Sunday, April 30, 2023

Q&A with Sydney Dunlap




Sydney Dunlap is the author of the new middle grade novel It Happened on Saturday. Her other books include the middle grade novel Jeremy Norbeck: Animal Whiz Kid. She is a former elementary school teacher.


Q: What inspired you to write It Happened on Saturday, and how did you create your character Julia?


A: It Happened on Saturday grew out of my work with child trafficking survivors and my realization that there was very little literature for young readers addressing this topic, even though kids ages 11 to 14 are especially vulnerable.


I decided to write a character-driven, age-appropriate novel to help middle grade readers understand the risks and the need to be careful and aware as they go online and use social media. 


I knew it would be very important to make Julia a character young readers could relate to and help them understand what makes her especially susceptible to the influence of a handsome stranger during this particular point in her life.


Like many girls her age, Julia loves animals and hanging out with her friends. She also had a previous experience with bullying and is concerned about being left out. When two of her close friends move away, and her BFF comes home from summer camp with a boyfriend, she’s worried about getting forgotten and tries to keep up.


Q: How did you decide on the best way to depict the issue of trafficking for middle grade readers?


A: I thought it was important to show how easily traffickers and recruiters can trick their potential victims.


I wanted readers to experience the story’s events along with Julia, empathizing with her and gaining a much deeper understanding than if they were just told to be careful online. By feeling like they are right there with her, they can see for themselves how anyone can say anything online and how easily kids can be manipulated.


I intentionally only went as far as I did in the book so that readers could understand how it felt to be trapped, but only for a short time. Having Julia get lured into a dangerous situation but then get away quickly felt like stopping at just the right point.


I also had the story vetted by police officers and detectives who specialize in child trafficking cases, along with a former director of an anti-trafficking crisis response organization, a trafficking survivor, and pre-teen beta readers.


Q: The Kirkus Review of the book says, in part, “Dunlap writes with compassion about factors that render adolescents particularly vulnerable to trafficking and what it takes to keep them safe; she offers insights into how excruciating self-consciousness prevents victims from seeking help or sharing their experiences. A powerful work.” What do you think of that description, and what do you hope readers take away from the story?


A: I was thrilled and honored with that description and the review from Kirkus. 


In addition to a growing awareness of staying safe both online and in real life, I hope that readers gain an understanding of how to help themselves during stressful situations and develop the courage to advocate for themselves, even when it’s hard. And I hope that they see the value of honesty and true friendship.


Q: How was the book’s title chosen, and what does it signify for you?


A: I had fun figuring out the title because my extremely creative nephew, Lucas Cain, brainstormed with me and helped me come up with it.


The first part of the book is told in the past tense, showing the events leading up to the Saturday when Julia is nearly abducted. The second part is in the present tense and shows the aftermath. Since everything revolves around that Saturday, it seemed like a fitting title, and I also wanted a title that raises a question.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’m writing a middle grade novel that tackles another challenging topic that I feel needs to be addressed more for this age group. 


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: I’m very excited to connect with readers, and I’m looking forward to school and bookstore visits this year. If anyone reading this would like to come to an event, check my website for more information! I also offer virtual visits for everybody everywhere! 


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

No comments:

Post a Comment