Cassie Was Here by Caroline Hickey gently captures one girl's impressionable summer. (Read my full-length book review.) I thought the book was adorable, so I placed it on my Best Books Read in June 2007 list. Caroline responded to the news with a "Yee haw!" Then we talked some more.
I never had an imaginary friend myself. I had Twinkie, my Siamese cat, who acted as my best friend, my confidante, and my captive (though discerning) audience. Did you ever have an imaginary friend?
Of course! I had an imaginary friend named Lulu when I was about three years old, but she only lasted a few weeks. If I'd had one when I was eleven, I would have wanted her to be just like Joey.
Why make your main character, Bree, eleven years old instead of, say, six?
I knew creating an imaginary friend for an older character would be tricky, because some people would say it wasn't plausible. But I found a lot of research about how kids cope with change and new situations, and how imaginary playmates are a sign of creativity and intelligence. And in the end, the book is fiction, and fiction is about exploring ideas. This is one I chose to explore.
A judge! I'm not sure how I first got the idea, but my great-grandfather was a judge and I thought it sounded neat. Even though I always loved books and writing, I had no idea I wanted to be a writer until I was in my twenties.
How old were you when the writing bug first bit you?
About third grade. I wrote poems then -- very bad rhyming poems. In middle school I moved onto flash fiction and short stories, and in college I went back to poetry. It wasn't until later that I started taking some fiction writing classes and working on longer pieces. I'd always been afraid to write something LONG, afraid it would be too hard. Now I'm scared to write something short!
How long did it take you to write and sell Cassie Was Here?
From the day I started writing to the day I sold it was almost two years, which is pretty fast by industry standards. What helped me was having my wonderful workshop group, whose feedback significantly improved each draft, as well as everything I learned during the MFA program. Also, my amazing agent Rebecca Sherman had a little something to do with it…
At what point in the writing process did your book get its title?
Very late! My book had many, many titles before my editor and I settled on CASSIE WAS HERE. Another big contender was JUST MY IMAGINATION. I'm very happy we went with CASSIE because it really sums up the book and has a good adolescent, angsty feel to it.
What is the premise of your next novel, Isabelle's Boyfriend?
That book is my nemesis at the moment! I'm currently revising it (it should be out next fall), and it's like wrestling a wild octopus. It's about a fifteen-year-old girl who falls head over heels for another girl's guy, and her clumsy attempts to ensnare him. She's a pretty sympathetic man-stealer, though, and a lot of fun to hang out with.
What is the biggest difference between writing juvenile fiction and young adult fiction?
Even though CASSIE is considered middle grade and ISABELLE is YA based on the ages of the protagonists, I see them both as somewhere in between. I hate the term “tween fiction,” but I think it's an emerging category that's a little more sophisticated than middle grade, but not edgy like a lot of current YA. I believe my books fall in this crevice.
What are some of your coolest writing moments?
*Seeing my copyedited manuscript, complete with ISBN number and Library of Congress description
*Emailing Zilpha Keatley Snyder and getting a personal response!
*Listening to others discuss my characters like they're real people
*Hearing Judy Blume speak at ALA in June
*Going on my first school visit, when a group of 4th and 5th graders told me they liked me (and CASSIE)!
I completely envy your correspondence with Zilpha Keatley Snyder - and with your cohorts, The Longstockings.
There are eight of us Longstockings. We're a group of children's writers who met at The New School's Writing for Children MFA program. It began with a small group who worked together our thesis semester then grew into a larger workshop. We meet every other week to critique new work, and go on several writing retreats every year. We also help each other through the often overwhelming process of publication! Last August we started a blog together, which has connected us with so many people in the children's book field: editors, reviewers, librarians, booksellers. And that's really fun! We named ourselves after the incorrigible Miss Pippi Longstocking.
Name ten of your favorite books.
(in no particular order!)
Sister of the Bride, Beverly Cleary
The Princess and the Goblin, George MacDonald
A Corner of the Universe, Ann M. Martin
Starring Sally J Freedman as Herself, Judy Blume
Flipped, Wendelin Van Draanen
Tadpole, Ruth White
A Northern Light, Jennifer Donnelly
The Egypt Game, Zilpha Keatley Snyder
The Sign of the Beaver, Elizabeth George Speare
Any and all Trixie Belden mysteries!