Hi Joanne, and thank you for joining me at MG Book Village today. We’re happy to share the cover of your upcoming debut novel, EVERYWHERE BLUE, set to be released in June 2021 with Holiday House. It must be such a thrill for you to finally see your hard work pay off in a finished book! Did you always want to be a writer?
Hi, Kathie, and it’s a pleasure to be here. Thank you for hosting my cover reveal. Yes, I’ve been writing for many decades so this is definitely a thrill for me! I’ve wanted to be a writer since I discovered the magic of books in elementary school. But I didn’t start writing until high school. In high school and college, I wrote a lot of angsty poetry. Then I let too many years go by while I worked and married and raised a family, and only occasionally dipped into writing, mostly picture books, since I had young children. My first brain aneurysm rupture in 2005 was the catalyst I needed to get motivated to take writing seriously!
Can you tell us a bit about this story, and why it was important for you to tell it?
EVERYWHERE BLUE is a novel in verse. Twelve-year-old Maddie (short for Madrigal) loves music, math, and everything in its place. When her beloved older brother, Strum, vanishes from his college campus, her well-ordered world is plunged into chaos. This story was important for me to tell because Maddie has an undiagnosed anxiety disorder and I’ve suffered from anxiety most of my life. I also played the oboe in school, as Maddie does. But that’s where the similarity ends. Maddie took on a life of her own as I revised (and revised and revised). For one thing, she’s a math genius. I am definitely not! The other reason it was important for me to tell this story is that I know a family whose son vanished and has never been found. So, I guess in a way I wanted closure for them (but to protect their privacy, I’ve changed all the details).
What three things would you say to a young reader you met in a bookstore, holding your book in their hands, to try and pique their interest?
I would say, “It’s about a shy, anxious girl who loves to read and loves music. It’s about family, and how siblings get along — and sometimes don’t get along! It’s about standing up for what you believe in.”
What have you learned in the process of getting this book published that’s been valuable to you?
Oh, I’ve learned so much! Especially patience! Many of my non-writer friends express surprise at how long the process takes. Another thing I’ve learned is how often I use the same words over and over in a manuscript. Apparently, I used the word “still” at least 50 times, and my editor suggested I delete most of them. So that was an eye-opener. Sally Morgridge has been a fantastic editor, encouraging me to go deeper and add more details, more poems to help readers “see” Strum, who is only seen in the memories and dialog of the other characters, and more poems to show the shifting relationships among the three siblings.
OK, let’s talk about your cover. Who was the illustration/designer, and were you involved in the process?
Elena Megalos created this gorgeous cover. My editor sent me samples of her work, early on. I liked her blue patterns. But I didn’t suggest anything. It’s my first book, and I figured I’d let the experts (editorial and marketing) work it out.
What was your first reaction when you saw it, and is there any particular detail that really stands out for you?
I was stunned! I mean, the details are fantastic! I love the oboe. It’s so realistic! But I’m also impressed by the tiny figure of Strum hiking along, with the symbolism of the glacier/iceberg. When you read the book, you’ll understand why.
Let’s share the cover with everyone!
Oh, wow, I love the mood that the blue gives to this cover, and as a former oboe player, I’m a HUGE fan of seeing that on the cover!
Thank you, Kathie. I hope people like it and I hope people buy the book!
Are you currently working on another writing project?
Yes! It’s another novel in verse. I don’t want to say too much about it yet, but I am finally writing about brain aneurysms, since I have survived two of them. Though it’s loosely based on my own experiences, it’s still fiction.
Where can we go to find out more about you and your writing?
All the best to you, Joanne, in your debut year, and I look forward to reading your book.
Thank you, Kathie!
Joanne Rossmassler Fritz is a poet and a member of SCBWI. She developed her love of children’s books by working at a school library, the independent bookstore Chester County Book and Music Company, and at a publishing company. She and her husband live outside West Chester, Pennsylvania. This is her debut novel.