Friday, October 7, 2022

Q&A with Jennifer Chambliss Bertman




Jennifer Chambliss Bertman is the author of the new middle grade novel Sisterhood of Sleuths. Her other books include the Book Scavenger series. She lives in Colorado.


Q: What inspired you to write Sisterhood of Sleuths, and how did you create your character Maizy?


A: I was inspired by my childhood love of Nancy Drew, the history of the sleuth, and also thinking about a period of my childhood when many things I considered to be a constant began to change.


For Maizy, I wanted her to be a modern, almost anti-Nancy Drew character in that she makes mistakes, doesn’t know everything, and has ups and downs. Basically, I wanted Maizy to be more relatable to how I felt when I was her age.


Q: The Kirkus Review of the book says, in part, “A strong theme of evolving friendships pervades this fun and funny mystery narrated in Maizy’s lively voice, while the Nancy Drew motif infuses the plot with fascinating, thoroughly researched historical details about the series’ creation and survival.” What do you think of that description, and how did you research the novel?


A: The humor, Maizy’s voice, the mystery plot, and incorporating Nancy Drew and the history behind her creation were all elements of the story that I worked hard at, so that was rewarding to see acknowledged in the review in a positive way.

I have been interested in and reading about the creation of the Nancy Drew series for decades—long before I had the idea to write this book. It was that interest that partly inspired the idea, and I went into the story with some background knowledge, and continued to seek out books and articles about Nancy Drew to further my research as I wrote.


Q: In the book's Author's Note, you say you first encountered Nancy Drew at age 7. What initially intrigued you about the books, and why do you think readers have enjoyed them for so many years?


A: As a child, I think it was the swift pace, exciting events, and cliffhanger chapters that hooked me. And it was the characters of Nancy Drew, Bess, and George that kept me coming back for more.


I liked how they were predictable—you could always count on Bess to be cautious, George to be athletic, and Nancy to know what to do. I think that steadiness of character contrasted with perilous things happening made the books simultaneously exciting and comforting.


Q: Did you know how Sisterhood of Sleuths would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?


A: I definitely made changes along the way. There were two very different versions of this book before the one that turned into the final version. But even as I began the third version, I wasn’t entirely certain how everything would unfold. The discovery of the story is part of the fun of writing for me.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’m working on a middle-grade mystery set in 1985 about three children who come together when a hot air balloon mysteriously lands in their town. When they look into where the balloon came from, they go missing.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: My debut picture book will be published in early 2023! It’s called A Good Deed Can Grow, illustrated by Holly Hatam, published by Christy Ottaviano Books/Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.


I’ve actually been writing picture books longer than I’ve been writing novels, and I’m so excited to finally have one out in the world!


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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