Fourth Grade Journey

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

Monday, July 2, 2018

An Inside Look #54 (Author INTERVIEW)

An Inside Look with Jonathan Auxier
(Author of Sweep:  The Story of a Girl and her Monster)

*During the summer of 2016, I added this feature to my blog which was called "Season #ONE".  This first season ran from June of 2016 to March of 2017.  

*I started up the interviews again in June of 2017.  It was great to get back to Season #TWO.  This season ran throughout the summer.  

*Season #THREE ran during the school year of 2017/2018.  

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

*This is the THIRD interview of what I'm calling Season #FOUR.  

*Thank you to Jonathan Auxier for being the Fifty-FOURTH author that I've had the pleasure of interviewing.  I truly appreciate it.  

*Here are links to the first FIFTY-THREE interviews…



Interview #53 with Preston Norton (Author of Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe)

*This ARC came to me via the publisher.  I had read Jonathan Auxier's other works of fiction and really enjoyed his writing and story telling.  I was thrilled to see that he was coming out with a new novel.  Once I started, I could not stop reading until I finished the last page.  After reaching out to Jonathan to share my "love" for this story, he agreed to participate in my "Inside Look" blog feature.    

*Jonathan was kind, gracious, and giving with his answers to the questions.  It is an honor to post the responses here on the blog.  

*Here is a link to my review of Sweep:  The Story of a Girl and Her Monster

*Thank you Jonathan Auxier for writing this story for readers and taking the time to share your thoughts with us here...

Sweep:  The Story of a Girl and Her Monster
by Jonathan Auxier (Released September 25, 2018)

How did you come to know Nan?
I think I had a very strong sense of Nan early on as a sweet, curious, wonder-filled kid. I was a lot like that growing up, but in SWEEP, Nan has been forced to shut down those childlike parts of herself in order to survive in a harsh world. In many ways, it was a thought experiment: What would I have become without my loving, supportive family? And what could help me reconnect with the parts that might have been lost?

What do you think is Nan's most admirable quality?
She's resilient and gritty in a way I'm not. Sometimes I wish I had a little more of that in my life!

Is there anything you wish Nan would have changed or done differently in her story?
I don't want to spoil the story, but Nan makes a fateful error very early in her life that only corrects itself years later. (She holds on to a memento that she was meant to throw away.) Part of her story is reconciling herself to the ways that that small decision prevents her from moving on with her life.

What do you think Nan can offer to other children that are experiencing similar situations to what she went through?
This is about to get heavy. One of the central themes of this story involves losing a parent when you are young. That became another (gut-wrenching) thought experiment: what would I want to say to my own kids if I knew I would be forced to leave them? How could I make them truly understand how much I love them? In Nan's case the answer comes in the surprising form of a monster!

How did you research Nan and the circumstances she found himself in?
My wife has been a professor of Victorian Children's Lit, and she was an invaluable resource. I spent about 10 years reading about Victorian London, child labor, architecture, road maps, poverty, chimney sweeps, and golems (which are the kind of monster that feature in the story). The back of SWEEP contains a long historical note and suggested reading for those looking to know more.

What was the hardest scene to write about Nan?
There are some pretty intense things that happen to Nan near the end of the book--and for most of the process, I was literally unable to write the scenes. I kept sending the book to my editor with the second-to-last chapter unwritten. Finally, about two weeks before the book went to galley, I forced myself to do it.

Who do you think was Nan's biggest supporter and why?
Nan meets a teacher named Miss Bloom who recognizes how special she is and helps Nan to see herself as something more than a chimney sweep. I love Miss Bloom -- I think a lot of us have that one kind adult or teacher who saw something in us and helped shape us.

Why do you think young people, like Nan, are able to handle such tough and difficult situations in life, when adults can have such a hard time navigating rough waters?
These questions are intense! I actually spent a lot of time working through this question, and I'm still not sure I have an answer. Historically, these young sweeps endured circumstances that I think would break most adults. In the case of SWEEP, Nan is able to hang on because she was raised by a loving parent -- and even in his absence, she still has that fundamental sense of self worth.

What do you think Nan is doing as this present time?
SWEEP takes place in the 1870s. So Nan is probably dead and buried, hopefully resting somewhere close to Charlie.

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