Fourth Grade Journey

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

Monday, March 25, 2019

An Inside Look #83 (Author INTERVIEW)

Inside Look with Gillian McDunn
(Author of Caterpillar Summer)

*During the summer of 2016, I added this feature to the 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.  

*The next season (season #FOUR) of interviews took place during the summer and fall of 2018.  With each interview I became more and more impressed with the authors I was having interactions with.  

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

*This is the TWELVTH interview of what I'm calling Season #FIVE.

*Thank you to Gillian McDunn for being the Eighty-Third author that I've had the pleasure of interviewing.  I truly appreciate it.  

*Here are links to the first Eighty-Two interviews…




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

*Thank you Gillian for writing this book...

Caterpillar Summer
by Gillian McDunn (April 2, 2019)

How did you come to know Cat?  
When I write, relationships come first. So even before I knew all the details of Cat as a character, I had already imagined her as the fiercely protective older sister of a brother with special needs. I also knew she would have some unanswered questions about her mom’s side of the family. After the relationships were in place, Cat began to “speak” to me--then it was time to get writing!

What do you think is Cat's most admirable quality?
Cat has many admirable qualities. She works hard and tries her best, she’s wise beyond her years, and she makes really good waffles. But if I had to choose just one thing, it’s got to be the way she loves with all her heart.

Is there anything you wish Cat would have changed or done differently in her story?
For the most part, I think Cat would say everything happened exactly as it needed to, even though some parts were difficult or scary.

What do you think Cat can offer to other children that are experiencing similar situations to what she went through?
As a child, I had a lot of responsibility and at times felt like it was too much to bear. I used to worry that those feelings meant I was weak, but now I know that’s not true. I hope that kids reading this story will realize it’s okay to ask for help.

How did you research Cat and the circumstances she found himself in?
I had a younger brother with special needs named Andy. He and I were always very close. My love for Andy was always mixed with responsibility. Even though this story is not autobiographical (and Cat’s brother Chicken is very different from Andy), I drew from that emotional truth when writing Cat’s perspective.

One of my other areas of research was visiting Topsail Island, North Carolina, which inspired much of Gingerbread Island. This research was really fun because some of my favorite things are walking on the beach, searching for shark teeth, and smelling the ocean air. I also learned a lot about fishing!

Do you and Cat share any similarities?
Besides the older sister connection, Cat and I both love the ocean, reading, and hush puppies.

What was the hardest scene to write about Cat?
The hardest scene for me is one that comes after a storm--it involves Cat, her grandparents, mom, and brother. I cried the whole time I wrote it.

Who do you think was Cat's biggest supporter and why?
This is such an interesting question! In the interest of trying to answer without spoilers, I’ll say that a lot of different characters support Cat, and what that looks like changes quite a bit throughout the course of the book.

Why do you think siblings share such a special bond and at times have to take on the role of care-taker?
Sibling love is a powerful force. I think many families have experienced a situation where, for one reason or another, one child needs more--more help, more understanding, more attention. It’s very common for siblings to take on a variation of a caretaker role in these circumstances. In Cat’s family, her dad has died, and Mom is working extra hard to support them. Their good friends who helped with childcare have recently relocated. Cat’s family is off balance. She loves Chicken more than anything, so it makes sense that her feelings of being responsible for him might grow.

What do you think Cat is doing as the present time?
She’s back home in San Francisco, busy planning another trip to Gingerbread Island. She can’t wait to get back to the island again!

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