The Middle Grade Mafia was lucky enough to gain access to those associated with the upcoming release of Curiosity House: The Screaming Statue by Lauren Oliver and HC Chester. It is not very often that one of the characters takes the time to answer our questions, so we are excited to include Betty the Bearded Lady in our conversation.
First, the authors. Lauren Oliver and the mysterious HC Chester work closely on the Curiosity House Series (book 1 is reviewed here) and came together to share insights into their process and their relationship.
Middle Grade Mafia: How did the two of you meet and decide to team up on the CURIOSITY HOUSE series?
H.C. Chester: I met Ms. Oliver when she showed up, quite unexpectedly, at my house and explained that she had come across a set of postcards from Dumfrey’s Dime Museum in an antique shop in Paris and had come across a set of postcards from Dumfrey’s Dime Museum in an antique shop in Paris and had discovered that they originated in my collection. She had tracked me down to see if I could supply her with more information. My initial response, as it is when any visitor appears on my threshold, was to shut the door in her face. I was prevented from doing so, however, by my companion, Trudy, who took an immediate shine to Ms. Oliver, which she displayed by wagging her tail vigorously and making happy “Bow Wow” noises. Deferring, as I always do, to Trudy’s instincts, I invited Ms. Oliver inside and the rest, as they say, is history.
MGM: We have interviewed several author duos on our site and are always interested on how the two work together. In your relationship, how do you develop the story and has there been any differences in opinion and how the story would unfold?
HCC: My working relationship with Ms. Oliver has been one of the most satisfying aspects of this entire experience. In essence, I provide Ms. Oliver with the benefit of my encyclopedic knowledge of depression-era New York City Dime Museums. Then she does all the work.
MGM: I would be curious to hear what each of you believe your co-writer’s strength is and how that has made the story stronger.
Lauren Oliver: Mr. Chester’s greatest strength is his vast collection of arcana and strange objects, which is what inspired the project in the first place! He is organized, patient, and lovely to work with, despite his obsession with Peruvian Lima Beans.
HCC: My co-writer’s greatest strength is her readiness to do all the work, thus allowing me time to devote to my own current project, and illustrated guide to the agricultural implements employed by the Inca in their cultivation of Peruvian lima beans.
Thank you HC and Lauren, but with the time we have remaining, we would love to hear from Betty.
Middle Grade Mafia: Betty, you are as brave as you are beautiful, but whatever possessed you to let Max throw her knives at you?
Betty: Without risk, there can be no reward. In my profession, you must be willing to suffer indignities, critics, long hours, small pay, and occasional bodily harm.
MGM: Can you tell us what keeps you at Mr. Dumfrey’s side? Has there been a romance? Oh dear! Romance? With Mr. Dumfrey?
Betty: Sorry, but the idea is just too silly. He’s been like an uncle to me. And in fact whenever one of my male admirers calls—at last count, there were twelve, including a banking tycoon and the son of a famous cereal heir–Mr. Dumfrey makes sure to interview them to make sure they’re suitable for me.
MGM: If you could have the abilities of just one of the children, Pippa, Thomas, Sam or Max which one would it be and why?
Betty: I would choose to throw knives, like Max, so I could give her a taste of her own medicine!
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