From From the Mixed Up Files of Middle Grade Authors:
Melissa Glenn Haber to From the Mixed Up Files of Middle Grade Authors!
Melissa is the author of several books for MG readers, including The Heroic Adventures of Hercules Amsterdam (Puffin Paperbacks, 2004, recommended for 9+); Beyond the Dragon Portal (Dutton, 2005, a Keystone State Reading Association Book Award nominee, recommended for 9+); The Pluto Project (Dutton, 2006, a Junior Library Guild selection, recommended for 11 and up).
Since Melissa’s latest release Your Best Friend, Meredith (Aladdin, previously released as Dear Anjali, Aladdin 2010) is a novel in letters, we thought we’d conduct her author interview a bit differently! Below are some questions from, erm, kind of imaginary readers, and Melissa’s thoughtful answers. (Dear Abby has nothing on this MG author!)
1. Dear Melissa, In your novel, your character Meredith types (and writes) long letters to her friend Anjali. Only problem is, Anjali has recently, and unexpectedly died. What inspired you to write a novel about a girl writing letters to her dead best friend? Were you worried it would be too dark? Signed — BFF in Boise
I mostly always start a novel because a first sentence comes to me, and that’s what happened here. Meredith just started speaking to Anjali in my head, and then I was writing this potentially depressing novel. I did worry a little about the novel getting too heavy, though it’s as much about friendship and first love as it is about death; to deal with that I tried to balance the times Meredith’s really despairing with goofier material. (My favorite: when Meredith’s at her lowest and suddenly loses the “e” key on the typewriter). I guess it worked, because the most common comment I hear from kids about the book is that they thought it was really funny. Which is a little bizarre. I mean, I have books about baby sisters turning into dragons, and three inch tall boys living with mice, and kids pretending to be spies and finding out that what they pretend to discover is actually true, and it turns out that the book about the dead girl is the laugh riot. Go figure.
2. Dear MGH, What made U decide 2 write a novel in ltrs? I mean, doesn’t everyone IM these days? xo — techwiz999
Dear Techwiz999, Ah: you discovered the secret! I originally set the novel when I was 13—back in 1983. That’s why Meredith is writing on what she calls a typerwriter. My agent suggested that I update it to the present, which meant all sorts of small changes in technology (I think there are still some LP records that stayed in by mistake). I kept the typewriter in part for the reasons Meredith says (she claims it lets her write in the Heming way), but also texting and IMing are not very useful when it comes to working out what Meredith would call your Inner Feelings (TM) For that, a diary—which is sort of what Meredith’s letters become—is necessary. It also turned out there was a major advantage to writing a novel in letters—aside from the fact that writing unanswered letters felt like a fitting metaphor for reaching out to someone who can’t reach back. Writing in letters dealt with the fundamental problem with the first person: unless the first person is written in the present tense, the narrator knows what’s going to happen. Here, Meredith was in as much in the dark as the reader.
3. Dear Author, In your novel, the three main characters are from three different religions – Meredith celebrates Christmas, so she seems like she’s Christian. Her friend and crush Noah is Jewish. And Anjali is Hindu. At the end of the book, Meredith even writes a letter to God. What role did spirituality and faith have in this novel? Yours Sincerely, Spirited and Spunky
To read the answer to this letter, and a few more, as well as to qualify for the giveaway, please visit here!