Sunday, June 2, 2024

Q&A with Laura Segal Stegman


Photo by Daniel Reichert Photography


Laura Segal Stegman is the author of the new middle grade novel The Chambered Nautilus, the third in her Summer of L.U.C.K. trilogy. She is based in Los Angeles.


Q: The Chambered Nautilus is the third in your Summer of L.U.C.K. trilogy--did you know from the start that you'd be writing a trilogy?


A: Back when I had the idea that I wanted to write a middle grade book, I was an unpublished -- novice, really -- fiction writer. I thought I'd certainly be able to write an ongoing series with, say, 20 books. Why not, right? Ha.


As a publicist in my "day job," I knew how to write bios, press releases, pitch letters, etc. But writing a novel was another matter. It took many years for me to learn how to write one, especially for young readers, and to learn what I needed to know about the publishing industry.


I finally got a three-book contract, which was incredible and for which I am so grateful. At that point, though, I understood that the lifespan of the stories I wanted to tell about my three characters was perfect for a trilogy.


Q: What inspired the plot of The Chambered Nautilus?


A: Fortunately, the back stories from the first two books were already established. I had characters, and I'd built their world, which was better than starting from scratch.


As background, Summer of L.U.C.K. introduces Darby (11), Naz (10), and Justin (12), three struggling kids who find their way to self-acceptance with the help of Leroy Usher, a ghost who haunts a magical carnival.


Ready or Not spins more magical adventures with the three friends and the ghostly Mr. Usher, but it spotlights 13-year-old Justin, who faces a tricky real-life choice: stand up to bigotry or let fear hold him back. 

Both books had Mr. Usher helping the kids see what they needed to see to work through their problems. In The Chambered Nautilus, I decided to explore what would happen if he was the one who needed their help.


And I'd always been fascinated by chambered nautiluses, whose shells are divided into a series of winding chambers. So I got the idea to create a carnival attraction modelled on these intriguing sea creatures.


The story begins with Naz, Darby, and Justin (now 12, 13, and 14) drawing apart. But when something goes wrong at the carnival, and Mr. Usher issues a desperate plea, they must come together as they realize he's always been there for them. And in this book, of course, we find out whether they can do the same for him.


Q: Do you think your characters Darby, Justin, and Naz have changed over the course of the series?


A: Yes, very much so, and not only because the trilogy spans three summers. They each come to camp struggling with communicating in various ways. By the end of Summer of L.U.C.K., they've found their voices and formed an enduring friendship with each other and the ghostly Mr. Usher.


Ready or Not is told from Justin's point of view as he learns to stand up to a bully, building leadership skills that carry over to The Chambered Nautilus's story. And in the third book, the three kids learn that their close friendship need not take away from their ability to grow separately into who they want to be.


Q: What do you hope kids take away from the story?


A: Finding one's voice, learning self-acceptance, building self-esteem, and the power of friendship are takeaways from each book in the series. My stories also cover things like the importance of perseverance, facing one's fears, and letting go of perfection.


I hope that kids who are struggling with any of these might identify and understand that they're not alone.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: Aside from promoting The Chambered Nautilus, I'm looking forward to the audiobook release of the L.U.C.K. trilogy, which is in the works.


I'm also revising a new contemporary middle grade novel about a self-conscious 12-year-old who flourishes in an acting class only to confront her binge eating when it jeopardizes all her progress. This story of healing, self-acceptance, and hope is especially dear to my heart, and I hope it eventually finds a home.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Personalized, autographed copies of Summer of L.U.C.K., Ready or Not, and The Chambered Nautilus are available at Children's Book World (US shipping only) or wherever books are sold.


I'm also available for school visits in person (locally in Los Angeles) and virtually just about anywhere. More information about that is HERE.


And finally, if you're thinking about writing a book for middle graders, go for it! It's been one of the major joys of my life.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

No comments:

Post a Comment