Monday, June 16, 2014

Interview with Margo Dill, author of Caught Between Two Curses

Margo Dill's newest book!

I just finished reading Margo Dill’s new book, Caught Between Two Curses, that’s so much fun you have to read it! I invited Margo to my blog because I had so many questions about her book and the writing.

The story is revolves around seventeen-year-old Julie Nigelson and a curse put on her family. And it's not just any-curse – it’s strangely connected to the famous "Curse of the Billy Goat" on the Chicago Cubs. Julie must figure out this mystery while her uncle lies in a coma and her entire love life is in ruins: her boyfriend Gus is pressuring her to have sex, while her best friend Matt is becoming more attractive. Somehow, Julie must figure out how to save her uncle, her family's future, and her own love life before time runs out!

MH: I think most people are familiar with the curse of the Cubs, but how did you come up with the idea to incorporate that into a book for young adults?
MD: I wanted to explore the idea that some people survive accidents or tragedies, and that others don't, for a reason. When I created Julie, she survived a fire that her parents didn't, and I wanted her to have a REALLY IMPORTANT destiny to fulfill. I wanted it to be important to her family (thus I created the curse on her family that she has to break) and to her community, which is Chicago (thus the Chicago Cubs curse). I got the idea to use the Chicago Cubs curse in 2003 when Steve Bartman interfered with a foul ball and everyone blamed him for the Cubs failure to make the World Series. Although we all know--it was the Curse of the Billy Goat. At the same time a news story was broadcast about a little girl who survived a car crash that her parents hadn't. In my brain, the two mixed together and out came this book  (after about 100 revisions). 

MH: What are some of the challenges of writing for this age group?
MD:  think the biggest challenge is that I'm no longer a teen. So, I have to read a lot of current young adult, and I have to find my inner teen voice. I also think that teens are very critical or very passionate. They either love something or hate it--there's not a huge in-between. It's also hard to get your book seen when there are such HUGE books in this genre, such as Twilight, Hunger Games, Divergent, The Fault In Our Stars, etc.

MH: I know there has been some talk online about the sexual aspect of teens in your book. Why did you decide to address it in this manner for your book?
MD: It's one of the biggest issues teens face today--and I mean it's been faced for as long as teens have been dating. I had to face it. My friends' kids are facing it. My kids (I HATE TO THINK OF IT) will have to also. So many adults say that YA lit is trash--the characters are all drinking and sleeping with each other. This is actually not true. I think YA lit is very realistic--some kids are doing it in books; some are not. Many are struggling with these issues. I wanted Julie to struggle with what was right for her--not anyone else. At this point in her life, she wants to wait until she's married. She's not overly religious, but she's not ready for sex. She loves Gus and is attracted to him, but she's scared. I believe that MANY GIRLS feel this way, and so I thought if they read about a girl like Julie, they could see how she handled the issue. 

MH: The pace of the book is great, it moves along quickly with short chapters and a compelling story. Can you share any writing tips for the rest of us who struggle with pacing?
MD: I like short chapters because I read a lot before I go to bed and like to try to read at least a chapter. Sometimes I'm so tired that's hard to do. I wrote my book the way I like to read books--short chapters. I try to end on a hook at the end of a chapter, so that hopefully helps the pacing. The hook gets readers to turn the page to the next chapter. I also tried to have several sub-plots to keep the muddy middle from being too muddy and keep flowing.

MH: What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
MD: It's a fun book! So, the cast of characters was really fun to maneuver and manipulate around, especially Grandma, Julie and Matt. I loved incorporating baseball into the book, too, because I have grown up all my life with stories, stats, and scores from my dad, which he got from his dad. Also, creating a curse is exciting--I could create whatever I wanted and also HOW to break it. My book, my rules, my curse! HA!
MH: What are you working on now?

MD: I'm working on two things. I'm ALMOST DONE with a middle-grade contemporary humorous mystery about a super sleuth who has trouble solving a mystery that happens to him. He can't see past the fact that he thinks his sister stole his trophy, and so his super sleuth skills are lacking. It's about sibling rivalry, family relationships, peer pressure, peer approval and solving mysteries. In the rough draft stage, I am working on a contemporary young adult novel about what happens to two male teens after their fathers are involved in a shooting in a local pharmacy--one boy is the shooter's son; the other is the son of a police officer who is shot.
MH: Thanks for the great info, Margo!

Margo L. Dill is a children's author, freelance editor, and workshop leader living in St. Louis, Missouri. She is also the author of the historical fiction middle-grade novel, Finding My Place: One Girl's Strength at Vicksburg (White Mane Kids, 2012) and the forthcoming picture books, Maggie Mae, Detective Extraordinaire and the Case of the Missing Cookies, and Lucy and the Red Ribbon Week Adventure. Caught Between Two Curses is her first young adult novel. She promises that she is a Cardinals' fan at heart, but the Billy Goat Curse on the Chicago Cubs was too irresistible a plot line to resist. 

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