I am so happy to introduce my first guest: debut author Kim Marcus, a fine person, a fine writer, and a fine friend.
Kim’s free verse young adult novel, Exposed, debuted in February and her first picture book, Scritch Scratch a Perfect Match, followed in April. She was kind enough to answer some questions on friendship, her books and beloved characters.
What books spoke to you as a child? Which character would you have liked to be your real-world friend?
When I was younger, I especially loved the Little House books, by Laura Ingalls Wilder. More than wishing to be Laura’s friend, I wanted to be Laura. I wanted to live in the big woods and on the prairie. I wanted Pa to play his fiddle for me as I skimmed rocks on the banks of Plum Creek.
Do you have a favorite literary friendship? (I’m partial to George and Martha.)
Ooh! I love George and Martha, too! One author who comes to mind when I think of favorite literary friendships is Cynthia Rylant. I particularly love the relationships between Henry and Mudge and Mr. Putter and Tabby. And I find it interesting that all three of those pairings are written for the same age group!
Can you talk about the different roles your writing friends play and how you know which friend to bring particular questions to?
I’m part of a fabulous group that meets once a month to share our work and cheer each other on. Because of the size of the group, we each have thirty minutes for both reading and hearing critiques. So I’ve gotten in the habit of reading picture books there and then using their insight on polished sections of novels, or once I have a completed novel draft.
I also have a few select friends who will read full, completed drafts for me, and share their detailed thoughts.
And then I have my two first readers, Stacy DeKeyser and the fabulous Audrey Vernick, who are willing to read any little bit of anything in any form. They are also the first ones who hold my hand and kick my literary butt as needed.
In Exposed, you do so many things that must have been so hard. In addition to the obvious major incident in the book, there’s the fact that you’ve taken a very strong, long-term friendship and strained it beyond what it can endure. Was it hard to write that? Did a part of you want to bring them back together? What do you think Kate and Liz, at age 25, will think of each other when they look back on their years as friends?
It was hard for me to put that friendship under so much strain, and I thought long and hard about bringing them back to one another. But, given the circumstances that tore them apart, I just couldn’t see a way to make that feel real and true. And, in the real world, I believe that it would have felt forced to have them continue on as forever-bests. I wanted to leave readers with a sense of hope for them and their futures.
As far as what they would think of each other at age 25, I’d like to believe they would both look back on the good parts of their friendship and hold onto those memories.
In Scritch Scratch a Perfect Match, did you set out to write a friendship story? Because really, you might win the Most Unlikely Characters Bound for Friendship Award with that one. All these years after writing it, do you think about that flea at all, or that dog?
Not exactly. At the time I began writing Scritch-Scratch a Perfect Match, I was enrolled in a graduate program for picture book writing. I needed to bring something to the next class. Outside my window, I noticed a dog on his morning walk with his owner. He paused to scratch. I started playing around with the idea of an itchy pooch and the line “Flit flit flapped the flea in the yellow dog’s hair” popped into my head. From there, I asked myself what would happen next, and the man came along. I saw the flea as the impetus for bringing the man and the dog together.
In early drafts, they got rid of that pesky flea and encountered something else (the buzzing of bees) at the end. But I wanted to finish on a happier note. I didn’t want to leave kids worrying about the fate of these new-found pals, so I decided to give the flea a job. That’s when he became a matchmaker. I do think about them. I imagine the man and the dog spending their days together as the bestest of friends, and the flea continuing to be successful in his chosen career.
We both write for young picture book audiences and older readers. What do you think about that dichotomy? Do you enjoy one more than the other?
I love that dichotomy! When I finish writing about a teenager going through tough times, it’s a much-needed breath of fresh air for me to switch gears and write something young and playful. I love writing for both age groups, not one more than the other, and hope to continue doing so for a long time to come.
Thanks so much for inviting me to chat on your new fantabulous blog, Audrey! My picture book and my novel both focus on friendship, and I think it’s so cool that one of my very best friends is interviewing me about them.
You can visit Kim at her beautiful website.