Welcome J. Anderson Coats to MGM’s Author 411. Her first novel The Wicked and the Just (2012) won the YALSA Best for Young Adults award in 2013. She’s also the author of The Reflections of Miss Jane Deming (2017) and the soon to be released R is for Rebel (Feb. 20th, 2018).
Middle Grade Mafia: What is the inspiration for R is for Rebel?
J.Anderson Coats: My academic training is in history, and I wanted to write a book that explores people’s ideas and misconceptions about the past. There’s a common misunderstanding that history is a simple, static record of events. This is not the case. Rather, history is a narrative – a set of stories people tell about the past, and often, these stories say more about who is telling them and why than they do about past events themselves. History is deeply political and, unfortunately, often weaponized to support various agendas. With R is for Rebel, I hope to suggest to young people that they look carefully at stories they’ve been told about the past and question why these stories are held up as “history.”
MGM: What is your writing process?
JAC: Honestly, it’s different for every book. For me, it’s less about following a set of steps and more about figuring out what each individual book needs. More than a process, I have a routine. I write in the mornings till noon, then spend the afternoons working on marketing, research, non-writing crafty things, or my day job. I’m kept to this routine by my cat, who will be a massive pain in the rumpus–eating plastic, demanding running water from the bathroom faucet–if I haven’t sat down to write by 8:30.
MGM: What is the best piece of advice you’ve received regarding writing?
JAC: “Learn to write this book.” I got this piece of advice as a baby writer, and it has kept me from staying stuck for too long. Every book needs something different. There was a time when the idea of outlining felt stifling and contrived, but The Many Reflections of Miss Jane Deming had lots of potential directions and needed an outline to keep it focused. R is for Rebel was written in order, but revised by removing each scene from the draft and rewriting it in a separate document, then replacing it. Being willing to be flexible with process and trust your writing will almost always get you where you need to go.
MGM: How long from when you started writing the featured book until it was published?
JAC: I started R is for Rebel in March of 2016, so just over two years.
MGM: Your previous books THE MANY REFLECTIONS OF MISS JANE DEMING and THE WICKED AND THE JUST were historical fiction in which the time period and the setting were important to the plot. How is R IS FOR REBEL the same or different?
JAC: R is for Rebel is set in a fictional world, but since one theme of this book is the damaging consequences of imperialism, it is influenced by the experiences of different people and cultures at different times in history. By looking at a range of imperialist regimes across the world and over a long span of time, I hope to capture a similar sense of the realism in which my two previous historicals were rooted, while still making Rebel’s characters and world unique and compelling.
MGM: Can you share a fun photo?
Here’s her massive pain in her rumpus.
More about R is for Rebel:
Princess Academy meets Megan Whalen Turner in this stunning novel about a girl who won’t let anything tame her spirit—not the government that conquered her people, and definitely not reform school!
Malley has led the constables on a merry chase across her once-peaceful country. With her parents in prison for their part in a failed resistance movement, the government wants to send her to a national school—but they’ll have to capture her first.
And capture her they do. Malley is carted off be reformed as a proper subject of the conquering empire, reeducated, and made suitable for domestic service. That’s the government’s plan, anyway.
But Malley will not go down without a fight. She’s determined to rally her fellow students to form a rebellion of their own. The government can lock these girls up in reform school. Whether it can break them is another matter entirely…
To purchase this book, click HERE