Amy Rebecca Tan is the author of Summer at Meadow Wood, a new middle grade novel for kids. She also has written the middle grade novel A Kind of Paradise. Also a librarian and bookseller, she lives in New Jersey.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for Summer at Meadow Wood, and how does it relate to your previous novel, A Kind of Paradise?
A: Summer at Meadow Wood was born directly from my first novel, A Kind of Paradise. While Jamie struggles through the hardest summer of her life in Paradise, she is forced to do so without the company and support of her best friend because Vic is at sleepaway camp all summer long.
Summer at Meadow Wood tells the story of Vic's summer at camp in New Hampshire, which is also a struggle because of a devastating family secret she accidentally uncovers. It was a very natural progression to write about Vic after writing Jamie's story.
These two best friends are very different people who deal with crisis in very different ways, but they both grow and uncover a strength in themselves they didn't know they had.
Q: As you noted, the novel is set at a summer camp--how important is setting to you in your writing?
A: Setting is very important to me in my writing. I need to feel grounded in a physical place I can see clearly in my mind in order to make up the story and characters that will work there.
I pictured a specific library space the whole time I was writing Paradise, and I pictured the grounds and cabins of the camp I attended as a child while writing Meadow Wood. In both books, the setting pretty much becomes another character.
Q: Did you know how the book would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?
A: I always have a fairly clear idea of how my books will end before I start writing. At the same time, there are always twists and turns that evolve along the way that were not planned. I surprise myself regularly - so much forms organically for me during the process of writing.
Q: What do you hope readers take away from the story?
A: I hope readers will understand that support and solutions can be found in unexpected places, particularly if we pay attention to the world around us and open ourselves to possibility. I hope as readers watch Vic awaken to the power of her own agency, they will recognize and embrace that power in themselves.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I am on-again, off-again working on another novel. But there's been a lot of off-again recently, so not much more to say about this at the moment.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: If you've never been to sleepaway camp, reading Meadow Wood will give you a fun look inside. Reading this book will also probably make you want to start a garden. It will also definitely make you hungry for doughnuts.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb