Devlin Quick: Digging for Trouble - Author Interview

In this new installment, Devlin heads for the Badlands of Montana with her best friend Katie to dig out dinosaur bones, but soon suspects foul play when Katie’s found fossils are switched out for fakes. The good news? With Devlin’s police commissioner mother at home in New York, no one can stop Devlin from investigating! But Montana is a treacherous place for finding answers. And when the mystery takes Dev and Katie back to Manhattan--to the Museum of Natural History--the case gets much more complicated, even with Dev's friend Booker there to help. Dev has to use her brains, brawn, and yes, okay, the lessons learned from her Mom if she wants to dig up the truth once and for all.

Linda Fairstein is best known as the internationally bestselling author of the Alex Cooper mystery series for adults, which have been translated into more than a dozen languages. She first dreamed of writing mysteries in the sixth grade. A voracious reader of Nancy Drew, Linda penned her first caper for kids, The Secret of Apple Tree Farm at the age of 11. Last fall, Fairstein returned to her childhood passion with the publication of Into the Lion’s Den. Prior to writing, Linda worked at the Manhattan District Attorney's office as the head of the Special Victims Unit from 1976 to 2002. She lives in Manhattan, Martha’s Vineyard, and Big Timber, Montana.

Welcome to Teachers Who Read - we are students of Mrs. Thomas's and Mrs. Kuehler's class!

Tell us about your most recent book.

DIGGING FOR TROUBLE is my new book.  It’s the second one in a series of mysteries for young readers, featuring a twelve-year old New York City sleuth named Devlin Quick, who loves to solve crimes with her friends.  In this story, Devlin is vacationing in Montana, where she and her friend Katie go on a ‘dig’ with scientists to look for dinosaur fossils. Katie makes a terrific discovery, but it seems to Dev that someone has switched out the bones.  So when she gets back to her favorite museum - Natural History, in Manhattan - she and Booker Dibble decide to explore the creaky old attic of the museum to look for clues.

 When did you decide you wanted to be an author? 

I took a creative writing class in sixth grade, and by that time I knew that I loved to tell stories and write them down.  I dreamed about becoming a writer when I read my favorite books back then - novels by Louisa May Alcott and short stories by Arthur Conan Doyle.  I went to law school and became a prosecutor, but I never gave up my dream of writing books, and that job gave me plenty of ideas for mysteries and things to write about.
What were your middle grade years like? 4th, 5th grade? Did you enjoy reading or writing? 

I’ve always loved reading.  I can still remember my mother reading to me before I knew how to read, before I went to sleep.  I especially liked the poems by Robert Louis Stevenson in A Child’s Garden of Verses, and I loved all the A.A. Milne poems, too.  I really enjoyed sports, but when I couldn’t be outside or it was time to go to bed, my greatest pleasure was reading books.  It was about 4th and 5th grade that I began to write my own stories, and write articles for the school newspaper.  Reading is a habit that really serves you well all your life, so I’m glad I started early.

When did you realize you were a writer?

As much as I wanted to be a writer, I suppose the first time I considered myself one was when my first book was published.  It was a serious non-fiction book about my career in the law, and it was very well-received.  I was enormously proud of it, since it is very hard to write an entire book and see it through to publication.  Then, I decided to go back to the dream I’d held on to, knowing that it would be fun to write mysteries.  I grew up on Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, so that kind of story-telling was a huge influence on me. I’ve written nineteen novels for grown-ups, and two for middle-grade writers, so I certainly consider myself a writer now!

Do you have any plans for continuing The Devlin Quick Mysteries?

Yes!  As long as young readers connect with Devlin and Booker and enjoy their adventures, I’ll keep writing stories for them.  They will be back next year in  SECRETS FROM THE DEEP, about a beach adventure which turns up some buried treasure.
What was your favorite book as a child? What's your favorite middle grade book currently (aside from your own)? 

My favorite book as a child was LITTLE WOMEN.  I loved the rich story-telling about the lives of the family that were so impacted by the Civil War - so it had a bit of history and a lot of drama.  My favorite middle-school books now are the THEO BOONE, KID LAWYER novels by John Grisham.  I don’t know Mr. Grisham, but I have read every one of his grown-up books and I admire him so much.

What connections can students make with your book/books? Why should our teacher put your books in our library? 

It’s my hope that students connect with my books in a number of ways.  Devlin Quick is a very independent character, with a lot of courage and a loyalty to her friends and family.  I had that same loyalty, but I had none of her courage as a kid, and none of her independence.  So as kids read these books, I hope they will think about whether they would have done what Devlin and her friends did - taking action to solve a mystery.  The qualities I admire about Dev’s interest in seeing justice done and helping those who need it are also lessons I hope to convey - gently, through the entertainment of a good story.  Many librarians have told me that there are not a lot of mysteries for young readers in this age range.  There is a ton of fantasy and lots of books about vampires…but I wanted to add mysteries seen through the eyes of real kids to the library shelves.  I hope they make it to your library!

If you could recommend any books to us as 4/5th graders, what would it be? 
You know more about the newest books.  I happen to love classics, so some of the books I’ve mentioned above as well as THE WITCH OF BLACKBIRD POND (which I read in middle school and I loved), BLACK BEAUTY, TREASURE ISLAND - ask your librarian about some of the old classics, which have lasted well through many decades.

Last question, any advice as young readers and writers?
I’ll give you the same advice I give to adults who ask about tips for wanting to become writers:  you have to read a lot, and you have to try to write something every day - maybe a journal entry. This way you are ‘in’ words all the time, absorbing good story-telling and how to use language.  You learn what kind of story-telling attracts you and how to create characters who come alive in your imagination.  Read and write.  Write and read.  And most of all, it should always be fun.

Thank you so much for writing books that keep us searching to solve mysteries! 

Thanks for the chance to ‘come’ to your class!  Linda Fairstein


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