Between The Lines is a sporadic feature on Pop! Goes The Reader in which authors and other industry professionals provide further insight into the writing and publishing process in the form of interviews, guest posts, etc. So, sit back, relax, and enjoy as we read between the lines.
Hi everyone! Today I am so very excited to welcome author Rebecca Behrens to Pop! Goes The Reader as we share an exclusive interview to help celebrate the publication of her middle grade novel, Summer Of Lost And Found! Available now in a library and bookstore near you, Summer Of Lost And Found tells the story of Nell Dare, a girl who becomes fascinated with the secrets and mysteries of Roanoke and its lost colony after moving to Roanoke Island with her mother for the summer. I’ve been looking forward to Summer Of Lost And Found ever since I first learned of it and I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to talk with Rebecca about her process, her work, and what’s next for her. Spoiler alert: It’s every bit as awesome as she is.
About Rebecca Behrens
Rebecca Behrens lives and writes in New York City, where she also works as a textbook editor. She is the author of When Audrey Met Alice, which BookPage called “a terrific work of blended realistic and historical fiction.” Her next novel, Summer Of Lost And Found, will be published in May 2016. Some of Rebecca’s favorite things are: the beach, history, running, doughnuts, and laughing.
01. Hi, Rebecca! First, please tell us a little more about yourself. If you could describe yourself in only five words, what would they be?
Curious, conscientious, loyal, droll, dreamer.
02. Did you always know you wanted to be a writer? If not, what did you dream of one day becoming?
Even though I was a book-obsessed kid, I was actually interested in science careers, particularly in biology and anthropology. For a while, I wanted to be an ethnobotanist and study the relationships between people and plants. In college I took classes in biology and chemistry but eventually realized I was happiest when I was studying languages and literature. Still, it took until I had been working as an editor (in educational publishing) for several years before I decided I really wanted to try to publish my own writing. In Summer of Lost and Found, my main character’s mother is a botanist and I think that was a bit of wish fulfillment on my part!
03. When you’re not writing, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
This will surprise absolutely no one, but I spend a lot of time reading. But when I can tear myself away from a book or my laptop, I love to run and do yoga. I’ve also started cooking a lot more – I used to be a stereotypical New Yorker who eats takeout every night and stores books in her oven but now I actually like spending an hour in the kitchen, playing around with veggies. I do still check the oven for stray books before I turn it on, though.
04. Which books and/or authors do you feel have inspired and influenced your life and/or work in a positive manner?
I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic last winter and it is fantastic, like a writing coach in hardcover form. I also go back to Anne Lamott’s Bird By Bird whenever I need a boost. MG authors that inspired me to write are Sharon Creech, Ellen Raskin (Turtle Wexler from The Westing Game will always be my imaginary best friend), Laurie Halse Anderson, and, of course, Judy Blume.
05. What book(s) can currently be found on your bedside table?
Right now I’m finishing up some adult historical fiction – Alice Hoffman’s The Marriage Of Opposites. Her writing is beautiful and I love the lush Caribbean setting. (It’s been a good book to read on blustery spring days.) Piled up and waiting for me to read them are Emery Lord’s When We Collided and the classic survival MG Hatchet, which I’ve wanted to reread for a while.
06. If you could describe your novel, Summer Of Lost And Found, in only five words, what would they be?
Mystery, history, travel, curiosity, discovery.
07. Summer Of Lost And Found follows the story of Nell Dare, who becomes fascinated by the secrets and mysteries of Roanoke and its lost colony. What’s one fact or piece of information you uncovered during the research process for this novel that you found surprising or interesting?
Roanoke Island is home to the oldest grapevine in North America – the Mother Vine. It’s so old that the Lost Colonists could have eaten its grapes! When I visited the island, I saw that, along with a Live Oak tree that is (supposedly) over 400 years old. It’s amazing to think about the changes that have happened in North America over the past four centuries, and that certain plants have been around for all of them.
08. Do you like to listen to music when you write? Is there a song or songs you feel best capture the mood and feeling of Summer Of Lost And Found?
I often listen to music before I start writing, to get into the right headspace. Sometimes while I’m working, too, but that varies depending on the project. For my first book, When Audrey Met Alice, I listened to Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix a lot. But I didn’t have a particular song or album for Summer of Lost and Found – just whatever music would put me in the mood I wanted, or needed, to get onto the page. I had a scent, though: a candle that reminds me of how Fire Island, NY, smells in summertime: like sea salt, citrus, and sun-dried wood. I burned through a couple throughout the writing process.
09. Summer Of Lost And Found is your second middle grade novel following the publication of When Audrey Met Alice in 2014. What is it about writing for this particular age group that most inspires you?
I love writing middle grade because I get to explore the age of discovery – when kids are starting to find themselves and their places in the world around them. There’s a sense of wonder when you’re twelve or thirteen that is so rich and inspiring. I love how kids are so open to new ideas and experiences. So I really enjoy writing about kids at that time in life – they make for great characters – but also connecting with readers in that age group. My middle-grade years were when I truly fell in love with books. Considering how wonderful the middle-grade books being published lately are, I’m hopeful that lots of young readers are having the same experience!
10. It has often been said that you should write what you know. How much (or how little) of the character and/or subject matter in this novel are based on personal experience?
Not much of this story is based on my personal experience – I didn’t grow up in the city, or have a chance to explore an island for historical clues as a kid. But many of Nell’s feelings I can relate to. Actually, I mirrored her travel experience while I was revising Summer of Lost and Found: I took a trip from NYC down to Roanoke Island to do some research. I’d never visited the area before, so Nell’s observations about it, coming from NYC, and my own kind of blended.
11. If there is one theme or message you would like readers to take from Summer Of Lost And Found, what would it be and why?
Nell at one point muses: “Sometimes it’s the places we think we know the best that hold the most secrets.” And I think that’s true for most people – that if you look closely or change your perspective, you can discover new things about the places and people you know well – and even yourself. The secrets are sometimes good things – like wisdom and bravery we are surprised to find in ourselves.
12. Summer Of Lost And Found is your sophomore publication. What has been your favourite and least favourite part of the publishing process thus far?
The absolute best part of the process is connecting with readers. Of course I love it when a reader tells me that they enjoyed reading my book – hearing that is such a gift. But really, it’s a wonderful thing when any reader takes the time to spend with your story and I’m very grateful for it. I think my least favorite part is the waiting. There is oh-so-much waiting in publishing. Sometimes I get so impatient and forget to enjoy the process.
13. What’s one piece of advice you would share with aspiring authors or fledgling writers?
Writing can be so challenging, intellectually and emotionally. Always be kind to yourself, especially on your not-so-great writing days. And remember that the writing process is about more than words on the page. Daydreaming is a big part of it, and so is educating yourself about craft, the content in your story, etc. You can actually have a great writing day in which your word count is zero!
14. What’s next for Rebecca Behrens? Are you currently working on a new project? If so, can you tell us a little about it?
I am and now I can! I recently got to share the news that Simon & Schuster will be publishing my next MG novel, The Last Grand Adventure, in spring 2018. It’s set in 1967 and about a twelve-year-old girl who thinks she is visiting her grandmother to help her settle into her new retirement community – only her grandmother has other plans: a planes, trains, and automobiles journey to find her long-lost sister, Amelia Earhart. This book was a joy to write, and I’m very excited to share it with readers.
Title Summer of Lost and Found
Author Rebecca Behrens
Pages 288 Pages
Intended Target Audience Middle Grade
Genre & Keywords Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Published May 24th, 2016 by Aladdin ● Simon & Schuster
Find It On Goodreads ● Amazon.com ● Chapters
Nell Dare expected to spend her summer vacation hanging out with her friends in New York City. That is, until her botanist mom dragged her all the way to Roanoke Island for a research trip. To make matters worse, her father suddenly and mysteriously leaves town, leaving no explanation or clues as to where he went — or why.
While Nell misses the city — and her dad — a ton, it doesn’t take long for her to become enthralled with the mysteries of Roanoke and its lost colony. And when Nell meets Ambrose — an equally curious historical reenactor — they start exploring for clues as to what really happened to the lost colonists. As Nell and Ambrose’s discoveries of tantalizing evidence mount, mysterious things begin to happen—like artifacts disappearing. And someone — or something — is keeping watch over their quest for answers.
It looks like Nell will get the adventurous summer she was hoping for, and she will discover secrets not only about Roanoke, but about herself.