Recently, we had the opportunity to review Erin Petti’s amazing middle-grade novel The Peculiar Haunting of Thelma Bee (September 2016, Mighty Media Press). Today, we are honored to have her joining us on The Writer’s Block.
Middle Grade Mafia: Can you tell us how you decided to become a writer and what your path to published author was like?
Erin Petti: Thank you so much for having me on the blog! I’ve loved to write since I was a kid. In third grade it was mostly poems about anthropomorphic flowers, in high school I wrote a few plays, short stories in college, and comedy sketches in my 20’s.
It wasn’t until I heard the advice “write the book you want to read” that something clicked. I love children’s literature – both YA and MG. I began to think about the kind of stories I love the most: Empowered kids, ghosts, haunted New England woods, family secrets, and a crew of best friends banding together to do the impossible. Then I started writing.
I drafted Thelma Bee and revised, and revised, and revised! Through great beta readers, contests, and agent feedback, the manuscript got better and better. I am so ridiculously lucky that my brilliant agent Laura Zats found a home for my book at Mighty Media Press. They are the most creative, hardest working people in publishing (I’m sure of it) and they have done beautiful things with my book. The internal illustrations were a special surprise!
MGM: What kind of books did you like as a child and what does that say about you?
EP: I loved the Redwall series by Brian Jacques. The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien had a huge impact on me as a reader and human (e.g., As I type this I have The Two Towers playing in the background because this is how I live.) When I was in sixth grade I discovered Ann Rice’s Vampire Chronicles and became completely obsessed – I think that’s where my love for dark creatures may have come from!
MGM: What inspired your book The Peculiar Haunting of Thelma Bee? Were you like Thelma Bee, a budding scientist? Do you believe in ghosts?
EP:I was very, very different from Thelma when I was growing up – and I think that’s a main reason why I was inspired to write this book! Thelma is independent. She has such an unbreakable sense of self that all the regular middle school bologna rolls right off her. She doesn’t care what anyone thinks about her hair -she cares about her friends, her family, her work, and her dreams. It’s the way I wish I was when I was 11. I didn’t say boo my 6th grade year because of anxiety and being so terrified of what other people thought of me. I wanted to write a character that stared down the world and was absolutely true to her wonderful weird self!
MGM: Do you plan a sequel? Can you tease us with any details? When can we expect it to be released?
EP: Yes, a sequel is in the works! I can’t say much, but I’ll tell you that the crew will face an even more dangerous foe this time – the stakes get higher and Thelma learns a whole lot more about who she is and her family’s very unique history.
MGM: What advice can you give aspiring writers?
EP: Write! I learned how to write a book by writing a book and having lots of smart, insightful people give me guidance on my drafts. It won’t be perfect at first, it will be sloppy and maybe even crummy – but that is the place everyone starts from! Read good stuff and write. That’s the only recipe that’s ever worked for me!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Erin Petti lives in a piney part of Massachusetts and loves to read about magic, dinosaurs, folklore, and ghosts. She has a Masters in Education and a background in improvisational comedy.
Erin lives with her husband, excellent preschooler, and serious cat.
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