Hello, Erin! Thank you for coming to the MG Book Village to chat about your new book and reveal its cover. But before we get to all that, since this is your first time at the Village, would you care to tell our readers a bit about yourself and your work?
Thank you so much for letting me visit to share my new series with you guys! My name is Erin, and I’ve written more than fifty books for kids and tweens. Some of the stories you might be most familiar with are the chapter book series PUPPY PIRATES; a middle grade series about a family of magical misfits, called THE QUIRKS; or the middle grade magical realism novel MOON SHADOW. Also important to note: my favorite kind of pie is KEY LIME.
Okay, now, onto the new book, THE GREAT PEACH EXPERIMENT: WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU LEMONS, MAKE PEACH PIE. Can you tell us what it’s all about?
The first book in THE GREAT PEACH EXPERIMENT series is about a family traveling around the country, selling pie out of their newly-acquired food truck. 12-year-old Lucy, 10-year-old Freddy, 8-year-old Herb, and their dad are searching for a way to reconnect as a family after the loss of the kids’ mother, and decide to honor her memory by living out one of Mom’s lifelong dreams. The story is funny, heartwarming, and touching – and is my favorite book I’ve ever written. I love the kids in the Peach family (the perspective shifts in each chapter, so the reader gets to know all three of them really well during the journey!), and their dad is frustratingly charming and quirky. Also, there’s a lot of pie.
Where did the idea to write a book about a food truck come from?
My family loves to travel, and we’ve always dreamed of hitting the road and living out of campgrounds for a summer (we’re actually planning to do that this summer, since camping is a great way to stay socially distanced!). When I was trying to figure out *why* and *how* this busy family could justify taking a whole summer off to travel around, I realized I needed to come up with some sort of goal and objective for the family. I’ve always LOVED food trucks – the variety of food choices, the colorful designs that make them all look so festive, eating outside – and though I’d never have the patience or guts or cooking skills to actually start up a food truck of my own, writing this story gave me a chance to pretend. The story evolved a lot from initial idea and draft to finished story, but the food truck was there all along. It’s just such a random idea for a family to embark on, so it made me laugh and gave me joy while writing.
Did you have to do any research while writing the book?
So much! I knew nothing about food trucks going into this, so I visited a lot of them (and obviously bought lots of yummy food while chatting up the people running the trucks), did a ton of internet research, watched lots of Food Truck Wars, and also made a ton of stuff up. It’s fiction – and character arcs are ultimately the most important part to me in every story – so some of the food truck details and reality had to be fiddled with to fit my story. But I wanted the food truck basics and pie-baking details to be loosely based in reality, which required a lot of delicious research.
WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU LEMONS, MAKE PEACH PIE is the first of two books that have been announced in this series. Have you already begun working on Book 2?
Yes! I have a 17-page chapter-by-chapter outline done (I’m a big planner, especially with books in a series), and I’ve written the first couple of chapters already. It’s so nice getting to spend time with this family. They’re all so much fun! The second book is going to be about the Peaches’ second big family experiment – converting their Great Aunt’s massive ol’ mansion into a B&B, which involves a lot of messy mishaps and funny disasters.
Many of our site’s readers are teachers of Middle Grade-aged kids. Is there anything you’d like to say to them – in particular those planning to share WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU LEMONS, MAKE PEACH PIE with their students?
One of the fun things about this series (for me as the writer, and for readers!) is the rotating perspective – though it’s written in third-person, each chapter shifts to focus on a different character. So readers have a chance to get to know three very different kids, and I’m guessing everyone will have a favorite – which will lead to some fun discussions with friends and classmates. All of my books have a lot of humor and heart, so while this book definitely has a layer of sadness and this family is working through some very difficult issues, I hope I’ve dealt with them in a funny, realistic, and relatable way.
Also, here’s a fun fact: my son Henry drew some of 10-year-old Freddy’s sketchbook entries while I writing this story (Freddy is very much based on real-life Henry!!), and now the designer & publisher are planning to use them in the actual final book! (In case you’re wondering, I always steal bits and pieces of my own kids to create my characters.)
All right – let’s get to the cover! Were you at all involved in the creative process?
I tried to suggest a few ideas, but ultimately, I know I’m really terrible at coming up with cover concepts. Luckily, designer/artist Michelle Cunningham is BRILLIANT and came up with four different cover concepts that were all amazing. It was hard to pick a favorite out of the four options she sketched up for us!
Well, let’s check out the one you did choose. Here it is…
Wow! It’s wonderful! What was it like for you to see the cover art for the first time?
I can honestly say that this cover is perfect, so I couldn’t stop staring at it. I still can’t – I have a giant version of the cover printed and hanging right next to my computer. The colors! The little food truck! The little lemon! The beautiful background! I don’t know how Michelle created something so marvelous and perfect for the story, especially considering how much text she had to fit on this cover.
When can readers get their hands on WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU LEMONS, MAKE PEACH PIE?
April 6, 2021!! Add it on Goodreads, please (!): https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/53413451-when-life-gives-you-lemons-make-peach-pie?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=XTkZbTDtMy&rank=1
Where can readers find you online, and how can they learn more about you and your work?
My website (for lots of info about me, my books, school visits, and more): http://www.erinsoderberg.com
Facebook (the latest book news): https://www.facebook.com/ErinDowningBooks/
Instagram (mostly pictures of my kids and dog): https://www.instagram.com/erinsoderbergdowning/
Twitter (reading life stuff): https://twitter.com/erindowning
I can’t wait for you all to meet Lucy, Freddy, Herb, and Walter Peach – get ready for a fun adventure in the Peach Pie Truck!!!
Learn more about my books at: www.erinsoderberg.com
Erin Soderberg Downing has written more than fifty books for kids, tweens, and young adults. Some of her most popular titles include the middle-grade novel Moon Shadow and two fun chapter book series: Puppy Pirates and The Quirks. Erin loves creating stories that are accessible and help inspire a lifelong love of reading for fun. Before becoming an author, Erin was a children’s book editor, a cookie inventor, and also worked for Nickelodeon. She lives in Minneapolis with her husband, three hilarious kids, and a mischievous pup named Wally (the star of Puppy Pirates!). More information can be found at www.erinsoderberg.com.