Author Spotlight: Colette Sewall

July 30, 2020

We are excited to feature author Colette Sewall and her MG debut, KIKI MACADOO AND THE GRAVEYARD BALLERINAS  (Owl Hollow Press, August 4, 2020).

Enter to win a copy!

Cover artist MEL Tongol

Tell us about yourself and how you came to write for children.

Hello Kidlit411! I am a former dancer/studio owner from New York and taught ballet, tap, jazz and Irish Step to children for over thirty years. Along with dance, I’ve always enjoyed painting and writing. When I retired, I bought a ton of fancy new brushes and tubes filled with fabulous paint colors and happily returned to my easel. But not long after, an overwhelming urge to write a novel took over, and soon my poor new paintbrushes were left to collect dust.

I didn’t start out writing for children, but after I read ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE and THE BOOK THIEF, something clicked in my heart. Even though Anthony Doerr’s book is for adults, the sweet innocence of the child protagonist in both of those stories struck me with so much emotion, the desire to write a children’s book overcame me. Since I spent so many years as a dance teacher, writing a story about a young ballerina came quite naturally.

Congrats on your upcoming MG novel, KIKI MACADOO AND THE GRAVEYARD BALLERINAS. Tell us about it and what inspired you.

Thank you! When I was young, my mother used to tell me the haunting story of the ghost sylphs in the ballet, Giselle. They were the heartbroken spirits of young dancers left at the altar. Consumed with vengeance, they would rise from their graves every night at the stroke of midnight in their wedding gowns and dance until dawn.

My mother was a classical pianist, and on some nights when I was young, she would play music from the ballet and let me stay up late. I would lower the lights and tiptoe through the living room, pretending I was lost deep in the forest. When my mother would count out the chimes of midnight for the ghost ballerinas to rise, I always shrieked—even though I loved every minute of it. That ballet always held a special place in my heart, and I thought a retelling of it would make a perfect children’s fantasy. 

Was your road to publication long and winding, short and sweet, or something in between? 

I would say in-between. I had written some short stories and creative non-fiction pieces that placed well in competitions, which gave me the confidence to tackle a full-length novel. The first manuscript I wrote was a woman’s suspense story. I sent it out to a bunch of agents, but nothing came of it. After that, I began to work on my second adult story, but in the middle of it, I decided to switch gears and write my middle-grade story about dance. I only sent Kiki MacAdoo and the Graveyard Ballerinas to a few agents and received positive responses.

What are some favorite recent MG reads?

After I decided to write for children, I read as many MG books as I could find. They’re all so delightful, it’s hard to choose. Since I’m in a debut group of amazingly talented children’s authors and don’t want to leave any of them out, I’ll only mention some of my favorites from last year: THE BONE GARDEN by Heather Kassner, OLLIE OXLEY AND THE GHOST by Lisa Schmid, THE HOUSE WITH CHICKEN LEGS by Sophie Anderson, THE PECULIAR INCIDENT ON SHADY STREET by Lindsay Currie, and THE MYSTERY OF BLACK HOLLOW LANE by Julia Nobel.

What projects are you working on?

In addition to finishing a sequel to Kiki MacAdoo and the Graveyard Ballerinas, I am working on a YA historical fantasy. 

What advice would you give to aspiring authors? 

I would tell them not to give up; it’s never too late. I’m not as old as Grandma Moses yet, but as long as you’re alive and kicking go for it!

What is one thing most people don't know about you?

Aside from being related to Louisa May Alcott and to one of the judges who presided over the Salem Witchcraft Trials, I am also related to a woman named Ellen Sewall who lived in the 1800s. When she was seventeen, both Henry David Thoreau and his brother proposed to her. But her father, who was a strict minister, would not allow it. He believed that neither of them, especially Thoreau, would ever amount to much. After her refusal, Thoreau grew a wild curly neck beard that Louisa May Alcott stated was so ugly, no woman would ever be attracted to him. (He never did marry after that.)

Where can people find you online?

Twitter  @ColetteSewall

Colette Sewall is an award-winning writer who spent the majority of her life as a dancer and studio director. Since she’s also worked as a medical assistant, flight attendant, actor, and artist, she believes she’s like a cat with nine lives. She lives on the eastern end of Long Island with her husband and is in desperate need of more bookshelves.

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  1. Great interview, Colette! I’m excited to hear there’s a sequel in the works and I love those tidbits about your ancestors and Thoreau!

  2. Thanks so much, Candice! I can’t wait to read yours!

  3. You have an interesting history. Congrats on your book and I can't wait to read it.

  4. Thank you, Danielle! I hope you like it!

  5. Thank you so much for a chance. Excited for your book.

  6. Great interview, and congrats on the release of your first book! I can't wait to read it!

  7. Congrats. I also enjoyed some of the books you mentioned!

  8. The cover is by M.E.L. Tongol. I love it too!

  9. What a wonderful, exciting back story! I immediately had to Google the ballet, Giselle. This looks like an awesome novel, Colette! Congratulations!

    1. Thank you! I’ve always loved the spooky story of those ghostly ballerinas.

  10. What an engaging story! And it to be tied to family history -- that is amazing! I can't wait to read it

    1. Thank you so much, Carolyn! I hope you like it!

  11. This sounds like a fascinating story! Can't wait to read it! Congrats!

  12. Thank you, Angie! It was a lot of fun to write!

  13. This sounds like a wonderful and unique story! Congrats!


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