Kathie: Hi Jasmine, and welcome to MG Book Village. It’s a pleasure to have the opportunity to talk with you about your new middle-grade novel, A ROVER’S STORY (released on October 4th from HarperCollins). Can you give us a brief synopsis of it, please?
Jasmine: Thank you! It’s a pleasure to be here to chat about it. So my new book, A ROVER’S STORY, is about a Mars rover named Resilience, nicknamed Res—the novel follows Res from his creation in the NASA lab to his dangerous mission to Mars. We watch as Res develops relationships with the NASA scientists as well as the other robots in the lab. All the machines are able to talk to one another in a way that the humans in the book aren’t aware of—sort of like Charlotte’s Web, but with robots! The book is about a lot of things—space adventure, bravery, friendship, and feelings. Especially feelings. Res worries a lot about his feelings—that he has them, that they are the wrong ones, and I really hope it is a book that will provide a framework for young readers to talk about their emotions while also having fun reading about a space adventure.
Kathie: In the reader letter at the start of the book, you mention that the story was inspired by a question from your daughter about the feelings of a Mars rover. I’m curious to know if your daughter read your book or what discussions may have happened with her as you wrote the story.
Jasmine: This is such a great question! So I’m actually answering these questions right now from the Atlanta airport—I was lucky enough to attend Decatur Book Festival this weekend—but when I get home, I’m going to read aloud a few more chapters of A ROVER’S STORY to my daughters. We just started last week when I got the finished copies. I wanted to wait until I had the finished copy because the interior sketches Matt Rockefeller did for the book are so fun. Which is all to say, we aren’t that far into it yet, but Juniper (my youngest daughter who asked the question that inspired the book) seems to love it so far, and that makes my heart very happy. It’s my first book I’ve ever gotten to share with them so that’s very special! I’m hoping when we finish we can have some big conversations about what it means to be scared, what it means to miss home, and what it means to be a friend.
Kathie: A ROVER’S STORY is told mostly from the perspective of Res, the rover being sent to Mars to do scientific research for NASA. How did your writing change to capture the voice of robot as opposed to a person?
Jasmine: I definitely dug deep to try to authentically craft a voice for Res. It was an exercise in imagination, right? I finally settled on a sparse voice, which to me seemed right for a robot, but it has its own texture and cadence, which hopefully help convey the fullness and complexity of Res’s heart and insights. Creating the voice wasn’t actually all that different from creating the voice for human characters. I followed the same process of trying to really get to know Res, and from there, I figured out what he would sound like.
Kathie: Can you tell us a bit about the research you did and an interesting fact that you didn’t include in the book?
Jasmine: A lot of the research I did ended up in the book, just perhaps not in so much detail. For example, at one point in the book, the reader does get a summary of Res’s physical makeup, but there are just so many cool facts about each part of the rover from how intricately engineered the wheels are to how powerful the cameras are, and some of those facts aren’t in the book in full detail because they would sort of slow down the narrative. I also think it’s so cool that Fly, the drone helicopter character in the book, is based off of Ingenuity, the drone helicopter currently on Mars, which is the first object humans have made fly on a planet other than Earth. So all the stuff about the helicopter flying on Mars is actually based on real science!
Kathie: If Res could ask Sophie one question before he leaves for Mars, what do you think it would be?
Jasmine: I’m going to cheat and have two questions. First, have you ever felt scared and what did you do? And two, Do you think I’ll get to come back home to Earth?
Kathie: What’s one thing you learned about yourself as a writer from creating this story?
Jasmine: That I’m the happiest when I’m really stretching my imagination. I hope to continue to get to push myself and my imagination in future projects.
Kathie: Is there something you wish an interviewer would ask you about this book?
Jasmine: You’ve asked such lovely questions so I’m not sure you missed anything about the book, but I would love the chance to shout out some middle grade books I’ve loved this year like THOSE KIDS FROM FAWN CREEK by Erin Entrada Kelly, THE TRYOUT by Christina Soontornvat, and JENNIFER CHAN IS NOT ALONE by Tae Keller. It’s been such a great year for middle grade books!
Kathie: Do you have another writing project on the go, and can you share anything about it with us?
Jasmine: Here’s the truth, I was working on a book for the past year, and just recently, I’ve had the very sad realization that I’m not sure it’s working. I love the characters, but I think they might be in the wrong story. So I’m back to the drawing board, but I’m very excited about a new idea I have. It’s too early to really say anything about it, but it’s another MG book.
Kathie: Thanks so much for answering my questions today, Jasmine, and I wish you all the best with the book’s release.
Jasmine: Thank you so much, Kathie! I’m very excited for readers to meet Res.
Jasmine Warga is the author of the New York Times bestseller Other Words for Home, a Newbery Honor Book and Walter Honor Book for Younger Readers, and The Shape of Thunder. Her teen books, Here We Are Now and My Heart and Other Black Holes, have been translated into over twenty-five languages. She lives in the Chicago area with her family. You can visit Jasmine online at www.jasminewarga.com.
One thought on “Interview with Jasmine Warga about A ROVER’S STORY”
I cannot wait to read Jasmine’s new book!