The Middle Grade Mafia was created to share amazing authors and great books with others. Today we have the honor and privilege to recognize one of the “family,” Lisa Lewis Tyre.
Lisa’s debut novel, LAST IN THE LONG LINE OF REBELS (Nancy Paulsen Books), has just launched today and we wanted to find out more about the characters, story and what a Zollicoffer was.
Middle Grade Mafia: How did you come up with the idea for this book?
Lisa Lewis Tyre: I actually grew up outside a small town, Livingston,Tennessee in an area the locals called Zollicoffer. It was named after General Felix Zollicoffer and one day my mother mentioned that some kids in the 1950’s found a few gold pieces in the field where they thought his camp had been located. Gold! I spent a lot of days afterwards digging in my own yard, and I never forgot the story.
MGM: Bertie is such a colorful character. Are any of the characters in the book based on your own family?
LLT: I wouldn’t say “based on”, but Lou’s dad, Tucker, bears a strong resemblance to my father. He even has a dump truck or two! I also have a cousin that’s always been crazy about Tennessee football, much like Lou. I have a colorful family so there’s probably a bit of Bertie in all of them. Having a crazy, Southern family has its advantages.
MGM: The Louise Duncan Mayhew’s diary is written in authentic civil war language. How did you find that voice?
LLT: Thanks! I read a lot of Civil War letters, and bought an actual diary from Ebay. J It helped me see how life went on in the midst of war, and how careful they were about recording things.
MGM: How did you go about researching slavery and the civil war?
LLT: There’s so much research available! The State of Tennessee has lots of great information, and my editor, Nancy Paulsen, sent me articles she’d found. My hometown museum has numerous books, and they were particularly helpful.
MGM: The story includes a subplot about prejudice. What made you want to incorporate racism into the story?
LLT: It happened organically. I knew I wanted to start each chapter off with a diary excerpt, and then show through the contemporary parts how things had changed, or stayed the same. With the Civil War featured so prominently, it made sense to have a modern day discussion on race.
MGM: What message would you like kids to take away from the book?
LLT: I’d love for kids to be more interested in their own family history. I hope that they would come to the same realization that Lou does, that our past doesn’t define us, but we shouldn’t hide it. And I hope the part of the book where Lou hears that she doesn’t have to be a grown-up to be used for a higher purpose would resonate with some of my readers.