Author Spotlight: Claire Swinarski


Nov. 13, 2020

We are pleased to feature middle grade, YA, and adult author Claire Swinarski and her recent middle grade novel, WHAT HAPPENS NEXT (HarperCollins, May 2020). Enter to win a copy!

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

I've always loved books for kids--especially the middle grade age range. My mom was a fifth grade teacher so our house was constantly filled with books from Christopher Paul Curtis, Jerry Spinelli, and Lois Lowry. I've always known I wanted to write books that gave readers hope, which is what those books did for me. I'm from Wisconsin and I live outside of Milwaukee with my husband and two kiddos.


Congrats on your recent middle grade novel, WHAT HAPPENS NEXT. Tell us about the book and what inspired you.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT is about 12-year-old astronomy-lover Abby, whose sister-slash-best-friend has just been sent to an in-patient eating disorder facility. Abby is absolutely devastated, but she finds solace in the upcoming lunar eclipse happening right above her small northwoods town. When a mysterious astronomer moves in next door and needs her help finding something that's been long lost, she jumps at the chance to help, in exchange for a treasure of her own. 


I've always loved sisters and sister stories--I grew up with a little sister and now have three additional sisters-in-law, so sisters are something that's very close to my heart. A couple of years ago, when the big eclipse happened over the US, it was all anyone could talk about! I loved how it brought so many people of different ages, beliefs, and political values together, becoming excited over something natural that the earth does. Science is often argued about and in the news for being controversial, but sometimes, it really does have the power to connect us. 


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


Hmm--I'd say somewhere in between! I managed to sign with a literary agent fairly quickly, but the first book he took out on submission for me didn't sell. The life of an author trying to be published is always full of twists and turns, and any aspiring writer knows that just because you love a project doesn't mean it's going to wind up in bookstores. It's a very emotionally difficult business, but once you're able to see your book on shelves, you know it was all worth it. 


What projects are you working on now?


My next middle grade book, THE KATE IN BETWEEN, comes out in May! THE KATE IN BETWEEN deals with a lot of topics I personally find interesting, like online shaming, MLMs, and YouTube stars. It's the story of a girl going viral for a heroic act she didn't *exactly* do, and how she learns who she really is through the storms she has to weather. 


What advice would you give to your younger self? Is it the same you'd give to other aspiring authors?


I would tell my younger self to r-e-l-a-x. I was always so worried about getting published, and I was looking at it like--not a sprint, or a marathon, but a marathon I had to sprint through. Take your time. And yes, I guess I'd say the same thing to other aspiring authors! Authors are such an uptight bunch sometimes--so little is in our control. But that thought should be freeing instead of paralyzing. Focus on writing the best story, being good to your industry colleagues, and reading wonderful books. The rest will fall into place.


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


That I used to be a wedding writer! I spent three years writing for a wedding magazine and absolutely loved it. It's such a niche industry but one I will always have so much love for. I guess I'm a romantic at heart!


Where can people find you online?! That's where all of my social media links are and where you can contact me about virtual school visits as well. Thank you!

Claire Swinarski is the author of multiple books, including What Happens Next and The Kate In Between. Her writing has been featured in The Washington Post, Seventeen, Milwaukee Magazine, and many other publications. A born and raised Wisconsinite, she lives just outside of Milwaukee with her husband and two kids. You can follow her on Instagram @claireswinarski.


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  1. Your book sounds interesting. I taught middle grade kids at one time and enjoyed that age a lot. They have unique problems and personalities. Congratulations! I'm looking forward to reading your book.

  2. I like how your books tackle tough subjects for this age group. I can't wait to read your books.

  3. Congratulations on both books! I love sister stories, too, having 3 myself. And Kate in between has an intriguing premise.

  4. I remember the summer of the eclipse! So fascinating! Can't wait to read your new book. Congrats!

  5. Carol Kim I love books about sisters too! But that's because I grew up with two brothers and longed for a sister (nothing against my brothers--they're great too!). I have two daughters, and love that they have one another (esp now that they are older and don't fight all the time!). Congratulations on your book!

  6. This book looks great, look forward to reading it!

  7. This is so wonderful having a book about a girl who loves the stars.


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