor in this story?
KK: Humor is always a hit with middle graders. Plus, I thought this story lent itself to humor perfectly because I wanted the crush subject to be handled lightly and humor has a way of lightening any subject. Some of the humor I used is “enhanced reality.” For example, when I was in school, the kids in my class often wrote down funny fake names whenever a substitute was crazy enough to take roll by passing around a sheet of paper and having us sign it. Judging by the number of funny fake name pages I found on the internet, kids still think this is funny today.
MGM: At one point, Kara has to make a choice between a boy she likes and her best friend. What does Kara learn from that dilemma?
KK: Kara learns that your good friends, the ones who stick by you no matter what, are invaluable. Much more valuable than a crush or anything else. That is not enhanced reality. It’s just reality.
MGM: What’s next for Kami Kinard, a.k.a. Bebe Truelove?
KK: I repeat: I am not Bebe Truelove!!!!!! Hahaha. Well, I have so many irons in the fire right now, I don’t really know which one is going to heat up the fastest. But I’ll be making an announcement on my website www.kamikinard.com and on my Facebook Page when I figure that out! https://www.facebook.com/kamikinard.author/
Thanks so much for interviewing me! I love the Middle Grade Mafia!!!!
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