Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Lost Princess author answers your questions-book giveaway!

      Last Tuesday I invited blog readers to submit questions for children's book author, Debbie Dadey. I said I would post the answers today, so after hesitating in light of yesterday's events in Boston, I decided to go ahead with the post. Debbie is all about bringing joy into the world to help raise strong, happy kids and I hope getting to know her brings a bit of comfort to everyone's day.

      Debbie is the author and co-author of 158 books, including The Adventures of the Bailey School Kids series from Scholastic and Mermaid Tales from Simon and Schuster.  Set for a May 7 release, her newest book (#159!) The Lost Princess, continues the Mermaid Tales series, bringing ocean ecology and marine life into fantasy stories.  A former first grade teacher and librarian, Debbie lives in Bucks County with her three children, three dogs, and handsome husband. She says that she loves visiting elementary schools and speaking with groups about writing.  Her passion is helping reluctant readers.   http://www.debbiedadey.com    LinkedIn   Twitter   Facebook.com/debbiedadey

      To celebrate the new book, Debbie is giving away one copy of The Lost Princess to a lucky reader of my blog!

     First, I need to give you Debbie's answers to your questions. So here's Debbie!

  1. From a YA writer attempting her first work for younger folk. What do you think sets writing for elementary school kids apart from writing for older audiences (even older middle graders?) 

            Hi Katia, I think YA has filtered down even to fifth and sixth graders, so that’s important to keep in mind.  Many high schoolers don’t read YA; they read adult books.  Of course, that being said, there are some adults who enjoy YA.  So, it’s definitely a mixed bag of readers.  Young adult stories can use harder words (but not just for the sake of being harder) and tougher concepts.  Some YA books are very raw (think Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson) and some just a step above a middle grade (perhaps with the only difference being length-think the first Twilight book which was relatively tame).  For instance, a middle grade book would never have a sexual encounter and rarely ever profanity.  In YA books, this sort of thing isn’t uncommon.  The thing to keep in mind is the audience and how they relate to one another.  You want to keep the plot realistic and your characters and how they interact ‘real’ as well.  Good luck, Katia!

  1. What is your secret to your immense productivity? (related question: When did you publish your first book?) 

My first book, Vampires Don’t Wear Polka Dots, came out in 1990.   It turned into a series called The Adventures of the Bailey School Kids.   I was lucky to co-author that, as well as several other series, with the very talented Marcia Thornton Jones.  She taught me that there is no such thing as writer’s block.  There may be a day when you don’t write well, but you can always write-even if it’s “I don’t know what to write” over and over.  Pretty soon that gets boring and you write, “I guess I could write about this….”   I also brainstorm, do a rough outline, and try to write every day.  I believe in working hard, but I’ve been very lucky and blessed.  My newest book will come out in May, The Lost Princess, which is #5 in the Mermaid Tales series.  I am having such fun with the underwater world and I think that makes me want to write more.  

  1. Carrie wants to know: how did you approach the agent vs. publisher debate when you first started submitting? Has that changed over time?

You can win me!
My first 90 books were without an agent.  I started writing at a time when children’s authors didn’t really need an agent.  I feel that may have changed as many houses only accept agented work.  It hasn’t always been easy working with an agent, but it is wonderful to have someone ‘in my corner.’  I would definitely work to get an agent if I didn’t have one.  I am currently with Writer’s House.

  1. Sue asks: What’s the secret to holding a chapter book series together?

I think strong characters are very important to a chapter book series.  But a fast-paced, action-filled plot is just as important.  I also feel that kids must be able to relate to the characters in some way, even if the series is fantasy.  Somehow the story must be grounded.  For each of my series, I have a big binder.  In it are maps, charts, character sketches, and notes about the world I’ve built.  For instance, in my new Mermaid Tales series, I have a tail chart.  Since my mermaids and merboys (and their teachers and families) have different color tails I needed to keep it straight!

  1. Why are chapter books important? Can’t kids go right from picture books to middle grade novels?

They probably could if all kids were fabulous readers, but in the real world that isn’t necessarily the case.  Some kids, even as young as kindergarten and first grade, want to read a chapter book.  They don’t want a baby book (picture book). Take it from this former librarian; it’s a big deal to read a book with chapters.  Not only is a middle grade novel often overwhelming just in its length for a second grader, it is often more difficult for them to comprehend.  So, that’s where chapter books come in.  They are books that are developmentally appropriate (in what a second and third grader is interested in) and with a vocabulary that is on target.  

Did you see that beautiful cover? If you missed the synopsis last week, here it is again:
In this Mermaid Tales adventure, Shelly’s not sure she’s ready to be royalty.
Not one of the merkids in Shelly Siren’s third grade class can believe the shell-shattering news: Shelly is a princess! A real princess! It’s been a deep, dark secret in Trident City, but now everyone knows—and Shelly doesn’t know how to act. Should she start wearing a glittery crown? Or move to a grand undersea palace? Will her friends have to call her Princess Shelly? She knows it’s an exciting turn of events, but Shelly’s not sure she can truly fit the royal part. Can she find a way to be a princess and stay herself?

Volume 1 of the series
Now that you've read this far, it's time for the giveaway! Debbie is giving away one copy of The Lost Princess to a lucky reader of my blog! If you are 18 years of age or older and a resident of the U.S. all you have to do is leave a comment in this post to be eligible. If you share the post to Facebook or tweet about it, let us know and you'll get another entry. The winning name will be pulled May 5 (just in time for the May 7 release!)
So, what are you waiting for?


  1. Thanks for this wonderful advice. We are reading a lot of Magic Treehouse at my house right now. Chapter books, especially early chapter books, have a unique niche. I've been so steeped in picture books for so long, that I didn't know a whole lot about them...until now. Thanks ladies.

  2. Debbie, Thanks for the great answer to my question. I'm working on a debut series, and your suggestions are very helpful!

  3. Wonderful article and I loved the questions. Thanks Wendy for doing this post and Debbie for answering questions. :)

    My 6 and 7 year olds love chapter books right now (and mermaids).

    (I'm not currently living in the US,but I still have a US address where things get forwarded to me from.)

  4. Great questions and answers; I learned a lot. I've been wrestling with a story idea that I think will make a good chapter book, now that I understand the differences. Thank you! :0)

    Tweeting too!

  5. Thanks for answering my question, Debbie! Thank you, Wendy, for putting it together! You rock!