We’re excited to feature award winning author of Catepillar Summer, Gillian McDunn and her latest novel, The Queen Bee and Me in today’s Mo-books! In this book, Gillian weaves together a nuanced story about friendship. She combines interesting facts about bees along with authentic voice and heart-warming characters.

Middle Grade Mojo: What was your inspiration for the story? Are their many similarities to your own life? 

Gillian McDunn: Friendships are so important! I would not be the person I am today without those relationships and experiences. But friendships are not always easy. I wanted to write about “tricky” friendships–what it’s like when there’s a friend who is sometimes nice and sometimes not so nice. Most people I know (kid and adult) have been in that situation before. It can be really tough. This book is drawn from some of the challenges I have faced in friendships, but not directly based on a specific situation.

MGM: How did you weave in today’s technology and challenges with social media into your story? 

GM: I wanted to show the impact of social media in a way that wouldn’t require the twelve-year-old characters to participate directly (since most Terms of Service indicate that these apps are for 13+). Instead, Meg’s parents talk about a heated thread on a neighborhood social media group. Meg feels like the discussion is unfair and not fact-based. This was a way to show the way social media can escalate issues.

MGM: How long did it take from the first day of writing to publication? What is your writing process?

GM: I like to take notes with pen and paper–for some reason, it gives me some more freedom to jot down all the bits and pieces of a character. Then I do all my drafts on the computer. This particular book took quite a bit of research–aside from the friendship, bees and beekeeping play a huge role in the story. It took about two months to generate a first draft but there were many rounds of revision after that. I would say from the first word typed to publication was about 18 months.

MGM: Can you share a fun story from your writing journey? 

GM: When I was eight years old, my third-grade class did a research project on honey bees. Before the project, I found bees terrifying—but as I learned more about them, I had to admit that they were really interesting. That said, I didn’t learn much more about them until I started writing this novel. But once I started researching, I couldn’t stop! I read dozens of books and interviewed beekeepers so I could learn even more. As part of my launch party, I had a bee trivia competition. Did you know that bees can recognize faces? That the top speed of a honey bee is about 15mph? That still-edible honey has been discovered in 2000-year-old burial sites? It was so much fun to hear people audibly gasp at the bee facts! I’m thrilled that people are enjoying the bee and science parts of the book just as much as they are enjoying the exploration of family dynamics.

GILLIAN McDUNN is the author of the middle-grade novels CATERPILLAR SUMMER and THE QUEEN BEE AND ME, published by Bloomsbury Children’s Books. Visit her online at www.gillianmcdunn.com or @gillianmcdunn on Twitter & Instagram.