Thanks so much to everyone who entered my giveaway over the last week. Even if you didn’t win, I hope that you’ll pick up a copy of this fantastic book, and request a copy at your local library as well.
Over at the excellent cooking blog kitchen frolic, Stephanie has kicked off a new Q&A series today by interviewing yours truly. We chat about writing, food, camels, and what’s coming in the All Four Stars sequel. Thank you for being such a terrific AFS supporter, Stephanie!
Also today, my fellow 2014 debut author Linda Vigen Phillips has a lovely review of All Four Stars up on her blog. She will also be giving away an AFS swag pack to one lucky commenter, so feel free to leave a comment if you’d like to enter to win!
Speaking of giveaways, I also have a GoodReads giveaway running this week for one signed copy of All Four Stars.
And finally, here are a few pictures from my middle grade author panel yesterday at Denver’s adorable indie bookstore BookBar. I teamed up with amazing authors Jessica Lawson and Lauren Magaziner for some dramatic readings from our books, fun trivia with prizes, and a lively Q&A session. (You can see the full album here)
Hello, Colorado friends!
Just a reminder that I’ll be at BookBar–the lovely bookshop/wine bar in Denver’s Highlands neighborhood–today at 2 pm! I’m doing a middle-grade panel along with my fellow 2014 debut authors Jessica Lawson (The Actual and Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher) and Lauren Magaziner (The Only Thing Worse Than Witches), and we have funny readings planned as well as trivia with prizes.
Hope to see you there!
Today I am so pleased to welcome my friend and fellow author Jeannie Mobley back to the blog!
Jeannie was the very first interviewee in my Colorado is for Writers series, when her debut middle-grade novel, Katerina’s Wish, was released. Now we’re just days away from the release of her second book, Searching for Silverheels. I got to read an advance copy, and I loved it just as much as I loved Katerina. You can read my review of the book at the end of this post.
Here’s the blurb about Silverheels, then you can read on to my interview with Jeannie and enter to win a signed copy!
In her small Colorado town Pearl spends the summers helping her mother run the family café and entertaining tourists with the legend of Silverheels, a beautiful dancer who nursed miners through a smallpox epidemic in 1861 and then mysteriously disappeared. According to lore, the miners loved her so much they named their mountain after her.
Pearl believes the tale is true, but she is mocked by her neighbor, Josie, a suffragette campaigning for women’s right to vote. Josie says that Silverheels was a crook, not a savior, and she challenges Pearl to a bet: prove that Silverheels was the kindhearted angel of legend, or help Josie pass out the suffragist pamphlets that Pearl thinks drive away the tourists. Not to mention driving away handsome George Crawford.
As Pearl looks for the truth, darker forces are at work in her small town. The United States’s entry into World War I casts suspicion on German immigrants, and also on anyone who criticizes the president during wartime—including Josie. How do you choose what’s right when it could cost you everything you have?
Interview with Jeannie Mobley
Tara Dairman: I love how the relationship between Josie and Pearl is so layered, and continues to develop throughout the book. Did their dynamic come to you easily, or did it take a few drafts to get right?
Jeannie Mobley: The relationship between the two characters was the very first thing that came to me about this story, so I’m glad you loved it! This book was born when I was driving across the state of Colorado. I had driven from my home in Longmont, in the northeastern part of the state, to Cortez, in the extreme southwest corner. The trip was a bittersweet one, joining old friends who I hadn’t seen in some time, in order to scatter the ashes of another old friend. So, close, complicated, enduring relationships were on my mind. And on the way home, I was listening to an audiobook, Prayers for Sale by Sandra Dallas (one of my favorite historical fiction authors). In the book, a character briefly retells the legend of Silverheels. I had known the legend since childhood, having grown up in Colorado, and as a kid I had a very romantic view of it, but hearing it again as an adult, I had a more cynical take on it. It hit me like a bolt of lightning–what an interesting story to have an old cynic and a young romantic debating the truth behind the legend. By the time I got home from that trip, the characters and their relationship had taken shape in my mind. It developed so quickly, so naturally, and so solidly that I knew I had something, so I started building a setting, time period, and story around them. Their relationship was spot on from the first draft. It was elements of plot, secondary plot, and the shape the legend took that shifted through various drafts.
TD: Of course, I have questions about food. :) Between the cafe where Pearl works and the big picnic, there is so much scrumptious food in Searching for Silverheels! How did you learn what kinds of foods were popular in 1917? And do you have a favorite dish from the book?
JM: I must admit, I gained weight writing this book. For months while working on it, I craved pancakes, which I hardly ever eat. On several occasions I snuck away from my writing desk at lunchtime and went to the nearby Perkins Restaurant for pancakes. So while it’s not necessarily my favorite dish, it is something I associate strongly with this book. Plus, I love all the colloquial words for pancakes–like hotcakes and flapjacks. Somehow, they taste better when you call them flapjacks.
I actually didn’t do much research on 1917 foods. Instead, I drew on my own memories, from having grown up in the country and traveled a lot of back roads in my childhood. My dad loved to stop in for a cup of coffee and pie at small town cafes when we traveled, and I acquired my love of that setting from him. In small, agricultural towns, the café is often the gathering place, and there is almost always that table in the corner full of old timers, talking at length about nothing in particular. So that was the setting I tried to create in my book. It’s a setting I like to think of as perpetual and timeless in rural America, not just a feature of the early 20th century. I think of the food in those places as timeless too: pie and coffee, eggs, hash, pancakes, fried potatoes for breakfasts, sandwiches and stews and soups for lunch.
That said, I have looked at menus from the early 20th century to get a sense of some of the types of sandwiches, for example. Unlike today, where sandwiches are made out of processed lunch meats, then sandwiches were made from a big ham or roast or other chunk of meat, cooked and sliced on the premises. Cold tongue was a common sandwich meat in the early 20th century that you don’t see much on menus anymore. That one doesn’t show up in Searching for Silverheels, but I’m saving it for some book in the future. I figure that has a great gross-out factor for today’s kids that I should take advantage of at some point. (I’m calling dibs on the cold tongue sandwich here, fellow authors!)
(Note from Tara: I actually love cold tongue! I grew up eating it at kosher delis in New York.)
What I had to do to put the café into 1917 was to think about differences in supply connections and in equipment. In a small mountain town in 1917, chances are Pearl’s mom would have been cooking on a wood-burning stove. Coffee pots would have been percolators on the stove top, not electric drip brewers, and hotplates/heat lamps wouldn’t have been an option. I can’t quite imagine feeding crowds of people cooking like that, but then Pearl’s mom is a pretty strong woman.
Also, in 1917, food would have had to come in and out of the area by train, and so seasonality of foods would be much more relevant–no fresh strawberries in December or apples in June. Anything out of season would have to be canned–no good frozen transport, at least not in rural Colorado. I used the seasonality to my advantage–making it a big event when Colorado cherries arrive and Mrs. Barnell bakes cherry pies. The whole town turns out for a slice of those pies!
I also made use of what I knew would be local resources–trout out of the mountain streams and wild game like rabbits and deer (although I think my rabbit stew and venison might have gotten edited out of the book). Because it was a small, somewhat isolated town, I figured people would have used more neighborly barter to pay their bills, like bringing game to the café when they could. That is something that I think is more true to 1917 than to today.
TD: Thank you for all this food insight, Jeannie! I love it!
Searching for Silverheels, like your first book, Katerina’s Wish, is set here in Colorado. Are there other parts of the state–or other periods in the state’s history–that you hope to explore in future books?
JM: I am working on a book now that is set in Denver in the 1930’s, but I don’t pick Colorado locations for their own sake. I tend to think of the premise of a story first, and then look for the time and place that best suits it. In both of my books so far, the time and place that suited happened to be in Colorado. Having grown up here, I know a lot of the local history, and that makes these settings easy for me to recreate. Silverheels had to be set where it was because it had to connect to a local legend, and I picked the time period (World War I) because I wanted to build a powerful theme around what gave women strength, so the First World War was an obvious choice because of the conflict between women’s suffragists and the war effort, and also the ways women had to step up and fill in for men on the home front. However, if my next idea connects best to a time and place far from Colorado, I would certainly not hesitate to set the story elsewhere. One of my current projects is set on a train running from New Orleans to Chicago, for example. For me, setting has to serve the story, not the other way around.
Thank you so much, Jeannie, for all this behind-the-scenes insight into your wonderful new book!
Tara’s review of Searching for Silverheels
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This fantastic sophomore outing confirms Jeannie Mobley as one of my favorite middle-grade authors. This book has the perfect mix of mystery, history, politics, and romance, with a good dose of humor thrown in for good measure.
The story, set during WWI, focuses on the relationship between 13-year-old Pearl and 70-something Josie. Josie wants all American women to have the vote; Pearl wants Josie to stop bothering the tourists at her mother’s cafe with her political rants and suffragist handbills. And maybe she’d like a little romance on the side at the Fourth of July picnic, too.
Pearl’s and Josie’s brushes with each other lead to a bet regarding the truth behind a local legend: the dancer Silverheels, for whom Mount Silverheels is named. I could say more, but the twisty-turny plot is really so delicious that the less you know going in, the better.
I give this book two huge thumbs up–I fell in love with the characters, learned a lot about a specific corner of Colorado and a specific time in history, and was smiling the whole time. Can’t ask for a better reading experience than that!
GIVEAWAY ALERT! You can enter to win a signed and personalized hardcover copy of Searching for Silverheels by leaving a comment on this post! You can also earn up to two extra entries by posting about this giveaway on Twitter and/or Facebook–please mention or link your extra posts in your comment.
I‘ll announce a winner on 8/28. Good luck!
Hello, friends! As you may know, I spent last weekend traveling around Texas with my husband and with fellow middle-grade author Rebecca Behrens (whose debut novel, When Audrey Met Alice, is one of my absolute favorite reads this year). We did three author events together and ate a whole lot of very healthy food. Here are some pics!
Texas is known for having amazing barbecue, and we made sure to eat as much of it as possible. The first stop was Micklethwait Craft Meats in Austin.
Brisket, enormous beef rib, and pork belly sausage. A delicious start to the trip.
Ice cream break! (Texas is HOT.) Austin’s Lick is known for having interesting, locally-sourced flavors.
My favorite Lick flavor? Caramelized Carrot with Tarragon. Pretty sure it was my first time eating tarragon in ice cream. It was surprisingly fantastic. Hill Country Honey ran a close second.
On to Dallas, where a big blue eye greeted us.
Pecan Lodge is Dallas’s top BBQ joint, and probably our favorite of the trip. Gladys would have given the brisket, burnt ends, and collard greens all four stars. (Peach cobbler was just okay–maybe 2.5 stars.)
Pecan Lodge also lets you doodle on the bathroom door. :) I left a little mark commemorating our books and bbq tour.
Our first book event was the Author Roundup at the Fort Worth Library. They set us each up with our own little station!
Here’s Rebecca, looking adorable in her racecar dress (printed with just the type of car that Alice Roosevelt used to drive).
Our fellow OneFour Kidlit debut author Christine Kohler drove all the way in from West Texas just to see us. Her debut YA novel, No Surrender Soldier, is fantastic.We also got to meet 2015 debut author Jenny Martin, whose YA novel is called Tracked. Here we are making a Jenny sandwich and showing off our All Four Stars temporary tattoos.
One of the library’s copies of All Four Stars on the display table. This was my first time seeing the book jacketed in library plastic–a very exciting moment!
On Jenny’s suggestion, we headed to Roanoke, TX, for dinner: “The Unique Dining Capital of Texas.” It is an extremely cute small town packed with restaurants. Butterfly interlude! And now back to food. After a whole lot of meat from Hard Eight BBQ, we stumbled over to the Oak Street Pie Company. Raspberry-rhubarb pie. Quite possibly the best slice of pie I’ve had in my life. Rebecca said that her cherry pie was also some of the best pie she’d ever had. Looks like Classy Cakes has some competition in North Texas!Mooooving on (heh heh) to the historic Fort Worth Stockyards…
Where we got to see some lovely longhorns.Then on to Lockhart Smokehouse in Dallas…Where we ate some lovely longhorns. Tasty brisket, plus sausage from the famous Kreuz Market.Fueled up on meat, it was on to Fort Worth’s Barnes & Noble for our next author event, where we teamed up with the wonderful Texas authors Polly Holyoke and K.A. Holt.
Panel time! We talked about writing convincing settings, our long paths to publication, and lots of other good stuff.
The next day found us back in Austin, seeking yet more barbecue. We ended up at John Mueller’s, where we had some delicious brisket (noticing a trend?), pork ribs, and cheesy squash. Thanks to Rebecca for snapping this pic of me and the mister.After a very interesting visit to the LBJ presidential library, we headed up to Round Rock for our final author event. But first, there was time to seek out the famous round rock itself!Here we are at The Book Spot with our fellow MG panelists Nikki Loftin, K.A. Holt, and Jennifer Ziegler. It was a fantastic panel, culminating in a fun trivia session with prizes.
The trend of wonderful people traveling a long way to see us continued! Here I am signing a book for my friend Linda, who came all the way from Houston for the event.
The bookstore was awesome and got cakes for the party. They asked for one cake that said “Happy End of Summer” and one that had a unicorn on it. This is what the bakery delivered. #oops2015 debut author (and my fellow Emu!) Donna Bowman Bratton joined us for a post-panel Tex-Mex dinner. While it was hard to eat a meal that contained no BBQ, we did our best to power through.
Texas was a blast–and I’m not just talking about the blast of furnace-like air that hits you every time you step outside in August. (Seriously, it was 100 degree every single day we were there.) Thank you so much to our fabulous co-panelists, the amazing booksellers and librarians who invited us in for events, the hard-working bbq pitmasters and dessert artisans who swelled our waistlines, and the friends who made us feel so very welcome. Can’t wait for next time!
P.S. If you are looking for a signed copy of All Four Stars, The Book Spot in Round Rock and the Barnes & Noble in Fort Worth each have a stash of them now. Happy reading!
I’ve been so busy since the launch of All Four Stars that I haven’t been doing a great job of keeping this blog updated. I’ve been doing a slightly better job on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, so do feel free to follow me in those places if you’re wanting up-to-the-minute news and pictures from my exciting authorly existence. :)
Or, better yet, come out and meet me in person. I have several events coming up, and you can find all of the info on my events page!
In brief, color-coded fashion: I’ll be in Fort Worth and Austin, Texas doing panels with other awesome middle-grade authors (Rebecca Behrens, Polly Holyoke, K.A. Holt, Jennifer Ziegler, and Nikki Loftin!) from August 16-18; in Denver at BookBar with Jessica Lawson and Lauren Magaziner on August 24; and at The Voracious Reader in Larchmont, NY (that’s in Westchester) with Rebecca Behrens, Lauren Magaziner, Laura Marx Fitzgerald, and Michelle Schusterman on October 20. I would love to see you at one of these events!
Speaking of events, I had two fantastic launch parties in July for All Four Stars: One at Books of Wonder in NYC, and one at Boulder Book Store in Boulder, CO. What a joy it was to share my book’s publication with so many family members and friends!
I’ll leave you now with a shot of All Four Stars, sitting pretty in the #3 bestseller spot at Boulder Book Store this week. Long may you reign, Gladys! :)
It’s the last day of Emu’s Debuts launch week for All Four Stars, featuring a recipe for “Amazeballs” by Megan Morrison! Yum! And in case you missed them, there was also an interview with cover artist Kelly Murphy (featuring alternative cover sketches!) and a hilarious compendium of Emu kitchen disasters. Comment on any post for a chance to win a signed hardcover–winner announced on Monday!
Heidi Schulz (whose debut MG novel Hook’s Revenge comes out this fall!) has me at her blog with an “In the Middle” interview! Find out which dessert in AFS is my favorite.
I was also interviewed by restaurant critic John Lehndorff yesterday on Boulder KGNU’s “Radio Nibbles”! The five-minute chat starts at 25:45.
Launching All Four Stars has been a wild, wonderful ride so far, and I’ll try to gather my thoughts on the entire process at some point in the coming weeks. But for now I’ll just say THANK YOU SO MUCH to everyone who has supported me and my first book in person and online over this past week. I’ve been so honored and humbled by your enthusiasm for my work. Read deliciously!