|I love Paul Mosier’s work. He creates fascinating characters. He writes dialogue that rings absolutely true. And he’s funny. Really funny. |
SUMMER AND JULY is such a joy to read. It would be a mistake to call it a “summer read” because it’s so much more than that — sweet and tender and poignant — though it does evoke the magic of summer in the most lovely of ways.
Don’t miss it.
— Katherine Applegate
. . .
Katherine Applegate: You’ve written for other ages. What draws you to Middle Grade novels?
Paul Mosier: Reading lots of stories to my two daughters made me realize I could write for middle graders with the emotional depth necessary to have a rewarding experience myself. I read very little when I was a middle grader— I often say that between “Go, Dog, Go!” and “Heart of Darkness” for AP Lit there was an extensive dark ages for me. But I was always writing stories. Reading to my older daughter, Eleri, it was specifically Kevin Henkes’ “Junonia” that made me realize I could write the kind of book I’d like to write for that age group. And it’s said that most adults never read another book after graduating high school, but middle graders are forced to read. So it’s like I’m Johnny Cash playing to prisoners at Folsom. My own childhood feels very near, and I don’t feel like a grownup, so I may be well suited to the age group. Now that I’m in this world, I’m grateful to be a part of the community of middle grade writers, which is full of generous and supportive people.
KA: You claim you believe in “the muse.” What do you do when she’s a no-show?
PM: Yeah, I feel a kinship with the ancient Greeks about this. When I look at the words that have appeared on my laptop screen and wonder where they come from, and cry at them, and knowing that I’m not that smart and not that pretty, it’s impossible for me not to believe in the muse. My belief in the muse is such that I think she’s never a no-show, that if I cannot hear her it’s my own fault. I had my back turned on her for many years, but she never gave up on me. I’m so grateful for that. On a practical level, I try to remember that I should always write down whatever the muse is showing me at that moment, even if I’m wondering about a different scene. It’s unwise to argue with her or to refuse an assignment.
KA: What’s the very worst part of writing? What’s the part you can’t live without?
PM: Whenever I’ve heard myself complain about any element of writing I’m keenly aware that these are first-world problems, and problems that some of my unpublished writer friends wish were their own. Waiting is tough, as the time from first draft being bought to the book appearing on shelves can be excruciatingly long. When you’re excited to share the story, that’s brutal. Working with the story editor can also be tough, but it always results in the story improving. What I can’t live without about writing is everything. I’d still be writing novels even if I wasn’t getting paid for it. It’s my avenue toward feeling. Giving birth to a story and getting to know the characters is an amazing experience, and sharing that world with others is a privilege and an honor, and deeply gratifying.
KA: You’ve said “Summer– seen through the eyes of Juillet– is my favorite character that I’ve come to know through writing.” Why is that?
PM: I love how free spirited and adventurous Summer is. She’s goofy, affectionate, and courageous. I was not much like Summer when I was 13. I was probably more like Juillet. Seeing Summer through the adoring eyes of Juillet, it’s hard for me not to find her charming. And the pain she shoulders makes her for me a sympathetic character. She’s probably the kind of girl I would have wished to force her way into my life when I was thirteen.
KA: You really bring a time and place to vivid life in SUMMER AND JULY. How did you get southern California so right?
PM: Thanks for saying so! Santa Monica has been my little family’s favorite summer holiday spot for years, and we stayed at an Airbnb very much like the one in the story where Juillet stays. “Ignore Alien Orders” is actually in the sidewalk right where we stayed. So in this case it was the sense of place that gave birth to the story, and then the girls walked into it. I have said if I cannot write a beautiful story about a first crush in a seaside town with an ice cream shop and surfing, then I shouldn’t be writing stories. It’s great when research consists of watching videos of surfing on Instagram, reading the vocabulary of surfing, and taking a surfing lesson.
KA: Can you share a little more about this statement? “SUMMER AND JULY is the sort of novel written by a man living in an intermission between rounds of fear and pain, in love with his family, and with life.”
PM: As you know, Katherine, my younger daughter Harmony passed to the next dimension after a two year cancer battle in May of 2018, at the age of nine. The idea for Summer and July came during our holiday in the summer of 2016, during her first remission. Observing the achingly beautiful sweetness of time shared with the ones you love during a break from fear of losing them gives you an appreciation of the moment you are living in. Harmony always taught me that. The first draft was essentially complete by the time of her first recurrence, and looking at what I had written, it looked like a break in the clouds, even though the story has its own sadness.
I’d like the reader to know that you and I became acquainted because I contacted you to share that your beautiful novel, WISHTREE, was the last story Harmony heard. I was reading it aloud to her when her oxygen level started to plummet. She was fully aware until her last breath, and I’m glad that the last story she heard was one as beautiful as WISHTREE. Then when I went to the celebration of her life at her school, by beautiful coincidence they had planted a wishtree to which Harmony’s classmates had attached written messages and wishes. She said “this isn’t real” three days before her last breath, and I expect I won’t understand what she meant until I have taken my own last breath. I do believe that the distinction between what we call real and the stories we experience is a flimsy one, and characters in stories are pretty much as real as those in this physical world, and often more impactful. Most of us will never impact as many lives as Hermione Granger, just to name one, or Ivan for that matter. Is that why we write stories? Maybe so.
Thank you so much, Katherine, for your beautiful books, your support, and for being in the delivery room for the birth of Summer and July!
Paul Mosier began writing novels in 2011 but has written in some fashion his entire life. He is married and the father to two daughters, one of whom has passed to the next dimension. He lives near his place of birth in downtown Phoenix, Arizona. He loves listening to baseball on the radio, eating vegetarian food, drinking coffee, and talking nonstop. He has written three critically acclaimed books for middle grade readers: Train I Ride, Echo’s Sister, and Summer and July. Visit him on his blog, novelistpaulmosier.wordpress.com.