Author Spotlight: Melanie Crowder
Nov. 9, 2018
We are excited to feature MG and YA author Melanie Crowder and her latest middle grade novel, THE LIGHTHOUSE BETWEEN THE WORLDS (Athenium Books for Young Readers Nov. 13, 2018). Be sure to enter to win a copy!
|cover © Kailey Whitman
Tell us about yourself and how you came to write for children.
Well, hello everyone!
The story goes like this: several years ago, I was in a job that wasn’t working for me. I felt unappreciated. Hemmed in. Like all the goodwill and optimism that had led me there was gradually being sucked away. I knew I had more to offer and couldn’t fathom allowing myself to be stuck there long-term.
I asked myself: What is it that makes you happy?
The answer was obvious. Every spare minute I had, I was at my local library (specifically, in the children’s and teen section) or curled up with the haul I’d brought home. I’d just never thought of books as a career.
So the next logical question was: Is there any way you can do that for your job?
I didn’t know the answer to that one, but eventually I figured it out. Fast forward 8 years and an MFA in writing, and my first middle grade book was published!
Congrats on your latest book, THE LIGHTHOUSE BETWEEN THE WORLDS. Tell us about the story and what inspired you.
This story is a portal fantasy—something I’ve always wanted to try! It’s the first in a duology about a boy named Griffin. When the story starts out, we find him at the lighthouse he tends with his dad on the Oregon coast. When his dad is suddenly kidnapped, pulled through a portal in the lighthouse lens, Griffin is swept into a tangle of secret societies, wars, and rebellions. It’s a fast-paced adventure.
I hope you all love it!
The idea came to me in the wilderness. When you go hiking in Colorado, if you know where to look, you’ll come across relics of the state’s mining history—hundred year old rusted cans of beans, telegraph insulators, and even tiny leather shoes that could only have belonged to an infant. It’s impossible for me to walk among the ghosts of that era and not imagine what it was like to live that cold, hard life.
On one particular hike, I was in a region of the state where Nikola Tesla was active, and I got to thinking that technology must have seemed like magic when it first appeared in remote areas of the country. I thought to myself, what it if actually was? What if Fresnel lenses in lighthouses and AC currents powering mines and looking glasses on fire watchtowers really were magic?
The idea wouldn’t let me go, and this story is the result!
You've written contemporary, historical, and fantasy, as well as YA and MG. How do you decide what projects to take on next?
I have two fantastic editors—one for YA and one for MG—and together we’ve put out 6 books in the past 6 years! When we wrap one novel, we start brainstorming the next. I pitch ideas, sometimes as little as a paragraph, and other times as much as a few chapters. I am really lucky that I get to write the ideas that have taken hold of me; that I’m given so much creative freedom.
The toughest part is setting the release season and then having the patience to wait until a gap in my deadlines appears and I can actually start writing the thing!
What projects are you working on now?
I’m hard at work on the sequel to THE LIGHTHOUSE BETWEEN THE WORLDS, which will release in Fall 2019. It’s more world-hopping adventure and I’m really enjoying writing it!
Next up after that one is my next historical YA, out in 2020. It still hasn’t been announced, so I can’t say too much, but I. Can’t. Wait!
What are your favorite classic MG novels? And recent MG picks?
I loved A WRINKLE IN TIME when I was a middle grader myself. And anything Ramona.
Today I’m loving how diverse middle grade is. Here are a few I’m really excited to read: FRONT DESK by Kelly Yang, STARCROSSED by Barbara Dee, and THE PARKER INHERITANCE by Varian Johnson.
What advice would you give to your younger self? Is this the same advice you'd give to other aspiring authors?
I wish someone had told me that it’s okay take up space. To stand up for yourself. To speak up when someone tries to make you feel small. Of course I’m not talking about being self-centered or obnoxious or a bully. It’s just that the messaging for girls when I was growing up was so much about being humble, sweet, and good.
I’m also not saying those things aren’t important qualities for all human beings to cultivate. But since authors are so visible today online, in schools, and at festivals, I’m modeling for my readers of all genders what it looks like when a woman is whip-smart, bold, confident, and ready to stand in the space she’s earned; to stand up for herself. It’s important that this generation coming up doesn’t get the same messaging we did, so yes, in a way, I suppose I am giving the same advice to aspiring authors.
What is something most people don't know about you?
My first university degree was in visual art and music. When I decided to get serious about this writing thing, I sold my pottery wheel and kiln and hung my instruments on the wall. I was one of those people who’s pretty good at a lot of things, but not great at anything. I knew I wanted to be great at this, and I knew that would take my full focus, at least for a while.
Here’s hoping I find my way back to them soon…
Where can people find you online?
If you want to see examples of me stumbling through my new hobby of baking sourdough bread, follow me on Instagram @melanieacrowder. For book updates, events, and opportunities to take a class I’m teaching, visit my website www.melaniecrowder.comand sign up for my newsletter. I’ve also got links there to my twitter and Facebook accounts.
Hope to see you around!
Melanie Crowder is the acclaimed author of several books for young readers, including Audacity, Three Pennies, An Uninterrupted View of the Sky, A Nearer Moon and Parched, as well as the new middle grade duology The Lighthouse Between the Worlds.
Melanie’s books have been awarded the Jefferson Cup, the Arnold Adoff Poetry Award, the SCBWI Crystal Kite, and the Bulletin Blue Ribbon; they have been recognized as a National Jewish Book Awards Finalist, Walden Award finalist, Colorado Book Awards Finalist, Junior Library Guild selection, YALSA Top Ten Books For Young Adults, ILA Notable Book for a Global Society, Parents’ Choice Silver Medal, BookBrowse Editor’s Choice, BookPage Top Pick, and The Washington Post Best Children’s Books for April. Her work has been listed as Best Books of the Year by Bank Street College, Kirkus Reviews, The Amelia Bloomer List, New York Public Library, Tablet Magazine, A Mighty Girl, and The Children’s Book Review.
The author lives under the big blue Colorado sky with a wife, two kids, and one good dog. Visit her online at www.melaniecrowder.com.