I’ve always had a fascination with Bigfoot; the idea that an ape/human creature could be secretly living in the woods both intrigued and terrified me as a child.
When a TV show offers a million dollars to the person that can provide conclusive proof of Bigfoot, Everdil, her brother, and two friends form a team to snap a picture of the beast.
With any luck, they’ll prove the impossible and win the money Everdil’s family badly needs. But tracking a monster, especially one nobody’s been able to catch, proves trickier than Everdil expected.
Jessica – author
|Patterson-Gimlin Sasquatch image and Jessica’s dog, JoJo|
Jessica, what first sparked the idea for this book?
I’ve always been intrigued by cryptid tales, and it was after watching the Patterson-Gimlin film that I looked over and felt like Bigfoot was lurking in my living room.
It was just my old terrier, JoJo, staring at me—she resembles a mini-Sasquatch.
The experience fired up my imagination and I knew I wanted to write story featuring Bigfoot with a twist of course.
(As an aside, the Patterson-Gimlin film is now over 50 years old, and folks are still debating if it is real Bigfoot footage or not!)
Have you had a Bigfoot encounter?
I can now say that I’ve eaten Bigfoot!
The amazingly-talented Akiko White created a Bigfoot cake for the book release party.
|Baby Bigfoot created by Akiko White
(see creation video at the bottom of this post)
I did spend some time out in Uncertain, Texas and searched for Bigfoot while hiking and exploring the area. I smelled some skunk-like odors in the air that made me think that there was certainly the possibility that Bigfoot was lurking around a woodsy corner.
|Scenes from Uncertain, Texas|
How do you navigate that fine line between spooky fun and too scary?
This seemed to come naturally for me because I tend to get spooked easily when it comes to scary books and movies. My imagination seems to run overtime (even while I’m sleeping)!
After writing the first draft, I layered in extra adventure and upped the stakes as well as the spooky fun aspects of the story. I enjoy writing, and I love the revision process…most of the time.
Do you have any writing tips to offer?
|Gayleen & Jessica at Texas Library Association conference|
My path from idea to publication took about seven years.
If I were to go through the whole process again, I would sit down and create a detailed outline that would offer direction yet still leave much room for creativity during the actual writing process. The story lacked much shape in the earlier drafts.
So, advice? I would say find a process that helps you as a writer to be the most efficient, and spend the time getting your manuscript in the best shape possible.
Keep fighting for your story even if there are some bumps along the path! I’m so glad I didn’t give up on this book.
I noticed you’ve done a lot of travel and school visits to promote this book. How do you balance promotion/writing/being a mom?
My background is in education, and before my full-time writing days and being a stay-at-home mom, I was a teacher. I love spending time in the classroom and in various libraries to get kids fired up about reading and writing!
It feels like such a gift to be able to travel around Texas as well as out of state to inspire and be inspired! When booking various events, I try to be as mindful of writing deadlines as possible as well as various happenings with my daughter, though life certainly happens.
I’ve learned to write on the go as much as possible, and I’ve gotten much better about asking for help when needed. I’m grateful for such caring family and friends as well as my understanding daughter!
Madeline Smoot – editor/publisher
|Jessica (left) and Madeline at BookPeople
for the launch of Uncertain Summer.
What appealed to you about this story?
There are so many wonderful aspects to Uncertain Summer.
I loved the adventure and mystery surrounding the cryptid. I liked how the characters were relatable.
I thought Jessica had crafted a dynamic book that would appeal to a large number of kids for various reasons.
Could you tell us a little about CBAY and how your acquisition process works?
Like most publishers, we are initially approached by authors or agents with a query.
In an effort to avoid becoming overwhelmed, CBAY is rarely open to unsolicited submissions. However, if authors have met me at a workshop, conference, SCBWI meeting, etc or if they are referred to me by a CBAY author or some other professional acquaintance, I am willing to consider their query.
This is exactly how it worked for Uncertain Summer. Jessica is a veteran author, and her book was in excellent shape.
However, I primarily work with debut authors, and often their books needs some revising before I’ll make an offer. I generally only make an offer on books that are ready (or very close to ready) for the market.
|Uncertain Summer interior illustration by Jeff Crosby, used with permission.|
Uncertain Summer has lovely interior illustrations that enhance the story, something we don’t always see in MG books. How do you decide if you’re going to include additional illustrations? Is this something you see as a developing trend in MG?
Younger middle grade often has some illustrations, and I personally have always been a fan of illustrations used in the chapter headers. A famous example of this would be all of the small spot illustrations at the beginning of each Harry Potter chapter.
I am more likely to have interior illustrations if I have hired an illustrator to produce the cover artwork than if I used stock illustrations for the cover.
|Illustration by Jeff Crosby, used with permission.|
How do you select an illustrator?
I rely more on stock images rather than illustrators for many of our projects, but I do enjoy getting to work with an illustrator when the project calls for it.
Every illustrator I have ever worked with is one that was referred to me by a trusted source. In each case I had a vague stylistic idea of what I wanted the book to convey, and then I hired the illustrator with a similar aesthetic.
What else do you have out/coming up?
In the spring we have our “Princess” season with two middle grade novels and one YA anthology where all the books feature a princess.
Jessica Lee Anderson is the author of Trudy (Milkweed, 2005), winner of the 2005 Milkweed Prize for Children’s Literature, Border Crossing (Milkweed, 2009), a Quick Picks Nomination and Cynsational Book of 2009, as well as Calli (Milkweed Editions 2011), a 2013 Rainbow List Final Nomination and 2011 YALSA’s Readers’ Choice Booklist Nomination.
She is a member of The Texas Sweethearts & Scoundrels and hopes to be more sweetheart than scoundrel.
She lives near Austin, Texas with her husband, daughter, and two crazy dogs.
Madeline Smoot is the publisher of CBAY Books and former Editorial Director for Children’s Books of Blooming Tree Press. She blogs about writing at Buried in the Slush Pile and is the author of several writing guides, including Story Slices: How to Make Story Plotting a Piece of Cake.
Madeline lives in Dallas, Texas, with her husband, son, a cat, a dog, and more books than should fit in any normal person’s house.