Hi Kate, thank you so much for joining us today. I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me about your upcoming debut novel, THE LONELY HEART OF MAYBELLE LANE, which I really enjoyed.
Thank you! I’m really excited to be here—this is one of my very first blog interviews.
I’m honored to hear that! This book comes out on March 3rd; can you give us a quick summary of it so our readers know what it’s about?
When 11-year-old Maybelle Lane finds out that her estranged radio DJ father is going to be judging a singing competition, she impulsively signs up as a contestant. But Maybelle has terrible stage fright and no way of getting to Nashville, where the competition will take place. But with the help of her neighbor and a tag-a-long classmate, Maybelle makes the journey to Tennessee—where she hopes she’ll not only be able to win the competition, but also her father’s heart.
Can you tell us about the process of writing this story, and something you learned along the way?
I was actually working on another novel when I started writing Maybelle Lane. For this other book, I was wrestling with a revision that wasn’t working out. I was agonizing over it, as I’d been working on the novel for over a year. But then, I was writing in my journal one morning, and Maybelle’s voice just sort of…appeared. I try to write at least a couple of pages longhand most mornings, and I let it be about anything. A to-do list, recounting my dreams from the night before, story ideas. And when Maybelle popped into the pages, I just couldn’t stop writing about her. It was her voice that came first, and then the other details started to fall into place. I felt a little guilty at the time, because I pretty much tossed my other novel out the window, but I’m glad I did. So I guess that something I learned while writing this book is just the value of remaining open. I was laser-focused on this other novel, but I still allowed myself a silver of space to explore other ideas in my morning journal. And I’m so glad I kept that window cracked open for myself.
I love that! I also love the role that sound plays in this story, whether it’s music, the radio, or Maybelle’s recordings. Does sound play such a prominent role in your own life, or did the inspiration come from some other source?
I LOVE music—from an appreciation stand-point, music has always been an important part of my life. It’s such a beautiful form of self-expression. I’ve always wanted to be a musical person, so I think the music aspect of this story is definitely wish fulfillment, as I myself cannot carry a tune. And when I decided to give Maybelle both a beautiful singing voice as well as a musical background—her mother plays the guitar and sings, her dad is a radio DJ—I knew that sound would probably be a lens through which Maybelle saw the world. I knew I wanted her to be a collector, so it just made sense to me that she would want to collect sounds. And since she’s such a careful, perceptive kid, I knew it would be the quieter, more everyday sounds that spoke to her.
Without giving too much away, the journey to Nashville is such a heartwarming trip where those involved all learn from each other. If you could pick three writers you don’t already know (alive or dead) to go on a road trip with you, who would you pick, and why?
Oh wow. This is such a tough question! I have so many favorite writers that I’d be scratching my head for days trying to answer this, so if it’s okay with you, I’m going to cheat a little bit. Since it’s a road trip, I’m going to prioritize fun. I would want to travel with Anthony Bourdain, Adam Rippon, and Cardi B. I love food—I went to culinary school and used to be a chef—so I feel like Anthony Bourdain would set the route, and we’d eat some truly amazing food along the way. And I sincerely just love Adam Rippon and Cardi B. I think they would make a fantastic—and hilarious—duo, and I would love to bear witness to their shenanigans. And I guess I’m not cheating all that much, because Anthony Bourdain and Adam Rippon are both published authors, and Cardi B has claimed in the past she wants to write a book about her life. So…it kind of fits! 🙂
For most of the novel, Maybelle has her mind fixed on one thing, and that’s getting to Nashville to sing for the dad she’s never met. What advice do you have for a reader who has their mind set on becoming a writer?
Above all, be kind to yourself. I feel like writers believe they should come out of the gates with the ability to write a novel that looks exactly like the ones you can find on the shelves. And if their first effort doesn’t look like a “real” book, then it must mean they’re no good at writing. But that’s so not true! Can you imagine if you expected the same of yourself for, say, driving a car or building a piece of furniture? That you should just be able to parallel park or construct a perfect credenza on your very first try? No! Never! Writing is a skill that takes a lot of practice and patience—patience with the process, but also with yourself.
Do you have a new project on which you’re working, and where can our readers go to keep up to date on your writing life?
I am working hard on my next novel! It’s a standalone middle grade contemporary. The drafting process for this book has been so different than it was for Maybelle Lane. With Maybelle, the words came really fast. This book is going much slower. The characters are taking a little bit more time to reveal themselves. But the more I work on it, the more excited I am about where it’s going.
I wish you all the best in the upcoming year, and once again, thanks for joining us!
Thank you so much for having me! I had a ton of fun answering these questions.
Kate O’Shaughnessy writes middle-grade fiction. She is a graduate of Yale University, a member of SCBWI, and is the events and outreach coordinator at Left Margin LIT, a creative writing center in Berkeley, California. When she’s not writing, you can find Kate in her garden, eating good food, hiking, and chronically mispronouncing words she’s read but never heard said aloud. Her debut novel, THE LONELY HEART OF MAYBELLE LANE, will be published March 3, 2020 with Knopf Books for Young Readers.