Interview with Lakita Wilson about BE REAL, MACY WEAVER

Eleven-year-old Macy Weaver knows relationships are complicated. Fresh off her latest friendship breakup, she’s spent most of her summer break on her own. So when Macy’s mother decides to go back to college three states away, Macy jumps on the chance to move—anything for a fresh start.
But Macy’s new home isn’t exactly what she expected. Her mother’s never around and her dad’s always working. Lonelier than ever, Macy sets her sights on finding a new best friend. When she meets Brynn, who’s smart and kind and already seems to have her whole life figured out—down to her future as a high fashion model—Macy knows she’s it. The only problem is that Brynn already has a BFF and, as everyone knows, you can only have one.
 Resorting to old habits, Macy turns one small lie into a whole new life—full of fantastic fashion and haute couture—but it isn’t long before everything really falls apart. Ultimately, Macy must determine how to make things right and be true to herself—rather than chasing after the person she thinks she’s supposed to be.

BE REAL, MACY WEAVER celebrates differences, creativity, and individuality, perfect for fans of Front Desk by Kelly Yang, and Stand Up, Yumi Chung by Jessica Kim. Though Macy struggles to find one true best friend, she may discover a better way forward, finding a community and friendships of all different kinds. For all the kids who haven’t found their one best friend—this book can be like a warm hug.

Shari: Hi Lakita! Welcome to MG Book Village! I’m thrilled to chat with you today about your debut novel, Be Real, Macy Weaver, which just released on Tuesday!  What would you like to tell us about your book?

Lakita: Be Real, Macy Weaver is a story for young readers who struggle with the idea that they are enough. This story includes the journey of self-discovery and community building—not just for Macy, but many of the secondary characters as well. 

Shari: Macy is a character many readers will empathize with, struggling to find a best friend and going about it in all the wrong ways. She makes a lot of mistakes, but what are her strengths? What do you love about her?

Lakita: I love Macy’s hope and her resilience. Macy’s intentions are human. She hopes to someday find a companion that sticks around. She also hopes to one day feel supported and cared for. This hope is what drives her, even if she doesn’t quite understand the best way to build friendships where this comes naturally. I love the way Macy accepts responsibility for getting it wrong, and works hard to make things right. No friendship is perfect—and the people closest to us will probably say or do something hurtful at some point. The friend who can own up to their mistakes and work on doing better is the friend who deserves another chance. And Macy, despite her flaws, was willing to retrace her steps and begin again to become the friend that she herself was seeking.    

Shari: Macy is also going through some major family upheaval.  Why do you think it is important to write stories that include family struggles?

Lakita: I wanted to show that Macy doesn’t live a perfect life—but none of those imperfections, besides the lying, hurt any of Macy’s friendships. Friends, and people who truly care about you won’t care how much money you have, or whether your mom is around. Those struggles affect you, but they aren’t you. 

I’ve received feedback from readers already about the mom—and how she’s this terrible person. And, I’ll admit, she wasn’t the best. But there’s also children who are at home right now, living—or not living with, this same type of mom. And if we don’t acknowledge this, then children will continue to feel very isolated, thinking they are the only one’s dealing with this type of struggle. 

Shari: Yes, Macy’s mom seemed very selfish, but I just loved her dad and how supportive he was of Macy.  I think you did a great job of modeling positive role models in Macy’s life, including the school counselor! 

Fashion and clothing play a significant role in Macy’s story, and obviously to many middle-grade readers. What inspired you to include fashion design as such a strong motif in the book?

Lakita:  Well, I’ve had my own unhealthy relationship with fashion—wanting brands or types of clothing to fit in with a group or trend. But, I’ve grown into my own style, and knowing what I like as I’ve gotten older—and now I know that what we wear can be a form of self-expression. Instead of using fashion to blend into a group, fashion can be used to stand out, and show the world who you are. Macy’s journey from creating clothing to look impressive to creating clothing to look more like herself paralleled her self-discovery journey nicely. 

Shari: I agree!  I remember this struggle being very real during those middle school years, so I’m thrilled that you included this as part of Macy’s growth!

I loved so much about this book! What do you hope will stay in readers’ hearts after reading Macy Weaver?

Lakita: I hope that readers will remember what lays the foundation of true friendship and community. The poet, Maya Angelou has this quote where she says, “People will forget what you said, or what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Macy said and did a lot of things to try to impress different classmates, but what really drew kids closer or pushed them away was how Macy made them feel. When she lied to them and they felt they couldn’t trust her, they distanced themselves. In the quieter moments, when honest conversations  are taking place and the children are being vulnerable with each other, Macy is making her peers feel heard, or understood—that’s when the threads of real friendship begin. 

Shari: I love that – and the sewing metaphor! For readers who love Macy Weaver, what other books do you recommend?

Lakita: Playing the Cards You’re Dealt by Varian Johnson, and Worser by Jennifer Ziegler are awesome middle-grade reads that tap into the hearts of this age group. 

Also, there is an amazing middle-grade debut book coming this fall where the main character goes on a physical journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance. It includes many of the themes a reader will find in Macy’s story, but it is told in the most fantastical, magical way, and I literally couldn’t stop reading until I reached the very last page. So good! Marikit and the Ocean of Stars by Caris Avendano Cruz is inspired by Filipino folklore, and should be on everyone’s must-read list. 

Shari: These are fantastic suggestions! Tell us, what are you reading these days?

Lakita: Chester Keene Cracks the Code by Kekla Magoon, Swim Team by Johnnie Christmas and Nura and the Immortal Palace by M.T. Khan. I’m currently trying to get my hands on an early copy of Tumble by Celia C. Perez and Eden’s Everdark by Karen Strong! 

Shari: More awesome books!  I just read the first two and loved them! Can you tell us about what you are working on next?

Lakita: I’m currently working on my second middle grade novel due out next year. There are strong friendship elements in this next Middle-Grade as well, but something happens to the main character, beyond her control, that will affect how she views herself, how her friends react, and her community at large. For most of Macy’s story, she was actively making up lies to try to win a friend over. But, what happens when you already have the bestie, and a physical struggle changes the way your bestie sees you?   

Shari: I’m already looking forward to it!  Where can our readers go to find out more about you and your writing?

Lakita: I’m on Twitter and Instagram at @LakitaWrites and I try to keep my website updated with new releases

Shari: Thank you so much for chatting with me about your new book!  

Lakita: Thank you. I’ve been following the MG Book Village for years online so I was very excited to connect!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lakita Wilson is a graduate of Vermont College of Fine Arts studying Writing for Children and Young Adults. Her middle grade manuscript won the 2017 SCBWI On-the-Verge Emerging Voices Award. On Instagram, you can find her posting about black culture on her account @welovedthe90s, which has over 72K followers, and promoting diverse children’s literature on her account @lakitareads, which has over 25K followers. Lakita lives in Maryland with her two children and Shih-Tzu.

Interview with Debbi Michiko Florence about SWEET AND SOUR

*Thanks to Adrianna Cuevas for sharing her interview with Debbi

I’m excited to present an amazing author to Middle Grade Book Village! Debbi Michiko Florence’s latest book, Sweet and Sour, is a delightful contemporary middle grade about friendship and shifting relationships.

For as long as she can remember, Mai has spent every summer in Mystic, Connecticut visiting family friends. And hanging out with her best-friend-since-birth, Zach Koyama, was always the best part.
Then two summers ago everything changed. Zach humiliated Mai, proving he wasn’t a friend at all. So when Zach’s family moved to Japan, Mai felt relieved. No more summers together. No more heartache.
But this year, the Koyamas have returned and the family vacation is back on. And if Mai has to spend the summer around Zach, the least she can do is wipe away the memory of his betrayal… by coming up with the perfect plan for revenge!

Only Zach isn’t the boy he used to be, and Mai’s memories of their last fateful summer aren’t the whole truth of what happened between them. Now she’ll have to decide if she can forgive Zach, even if she can never forget.

Let’s learn more about Sweet and Sour with Debbi!

Of the three middle grade characters you’ve created so far- Keiko, Jenna, and Mai- is there one that you think you’re most similar to? Does Mai share any similar traits with you?

I think there is a little of me in every character I write, but I am probably the most like Keiko – a people pleaser who prefers to avoid conflict. As for Mai, we both love birds/birding and BTS. And like Mai, I have, in the past, made assumptions about friends’ actions. I think it’s that whole conflict avoidance thing, but I am making an effort to be better about speaking up.

This is now your third middle grade novel. What would you say characterizes a ‘Debbi Michiko Florence’ book?

My third middle grade novel!!! Such a dream come true to write for middle graders! I think readers of my middle grade books can expect themes of friendship and crushes with Japanese American main characters. Oh, and happy/hopeful endings!

Authors often hear that it’s difficult to have upper middle grade characters. What has been your experience so far writing older adolescent characters? Did you get any pushback from agents or editors wanting you to age them down or push them into the Young Adult space?

Here’s the funny thing – I started out trying to write YA, but was told my voice was too young. And at the time (15+ years ago), it was not as accepted to write about romance in MG. So it is truly a thrill to write for the upper middle grade audience and to be able to explore changing friendships and those first crush/romantic experiences. I haven’t had any pushback from my agent or editor, but I do wish there were a little more wiggle room in the industry/bookstores to write 13-year-old characters  – that seems to be the (imaginary) dividing line that can push a book into YA. 

Mai clearly has the absolute best taste in music. Why did you decide to put BTS in Sweet and Sour?

As I was developing characters for this book, one of the questions I asked about Mai was what kind of music did she like? My daughter was a big fan (ARMY) of BTS and was encouraging me to listen to their music. She even made me a special playlist. So I decided Mai liked them, too. But as I fell in love with BTS and their music, they became a very important part of Mai’s life, too. And then that ending scene (no spoilers) flashed before my eyes – and I knew BTS had to be a bigger part of the overall story.

What’s coming up next for you?

I just finished line edits of my next middle grade, This Is How I Roll, coming out with the Scholastic Wish line in 2023. This is a story about 12-year-old Sana Mikami who dreams of being like her famous sushi chef dad, but not only does he refuse to teach her, he won’t let her hang out while he’s being filmed for a documentary. When she meets a cute boy, Koji Yamada, and he encourages her creativity in the kitchen, the two start making online cooking tutorials. Sana keeps this from her best friend and her parents. But keeping secrets also means lying, and lying can lead to trouble. Writing this book made me hungry! 

Debbi Michiko Florence is the author of middle grade novels Keep It Together, Keiko Carter, a Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection and New England Book Award finalist and Just Be Cool, Jenna Sakai, starred review from Kirkus, Amazon Best Books, and a Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection. Her newest novel is Sweet and Sour, publishing in the summer of 2022. She is also the author of three chapter books series including Jasmine Toguchi (JLG selections, the Amelia Bloomer and CCBC Choices lists, and a Cybils Award winner) and co-authored a picture book biography, Niki Nakayama: A Chef’s Tale in 13 Bites which received starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly and Booklist.
A former classroom teacher, Debbi has spoken on panels at conferences and book festivals, taught writing workshops for children and adults, and loves doing author visits at schools and libraries. She is on the faculty of The Highlights Foundation.

Before becoming a full-time writer, Debbi was a raptor rehabilitator, outdoor educator, and a zoo educator. A third-generation Japanese American, born and raised in California, Debbi now lives in Connecticut with her husband, rescue dog, and bunny where she writes in her studio, The Word Nest. She enjoys running and hiking, and loves to travel with her husband and daughter. Her favorite foods are sushi, ramen, and chocolate.

Interview with Meera Trehan about The View from the Very Best House in Town

Anne: Hello, Meera! How lovely of you to stop by MG Book Village today to chat about your debut novel, The View from the Very Best House in Town. It hit shelves earlier this year, and I loved it. Would you please give readers a super-brief summary of the story?

Meera: Sure! This story has been described as part thriller, part friendship story and part real estate listing.

Anne: Hahaha. Oh, sorry to interrupt. Please go on!

Meera: It’s about Asha and Sam, two autistic seventh graders who’ve been friends for so long that they take friendship for granted, just as Asha takes for granted that Donnybrooke, the mansion that sits on the highest hill in town, is the very best there is. But when Sam is accepted to the snobbish Castleton Academy, he starts to pull away from Asha. Even worse, Sam starts spending his free time with Prestyn, Asha’s nemesis, who lives at Donnybrooke. Ever since a housewarming party gone wrong, Prestyn has forbidden Asha from setting foot inside.

Who is Asha without Sam? And who will she be when it becomes clear that Prestyn’s interest in Sam might not be so friendly?

Anne: That’s great. Your chapters alternate between three characters’ points-of-view (POV): Asha, Sam, and… the house. The house! Or I should say mansion. Ha! (The mansion would prefer that I call it that.) My question is: how did you come up with the idea of writing chapters from a mansion’s POV?

Meera: The process of creative writing can bring things out from your subconscious that you didn’t even know were there. I certainly didn’t realize I had a pompous mansion (Donnybrooke thanks you for using the correct terminology) lurking in my head until I started this book. Donnybrooke’s voice came to me in bed one night, and it amused me so much I decided to try to write it down. It was so much fun, the process snowballed from there. The more I wrote, the more I realized Donnybrooke wasn’t just for humor; it allowed me to develop characters and explore themes in a way I simply couldn’t through a human POV. So it stuck!

Anne: Donnybrooke is quite full of itself, and I enjoyed the levity it brought to the story. How hard was it to craft that voice?

Meera: It was surprisingly easy to craft at least a rough version of the voice—I had a far easier time with it than any of my human characters. When I queried, Donnybrooke’s voice was in first person, but it was a little inconsistent and occasionally too over-the-top. (Donnybrooke might dispute that it’s ever possible to be too over-the-top, but most publishing professionals would disagree.) After I signed with my agent, Molly Ker Hawn, she suggested I try drafting Donnybrooke in the third person, which was just what was needed to smooth it out, yet still keep the humor and everything else that made me want to write from its perspective in the first place.

Also, I had originally conceived of Donnybrooke as simply a narrator but realized as I went along that it was a character in need of its own arc. So that took some stepping back. I knew where I wanted Donnybrooke to be at the end, and I had to backtrack to figure out its journey to get there.

Anne: This is a friendship story—and sometimes a lack-of-friendship story. The relationships ring true, and some scenes broke my heart. I wondered how much of the story reflected your own life. When you were in middle school, did you have to figure out how to deal with mean girls or bullies? What is autobiographical and what is purely fictional?

Meera: While the specifics of the story are fictional, the emotions are certainly ones that I’ve experienced time and again as a kid—and as adult! Friendships can be so complicated. While I’ve been lucky to have some lifelong friends, even my closest friendships have had ebbs and flows to them. I’ve also had friendships fade in ways that have felt bewildering and sad. When I was younger, I remember so clearly feeling that certain friends had moved on to a cooler stage of their lives, and somehow I had missed the memo. I’ve also been in situations where I’ve had to acknowledge that my friend wasn’t treating me well and I needed to respect myself enough to either move on or reset our relationship. Hard stuff! I tried to bring the truth of my experiences to this book.

Also, when I was in school, I was teased for the various things that set me apart from my peers, and I longed to change those things about myself, even as I knew what my peers were saying was wrong. I am also embarrassed to say, when I was a kid, sometimes I was on the wrong side of those interactions. While I wasn’t the instigator, I did have friends in middle school who were unkind to more vulnerable peers, and I didn’t necessarily speak up when I should have. There are characters in the book who are bystanders and who, like me, have to make a choice on whether to do better.

Anne: It’s really good of you to say this. I suspect that at one time or another, all of us might be guilty of not speaking up when we should have.

Meera: What surprised me as an adult—and part of what motivated me to write this book—is that these dynamics don’t necessarily end in middle school. They just become more subtle. And sometimes, maybe due to their own anxiety, grownups send the message to their kids that they should value social status and exclusivity over kindness and inclusivity. All of the parents in the book want their kids to be happy. But not all of them make the best choices.

Anne: Right. Some of the parents are real problems in the story. But towards the end, a positive moment comes when Asha recalls her mom saying that “people have all sorts of reasons for doing things, and usually it’s more about them than you.” (When I was in middle school, my dad taught me the same.) When you started writing, did you set out to incorporate this truth into the story, or did it emerge along the way?

Meera: I don’t ever set out to write a particular lesson in a story. That said, I have a certain worldview and it inevitably comes through on the page. Without giving away any spoilers, I can say that that sentence in particular takes place in a scene that was emotional for me to write. I was just trying to be as honest as I could, and that’s what emerged.

I’m glad to know your dad taught you the same! It’s a lesson I still have to remind myself of sometimes.

Anne: Will you be writing more novels for middle grade readers? What are you working on now?

Meera: Yes! I am currently working on a middle grade fantasy with snow. A lot of snow.

Anne: Brrrrr! Finally, please tell readers where they can go to learn more about you and your work?

Meera: My website is and my Twitter handle is @writemeera. I love to connect with readers and writers!

Anne: Thank you so much for stopping by MG Book Village, and for writing such a great story for middle grade readers!

Meera: Thank you for having me! MG Book Village is such a great resource and I’m so happy we’ve had the chance to chat.

Meera Trehan

Meera Trehan grew up in the Washington, DC suburbs where she read as much as she could, memorized poems, and ate enough cookies to earn the nickname “Monster” after the Cookie Monster. After attending the University of Virginia and Stanford Law School, she practiced public interest law for over a decade before turning to writing for children. Her debut, THE VIEW FROM THE VERY BEST HOUSE IN TOWN, released from Walker US/Candlewick in February 2022 and has been named a Junior Library Guild Gold Selection and an Amazon Editor’s Pick.

Anne (A.B.) Westrick is today’s MG Book Village interviewer. She’s the author of the older-MG novel Brotherhood. You can learn more about Anne on the MG Book Village “About” page and at her website,

Cover Reveal for LOGAN FOSTER AND THE SHADOW OF DOUBT by Shawn Peters

Kathie: Hi Shawn, and welcome back to MG Book Village! Thanks for asking us to be part of the cover reveal for the sequel to your debut novel, THE UNFORGETTABLE LOGAN FOSTER, which released earlier this year. Please tell us a bit about your upcoming book, THE UNFORGETTABLE LOGAN FOSTER AND THE SHADOW OF DOUBT, and when we might expect to see it on shelves?

Shawn: Thank you, Kathie. It’s so cool to be back, chatting  with you and MG Book Village for the cover reveal of THE UNFORGETTABLE LOGAN FOSTER AND THE SHADOW OF DOUBT, which is due out from HarperCollins on January 3rd, 2023. 

This sequel to my debut finds Logan, plus his super-powered foster folks, Gil and Margie, trying to settle into their new secret identities and learning how to be an actual family in a new community not too far away from where they lived in the first book. They’re hoping that after barely surviving – individually and as a family– the conflict with the nearly immortal supervillainess, Necros, they might actually have some downtime. But of course, I’m a cruel, sadistic MG writer, so I couldn’t let them have that. Logan still has his best pal, Elena, supporting him as her own powers grow, and he’s making some new friends as well. But when Logan uncovers a few clues as to how he became an orphan, he is once again at odds with MASC, the secret organization in charge of all superheroes. It’s not long before Logan has to decide to who to trust and how far he’s willing to go to get answers. 

Kathie: Many writers say writing a sequel is more difficult than the first book. What was the experience like for you?

Shawn: I’ll buck the trend and say it wasn’t harder for me, because I’ve been planning the basic story for almost seven years, ever since I finished the first draft of book one. Also, having an editor to work with from the start and real deadlines to hit were both excellent motivators. I did have to do a major, structural revision last summer to make the story really tick at the right pace, which was the hardest rewrite I’ve ever done. But working with Dave (my editor, David Linker), I felt like I knew it would make the book stronger if I got it right. I hope I did accomplish that. I do feel this is an even better book, end to end, than my debut, with more twists and higher stakes for the characters.

Kathie: Did you have a sense of what would happen in this book before you sat down to write, or did it sort of figure itself out as you went along?

Shawn: I did, as I mentioned above, because I’d always had an idea for book two and beyond (if I am fortunate enough to continue the series). But for me, plotting out the story is a completely different process than writing the book, because my characters always surprise me along the way once I start drafting. In that stage, it’s a bit like doing improv. I know what my characters want, what they’re afraid of, and where they have to get. But what they say and how they react to what’s said to them is fluid, and I try to leave room in my outlines for things to change if the characters are being authentic to their personalities and motivations. 

Kathie: What’s one thing you discovered about Logan writing this book that you didn’t know about him before?

Shawn: I discovered that Logan’s penchant for total honesty and his desire to be guided by facts over feelings were a lot easier before he had people he truly cared for. Now that he has a family and a best friend and new people who want to be a part of his life, he has to think about who he’s honest with and what’s the cost of keeping secrets. Both are much simpler when you’re an orphan waiting until you’re old enough to start life on your own terms. Logan’s emotions are so much closer to the surface, which are hard for him to handle, and really exciting for me to write. 

Kathie: Let’s chat a bit about the book’s cover. You have the same illustrator, Petur Antonsson, who designed the cover and did the internal illustrations. Can you share one Easter egg with us that fans of the first book might notice?

Shawn: First off, Petur’s work continues to amaze me and I feel so fortunate to have him involved. I think his covers and illustrations are what make these books feel like part of a cinematic/comic book universe. But I was in love with this new cover from his earliest sketches. The debut’s cover was dark and felt contained, which was perfect for a story about a kid about to reveal a whole hidden reality or superheroes and villains. This cover, with its blue skies, huge wall of glass and airport location is just a window to a bigger world. There are battles and airplanes and a sense that Logan’s story is going beyond where it started, which is all true. As for an Easter Egg, well, if you look at both covers, you might notice a bespectacled dude who is surprised by the superhuman activity going on in front of him, and if you say he looks a bit like me when I’m clean shaven, I wouldn’t disagree. 

Kathie: OK, it’s time for the big reveal!

Kathie: I love that there’s so much action to draw a reader’s attention. What’s one element that you really like?

Shawn: Just one? Okay, I’ll admit it, it’s the travel pillow and sleep mask on Gil and Margie. When I saw those, I became that emoji with the heart-eyes instantly. Those details get at the essence of how Margie and Gil just want the things that many families take for granted, like getting to travel together. They just look so excited for their flight, while Logan, Elena and others are much more aware of the impending battle.

Kathie: If you could offer debut authors one piece of advice you learned this year, what would it be?

Shawn: I still don’t feel qualified to give anyone advice on anything but making dad jokes, but I’d say debuts should focus on enjoying the heck out of those couple weeks or month around their publication day, when people are talking about your book and celebrating it. It’s a feeling that can’t last (unless you’re fortunate enough to be an instant best-seller) so it should be fully embraced while it’s happening. 

Oh, and the one exception is to take time and get yourself into events and panels as far in advance as you can. I’m terrible about that. I was so focused on my pub date and the months after, I totally missed all the deadlines for Spring/Summer stuff. 

Kathie: Remind us where we can go to learn more about you and your writing?

Shawn: My website is and it usually has info about upcoming books and events. But I’ve pretty active on Twitter @ShawnTweeters in terms of day to day stuff, and I’ve got a treasure trove of superhero puns available on tiktok (

Kathie: Thanks again for letting us be part of your cover reveal, Shawn, and I look forward to following your journey toward its release.

Shawn: Thank you, Kathie. The amazing, booking people who are a part of the MG Book Village (literally and as a community) have been the most supportive folks of my work and all sorts of kidlit debuts and I’m thrilled to keep sharing good news with you!

Shawn Peters has written a little bit about a lot of things in a lot of places. Ads for huge premium cable networks and all kinds of small businesses. Movie ideas that ended up on the shelf and domestic date-nights that ended up in the newspapers. Columns about fantasy sports and books about a neurodiverse hero in the making. He lives in Massachusetts with his wife, who is the best teacher on the planet, two kids, a dog, and a cat that made him retype this by walking across the keyboard. THE UNFORGETTABLE LOGAN FOSTER was his debut middle grade book, and the sequel, THE UNFORGETTABLE LOGAN FOSTER AND THE SHADOW OF DOUBT will be published on January 3rd, 2023. You can find Shawn at his website , on Twitter @ShawnTweeters or even on TikTok @writtenbyshawnpeters .