Monday, March 12, 2012

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: Interview with Rosanne Parry and Giveaway of SECOND FIDDLE

Hello, one and all. Today I'd like to welcome my good friend and fellow critique group member, Rosanne Parry. Rosanne is the author of Heart of a Shepherd and Second Fiddle--and Second Fiddle has just come out in paperback. And guess what? Rosanne has offered to give away not one, but TWO copies. So get commenting, and two of you could be lucky winners this week.

Here are the covers of Rosanne's novels:

What Goodreads says about Second Fiddle:

The author of Heart of a Shepherd offers another sensitive portrayal of military families, this time stationed abroad, in the city of Berlin at that historic time just after the Wall came down.

When 13-year-old Jody and her friends save a badly beaten Russian soldier from drowning, they put into motion a chain of events that will take them from Berlin to Paris and straight into danger. Jody must quickly learn to trust herself, because in the time directly after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the border between friend and enemy is not as clear as it once was.

MGM: Second Fiddle has a very different setting than your debut, Heart of a Shepherd. Can you tell us how you came up with the story, and what excited you the most in telling it?

RP: My husband was stationed in Germany right after the fall of the Berlin Wall. It was a fascinating time to be living overseas. It meant lots of upheaval and lots of uncertainty, but also much hope for a more peaceful future without the specter of war between the US and the USSR.

It’s a good mirror for the upheaval all middle school students go through as they prepare to leave old friends and embark on the adventures of high school. So it was a great backdrop for Jody and her friends in Second Fiddle, who are not only leaving 8th grade, but also leaving their homes on a military base in Berlin and leaving each other and the joy of making music together as a string trio. I know how much I wanted to cling to my middle school friendships and how much I would risk for one more day with them when the school year or summer camp was coming to an end. It was just the story energy I needed to launch a girls’ road trip adventure.

MGM: You and your editor, Jim Thomas of Random House, discussed whether Second Fiddle should be MG or YA. Can you share some of that discussion with us—e.g. why that was even a choice in the first place—and the reason why you finally ended up writing a middle grade novel.

RP: Jody, Vivian and Giselle are at the end of their 8th grade year. So they are right on the edge of MG and YA. Jim and I talked about what it would mean for the story to take it one direction or the other. For example, the Soviet soldier the girls rescue at the beginning of the story is 26, too old for a romance but a good candidate for a crush, which would take the story in a YA direction. The girls end up on their own in Paris with no money.  If they encountered pickpockets, drug dealers and similar dangers, the story would be YA, but if they found kindness in the strangers they met, the story would fall on the MG side.

My editor was very willing for me to take the story whichever direction felt right for the characters, so I thought long and hard about what Jody really wanted. At heart Jody is a musician. She’s not really interested in romance or rebellion. She just wants to make music with her friends, so I decided to stick with the MG audience. I made the Soviet soldier a fellow musician who has a little sister Jody’s age. That made the relationship fall more naturally into the mentor/big brother realm. The great thing about keeping it in MG was that instead of exploring the dark underbelly of urban Paris, I could have my girls meet people from a cross-section of French culture and use their music to make a connection with them.

Parisians have a bit of a reputation for pride, but on my visit there in 1991 with my husband and baby daughter, I found them charming and generous. Even 45 years after the Second World War, the French remembered what American soldiers did to liberate their country, and my soldier husband heard expressions of gratitude from several people we met who were old enough to remember. It was very touching.

MGM: The theme of music is so important in Second Fiddle. I know you are part of Stages on Pages, a group of young adult and middle reader authors who are crossing the country in support of the performing arts. How did that group form? What other novels about making art and music would you recommend?

RP: Stasia Ward Kehoe is the force of nature behind the Stages on Pages group. She put together a group of 12 authors with books about the performing arts. We’ve been to schools and bookstores in Oregon, Washington, California, New York, and New Hampshire. My favorite part of these events is meeting the kids who come and perform with us. We’ve had actors, singers, and even an all-boy string quartet! Our next Stages on Pages event is at the Cedar Hills Powells on Friday April 13th at 4:30. Our special guests will be the Portland Symphonic Girl Choir. Come and bring a friend! It’s sure to be inspiring.

And here’s the link to the Stages on Pages website

The other MG book on the Stages on Pages tour is Vanished by Sheela Chari. It’s a mystery involving a string instrument from India, the veena. It was nominated for an Edgar award. Mozart Season is Virginia Euwer Wolff’s story about a girl preparing for a prestigious violin competition. For any one who’s serious about their music, it’s a great story. Virginia is herself an accomplished chamber player, so she writes this character with both warmth and authority.

MGM: Finally, a general question: What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

The best teaching I ever got for my writing was from Mr. Chet Skibinski, my junior year English teacher at Sunset High School. He was the first teacher I ever had who gave my paper two grades, one for the content of my ideas and quality of my expression and a separate grade for spelling, punctuation and grammar. Up until that year, I’d assumed I was a terrible writer simply because I was a poor speller. Mr. Skibinski’s willingness to look at the mechanics of writing separately from the art of writing made a world of difference for me. I’m sure he’s long since retired, but I’ll always remember his kindness and encouragement.

MGM: Thank you, Rosanne! (I'm hoping Rosanne will have time to pop in sometime today, so if you have any questions for her, leave them in the comments. Also, I will announce the winner of the signed ARC of The One and Only Ivan tomorrow.)

P.S. I've just found the paperback cover that Rosanne mentions in her comment. Here's the grand unveiling:


  1. Great interview Rosanne & Michael. It's so interesting hearing more about how you and your editor decided on whether to make your story YA or MG and the little subtle differences that would make it one or the other.

    Thanks for the giveaway.

  2. Rosanne it's great to meet you!

    I think it's fabulous that the editor gave you the freedom to take the characters down an MG or YA road, whichever felt more natural. Sounds like you made a fantastic choice!

  3. Fascinating choice for a setting! This sounds like a complex and moving book.

  4. Thanks for highlighting this story. It sounds like a good read! I especially enjoyed the interview and insights on how to decide whether the novel would be MG or YA. Thanks also for recommending other musically related books from Stages on Pages - they definitely sound worth looking for too.

  5. Oh, I adored SECOND FIDDLE. I won a hardcover from Natalie Aguirre (and featured it last year). So don't enter me in the giveaway. Glad you're spreading the love.

    And, like these other commenters, I was interested in the process of deciding on MG v. YA. How cool that it could have gone either way. I'm glad Rosanne chose the MG path -- the resulting book is definitely worth it.

    And yay for that teacher who was willing to separate the mechanics from the art of writing!

  6. Good morning everyone!

    Yes, I am hugely grateful for my editor who is willing to let a story be the kind of story it wants to be. I always run into trouble when I'm trying to push a story in an unnatural direction.

    For example, in the first scenes I wrote with the soldier and the girls he was Russian and not a musician. The interaction came across as creepy and weird because the soldier was so much older. So I decided to make the soldier a musician which made their connection much more natural. But then I had to do a ton of research about the Estonian independence movement in the late 1980s and early 1990s. I took 3 months instead of my usual 3 weeks to revise. But the result of all that research was a character that was much richer any more interesting.

    Another consideration I took into account was the amazing support I got from librarians and teachers for Heart of a Shepherd. I wanted to build on those connections already made, so I was meticulous about my research. I want teachers to be confident about using my novels in the classroom. Random House did a special map for me in the author note that makes the book even more usable in the classroom. And for the paperback they gave me a brand new cover! I do love the hardback cover but this new one is more boy-friendly.

    I'll be here on and off all day so if you have questions, I'm happy to answer them!

  7. Wow, this book sounds amazing. They would both be wonderful additions to our school. I'll be tracking down my librarian later! Thanks!! :-)

  8. Wow, this book sounds amazing. They would both be wonderful additions to our school. I'll be tracking down my librarian later! Thanks!! :-)

  9. Loved Heart of a Shepherd but still haven't read Second Fiddle and would LOVE to win a copy!

  10. Thanks Shannon. There are some resources at my website specifically for teachers and librarians. Yours might like to look at the companions reads for Second Fiddle.

    For example, Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys is a YA book about the experience of people like Arvo in the Baltic Republics with the Soviet Union. It's a gripping story and not for the tender-hearted, but it gives much more context to the story and for why the Soviet Union was so feared.

  11. Hey, thanks for putting up the new cover, Mike! Isn't it gorgeous! Tuesday is the on sale date for the paperback.

    AND I got some very exciting news about my next book, but I need to double check and make sure I can make public announcements. Stay tuned!

  12. I find her process of deciding whether to go YA or MG fascinating. Oh and the paperback cover is GORGEOUS. :)

  13. You know the other thing I took into account in deciding to stick with MG was the string trio aspect of the story. Most kids, even if they've been playing an instrument since they were little, join a band, orchestra or choir for the first time in middle school. For lots of kids it's the most empowering thing that happens to them in middle school.

    That was true for me and my middle school orchestra. My agent sang in his school plays and my editor was in the drum line! What all three of us loved was that great feeling the Jody and her friends shared of being able to make something together musically that was so much more beautiful that what they could accomplish on their own.

  14. You know, the YA or MG topic was popular with a lot of readers, and I have to say it's what drew me into this post. I wonder do a lot of people go through this thought process.

  15. First of all, lovely covers! Then, I like the fact that music has an importan role. I played the piano for ages and music played a huge role in my teenhood. Also, the book seems interesting for being in between YA and MG. I'd love to see how it turns out!

  16. Great interview! I love this book, have read it many times, and am so completely touched by one particular scene where characters befriend one another not through language, but almost entirely through music as their way of communication. Beautiful.

  17. Thanks Amy!

    Yes, I adore my covers, both of them. I've been very fortunate with good covers. in my opinion.

    And I got so busy I forgot my exciting news which is that my new novel has a pub date!

    This is a book that has been dear to my heart for many years. It's called Written in Stone and it will be out in June of 2013! More details on my website later. I need to finish the author note this week!

  18. Oh my, beautiful cover for the pb! Great need to enter me. Why? Cause I own both...

    Thanks you two!


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