Thank you for joining me today, Fleur. I’m really enjoyed your upcoming MG novel, MIDNIGHT AT THE BARCLAY HOTEL (releases August 25th with Viking Books for Young Readers). Can you tell our readers what it’s about, please?
MIDNIGHT AT THE BARCLAY HOTEL is the story of JJ, Penny and Emma, three kids who think they’re tagging along with their respective grownups for a fun weekend at the (reportedly haunted…) Barclay Hotel. Only when they arrive, the butler announces to the guests that hotel owner Mr. Barclay is dead, and that he orchestrated for the adult guests to be there as suspects.
JJ in particular is shocked, because his mom is a suspect in Mr. Barclay’s murder too—and all he really wanted to do was spend the weekend ghost hunting. Now, with the help of his new friends, Penny and Emma, JJ has to track down a killer, clear his mother’s name… And he even meets a ghost or two along the way.
I’ve heard your book compared to THE WESTING GAME meets ESCAPE FROM MR. LEMONCELLO’S LIBRARY meets the CLUE movie. Are these the types of books you liked to read when you were younger, or where did the inspiration from the story come from?
Actually, I grew up in the Netherlands, so the books I read were different ones. But I was such an avid reader, by age twelve or so, I’d worked my way through most of the children’s department at my library. And there was no YA section at the time… A nice librarian (I wish I could remember her name) pointed me toward the mystery section—Agatha Christie in particular. I started with the ABC Murders, and I’ve been hooked on mystery ever since.
Midnight at the Barclay Hotel is a bit of a nod to Agatha Christie. I love the quirky characters, the slight sense of humor, and the twisty mysteries she wrote.
Can you tell us 3 interesting tidbits about this story or its journey to publication?
1. The Barclay Hotel is modeled loosely after the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado—of the Shining. I visited the hotel and even went on one of the ghost hunting tours, that was so fun. The Barclay Hotel is an over-the-top fictional version of the Stanley: it has a carousel, a bowling alley, a pool… All fun stuff I imagined loving as a kid.
2. It took a long time to find a home at Viking Children’s! But my editor Aneeka Kalia really understood how to make the story better. I’m lucky to be there.
3. I was not expecting the book to be illustrated, so when the illustration came in, I was floored. It was like the illustrator (Xavier Bonet) looked right into my brain and put the characters to the page.
How did the process of writing this book differ from any of your previous books?
My previous books (the Double Vision trilogy, a spy adventure series) were all sold based on a partial, so I worked together with my agent and editor(s) to develop the books very early on. For Midnight at the Barclay Hotel, I wanted to take the time to develop the book, characters, and story so it was exactly where I wanted it to be before sending it out into the world.
It took me about a year to feel like the book was ready, then once it was acquired at Viking, I had to trim the book from 50K words to about 35K…! The original manuscript had many chapters written from the adult characters’ perspectives—I think the book is more accessible now, with the illustrations and tighter narrative.
It was a long process, but I’m really proud of how Midnight at the Barclay Hotel turned out. I can’t wait for the kids to read it!
Which character was easiest for you to write, and why?
Penny, without a doubt. Penny is a bookworm, but wants to be brave. She’s smart, kind to her grandpa (the detective in the book), and is a little bit of a sceptic when it comes to the existence of ghosts.
Penny is probably the closest to a twelve-year-old me.
Are you currently working on another writing project?
Ah, it’s top-secret! Well, not really, but it’s still in the early stages of writing and plotting. All I’ll say is that it has a cool setting, a mystery, and some spooky stuff. Stay tuned…
Where can our readers go to find out more about you and your writing?
My website: www.ftbradley.com. There’s more information on author visits, a teacher guide, downloadable activities… And pictures of me when I was a kid, and of my cats, of course.
Thanks for dropping by the Village today, Fleur, and all the best your book’s launch.
Fleur Bradley is passionate about two things: mysteries and getting kids to read. When she’s not active in her local SCBWI chapter, she’s doing school visits and is speaking at librarian and educator conferences on reaching reluctant readers. Originally from the Netherlands, Fleur now lives in Colorado Springs with her husband and two daughters, and entirely too many cats.