Meeting authors is one of the best things about being part of the Middle Grade Mafia. When the very talented Heidi Schulz agreed to be part of our Writer’s Block series, I admit I did a little happy dance. Her first book, Hook’s Revenge, has been highly rated by readers on Amazon, Goodreads, and Barnes & Noble and she is about to break into the UK market. The sequel, Hook’s Revenge: The Pirate Code, is due to hit shelve in September. Now, I am pleased to introduce the wonderful Heidi Schulz.
Middle Grade Mafia: Hook’s Revenge is your debut novel, can you share your experience finding your publisher, Disney-Hyperion?
Heidi Schulz: Way back in 2006, when I first had the idea for Hook’s Revenge, I was reading the Peter and the Starcatchers series to my Peter Pan loving daughter. I would look at the Disney•Hyperion logo and dream about one day seeing it on the spine of my own book.
In the fall of 2012, after finally completing my manuscript, I started working with my agent, Brooks Sherman of the Bent Agency. We did a couple rounds of revisions and the first week of December he sent Hook’s Revenge off for a round of submission.
In mid-January we received the first offer, quickly followed by a second. Hook’s Revenge was going to auction! Over the next two weeks I spoke to all the interested editors—five total—including one from Disney•Hyperion. Honestly, I could have worked with any of the editors. They were all smart, capable women with fantastic editorial vision, but I felt that Disney was really the best home for my Neverland adventure. I crossed my fingers and waited for auction day.
When it arrived, the original two offers came in early. Then, in the ten minutes before closing, the remaining three editors each sent an offer over—making a five house auction. I could hardly believe it! After a day of negotiation and discussion, my agent accepted on my behalf the offer from Disney•Hyperion. The date was February 6, 2013—the 60th anniversary of Disney’s Peter Pan. It could not have been more perfect.
MGM: I see on your website that you are about to launch the book in the U.K. under a different name, Hook’s Daughter. Why did you have to alter the name and were there other changes you had to make for the international audience?
HS: Yes, it will be published by Chicken House Books on March 5 in the U.K. and Commonwealth. My U.K. publisher felt that the title Hook’s Revenge would not stand out among the many Peter Pan sequels in their market. They wanted to convey that this book was not a continuation of Captain Hook and Peter Pan’s story, but rather about, well, Hook’s daughter.
MGM: How do you construct your stories? Do start by creating a plot arc, develop a cast of characters, or start with a general concept and see where it takes you?
HS: Hook’s Revenge was my first novel. I wrote it in bits and pieces over several years. I had no plan other than an ending I was working toward, and no characters developed beyond Jocelyn herself. Things changed a lot over many rounds of revision. In the first draft, Roger—who many feel is heart of this book—was only briefly mentioned in a paragraph or two. He wasn’t even given any dialog.
It was really enjoyable to meander through the story, seeing where it would take me. However, I haven’t had the inclination or luxury to take years on any subsequent work. Everything I do now begins with an outline.
MGM: Your wonderful narrator, the salty pirate, was a fun choice. Why did you decide to use that voice over a first person or close third person to tell the reader about Jocelyn’s adventures?
HS: Using a narrator felt like a natural choice for this story. J.M Barrie also uses a narrator in Peter Pan and I wanted Hook’s Revenge to have a similar feel. However, the character of the narrator evolved over a few drafts. He was much friendlier in his earliest incarnations. Once I wrote the line, “I don’t like children all that much,” his voice really began to emerge and he became so much fun to write.
MGM: What do you hope readers will take away the character Jocelyn? Would she see herself as a role model?
HS: I would love for readers to feel empowered by her. Jocelyn is a flawed character but some of those flaws and weaknesses are the very things that help her accomplish her goals. I hope readers may see some of the very things that may appear to be holding them back, might actually be strengths, if looked at in the right way.
I don’t think Jocelyn would see herself as a role model—but she would see herself as captain.
MGM: The Pirate’s Code is due out in September, are there any teasers you can share with us?
HS: Ooh, yes. How about five facts?
- Though it isn’t directly stated, astute readers should be able to figure out who the narrator is.
- The cover has a message, spelled out in secret code. The key to solving the code is contained in the book.
- In book one, readers learn that children can come to the Neverland from many different Whens, or periods of time. This concept is very important in book two.
- I have cried every time I worked on Chapter 31.
- The Pirate Code contains a brawl in the pirate village, horses with flaming manes and tails, a magical map, a sinister forest, weaponized porridge, a pirate nursemaid, an amazing treasure, a slew of new characters, and a lot of swashbuckling adventure. I hope you will like it.
MGM: If you were a Disney character, who would you be?
HS: Oh boy, I can’t pick! Bits of many seem to fit, but none are altogeher right. However, according to the BuzzFeed quiz I just took, I’d be Mickey Mouse. I suppose I can go with that, but I’ll be doing a wardrobe change. Can someone bring me a shirt?
Heidi Schulz is a writer, reader, and giraffe suspicioner. She lives in Salem, Oregon with her husband, co-captaining a crew made of their teen daughter, a terrible little dog, and five irascible chickens. Her debut novel for middle grade readers, HOOK’S REVENGE, published by Disney•Hyperion, is available now. A sequel, HOOK’S REVENGE: THE PIRATE CODE, will follow in September 2015. Bloomsbury Kids will publish her picture book debut, GIRAFFES RUIN EVERYTHING, in Spring 2016.