Fourth Grade Journey

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

Monday, July 24, 2017

An Inside Look #27 - Season #TWO (AUTHOR Interview)

An Inside Look - With Kate Messner 
(Author of The Exact Location of Home)

*This was a new feature I added to the blog during the summer of 2016.  It was a shot in the dark that it would work, but much to my surprise; it took off and over the last year I conducted 22 interviews with a variety of authors.  

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

*I didn't have time for interviews during the school year, but I'm excited to be back for "season #TWO".  

*I'm hoping to run this feature at least once a week.  There is nothing more satisfying than sharing and promoting a book/author/character that I have fallen in love with.  

*Thank you to Kate for being the FIFTH author of the new season.  I truly appreciate it.  

*Here are links to the first TWENTY-SIXTH interviews…

*I received a copy of this novel through my #bookexpedition Twitter group.  I was quite excited to read it because I had heard such great things.  

*This book brought me an afternoon of complete pleasure.  The story was wonderful and it was such fun to revisit these characters 

*Here is a link to my review...

*Thank you Kate for writing this novel for middle-grade readers and taking the time to share your thoughts with us here on the blog.  

*Here are the responses she shared with me and I'm thrilled to share them with you...

The Exact Location of Home
by Kate Messner (Released September 12, 2017)

The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z.
by Kate Messner (New Paperback cover released September 12, 2017)

How did you come to know Zig?
Zig is a character in my 2009 debut novel, THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z. He’s Gianna’s best friend and by her side as she struggles to finish her leaf collection project and deals with her grandmother’s dementia. I hadn’t planned on a sequel or companion book for this novel, but I finished writing Gianna’s story, I still heard Zig’s voice in my head. So I started brainstorming, and THE EXACT LOCATION OF HOME is the story of what happens to Zig in eighth grade, the year after the leaf project.

What do you think is Zig's most admirable quality?
Zig has a lot of qualities that I love. Among them are loyalty as a friend, creativity, and determination (sometimes to a fault!).

Is there anything you wish Zig would have changed or done differently in his story?
The lovely thing about this story is that I wrote my first draft back in 2009, even though it’s coming out now, in 2017. I’ve read and revised it so many times that this is one where I really don’t have any regrets. Zig’s story plays out just as I imagine it would if he were a real kid (and of course, he still feels that way to me!)

How did you research Zig and the circumstances he found himself in?
I used to belong to a church that offered temporary emergency housing in its basement, and obviously, I also did a lot of reading about homelessness and shelters and talked with a shelter director. But most of the Truth of Zig’s story comes from the students I taught in my fifteen years in a middle school, the readers I talk with when I visit schools and libraries, and the kids who write me letters. Zig’s story is many of their stories, too.

What do you think Zig can offer to other young people that are experiencing similar situations to what he went through?
I think when kids are experiencing something difficult in their lives – whether that’s a parental separation or temporary homelessness or a family member struggling with addiction – there tends to be a feeling of loneliness. There’s a sense that they’re the only ones going through this, so they feel different from everyone else and sometimes ashamed. Nothing could be further from the truth, though, and I think talking about issues like this helps to show kids they’re not alone, especially when it’s being experienced by a beloved character like Zig. (In the mail I get from kids about THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z, so many identify Zig as their favorite!)

Do you and Zig share any similarities?
Only that we both have big hearts and sometimes struggle asking for help when we need it. Zig’s other personality traits – particularly his love of electronics – were inspired by my son. He was in middle school when I was writing this book but is now all grown up, studying electrical engineering and interning at Apple at the moment. But when he was younger, he was always messing around with things like broken toasters and rigging up buzzers and alarms, just like Zig.

What was the hardest scene to write about Zig?
Well…without giving any spoilers, probably the water tower scene. When you love a character, it’s tough to let them fail, to let things not work out. But that’s also essential for characters to grow (and the rest of us, too).

Who do you think was Zig's biggest supporter and why?
Even though they were kept in the dark about his situation, I still think Gianna and Ruby were amazing friends to Zig throughout the story. Those are the kinds of loving, supportive friendships I always loved to see when I was teaching middle school.

Why do you think young children like Zig want to believe the best in an adult when the adult hasn’t shown much in return?
I don’t think that’s exclusive to kids at all. It’s human nature to want to believe the best about the people we love, even when the evidence shows otherwise. But I think for kids, being let down can feel especially difficult because your parents are the people who are supposed to be there, no matter what. It’s their job. That’s the rule. So when things fall apart, I think young people can feel especially lost.

What do you think Zig is doing at the present time? 
I can’t really answer this one for you. My characters exist in a sort of frozen-in-time world in my imagination, so I always picture Zig riding his bike to the park, skipping stones with Ruby and Gianna. Kids ask this question a lot. “What happens to Zig after the story ends?” And I always tell them the truth – that my story about Zig ended with the last page you turned. Anything past that is up to readers to imagine.

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