Hi Jess, and welcome to MG Book Village! We’re so happy that you chose to do your cover reveal with us. Congratulations on your debut MG novel, THE DARE SISTERS, which will be released on September 8th. Can you tell everyone a bit about it, please?
Thank YOU Kathie, and MG Book Village! I’ve been following you guys for a while now and love what you’re doing, so it’s an honor to be here. I call The Dare Sisters “Goonies meets Little Women”. It’s an adventure story with a ton of heart, deals with loss and friendship, and most importantly sisters and family. The story takes place on Ocracoke Island in North Carolina where Savannah Dare and her sisters are searching for Blackbeard’s treasure using a map their grandfather left them before he died. Most people, including their parents, believe the treasure is just a legend, but the girls know Grandpa wouldn’t have made this up.
Plus, they’re not the only ones searching…
Can you share three interesting facts with us about this story or its road to publication?
1. In 2015, my husband and I were vacationing in the Florida keys and as we were driving through we passed three tanned, sun-streaked blond little girls skateboarding down the shoulder of the highway. They looked like carbon copies of each other. The oldest held the rope and did all the work, the second was sitting on her board and the third was on her belly, and down the road they went tied together. It was quite an unbelievable sight! I announced right then that I was writing a story about those sisters. I didn’t actually do it until about 2 years later, however.
2. There is a lot of real historical tid-bits about pirates and Ocracoke in this book, (and book 2 which comes out next year) so much so that in early drafts I had to decide if I was writing historical fiction or an adventure story! I decided on the latter and am glad I did because I can take many more liberties. Learning about Blackbeard and the Golden Age of Pirates was a tremendous amount of fun. And Ocracoke is one of my most favorite places, so I don’t consider the research a waste of time at all.
3. The loss of Savannah’s close relationship with her late Grandpa is the driving force behind her determination to find the treasure. When he was alive, he and Savvy bonded over games, puzzles, codes, and riddles and now that he’s gone that part of her life is also gone. Savvy doesn’t love school but loved the challenges these kinds of puzzles gave her, so when she receives the map and then later some special codes, it’s not only the fun of the hunt but the feeling that Grandpa is near her again that’s so important to her. She doesn’t want to lose that connection. I hope that in some small way kids see that even in loss–no matter how big or small–there are ways to keep those special connections. A lot of times we grownups don’t want to talk about loss–death, divorce, moving, and many other small losses that we have over a lifetime. We think if we don’t talk about the hard stuff, it spares our kids’ hearts. But the reality is kids are much more open to conversation than we give them credit for. And they need it.
Did you have any input on the cover, and if so, what was that experience like for you?
I did! First my editor asked for more description on the girls, because I don’t give a ton of physical description about my characters, I keep it pretty general. I like for readers to imagine what they want about the characters. Then after the initial sketches, there were three cover options and they asked for my input again. I felt they valued my opinion, which I really appreciated. It wasn’t too difficult either because my editor, agent and I all pretty much agreed on small changes and final choices.
Here’s the big moment, let’s show everyone the cover!!!!
Oh wow! I love the kid appeal to this cover, it looks like so much fun! Can you tell us about it?
Christine Almeda–who also did How to Make Friends with the Sea, which MGBV also revealed!–did such a fantastic job with this. My first thought was how cute the girls were! I could instantly picture this as an animated movie or show. (Are you listening, TV gods!?) I loved Christine’s color choices and the layout so much–it’s a fun, cheery cover, and yet there’s the shadow lurking in the back which gives it a little bit of creepiness. It’s pretty perfect.
If you could in time two years and give yourself one piece of advice you’ve learned on your publishing journey, what would it be?
Two years ago, I’d have said, Keep Hustling! But now, actually my advice to myself is, it’s okay to slow down. You did it. You’re here. Now take a break and enjoy it. Keep writing the best books you can…it’s all you can control and it’s what you love anyway. Two years from now, I think the advice is the same.
Can you tell us where we can go to find out more about you and your writing?
Absolutely! My website is jessicarinker.com. Although shortly that’s going to change to jessrinker.com. I’m in the process right now of getting a new site and redirecting the old. Either way, shouldn’t be too hard to find me just by googling. I’m on Twitter: @jm_rinker as well.
Thanks again for letting us be part of your cover release, Jess; I can’t wait to read it!
You’re so welcome. Thanks for having me. 🙂
Jess Rinker is the author of Gloria Takes a Stand, a picture book biography about Gloria Steinem, and the chapter book Out of Time: Lost on the Titanic. Her forthcoming titles include: Send a Girl: The Brenda Berkman Story, and her first middle grade novels, The Dare Sisters duology.
Jess has a BA in Social Welfare and received her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She has won many awards for her work including short story, creative nonfiction, and most recently an honorable mention for the Katherine Paterson Prize from Hunger Mountain for her middle grade manuscript, The Young Traveler’s Club.
In addition to writing, Jess also teaches in the MFA program at Sierra Nevada University and undergrad English at Eastern West Virginia Community and Technical College, as well as in collaboration with the Highlights Foundation.
She lives with her husband, Joe McGee, who is also a children’s author, and was recently inspired to buy a metal detector and start hunting for treasure just like the girls in Dare Sisters.