Welcome to Fast Forward Friday, Megan. Your debut book, ALONE, comes out on January 12, 2021. I recently had a chance to read it, and it’s such a unique story that adventure lovers are really going to enjoy. Can you tell our readers a bit about it, please?
Thanks so much for having me, Kathie. I’m delighted to be here.
Perfect for fans of Hatchet and the I Survived series, ALONE is a novel-in-verse that tells the story of a young girl who wakes up one day to find herself utterly alone in her small Colorado town.
When twelve-year-old Maddie hatches a scheme for a secret sleepover with her two best friends, she ends up waking up to a nightmare. She’s alone—left behind in a town that has been mysteriously evacuated and abandoned.
With no one to rely on, no power, and no working phone lines or internet access, Maddie slowly learns to survive on her own. Her only companions are a Rottweiler named George and all the books she can read. After a rough start, Maddie learns to trust her own ingenuity and invents clever ways to survive in a place that has been deserted and forgotten.
As months pass, she escapes natural disasters, looters, and wild animals. But Maddie’s most formidable enemy is the crushing loneliness she faces every day.
One of the things I loved about this story is that it’s written as a novel in verse, and moves very quickly. Why did you decide to write it in this format?
The earliest drafts of the book were actually written in prose, in third person voice, and in past tense. After many rounds of revisions and feedback, I decided to tap into my experience as a poet and I rewrote the entire story in verse, using first person voice and present tense. This allowed me to get inside Maddie’s head and explore the solitary and sensory nature of her experience. The poetry freed the story and I felt much freer as a writer.
One thing I noticed is how little dialogue there is since Maddie spends so much time alone. Did that make it easier or harder to write?
The lack of additional characters and dialogue initially made the writing very challenging, but once I introduced George, the rottweiler who stays with Maddie throughout the story, it got easier. George became someone she could interact with and talk to, and that eased the burden of the story being all inside Maddie’s head. The problem was also made easier by writing in verse. The poetry leant itself to expressing her various moods and states of being—things that might otherwise be revealed through dialogue and interaction with other characters—and it offered me a way in to Maddie’s inner experience.
If you’d been in a similar situation to Maddie, what’s one thing you think you would have done differently?
Wow, that’s a tough question, and one I’ve asked students before but no one has ever asked me. When I was twelve I couldn’t wait until I was old enough to drive, so I might have taken the car and tried driving out of town to see if I could find other people. I don’t know if I would have had Maddie’s foresight to consider the possibility of running out of gas and being stuck in the middle of nowhere.
I can also be pretty extroverted, so I might have decided to reveal myself to the looters immediately instead of waiting and watching to see if they were safe the way Maddie does. I guess it would just depend if my fear of them was greater than my eagerness to be with people again. But would interacting with them be a smart choice in the long run? Hard to say. There are real risks with every decision and the stakes are very high.
What would you like young readers to take away from your story?
I’ll quote James Patterson here and say I hope young readers love it so much that it makes them want to go right out and read another book. The more kids love reading the more books they read, and I want my book to be part of the cycle that creates enthusiastic lifelong readers.
I also hope they will be intrigued by the what ifs of the story. What if they were left behind like Maddie is? What might be challenging and what might be exciting? What kind of animal would they want as their companion? How might they solve some of the problems Maddie faces? What problems might they encounter that she doesn’t have? The question what if opens the doorway to imagination and it’s really fun to walk through. I hope my book is an invitation to imagination.
Can you tell us where to find out more about you and your writing, please?
At MeganEFreeman.com, readers can find more information about me, as well as information about author events and how to find ALONE in bookstores. It also has links to my social media, where I love interacting with readers directly.
Thank you so much for joining us today, and I appreciate you taking the time to chat with me.
I loved it, and I really appreciate everything Middle Grade Book Village does for readers, teachers, writers, and families. Thank you so much!
Megan E. Freeman attended an elementary school where poets came into the classrooms every week to teach poetry, and she has been a writer ever since. She writes middle-grade and young adult fiction as well as poetry for adults. Also an award-winning teacher, Megan has decades of experience teaching in the arts and humanities and is nationally recognized for presenting workshops and speaking to audiences across the country. Megan used to live in northeast Los Angeles, central Ohio, northern Norway, and on Caribbean cruise ships. Now she lives near Boulder, Colorado.