Shari: I’m so happy to have a chance to talk with you today! Your book, A Season Most Unfair, is set for release next summer by Atheneum Books for Young Readers. Can you tell us a bit about it, please? JAC: A Season Most Unfair is set in thirteenth-century England, and it’s about a girl named Scholastica who has grown up helping her father in his candlemaking workshop. Since her father’s eyesight isn’t great, he relies on Tick to do detail work, and she finds a lot of meaning and purpose in it. But one day he decides to take on a proper apprentice – a boy – and Tick is no longer allowed in the workshop. She’s hurt and disappointed, but she’s also determined to prove to her father that she’s as good at making candles as any boy. Even if it means breaking the rules. Shari: Since your book is set in medieval England, how much research did you have to do before and during your writing, and what was the most fascinating fact you learned in your research? JAC: Fortunately for me, this isn’t my first book set in the middle ages, so this time around my research focused on the specifics of the culture of fairs in medieval England, particularly the Stourbridge Fair, where Tick and her father go to sell their candles. One interesting thing was how cosmopolitan English fairs were, even in the thirteenth century. You’d have people coming from all over the place to buy and sell, not only other parts of England and realms in Europe, but also Scandinavia and Muslim Spain and places like Antioch and Damascus and Constantinople. Everyone liked a fair. 😊 Shari: Can you tell us more about Tick, and what compelled you to write her story? What do you like best about her? JAC: Sometimes we in the modern world have a perception that girls and women in the middle ages didn’t have power, and while this is true in a lot of ways, it’s much more complicated than that. Tick is a reflection of how one kid responds to feelings of displacement and a consuming worry about losing her father’s love and—equally important to her—his respect. Tick is convinced that she and her father won’t have anything to talk about if they don’t have candlemaking, She’s also worried that he might treat her differently once she starts to grow up. Even though she lives at a time where her options are limited, Tick makes the most of what’s available to her. Shari: When writing A Season Most Unfair, which part came first – the setting, the characters, or the storyline? JAC: A Season Most Unfair came out of a challenge I presented myself: Write a book set in the past that centers a regular kid and their ordinary problems instead of someone coping with a big, society-altering trauma like war or corruption. While those types of books are important and moving, I wanted to explore what ordinary problems modern kids and medieval kids might have in common, and to encourage readers to see the past as something other than an unending parade of destruction and despair. That stuff was there, absolutely, but there was also joy and tenderness and families and friendship. Shari: How is A Season Most Unfair similar to your previous novels, and how is it different? JAC: If my books have a theme, it’s power relationships, especially ways in which kids can recognize unequal power, confront it, and develop communities and relationships that allow them to resist and fight against it. Tick’s response to the unfairness she experiences reflects the fact that there’s more than one way to resist unequal power, and it’s as important to focus on your desired outcome as it is your actions. Shari: Please tell us about the cover of your book, and who designed it? Did you have any involvement in the process? JAC: I was fortunate enough that my publisher was able to get the amazing Matt Rockefeller ( https://www.instagram.com/mcrockefeller/?hl=en) to create the cover. He did the cover for another book of mine, The Many Reflections of Miss Jane Deming, so when I saw his name I squee’d out loud. The jacket design is by Debra Sfetsios-Conover, who also did an amazing job. One neat thing that happened with this cover: the artist made sketches for four possible options, and I showed them to a class of fourth and fifth graders during a school visit and asked their opinions on which one cover they liked best. They had an overwhelming favorite – which just happened to be my first choice as well. 😊 Shari: It’s time for the big reveal!
Shari: I love all the details, and the way the title is positioned in the steam from the kettle! What were your thoughts when you first saw it?
JAC: I love how the artist chose details – the cats circling Tick, her expression, how the scene captures one of the core conflicts of the story. I love the summery feel, too, how the light falls through the trees and how the leaves swirl around just a little. It’s just lovely.
Shari: What kind of readers do you think will be drawn to this story, and what do you hope they take away from it?
JAC: I think this story will appeal to readers who’ve ever felt like they had something to prove, especially to an adult who was important to them. At the core, this is a story about a kid who isn’t sure her dad will look at her the same way once she grows up, who feels like she has to be helpful to earn his love. It will also appeal to readers who like a friendship story, who like seeing kids overcoming their differences and having one another’s backs.
Shari: Where can our readers go to find out more about you and your writing?
JAC: My website is
https://www.jandersoncoats.com/. I’m on Twitter way too much, Facebook sometimes, and Instagram not enough (all handles are @jandersoncoats). If you’re trying to cut down on your social media, I have a monthly-ish newsletter that’s mostly good book news, reading recommendations, and pictures of my cat: https://www.jandersoncoats.com/newsletter/. Thanks for your interest in my work!
Shari: Thank you so much for letting me be part of the cover reveal and chatting with me today.
JAC: Thanks so much for having me!
J. Anderson Coats has received two Junior Library Guild awards, two Washington State Book Awards, and earned starred reviews from Kirkus, School Library Journal, the Horn Book Review, and Shelf Awareness. Her newest books are . Her next middle grade historical, The Night Ride, a middle grade action-adventure about a girl determined to protect horses in danger, and Spindle and Dagger, a historical YA set in medieval Wales that deals with power dynamics and complicated relationships. She is also the author of The Green Children of Woolpit, R is for Rebel, The Many Reflections of Miss Jane Deming, and The Wicked and the Just A Season Most Unfair is forthcoming in 2023.