Author Spotlight: Dan Gemeinhart
|© Kathryn Dennell Stevens
Jan. 4, 2019
Today we welcome middle grade author Dan Gemeinhart, and his new novel, THE REMARKABLE JOURNEY OF COYOTE SUNRISE (Henry Holt & Co. BYR, Jan. 8, 2019). Enter to win a copy!
|Cover art © Celia Krampen
Tell us about yourself & how you came to write for children.
Hello! I’m a former elementary school librarian, which says a lot about who I am and how I got into writing for kids. I love kids and I love books and I love kids books, so being a librarian and being a kidlit author were both great fits for me. I feel super grateful that I got to have both of my perfect dream jobs. For a long time I thought I wanted to write for grown-ups, but when I got the job working as a kids librarian I just fell in love with kidlit in general, and middle grade novels in particular. They’re just so rich and fun and deep and diverse...so wonderful to read, so rewarding to write. I’m now a full-time writer, living in a small rural town in Washington state, with my wife (who is a high school English teacher) and three school-age daughters. We’re a happy, bookish family!
Congrats on forthcoming novel, THE REMARKABLE JOURNEY OF COYOTE SUNRISE. Tell us about it and what inspired you to write it.
Thank you! THE REMARKABLE JOURNEY OF COYOTE SUNRISE is about a girl named Coyote who lives an interesting life. She and her dad live in an old converted school-bus that they drive around the country. We find out that five years ago she had a home and a mom and two sisters, but that her mom and sisters were killed in a car accident. Her dad, too heartbroken to keep living their old life, sold the house and bought the bus and they’ve been driving around ever since - never staying in one place, never going home, and never talking about the past.
But when Coyote learns that a precious memory box that she made with her mom and sisters is about to be destroyed and lost forever, she’s determined to race back across the country in time to save it. So it’s an emotional story, but also a rollicking road-trip adventure. It was inspired by a fairly gloomy daydream I had one night, when I was home alone with one of my daughters. I thought: what would happen to me and her if something terrible happened to the rest of our family on their way home? How would we put our lives back together? How would we be a family together? How would we move toward a future without forgetting about our past and all that we lost? This whole book came out of those questions and that daydream.
You've said it took you 10 years of writing before your first book published, and now you'll have five novels out in the space of four years. What were the one or two key things you did that vaulted you from unpublished writer to published author? (And what's your secret for writing so prolifically?)
There were two key things that helped me get published - one external, one internal. The external factor was starting to attend writing conferences. I attended local conferences, and traveled to attend bigger ones as well. Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) conferences were especially helpful. I learned a ton about both the craft of writing, and the business of writing. I don’t think I ever would have gotten published if I hadn’t started going to those conferences.
The internal factor that helped me break through was the determination to never give up on getting better. As my rejections and unpublished books piled up (I had plenty of both), I didn’t view them as failures but as opportunities to get better. I tried to learn from every setback, so that my next try could be a little (or a lot!) better. I sought out feedback, listened to criticism with an open mind, and tried to always get better. I had plenty of chances to give up, but I never let myself take them. As far as writing prolifically, I think it’s really just all about writing stories and characters that you love. Take Coyote, for instance: I love that girl and her story so much. I couldn’t wait to get back to the computer to spend more time with her. I hope that readers love her as much as I do!
What projects are you working on now?
Right now I’m working on a new middle grade novel that is slated to come out in early 2020. I can’t say too much about it, but it’s very different from my other books. It’s a near-future sci-fi featuring killer robots and a group of friends trying to survive in a dark world, and it’s been a blast to write.
Your favorite classic MG novels?
I love ESPERANZA RISING, ROLL OF THUNDER HEAR MY CRY, HATCHET, and so many more!
Your favorite recent MG novels?
Oh, too many to name! Middle Grade literature is in a golden age, I think, with amazingly fantastic books coming out all the time. Some of my recent favorites are GHOST by Jason Reynolds, REFUGEE by Alan Gratz, TRAIN I RIDE by Paul Mosier, FRONT DESK by Kelly Yang, and NIGHT DIARY by Veera Hiranandani.
What is one thing most people don't know about you?
One thing most people don’t know about me is that I’m a dedicated home baker! I especially love big artisan sourdough loaves, but also love making scones and rolls and cornbread and focaccia and really anything savory that comes out of the oven. The smell of my dark chocolate sourdough bread baking is the closest thing you can get to heaven on this earth, if I don’t say so myself!
Where can people find you online?
I’m absolutely terrible at keeping up with Facebook, but I am there. I’m more reliably found on Twitter (@dangemeinhart), Instagram (@dangemeinhart), or on my website (dangemeinhart.com).
Thanks so much!
Dan Gemeinhart is a former elementary-school teacher-librarian and lifelong book nerd. He lives with his wife and three daughters in a small town in Washington State. He's the author of some other books, too: THE HONEST TRUTH, SOME KIND OF COURAGE, SCAR ISLAND, and GOOD DOG. If he ever meets you, he'd love to talk about books with you.