Melissa Savage is the author of Lemons, a new novel for kids. She is a child and family therapist, and she lives in Minneapolis.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for Lemons, and for your main character, Lemonade?
A: I wanted to provide some very patient and supportive people along Lemonade’s journey of grief that would navigate that loss with gentle guidance and love. Supportive people with the ability to help Lemonade to embrace the memories of the past versus trying to forget to ease the pain.
I wanted to write a story about people who embrace the special loved ones they’ve lost with gratitude and joy in addition to the sadness that inevitably comes with grieving.
Q: The book is set in 1975--why did you choose that time period?
A: I find that we are all so focused on technology and I wanted to take a break from that and let kids of today experience what it was like when we didn’t have Google at our fingertips.
A: I love the mystery of Bigfoot, mostly because I am fascinated when I see news articles about scientists who have located a new or unexplained species they either thought to be extinct or didn’t know existed at all.
We know that the giant ape, Gigantopithecus, from ancient Asia existed because we have a fossil record of it; however, they are thought to be extinct for millions of years. I find the possibility of discovering a group of Gigantopithecus descendants still in existence today to be a fun mystery to share with kids.
Q: Did you know how the book would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?
A: Truman Capote said, “I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil.” I agree with that statement wholeheartedly. I think it takes a great deal of editing and cutting to make a story concise and entertaining.
For me, the first draft is generally an outline and the real writing comes later in the editing process as I become more acquainted with what my characters need, want and feel deep inside them. It is also where additional themes and setting can come to life.
The ending for Lemons came to me as I was driving on a winding road through pine trees and I tried to imagine what it would be like to be in those woods and see a Bigfoot come upon me. Then of course I thought what would Lemonade do? And I knew it had to involve sharing a Twinkie!
As far as Lemonade’s decision to stay in Willow Creek, I knew that would be her conclusion once she opened her heart to her new life and all the loving, members of her new family in Willow Creek (even the Bigfoot!).
Q: What are you working on now?
A: My next book is also a middle grade novel and includes yet another element of cryptozoology, this time Martians! Even to this day, witnesses still attest to seeing more than just the materials of a crashed weather balloon at the 1947 UFO crash site in Roswell, New Mexico.
Some have even reported to have seen the pieces of the craft and the creatures themselves. Another interesting adventure! Additionally, I’ve included themes of healing from loss and the love and support of a community during times of great adversity.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: In addition to having the privilege of working with Emily Easton of Penguin Random House, Barry Cunningham of Chicken House Books purchased the foreign rights and released the same story under a different title (Bigfoot, Tobin & Me) in the U.K. and Commonwealth in the month of May (2017) as well.
It has always been my desire to become a writer ever since writing my very first story, "The Lost Pony," in the second grade.
When children share their favorite character in Lemons with me, more often than not, kids choose either Lemonade or Tobin as favorites; however, I sometimes hear that Charlie or Mrs. Dickerson is a favorite.
The one that surprised me most was when one child said that Lemonade’s mother, Elizabeth Lilly Witt, was her favorite character. She had drawn a picture of Lem’s mom and wrote that Elizabeth was “a mom that Lem will never forget” and that she will “stay in Lem’s heart forever.”
Although Elizabeth appears in Lem’s dreams, I found it very touching to hear that this character touched this child so deeply.
Will Lemonade and Tobin have more adventures together? I would love to continue to write for Lem and Tobin because I love their friendship! I would love to continue to write about different adventures they have together in the forests of Willow Creek as they seek to find evidence to prove the existence of Bigfoot.
However, I would also like to send them on other adventures to hunt for other cryptids in the world! I hope I get the chance!
--Interview with Deborah Kalb