Congratulations to Mae Respicio Koerner on her latest middle grade novel, Any Day with You. In this story, a creative girl named Kaia hopes that by winning a filmaking contest, she’ll convince her great-grandfather not to move back home to the Philippines. The movie Kaia creates for her creative arts camp is inspired by the Filipino folktales that her great-grandfather tells her. It’s a warm, tendor story only Mae can tell and we asked a little bit about it.

Middle Grade Mojo: Are there any similarities between you and your characters and/or experiences from your own life included in the story?

Mae Respicio Koerner: My main character in ANY DAY WITH YOU, Kaia, is a confident, creative twelve-year-old, and I think in some ways probably the kind of kid I wish I was at her age! Though her mom and I share similarities—we both try to ground our children in our family’s culture and history, so they deeply know where they came from. The book has a lot of personal connections that I wove into the setting and storyline. I lived in walking distance to the beach in L.A. for nearly a couple decades, I used to work in the film industry (fun fact: my husband and I met while working at the Walt Disney Animation Studios and he did the teeniest bit of interior art for this book!), and my grandfather survived the WWII Bataan Death March, which is a part of Kaia’s great-grandpa’s backstory. It’s fun to highlight details of things I know well and use them in a story!

MGM: What would you like kids to take away from Any Day With You?

MRK: When kids read ANY DAY WITH YOU, I hope they take away that even when our lives are upended with change, we can come out stronger, smarter, and more inspired and resilient. I love middle grade fiction because it can dig deep into meaningful themes and issues but still bring readers joy—that’s what I always aim for in my books.

About the Author: Mae is author of the middle grade novels THE HOUSE THAT LOU BUILT (out now), ANY DAY WITH YOU (out May 5, 2020), and EVERYTHING STARTS WITH NOTHING (out 2021) from Random House Children’s Books. She is the past recipient of a PEN Emerging Voices Fellowship and a David Henry Hwang Writers Institute scholarship for playwriting, and has been a writer-in-residence at Hedgebrook and the Atlantic Center for the Arts. Her writing & photography has been published in a variety of places including Pregnancy Magazine, Working Mother Magazine, Patagonia, Pottery Barn Kids, Red Tricycle and The Bigger the Better the Tighter the Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image, and Other Hazards of Being Female (Seal Press), among others. She worked with the Filipino-American community of Los Angeles to edit the nonfiction book Images of America: Filipinos in Los Angeles (Arcadia Publishing).