Hi Sherry, and welcome to MG Book Village! We’re very excited to reveal the cover for your upcoming MG novel, SPIRITS AMONG US. Can you tell a bit about it, please?
Hi, Kathie, and thanks for having me. I’m excited to share information about SPIRITS AMONG US! It still feels a little bit unreal. SPIRITS is a mystery, but probably not a typical one. Scooter and her best friend, Harlan, are trying to connect with the spirit of her mother. Appalachian folklore (with author license) has it that if you don’t connect with a spirit within a year, you may never connect. Their search, while trying to connect with her mother, sends them spiralling into a search for the robber who’s using their family property for a personal loot locker. As the mystery unfolds, Scooter’s impatience nearly leads to a disaster.
I’m curious to know the inspiration behind your story?
Sometimes it’s hard to pin down one inspiration. In this case I think several inspirations converged. The original name, Paintball Asylum, was the inspiration for a setting. We have a local paintball park by that name that I was enthralled with! Every time I dropped off a teen I listened and looked, then asked them a million questions afterward. Then, I heard the voice of my grandmother with Appalachian roots, and had many talks with my mother about life in the hills. I also have a lot of baggage from spending time in my teen years in a hospital for crippled children, with severe scoliosis that included a tethered spinal cord. Put all that in a cocktail shaker, throw in a dash of the middle grades principal in me, and eventually a manuscript crept out of me.
Can you tell us three things you’d like people to know about this book?
I’d like kids to know that even when times feel dark, the sun is still in our world. I’d like parents to know that this book might help teens understand and process their own kinds of sorrow. I’d like writers to know that it was a journey of a few years before the book arrived at its present form.
How do you fit writing into your daily life?
I have a three-generation-home, so it’s always been very busy! Parts of this manuscript were written and revised in carpool lines. I fit writing into the corners of my world. Except… During major revisions, twice with this manuscript, I shut out my world, build corkboards and cards on my huge kitchen table, and tell everybody to leave me alone! They cooperate a little.
OK, let’s talk about your cover. Did you have any input on it, and if so, what was the experience like for you?
I didn’t have any input at all, which is typical, I think. I had to ask, for this interview, who the talented designer is. Reycraft’s in-house designer, Raquel Hernandez, designed this intriguing cover! My wonderful, crafty editor, Wiley Blevins, envisioned a direction, and she created this cover, which I LOVE SO MUCH!!! I looked at it over and over to try to discover all the story promise it held.
Let’s show everyone what it looks like!
Can you tell us about the illustrator, and what you thought when you first saw the cover?
I fell in love with it! I think it says so much about the story. The paintball and other hints are delicious.
What is it that you love most about writing for kids?
Most of all, I respect kids and their thirst for understanding their world. I love anything I can do to help reassure them or share what I’ve learned with them. The curious geek in me gets really excited to learn about tiny details and share them. For instance, I met a friend who’d owned a paintball field during the course of beta reads for this book. Loraine helped me get every tiny detail correct about a paintball field. Even for fiction, I research and get excited about tiny details!
What is the release date for SPIRITS AMONG US, and where can people go to find out more about you and your writing?
SPIRITS AMONG US releases in just a few months on October 22.
Thank you for allowing us to be part of your cover reveal, and all the best with your book’s release?
Thanks for having me! It was great to be part of your world!
I’m active on social media and love to interact with folks. I’ll drop my links:
Sherry Howard lives with her children, silly dogs, and a dragon in Middletown, Kentucky, a stone’s throw from the beautiful horse farms Kentucky is always bragging about. During her career in education, she served as a middle school principal in one of the largest metro school districts in the US; she and cat-herders share many common skills. Sherry loves to read, write, cook, and sit in the sand watching the waves when she can. Her picture book, ROCK AND ROLL WOODS, received a Kirkus star and represented Kentucky at the National Book Festival! She also writes for the educational market, and has completed around a dozen books for that market.