Hurricane Season: Author Interview

*Affiliated link to Amazon! 

For Fig’s dad, hurricane season brings the music.
For Fig, hurricane season brings the possibility of disaster.
Fig, a sixth grader, loves her dad and the home they share in a beachside town. She does not love the long months of hurricane season. Her father, a once-renowned piano player, sometimes goes looking for the music in the middle of a storm. Hurricane months bring unpredictable good and bad days. More than anything, Fig wants to see the world through her father’s eyes, so she takes an art class to experience life as an artist does. Then Fig’s dad shows up at school, confused and looking for her. Not only does the class not bring Fig closer to understanding him, it brings social services to their door.
As the walls start to fall around her, Fig is sure it’s up to her alone to solve her father’s problems and protect her family’s privacy. But with the help of her best friend, a cute girl at the library, and a surprisingly kind new neighbor, Fig learns she isn’t as alone as she once thought . . . and begins to compose her own definition of family.
Nicole Melleby’s Hurricane Season is a radiant and tender novel about taking risks and facing danger, about friendship and art, and about growing up and coming out. And more than anything else, it is a story about love—both its limits and its incredible healing power.

I found the storyline to be very intriguing. I loved Fig and I loved that she wanted so badly to be her father's keeper, but I do know there are moments in my students lives where they have to step back and understand they need to just be a kid. I liked the way Nicole explored that subject that tends to happen so often in middle grade classrooms. I loved all of the social issues interwoven, I just feel like with some kids it will definitely be too much, which is okay because not every book is for every kid, but I know wholeheartedly there are going to be kids out there who definitely need THIS EXACT STORY. 🌊

Early reviews of Hurricane Season:

“Fig Arnold is an original and irresistible heroine in a story full of hope, art, and love.” –R. J. Palacio, author of Wonder

“This debut novel—about taking risks and facing danger, about love and art, and about growing up and coming out—will make its way straight into your heart…stunning…I found it hard to put down.” –Confessions of a YA Reader

“Melleby’s debut novel includes two coming-out stories—Fig has a crush on an older girl—but integrates these elements naturally into its main story of the father-daughter relationship, as each struggles with how much to share with the other and when. Details involving art and science (STEM-oriented Fig tries to relate to her musician father and draws connections between his condition and Vincent van Gogh’s) lend specificity and keep the plotlines centering on LGBTQ+ identities and bipolar disorder from feeling overly formulaic.” –The Horn Book

Q: Tell us about your book, specifically the story behind the title.
A: My book is a story about the relationship between a daughter and father, struggling to stay afloat in the face of his bipolar disorder. The title, HURRICANE SEASON, captures the storm brewing both inside of their home, and in the Jersey Shore weather outside of it. Hurricane season is also the focus of the main character, Fig’s countdown—November 30th is both the end of hurricane season and the date of the upcoming follow up visit social services has with her and her dad.
Q: What was your inspiration behind Hurricane Season’s story line?
A: In spring 2017, my cousin was studying abroad in London. My aunt and uncle were planning a vacation to go out for a week to see him, and I basically invited myself along.  I was coming out of a pretty bad depression period, and hadn’t really been writing anything much, but I was ready to try something new. I knew I wanted to explore the relationship between a father and daughter…but that was pretty much all I had.

I wasn’t planning on writing during the trip—I planned on getting the much needed break and then coming home and trying. But I adjusted to the jet lag pretty quickly, and my family didn’t, so I had my mornings to myself. I knew that the National Gallery in London was free so I decided to check it out.

When I got to the Van Gogh paintings, there was a tour guide talking about Van Gogh’s mental illness, and there was something so unbelievable relatable about what he was saying, particularly since I was just coming out of my own depression. I ended up going to the gift shop and buying a book of Van Gogh’s letters and read them all on the plane ride home. By the time we landed, I knew exactly what I wanted to write.
Q: Will you explain a little bit about your writing life?
A: When I was around eight, I watched the Nickelodeon movie adaptation of Harriet the Spy. After I saw it, I immediately begged my parents to buy me notebooks just like Harriet had. I’ve wanted to be a writer ever since, though I didn’t exactly know for sure how to make a career of it. I actually got my BA in TV/Film, because I wanted to write for soap operas, and it was a bit later that I decided to get my MFA in Creative Writing and start focusing on novels again.

When I write, I like to be in bed (I know you’re not supposed to work in bed—but I love being comfortable!) with a huge cup of coffee, and my cat Gillian awkwardly splayed out in my lap. I don’t write to music, I find it distracting, but I do usually have the Food Network on in the background! I’ve also always been a “character first, plot later” kind of writer—which I think I get from my love of soap operas and their focus on character and relationships.
Q: What are some challenges unique to writing stories that encompass social issues? And how do you involve yourself in any issues that may arise with people out there who might question some of your characters?
A: First and foremost, the challenge is remembering who your audience is. I firmly believe you shouldn’t underestimate what kids can handle (and do handle in their everyday lives) so when I’m writing a story that deals with more social issues and “tougher topics”, I want to write it in a way that is true and real and not watered down for them. But they aren’t the ones necessarily purchasing the books—teachers and parents and librarians are the ones who get these books into the hands of these kids, so it’s important to keep them in mind, too, without letting that distract from the story you’re trying to tell. I think the best that I can do when issues arise is just continue to write the story—because it’s what I would have needed at a young age, too.
Q; What makes this book a perfect fit for middle grade classrooms?
A: It does deal with a lot of topics that some may view as “tougher” topics, but are ones that middle grade readers are living. Mental illness, budding sexualities—they’re experiencing it, too. I wrote this book so that they would know that they aren’t alone, that they’re seen, that I see them, and I think that’s why it’s a perfect fit for a classroom. You can start a lot of conversations around mental illness, around Van Gogh, and around the things that Fig feels and lives and goes through.
Q: What’s the best thing about being a writer?
A: Getting to tell stories! I’ve always loved being a storyteller. When I was really little, my family says I could make anything into a toy. I would play with little rocks, or utensils, or whatever was in front of me and make up elaborate stories with them. So, really, it’s always been about the stories for me. Now, I’d have to say the readers, particularly the middle grade audience themselves. It’s been just a joy to connect with them and hear their reactions (and opinions—of which they have many!) to my book. 
Q: How do you get started on your writing, and what advice would you give to middle grade students who are writing?
A: Like I said early, I’m very much a character first writer. Which means, I always start with coming up with a character, and worry about figuring out the plot as I go along. This…isn’t always great, but I’ve never been good at writing outlines. But to get started, sometimes you just have to…start, and treat it like a job (especially if that’s what you want it to be!) I try and carve out time during my day that I dedicate to writing, and I write. I don’t always write anything good…but sometimes you have to just push through the bad until you hit a groove. So, my advice would be…just write! And keep writing. If it’s what you love, be resilient.
Q: Future projects that you are currently working on? 
A: My second book, which comes out next spring! Playing off of my love of soap operas, it’s about a soap-loving 13-year-old Catholic school student with a complicated relationship with her mom, made more complicated when the main character has her first crush on another girl. I keep referring to it as a middle grade LADY BIRD meets SIMON VS THE HOMOSAPIEN AGENDA.
Q: What else would you like us to know?
A: Since I’ve talked so much about my love of soap operas, I’ll share that my main character, Fig (whose full name is Finola) was named after Finola Hughes who plays a character on General Hospital! (Most of my character names come from places like that!)


IMWAYR-May 6, 2019

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It's that time of year where my reading pile is growing faster than the dandelions in my front yard. I'm picking and choosing books that I know are going to be easy, quick reads. I also have a few audiobooks, like The Missing Piece of Charlie O'Reilly, ready to go for when I'm pulling weeds and cutting grass. What are you reading? 


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Blog Tour: Shouting at the Rain by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Shouting at the Rain by Lynda Mullaly Hunt (Nancy Paulsen Books: Out May 7, 2019)
Picture thanks to: Emily Montjoy (Instagram: mrsmontjoy)

Lynda Mullaly Hunt is an author that my students immediately recognize thanks to Fish in a Tree or One for the Murphy's. If they have read one, I always recommend the other. As always, a Nancy Paulsen published book never leaves me disappointed. I first used this book as a lesson before I had even finished. We analyzed her book cover and then inferred how they may be connected to the story. 

The kids did an amazing job of breaking apart the cover and truly engaging in what the story might be about without ever reading.

I would say that Lynda's stories are always ones that leave me feeling fulfilled. Maybe in a positive emotional way, or not, but they always let me know that there are kids experiencing these same emotions and they are not alone, at all. 
Shouting at the Rain was no different.

Delsie lives with her grandma and feels abandoned by her biological mom (my real life in a nutshell, and always prayed I had had a book that I could relate to growing up) - Delsie is also feeling like her best friend has abandoned her. In trying to navigate the new of growing up, middle school ages, and life in general, Delsie learns that not everybody has the same desires at the same age or within the same rate. Delsie's always BFF Brandy has made acquaintances with her new BFF Tressa, whom Delsie does not feel comfortable around (for valid reasons), but as much as she's always loved a good storm, the brewing that is happening in her life is not the storm she wants to ride out. I firmly believe students need this book in their hands to learn that as you grow older friends change, and it's okay - family may not always be blood, and that's okay, and that being true to yourself, is always the number one priority. 

While we were analyzing the cover students noticed so much about how intentional the illustrator was with the placement of specific things. I shared with Lynda on Twitter and she also felt that her cover portrayed her story so well, and my kids were beyond excited to have analyzed it successfully. 

After, I shared my advanced copy with a student whose review I would like to share: 

I really loved reading Shouting At The Rain and Fish in a Tree! In Shouting At The Rain,
 I really liked how the main character was an orphan and she discovered different parts of her 
history. I also really liked how I got a different view of different characters, I got cool views 
of them, got to see them and then got to know them. I thought that was really cool. 

My favorite part was when he (I can't remember his name!) tried to flip a crepe and it got stuck 
on the ceiling! That was so funny to me! 

I want to ask, how many pets do you have and what they are their names? I love animals. 
I also want to ask, are there any books you've written that haven't been published or books 
I should read that I don't know about? What are your favorite books? 

To purchase: Click on the picture above! 

Book Description
From the author of the New York Times bestseller Fish in a Tree comes a compelling story about perspective and learning to love the family you have.
     Delsie loves tracking the weather--lately, though, it seems the squalls are in her own life. She's always lived with her kindhearted Grammy, but now she's looking at their life with new eyes and wishing she could have a "regular family." Delsie observes other changes in the air, too--the most painful being a friend who's outgrown her. Luckily, she has neighbors with strong shoulders to support her, and Ronan, a new friend who is caring and courageous but also troubled by the losses he's endured. As Ronan and Delsie traipse around Cape Cod on their adventures, they both learn what it means to be angry versus sad, broken versus whole, and abandoned versus loved. And that, together, they can weather any storm.

Author Bio

Lynda Mullaly Hunt is the author of New York Times bestseller Fish in a Treeand Bank Street Best Book One for the Murphys. She's a former teacher, and holds writers retreats for the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. She lives in Connecticut with her husband, two children, impetuous beagle, and beagle-loathing cat.

April 22 – A Gingerly Review – Review
April 23 – So She Tries – Review
April 24 – KidLitExchange – Review
April 25 – InRandom – Review

April 29 – Book Princess Reviews – Listicle: Books that take us through an emotional storm
April 30 – Mama Panda Bear – Review
May 1 – Ms. Yingling Reads – Review
May 2 – Elysian Artiste – Moodboard + Review

May 6 – Teachers Who Read – Review + Classroom Lesson
May 7 – Two Points of Interest – Review
May 8 – Just Commonly – Q&A
May 9 – Homeschool on the Range – Inspired by the Book: Learning Unit