Hi Kit, and welcome to MG Book Village! Your debut middle grade novel, THE DERBY DAREDEVILS: KENZIE KICKSTARTS A TEAM, comes out on March 24th, and it’s one of my favorite debut novels of 2020. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself please?
Hi Kathie! I’m so honored to be hosted by MG Book Village! I love reading the interviews with authors, and it’s surreal to now be featured among some of my literary idols. My background in children’s books was actually in academia, as I went to Hollins University for a master’s degree in children’s literature. Other MG authors such as Ali Standish and Nicole Panteleakos are fellow Hollins alums (and my actual classmates!). I submitted my first ever MG manuscript to a contest at Hollins and won a full critique with an editor at Houghton Mifflin, which gave me the confidence to lean into the traditional publishing path. I used to only write in stolen moments in the late evenings after work, but these days I make writing my full time job and I absolutely love it!
What was the process of writing this book like for you, and can you tell us a bit about it, please?
THE DERBY DAREDEVILS: KENZIE KICKSTARTS A TEAM was the fourth book I worked on, the second book with my agent, and I had no idea it would be the project to change my life! The cast of characters has essentially remained the same, though originally I wrote them as third graders in a chapter book series idea! The series was called THE FLANNELS, and it was about a quirky group of kids living in downtown Austin, Texas who did all sorts of things, including roller derby. But as we went along in the editing process, I realized that the roller derby scenes were the ones with juice, so we aged up the characters to lower middle grade and made the series all about derby! I absolutely love that the book is lower middle grade and features amazing illustrations by graphic novelist Sophie Escabasse. This is definitely the form the Daredevils were always meant to take, though I’ve never stopped loving these characters and their world in all the drafts I’ve written.
What are some of the influences that led you to write this story?
I was a middle school teacher for five years, and loved listening to the kids and getting to understand their humor and cadence in order to write characters and relationships that felt compelling and real. In that sense, some of my biggest influences have been my students as well as the junior roller derby players I’ve observed when attending local derby practices. But I also have many literary influences for this series. The American Library Association recently called THE DERBY DAREDEVILS a cross between the CLEMENTINE chapter book series by Sara Pennypacker and the graphic novel ROLLER GIRL by Victoria Jamieson, which made me squeal because both were mentor texts as I worked on KENZIE KICKSTARTS A TEAM. Another big influence for this series is the middle grade adaptation of the LUMBERJANES series by Mariko Tamaki.
Those are really great comparisons! I loved how your book hit a sweet spot that I don’t think we see enough of in middle grade literature.
What one thing have you learned from your publishing experience that you wish you could go back in time and tell yourself?
Oh! What a question. There are so many things I have learned from the publishing experience. I learned that letting my first project go was the key to expanding my capabilities as a writer… even though it took seven years to get there. I learned to trust my gut when it came to relationships with different people in the industry, and have found a place on the most amazing team of publishing professionals. I’ve made lots of mistakes along my journey, but the truth is, I wouldn’t go back and tell myself anything! I don’t want any butterfly effects! I needed to make the mistakes I made, and learn from them. I wouldn’t trade what I have right now for anything.
This is the first book in a series, can you tell us anything about what to expect in the future?
I would love to! THE DERBY DAREDEVILS is a series of rotating protagonists, which means each team member is going to get to tell their own story! Kenzie’s story is so, so important, because it’s the story of the team coming together. But I’m also incredibly thrilled to be diving deeper into the team’s shenanigans in later books! Shelly will be the protagonist of Book 2, THE DERBY DAREDEVILS: SHELLY STRUGGLES TO SHINE, which comes out on September 15, 2020! In her story, Shelly is searching for a way to stand out on the team as they approach their first ever roller derby tournament. She ends up discovering some really creative ways to use her artistic side on the track… though the Daredevils will encounter plenty of (literal) bumps and bruises along the way. That’s all I’ll say for now!
Excellent, I’m glad we don’t have to wait too long for the next book in the series! Where can we go to find out more about you and your writing?
You can learn more about Books 1 and 2 of THE DERBY DAREDEVILS series on my website, https://www.kitrosewater.com/ as well as find out information on book events and class visits. I’m hungry to do virtual and in-person school visits over this year. I would love to hear from interested teachers and librarians via my contact page! You can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram @kitrosewater for exciting new updates about the series and other projects I’m working on.
I wish you all the best this year with the exciting things that lay ahead for you!
Thank you so much! I think 2020 is going to be one of those life-changing, whirlwind years and I just can’t wait for March! It’s been an absolute pleasure. Thank you, Kathie!
Kit Rosewater writes books for children. She lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico with her spouse and a border collie who takes up most of the bed. Before she was an author, Kit taught middle school theatre and high school English, then worked as a children’s bookseller. She has a master’s degree in Children’s Literature from Hollins University. Books 1 & 2 of her debut middle grade series THE DERBY DAREDEVILS roll out in Spring and Fall 2020 through Abrams. Catch her online at kitrosewater.com or @kitrosewater.