Q: What inspired you to write Sydney A. Frankel's Summer Mix-Up, and how did you create your character Sydney?
A: I was inspired to write the book when my oldest son was in 5th grade.
He was always a shy kid and told me that he didn’t want to try out for the spelling bee because he didn’t want to win. He was a great speller but was terrified of being up on stage competing against people that he didn’t know. This was the seed that eventually grew into the story.
A lot of times people equate shy people with having boring or subdued personalities, which is so far from the truth. I wanted Sydney’s humor to shine through as she navigated summer classes, the impending start of middle school, and breaking out of her shell.
Q: The Kirkus Review of the book says, “The book’s treatment of the complexities of tweendom are pitch perfect: the need for autonomy, the intensity of friendships, crushes, and the messy process of growing up.” What do you think of that description?
A: I was very pleased with the description and quite flattered. I spent a lot of time working on this book and it is nice to hear that Sydney’s experiences ring true.
Q: You've written for other age groups--why did you turn to middle grade fiction for this book?
A: I love writing for all age groups and always intended to explore each one as an author.
The transition from elementary school to middle school is a big one and a lot of kids feel lost. I still remember how daunting the prospect of starting middle school was for me and I wanted to capture that feeling in this story.
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 originally had a different ending to this book. During the revision process I changed one of the major threads in the story and as a result the ending had to be changed. I always knew that Sydney’s growth process would be the same, but how she got to that point is what changed.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: Right now, I’m working on an action-filled romantic young adult historical novel. It’s an idea that I’ve carried with me for a few years, and I finally just took the plunge!
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: That my dog Ringo is the boss of the house. He doesn’t care if I’m in the middle of a very important scene, if he wants to go out for a walk, I better meet him at the door! But usually you can find him peacefully sleeping under my desk!
--Interview with Deborah Kalb