Author Spotlight: Ally Malinenko
July 16, 2021
We are excited to feature author Ally Malinenko and her debut middle grade novel, GHOST GIRL (Katherine Tegen Books) out on August 10! Enter to win a copy (to be delivered after Aug. 10)!
|Illustrator Maike Plenzke, designer David DeWitt|
Tell us about yourself and how you came to write for children.
Hi! I'm Ally and I grew up about an hour north of New York City in the Hudson Valley where I spent too much time playing in the woods and making up stories with my best friend. Nearly every weekend my mother would take me to the library so I could clear their shelves out yet again. If I wasn't running around the woods making up stories and drawing eyes on trees, I was reading. The books that I read as a kid were the books that left a deep impression on me and even though I technically grew up I'm still very much that kid running around the woods telling stories. The best way to continue to do that was to write them down.
Congrats on your debut middle grade novel, Ghost Girl! Tell us about it and what inspired you.
Ghost Girl is the story of Zee Puckett, a lonely kid in a small town who likes to tell stories, especially scary ones, her best friend Elijah and her bully Nellie. After a big storm blows through things have changed. People are missing, Zee is seeing things and the arrival of a creepy new principal who encourages the kids to visualize their deepest desires and suddenly everything goes wrong. Zee and Elijah and Nellie have to team up if they want to give their ghost story a happy ending.
Zee, my little tow-headed loud mouth stubborn girl has lived in my head for awhile and even appeared, albeit differently, in earlier stories so I was glad when she finally found a home after all those years. There were so many things that inspired this story but I think the musician Nick Cave wins out on this one as the open thunder crash on a song called Tupelo is where my story came together for me. But so much of Zee and Elijah are my best friend and I, still running around those woods, still telling stories.
Was your road to publication long and winding, short and sweet, or something in between?
Somewhere in between I think. Prior to writing Ghost Girl I worked on a science fiction novel for YEARS (like 7 of them!) before I figured out the story I wanted to tell and then landed my agent. We went on submission and...well that book didn't sell. Not gonna lie I was heartbroken. So in the immortal words of Carrie Fisher I "took my broken heart and turned it into art" and wrote something completely different which wound up being Ghost Girl. This one sold pretty quickly afterwards!
What are some of your favorite classic MGs? Recent ones?
Middle grade was definitely the age that I truly and completely fell in love with reading. I would say some of my favorite classic middle grade books are Bunnicula, Wrinkle in Time, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, Bridge to Terabithia, and then of course everything Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary wrote! More recent ones include All of Me, Unsettled, Verdigris Pawn, Alone, Small Spaces, Lucky, the Art of Flying, A Place to Hang the Moon, honestly I could keep going because there are so many. I really feel like we're in an especially bright time for middle grade books.
What projects are you working on now?
I'm currently editing my second book This Appearing House, which was pitched as A Monster Calls-esque story navigating the effects of trauma and illness. The novel follows a girl and her best friend who get trapped inside a haunted house that turns out to be a lot more than what it seems. I'm also working on a secret (shhhh!) book project with some of my agent siblings that I'm very excited about.
What advice would you give to your younger self? Is this the same you'd give to aspiring authors?
Considering I wanted to be a writer since I was 8 years old, the one piece of advice that I would give to myself, and to aspiring authors, is to never give up. I know that is what everyone suggests but that's because it is true. I went through mountains of rejection before I published Ghost Girl. The important thing, the only thing, is that you have a story you want to tell and you keep on keeping on until you get that chance. Also read. Read. Read. Read. The only way to be a better writer is to read and keep reading.
What is one thing most people don't know about you?
Here's two things! Once when I was sixteen, I fell off a waterfall and then later that year I got kicked out of the country of Monaco!
Okay, now we want to know that story! Where can people find you online?
Ally Malinenko is a poet, novelist, and librarian living in Brooklyn, New York, where she pens her tales in a secret writing closet before dawn each day. Connect with Ally on her website at www.allymalinenko.com.
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