Fourth Grade Journey

A Fourth Grade Teacher's Journey Through the World of Books

Monday, July 4, 2016

An Inside Look #4 (Interview with Cammie McGovern)

An Inside Look - With Cammie McGovern 
Author of Just My Luck

*The "Inside Look" posts have become a new favorite aspect of the blog.

*It has been such an honor to connect with authors and "chat" with them about their novel, their characters, and their thoughts about the story.

*The more I interact with authors, the more I realize how giving, generous, and kind they are.  They give us, the reader, so much that adds to our lives.

*Here are the links to my first three interviews...

Interview #1 with Elly Swartz (Author of Finding Perfect)

Interview #2 with Jeff Zentner (Author of The Serpent King)

Interview #3 with Nora Raleigh Baskin (Author of Nine, Ten, A September 11 Story)

*I read Just My Luck by Cammie McGovern a couple months ago.  I so enjoyed it and reached out to Cammie via Twitter to let her know how much I enjoyed the book.

*After a few "conversations" I asked if she would like to be an author for a "Inside Look" post on the blog.  She was kind enough to say yes.

*I was thrilled because I not only wanted to share her book, but her "inside" thoughts on the book.

*Here are Cammie's responses to my "Inside Look" questions...

Just My Luck by Cammie McGovern (Released February 23, 2016)

How did you come to “know” Benny Barrows?  

JUST MY LUCK is the closest I’ve come to writing about my own family:  we have three boys, like the family in the book, one of whom is autistic.  I wanted to write a story from the point of view of a character like my youngest son—to hopefully capture some combination of what is hard about having a sibling with special needs and also some of the freedoms and gifts it gives you. 

What do you think is Benny's most admirable quality?

Benny has a few qualities that I see and admire in MANY kids I meet who are siblings of children with special needs that all revolve around resilience and adaptability.  As a parent, it always catches you up short when your child demonstrates a better capacity for shaking off a failure or a setback than you do, but this capacity to put a larger picture into perspective is a real gift.

What do you think Benny can offer to other children and/or adults that have experienced similar situations to his?  

Oh I hope that Benny’s story will speak to other fourth and fifth graders who are just discovering certain academic (or athletic, or whatever) limitations they might have.   This seems to be the age where children learn exactly what they CAN’T do well.  This happened to both my younger sons and I wanted to tell a story that reassured them of the qualities and the strengths they did have (but might not necessarily show up on tests and grades.)

How did you “research” Benny and the circumstances he found himself in?

I had to learn a lot about brain aneurysms for Benny’s dad.   I still can’t spell the word without the help of spell check, but I do know a lot more about the fascinating ways a brain can get injured, and the compelling ways it recovers, as well.   It’s all very fascinating for the parent of someone with autism whose brain has worked differently from the beginning.

Do you and Benny share any similarities?  

I suppose we have the same sense of humor but I couldn’t make a lego-movie if my life depended on it!  (I wouldn’t have the patience—it takes a LONG time to make one.  I can testify to this based on watching my sons do it…)

What was the hardest scene to write about Benny?

The scenes with Lisa, Martin’s girlfriend were hard to write because we’ve had a few (though not many) encounters with kids who are so uncomfortable with themselves or any kind of difference, that they end up being much meaner than they probably realize.   Also, I had to re-write the ending scene with the carnival quite a few times to make sure it hit the right notes—where it wasn’t too sentimental but was also hopeful and uplifting.

Who do you think was Benny’s biggest supporter and why?

I think this book is in large part about the friendships he finds OUTSIDE the family (even though his family is obviously the most important element in his support system.)  I think Mr. Norris’ honesty by the end makes him a good teacher and a good friend.  But ultimately the most important characters for Benny are the ones who turn out to be surprising new friends:  Olga, Jeremy and Rayshawn.

Why do we humans try to have as much “luck” as we can in our lives?  

Ah, what an interesting question!   I don’t know the answer except that maybe real happiness comes from the luck we make for ourselves, right?

What do you think Benny is doing as this present time?  

I can tell you the two boys he’s based on are doing very well!   One just finished his junior year in high school and Henry, our youngest, is now a seventh grader at our Performing Arts High School.  I suspect Benny would be just now discovering the great world of possibilities for boys who aren’t terribly athletic and instead throw themselves all the joys of the arts—music, theater, visual arts. He’s already a bit of a filmmaker, so I think he’s got it in him…

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