Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Q&A with Mike Grosso

Mike Grosso is the author of the new kids' middle-grade novel I Am Drums. He is a fourth-grade teacher and a musician, and he lives in Oak Park, Illinois. 

Q: How did you come up with your character Sam, and why did you decide to have her be an aspiring drummer?

A: I've always felt like drummers live on another planet. I learned to play growing up, along with guitar and bass, and there's a different emotional connection a musician has with the drums.

When I created Sam, I thought about what's going on in a drummer's head that other musicians (and non-musicians) might not understand. The character of Sam, along with her story, wrote itself from there.

Q: How did your own experiences as a teacher affect the writing of the novel?

A: It helped me understand middle grade voice more than anything. As a teacher, I spend more time with kids than adults. There's a cadence and rhythm to the way kids speak and interact with the world, and middle grade stories don't work unless you can tap into that.

Q: Did you know how the book would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?

A: I always have vague ideas of scenes that will take place towards the end, but I never know the exact circumstances or how the story will get there.

I jot notes when I need to remember something or if a specific plot thread needs to pay off later in the story, but I've never outlined an entire novel and probably never will.

Q: Money, or the lack of money, plays a role in the novel. Why did you decide to incorporate that as one of the book's major themes?

A: A lot of kids in the arts are held back by an economic reality they had no role in creating. I find that really sad. You can't learn to play an instrument if you can't afford to buy one. You can't paint a picture if you can't afford a canvas and brushes.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: I'm working on another contemporary middle grade book called The Honesty Pledge about a kid whose school makes every student pledge to always tell the truth. This prompts him to start telling the truth in some uncomfortable ways.

Q: Anything else we should know?
A: I Am Drums releases September 6, 2016, and it has an original soundtrack you can stream in full here.

I'll also be sending out free download codes to anyone who posts a selfie with their copy of I Am Drums on social media and uses the hashtag #IAmDrums.

--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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