Author Spotlight: Jess Redman
|@Stephanie Suarez of Called2Capture
July 26, 2019
Today we are excited to feature debut middle-grade author Jess Redman and her novel, THE MIRACULOUS (Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR), July 30, 2019). Enter to win a copy below.
Tell us about yourself and how you came to write for children.
Hello, and thank you so much for having me on KidLit411! I’m Jess Redman. I’m a therapist, mother of two young kids, and the author of the middle-grade magical contemporary THE MIRACULOUS.
I have always (or at least since I was very young) wanted to be an author. As a kid, reading and writing were the only things I was interested in, and I think my family was pretty shocked when I ended up majoring in political science instead of English in college. After very naively trying to save the entire world for a while, I became a therapist and focused on knowing and walking alongside one person at a time, which was a much better fit for me.
I still wanted to be an author, but I thought I would write for adults.
Then, when I was pregnant with my first child, I started writing a middle-grade story. And I loved it in a way that I had never loved anything else I had written. The truth is that the books that have touched me and shaped me the most are from my own middle-grade years. Those are the covers I can picture in detail, the first lines I can quote, the characters that are as dear as friends. Middle-grade, I realized as I worked on that story, is where my heart is.
Congrats on your debut MG novel, THE MIRACULOUS. Tell us about it and what inspired you?
THE MIRACULOUS is the story of a miracle-collecting boy named Wunder and a cape-wearing girl named Faye—two kids who have recently experienced great losses. Both are drawn to the mysterious DoorWay House in the woods where an old woman has recently appeared. The old woman—who Faye is convinced is a witch—sends the two new friends on a series of sometimes-magical quests. These quests take them through graveyards and forests, to police stations and town halls, by bike and by train. It’s a journey filled with friendship, healing, magic, and miracles. My book trailer captures the story so well:
THE MIRACULOUS is a story about asking big questions and coping with big feelings. It was inspired in part by the smaller-but-still-confusing losses of my own middle-grade years, by my work as a therapist, and by losses in my adult life. Writing this story was a way for me to answer those big questions, for myself now and for my 11-year-old self. The answers are rooted in my belief in the power of love and imagination and friendship and community. I hope young readers who are struggling with losses, big or small, will find some hope and wonder and light in them.
Was your road to publication long and winding, short and sweet, or something in between?
Some parts were slow and disheartening and other parts flew by. I finished my first middle-grade story about five years ago. I queried that story and another off and on for about two years (that’s the slow, disheartening part) before the stars aligned for the original (but substantially revised) story, and the full requests started pouring in. I signed with Sara Crowe, who was (and is) my dream agent.
For THE MIRACULOUS, the actual “going on submission” part was very fast. I was on the phone with interested editors less than two weeks after Sara sent it out, and I accepted the offer from my amazing editor at Macmillan shortly after.
And then came another slow (but not disheartening) part—the long wait between signing the contract and the book’s actual publication!
What are some favorite classic MG novels? Favorite recent ones?
There are some beautiful, amazing wonderful recent middle-grade novels, but I still love nostalgic discussions of the MG novels of my childhood. I loved THE WESTING GAME by Ellen Raskin, A WRINKLE IN TIME (and everything else) by Madeleine L’Engle, THE GIVER by Lois Lowry, and BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA by Katherine Paterson.
Most recently, I have an ARC of BEVERLY, RIGHT HERE that I cannot wait to dive into; I love everything Kate DiCamillo has ever written, and I think she’s wonderful. I’ve been lucky enough to get sneak peaks at fellow 2019 debuts, and I’ve loved THE LIGHT IN THE LAKE by Sarah Baughman, ALL THE IMPOSSIBLE THINGS by Lindsay Lackey, THE BONE GARDEN by Heather Kassner, SUPER JAKE AND THE KING OF CHAOS by Naomi Milliner, and so many more.
What projects are you working now?
I am thrilled to share that my second middle-grade novel, QUINTESSENCE, will be released on July 28, 2020. It’s already in copy edits, and I’ve already seen the cover, illustrated by the phenomenal Matt Rockefeller who did THE MIRACULOUS’s illustration. Here’s a little summary:
Three months ago, twelve-year-old Alma moved to the town of Four Points. Her panic attacks started a week later, and they haven’t stopped—even though she’s told her parents that they have. She’s homesick and friendless and every day she feels less and less like herself.
Then the enigmatic owner of the town’s junk shop gives her a telescope and this message: Find the Elements. Grow the Light. Save the Starling.
That night, Alma watches through the telescope lens as a star—a star that looks like a child—falls from the sky and into her backyard. Alma knows what it’s like to be lost and afraid, to long for home. And so, with the help of some unlikely new friends from Astronomy Club, she sets out to save the star. It’s a quest that will take a little bit of science, a little bit of magic, and her whole self.
You can even add it on Goodreads already!
What advice would you give your younger self? Is that the same advice you'd give to aspiring authors?
I loved writing when I was young, but as I grew older I grew more self-conscious, more self-critical, more focused on perfection. That stymied me creatively for a long time. I desperately wanted to be a writer, but I was afraid to really try—afraid to throw my whole self into it, to work as hard as I could. Because what if I didn’t make it? What if I wasn’t good enough to do the only thing I had ever wanted to do? What if I failed?
So my advice to Young Me and my advice to you, Aspiring Author, would be this: don’t be afraid to write. The only way to create something you love is to create a lot of things that you really, really, really don’t love first. Write and keep writing.
What is one thing most people don't know about you?
During my junior year of college, I took a semester off of school and backpacked around the world for six months. I went to New Zealand, Thailand, Cambodia, India, Egypt, Israel, Greece, and lots of other places before running out of money in Spain. I learned so much on that trip about the many ways there are to live and why people (including myself) believe what they believe and do the things they do.
Where can people find you online?
My website, www.JessRedman.com is the best place to find info about THE MIRACULOUS and me. There are book trailers, a teacher’s guide, pre-order gift details, and author visit info there.
I’m also on Twitter quite a bit at https://twitter.com/Jess__Red and Instagram (a little bit less) at that same handle, @Jess__Red.
THE MIRACULOUS is on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/40864855
And you can pre-order here: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9780374309749
Jess Redman has wanted to be an author since age six, when her poem “I Read and Read and Read All Day” appeared in a local anthology. It took a little while though. First, she did things like survive middle school, travel around the world, become a therapist, and have two kids. But then finally, her childhood dream came true! Her middle-grade debut, THE MIRACULOUS, will be published by FSG/Macmillan on July 30, 2019. Her second middle-grade novel, QUINTESSENCE, will be out on July 28, 2020. You can find her at www.JessRedman.com.