Q: What inspired you to write Join the Club, Maggie Diaz,
and how did you create your character Maggie?
A: The first spark of inspiration for Maggie came from my editor, Shelly Romero. She had read my YA debut after we became friends and so she came to me with this idea and asked if I was interested in writing middle grade.
And to be honest, after writing for teens, I was super intimidated to write for a younger age category. I don’t take writing for kids lightly and I really wanted to get the voice right.
But as soon as Shelly presented the idea to me, my
imagination took off. Maggie came together from so many shared experiences we
had as kids growing up in South Florida and it was so fun getting to take those
moments and make them feel funny, chaotic, and as universal as being 12 years
Q: Did you know how the novel would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?
A: I’m a big outliner and like to make a map of my story beats, so before I go into that first draft, I always have some idea of where I’m headed. That way I can be sure to plant those story seeds along the way.
But I still make plenty of big changes in edits. With Maggie
trying out so many clubs, I had to be sure to not go overboard with activities,
so a few clubs didn’t make the cut.
Q: What do you think Courtney Lovett’s illustrations add to the book?
A: I honestly gasped aloud when I saw the first sketch. Courtney’s art is so warm and her illustrations brought every single detail to life.
Writing Maggie while conceptualizing the illustrations as I
went was an entirely new way to write for me, but then to actually see those
incredible illustrations and the way they added to the story and moved it along
has been so incredibly exciting. This is a total dream project.
Q: What do you hope kids take away from the story?
A: I hope it’s funny and relatable and that Maggie’s quest
to immediately define herself via a club or skill helps them see that it’s
exciting to try new stuff but also very okay to take your time figuring
And that sometimes we have to share our rooms with our grandmas but living in a multi-generational home can be really fun too, because it might surprise you how much you have in common with your grandma.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I’m currently working on something I can’t talk about just yet, because publishing is publishing, but I’m also super excited to be writing my next YA project. I’m loving getting to write in both age categories.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb