Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Q&A with Melissa Savage

Melissa Savage is the author of Nessie Quest, a new middle grade novel for kids that focuses on the Loch Ness Monster. She also has written Lemons and The Truth About Martians, and is a child and family therapist. She lives in Phoenix, Arizona.

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Nessie Quest, and for your character Ada Ru?

A: I definitely have to say that the students I meet during school events and writing workshops really inspired me to create the voice for Ada Ru.

I meet so many wonderful, aspiring young writers and I love talking with them about story and their process of coming up with characters, setting, voice and plot. 

I wanted to create an enthusiastic writer who sees story possibilities wherever she looks, just like the young writers I meet on my travels.

Q: Your novels have focused on Bigfoot, Martians, and the Loch Ness Monster. What intrigues you about these figures?

A: There was a time in history that we thought the giant squid was just a myth, then one washed up on shore and we knew they were real. Today, we have the technology to see them deep in the waters of their natural habitat. 

And that’s just one story of an elusive cryptid that’s been found. Every year, a list of new species comes out.  A list of species that scientist have found and didn’t know existed on our planet. 

I find that fascinating and love sharing this with kids when I travel for events. 

That’s what makes the subject of cryptozoology so interesting to me, as well as the mystery of it all. It really asks the question, what might we find next? I suppose anything is possible.

Q: This novel takes place in Scotland. How important is setting to you in your writing?

A: I see setting as a character in itself, so for me, setting is very important. I learned in my writing courses that setting can enhance your story just as any other supporting character can. 

In my first book, Lemons, Willow Creek played a very important part in the story because it is a real town and it truly is considered the Bigfoot capital of the world.

First, there are hundreds of logged sightings in the area and second, it is very near Bluff Creek where the first image of Bigfoot was filmed (the Patterson/Gimlin film). 

Similarly, Fort Augustus, which is located along the banks of the Loch Ness in Scotland, was equally important to my new book Nessie Quest. 

There were so many interesting people I was fortunate to meet while I was there, many of whom truly believe there is an elusive cryptid beneath the deep, dark waters of the loch. 

Many own tour boats or have a store or museum near the loch where they share the stories they’ve collected over the years and even some trinkets you can take home with you to remember your close encounter.

Q: You write that your mother inspired the character Hammy Bean. Can you say more about that, and about how you researched blindness to write this book? 

A: My mom is quite an inspirational person in all she has accomplished in her life and it was truly an honor to create this character and learn more about her in the process. 

As I researched this book, all those that I spoke with in the blind and visually impaired community were integral in helping me make this character as real as possible. 

This research included learning more about the use of equipment and technology available today, how the community navigates their surroundings, their thoughts about feeling marginalized and mostly, their desire to belong and be “seen” for their abilities and not their disability. 

In my author’s note in the book, I write about the community’s request for a flesh and blood character and not a superhero and I tried to accomplish that. 

At the same time, to overcome such adversity and accomplish so much all without sight is truly inspirational.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: Just this fall, I’m thrilled to say that I sold my fourth middle grade novel to the same editorial team at Penguin Random House’s Crown Books for Young Readers. 

I’ve been afforded the opportunity to work with the same editorial team for all four books. It’s been an amazing group and I’m incredibly grateful to them for their continued support. 

The new book is tentatively called Karma Moon: Ghost Hunter. It’s a modern day story about 12-year-old Karma Moon who struggles with anxiety. 

She and her dad, a documentary film maker, are contacted by Netflix and given a contract for their biggest docuseries project to date … a ghost hunting show. This is a challenge for Karma Moon’s what-ifs, but it’s her dad’s big break and for everything in her life to fall in line, they must capture a ghost on film. 

Her dad assigns her to the role of top researcher for the project and she has to find a way to conquer her what-ifs to make it happen.

Q: Anything else we should know?

A: For the very first time, I will be incorporating some of my own art in my next middle grade book. 

I’ve had the most amazing cover art illustrators for my first three books. Lydia Nichols created the American covers for Lemons, The Truth About Martians, and Nessie Quest, while Darron Parton created the covers for the U.K.’s version of Bigfoot, Tobin and Me and The Truth About Martians. 

In my newest middle grade, Karma Moon: Ghost Hunter, which is slated for spring of 2021, I have tried my hand at some doodle art illustrations for Karma Moon’s official ghost logbook which I’m very excited about. I was an art major a long, long time ago and I’m so very grateful that my team is affording me this opportunity. 

The main character, Karma Moon, is into everything woo-woo, including (but not limited to) fortune cookies, the reading of any and all signs, the power of crystals, any and every Snapple lid fact, and of course the almighty Magic Eight Ball. And she keeps track of it all in her ghost logbook.

Will Karma Moon find her ghost?  
Magic Eight Ball: Ask again later.

--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Melissa Savage.

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