On a recent trip through Barnes & Noble, I came across a book with a sad looking boy on the cover. When I saw the title was DEAD BOY I had to pick it up. The bottom over the front cover nailed it for me: “He’s dead. He stinks. All he wants is a friend.” The author of this quirky, beautiful, adventurous story is Laurel Gale. Luckily for us, she agreed to be a part of our blog.
Middle Grade Mafia: Each author’s path to becoming a published author is unique. Please share your journey to getting DEAD BOY on the shelves.
Laurel Gale: One day—I think it was in 2008—my husband said I should write a book. I dismissed the idea. Sure, I enjoyed writing short stories, articles, and poems, but a book? I couldn’t do that. The suggestion must have made an impression on me, though, because a little while later I became obsessed with writing a novel.
Over the next few years, I completed several manuscripts and submitted all of them to literary agents, probably a mistake in hindsight. I improved my writing skills and started getting positive responses, but still no book deal.
Then, with Dead Boy, everything fell into place. I queried David Dunton at Harvey Klinger, Inc., who offered representation and, after a few edits, began submitting to publishers. All of this happened very quickly—less than a month passed from when I queried David to when I got the offer for the book deal from Crown Books for Young Readers—but that was after years of ups and downs.
MGM: I felt an immediate connection to who Crow was from the first page. You made it clear from the beginning what he wanted. Could you share the evolution in his character from your initial thoughts to who he truly was as you delved deeper into his story?
LG: The idea for Dead Boy really started with Crow Darlingson. I had a good idea of who he was—a sweet, lonely boy who only wanted a friend and just happened to be kind of dead—and I created the rest of the story to explain how he’d gotten like that and what would happen next. His core character was pretty consistent as I wrote the story, but the details—his hobbies, fears, talents, and so on—got refined. Developments in the plot meant that some of his backstory had to change, too, especially how he became a dead boy and his relationships with the other children in the book.
MGM: I read that you usually like to write a synopsis first when starting a new project, but not so with DEAD BOY. What made this story different for you?
LG: When I started Dead Boy, I’d been working on a different project, one that I had written a synopsis for, but it just kind of fell apart. I was very frustrated, so I decided to take the idea I had for Dead Boy and just go with it. I was really writing for myself, for fun, so there wasn’t a lot of planning involved. It worked out, clearly, but I did have to rewrite quite a bit of it. Being passionate about what you’re writing is important, but a little planning can prevent a lot of headache.
MGM: Before I sit down to write, I light a nice smelling candle (not sure why my olfactory nerves are tied to my creativity). Do you have any pre-writing rituals?
LG: I don’t have any real rituals, but I do have to picture a scene before I can write it, so I spend a lot of time daydreaming—sometimes while playing online games, but I swear I’m working! When I have an idea, I want to write it down immediately, so I have pens and notebooks everywhere. Despite this, I often can’t find a notebook quickly enough, so I end up writing my ideas down on the backs of receipts or envelopes, anywhere I can find some space to scribble my thoughts.
MGM: What are some of the MG books you loved growing up?
LG: I remember reading The Baby-Sitters Club and Sweet Valley Twins series fairly regularly. I loved The Chronicles of Narnia, too—and I still do! Once I started reading young adult and then adult novels, I became focused on certain genres and authors, but as a middle grade reader, I wanted to devour pretty much everything I could get my hands on.
MGM: Please share with us the last three MG books you’ve read.
LG: I believe they were Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead, Raising Rufus by David Fulk, and Villain Keeper by Laurie McKay. I enjoyed all three of them immensely. I’ll never grow too old to appreciate the wonder and adventure found in middle grade novels.
MGM: None of us will either!
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