Kathie: Hi Betsy! Thank you so much for asking us to be part of the cover reveal for your upcoming middle-grade book THE POLTER-GHOST PROBLEM (scheduled for release on August 30th by Margaret K. McElderry Books. Can you give us a brief synopsis of it, please?
Betsy: Hi, Kathie! Thanks so much for hosting this spooky cover reveal! THE POLTER-GHOST PROBLEM is about three argumentative best friends who stumble on a haunted orphanage during an otherwise boring summer. The orphan ghosts aren’t the problem, though – in fact, they’re quite friendly in their own noncorporeal way. The problem is that they have been trapped at the hated orphanage by an angry poltergeist that won’t let them go until the boys follow its highly unusual and obscure instructions.
Kathie: This book is a shift away from your previous books with its supernatural happenings. Why did you choose to go in this direction, and what was the writing experience like for you?
Betsy: When I began writing this book, one of my nephews was obsessed with those TV shows featuring investigations into real hauntings. So I started writing this for him, and my goal was an eerie, spine-tingling book. But me being me, I managed to get the word “underpants” into the first paragraph, so it morphed into a spooky-funny hybrid from the beginning. I doubt anyone would truly get a fright out of it, but I hope they get a few laughs! (PS: That nephew is about to graduate from college. These things take time.)
Kathie: Can you tell us a little bit about your main characters?
Betsy: The main characters are three middle-school boys: Aldo, Pen, and Jasper. They are narrating the book as a trio, though Aldo is typing, so he gets the last say for the most part. (This despite his self-confessed acute case of verbal diarrhea and over-familiarity with the thesaurus.) The boys agree on almost nothing, so the narrative is in some ways a 50,000-word argument about how to describe what happened to them over one hair-raising summer.
Kathie: It sounds like this is a very humorous spooky story. What do you most enjoy about writing stories that make readers laugh?
Betsy: I think there’s humor to be found even in scary situations, so my characters tend to make comments that other, more dignified characters would leave off the page. Let’s face it: If you’re battling a giant squid ghost, at some point you will at least think about the phrase “battered squid” in the seafood sense. My characters just go ahead and admit it.
Kathie: Let’s talk about the cover. I believe this is the same illustrator who did the cover for WELCOME TO DWEEB CLUB?
Betsy: Yes, the amazing team of Lisa K. Weber (illustrator) and Rebecca Syracuse (designer) reunited for THE POLTER-GHOST PROBLEM, and I’m so glad they did. Lisa is great at bringing my characters to life and making them look suitably nervous.
Kathie: OK, let’s show everyone what it looks like?
Kathie: What a great spooky cover! I really like how the colors jump out with the teal background. Can you point out one element that you really like?
Betsy: I agree that the color is gorgeous. I also love the swirl of ghostly and poltergeistly activity around Pen, Jasper, and Aldo. My favorite thing is the pink china poodle flying at them. That was a special request on my part! (The haunted orphanage features tons of tacky knickknacks, which make hazardous projectiles.)
Kathie: What’s something you’d like readers to know about this book?
Betsy: First of all, I want them to know that it’s mostly funny and only a little bit scary. So they can carry this book around and impress their peers with their daring without actually having to leave a nightlight on after reading it. Second, I like to think that this is the first-ever middle-grade novel to feature an index! It’s completely useless, but it was so fun to make.
Kathie: Where can our readers go to find out more about you and your writing?
Kathie: Thanks for chatting with me today, and best of luck with the buildup to the book’s release!
Betsy: Thanks so much for indulging me, Kathie! Nothing I love more than a low-pressure chat about my books!
Betsy Uhrig is the author of the middle-grade novels Double the Danger and Zero Zucchini, Welcome to Dweeb Club, and The Polter-Ghost Problem (all from McElderry / Simon &Schuster). She was born and raised in Greater Boston, where she lives with her family and even more books than you are picturing. She graduated from Smith College with a degree in English and has worked in publishing ever since. She writes books for children instead of doing things that aren’t as fun. For more information about her and her cats, visit BetsyUhrig.com.