Fourth Grade Journey

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

Monday, July 11, 2016

An Inside Look #5 (Interview with Kate Messner)

An Inside Look - With Kate Messner
Author of The Seventh Wish

*Another summer Monday, means another "inside look" with an author.

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

*I have had such fun connecting with authors and "picking" their brains.

*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)

Interview #4 with Cammie McGovern (Author of Just My Luck)

*After hearing so many wonderful things about Kate Messner's newest novel, I was excited to read it for myself.

*The story lived up to all the positive praise and more.  It was a story I couldn't stop reading.

*I was a bit nervous to reach out to Kate to ask if she would be interested in answering some of my questions about her book and characters.

*There was no need to be nervous because she said YES right away.

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

The Seventh Wish by Kate Messner (Released June 7, 2016)

How did you come to “know” Charlie?  

When I start working on a novel, I spend a lot of time with the main character before I ever type the first words of Chapter 1.  This particular story started with the premise – the idea to reimagine the old fairy tale “The Fisherman and His Wife,” and from there, I began asking myself who the new main character might be.  What would she need?  What would she wish for?  And that’s how Charlie began to take shape as a character.

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

I love that she’s both kind and pragmatic.  She knows from all those stories in English class what happens to greedy people in fairy tales, so her wishes focus on helping others – something that’s very much in Charlie’s nature, whether she’s working on a science project or wishing on a magic fish.

Is there anything you wish Charlie would have changed or done differently in her story?

Well, I always love my characters, so the scenes where they’re hurting the most are the toughest for me to write.  I came upstairs from my writing room in tears over and over when I was working on this book.  Would Charlie’s journey have been easier if she’d understood how addiction works earlier in the story?  Probably, but in real life, we don’t get to wave a magic wand and wish problems away, so I feel like changing that for her would make the story less honest in many ways.

What do you think Charlie can offer to other children and/or adults that experience life like she did?

I’m grateful to know the answer to this question – from the mail I’ve been getting, just in the past two weeks since the book came out.  I’ve heard from librarians and teachers who shared that Charlie’s story was their story as the family member of an addict – the confusion, the fear, and the shame – and that reading it now, even years later, gives them a sense of being less alone.  I’ve also heard from parents who are putting the book into their kids’ hands to help them understand what’s happening in their families.  And for those who aren’t facing a situation like Charlie’s, my hope is that this story will help to build understanding and empathy.

How did you “research” Charlie and the circumstances she found herself in?

My neighbor’s daughter, who battled heroin addiction in college, was the inspiration for this part of the story.  She was in recovery and doing well when she spoke with me about her experiences.  We talked for hours, and she gave me an honest and raw look at how an A student slips into addiction.  It was terrifying but so, so helpful to understand what might have happened to Abby.  I also spoke with counselors at a drug treatment center to learn what that experience would be like, not only for the addict being admitted but also – and perhaps more importantly – for a younger sibling struggling to understand it all.

Do you and Charlie share any similarities?  

A love of ice flowers, for certain.  And I think we also both really love to fix things for people we love.  Like Charlie, I sometimes struggle to recognize when something is out of my control.

What was the hardest scene to write about Charlie?

Without giving a spoiler, I’ll say that it was the scene at the feis, and immediately afterwards.  I cried so many tears onto my keyboard I was afraid my laptop might be damaged.

Who do you think was Charlie's biggest supporter and why?

I think what Charlie learns is that in a situation like this, you can’t rely on just one source of support – which is why she leans on her family and friends as well as the Serenity Prayer and her own passion for dancing.  All those things bring her through.

Why do you think young people like Charlie’s sister turn to drugs when they appear to have everything in front of them and going for them?  

I’ll tell you what my neighbor told me – that it just doesn’t seem dangerous at the time.  She told me that her friends were all taking pills and later, using heroin, and they were fine.  They were fine.  Until they weren’t, but then it was too late.  It was scary to me to hear how that kind of peer pressure won out over everything she’d been taught about drugs.  Looking back, I feel like she’s not quite sure how it could have happened either.

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

Dancing.  I can’t make promises about how her sister’s situation turns out, because that would paint a dishonest picture of addiction.  But I hope that Charlie is dancing.

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