Monday, September 8, 2014

BACKWARDS MOON: a Magical Fiction Debut from Mary Losure and Book Giveaway! by Joanna Roddy

Update: We are extending our giveaway! Winner will be announced Tuesday morning, September 16! Send your friends over to comment for a chance to win, and don't forget to leave a way to contact you in your comment!

Photo credit: Holiday House
BACKWARDS MOON from Mary Losure, a successful children's non-fiction writer prior to this debut novel, is about two young witches, Bracken and Nettle, whose coven is threatened when the modern world encroaches on their hidden valley. Bracken and Nettle must travel to a human city and risk The Fading of their powers to find a magical door to another world where their kind can survive. BACKWARDS MOON has a blend of adventure, magic, and innocence that will appeal to young readers. Mary Losure also has a background as a former public radio reporter and environmental themes emerge from the story as the witches experience the ill effects of modern human existence.

Losure wrote THE FAIRY RING, the true story of the girls behind the Cottingley fairy photographs, which won a Booklist Editor's Choice honor for non-fiction in 2012. She's also written WILD BOY, the real story of the Savage of Aveyron and is working on a forthcoming book about Isaac Newton entitled ISAAC THE ALCHEMIST.

Photo credit: Don Losure
I caught up with Mary Losure to ask her some questions about BACKWARDS MOON and her author experiences:

1.  Prior to BACKWARDS MOON, you've written non-fiction for children: WILD BOY and THE FAIRY RING, bringing creative storytelling to historical incidents. What led you to your first fiction project and how was the experience of writing fiction like and unlike writing non-fiction? Do you anticipate that your readers will be the same as those who read your non-fiction? 

Years ago, when I was a journalist and before I’d written anything for children, I thought I would try writing fiction as an experiment. So that’s when BACKWARDS MOON began. I loved writing it, but it was HARD, very different from nonfiction. In nonfiction, you have a roadmap for your plot, but in a novel you can go anywhere you want … it’s just that it doesn’t always work!  So it took me a long time to learn how to make a novel work. I do think that once I did, it helped me write WILD BOY and THE FAIRY RING in a much more engaging way than I would have.  Now (with the help of my wonderful editor at Holiday House, Julie Amper) BACKWARDS MOON is out, too!  My hope is that all three books will appeal to the same readers.

2. How has your background as a public radio reporter on environmental issues served as an influence on the themes explored in BACKWARDS MOON?  

One of the issues I reported on for years was the increasing loss of what scientists call “biodiversity”: all the beautiful birds and plants and frogs and toads and insects (not to mention tigers, elephants, polar bears, and many other animals) that are fading away in our lifetime. So when as a journalist I sat down to write a book of fiction for kids, I got the idea of witches as an endangered species. The story grew from there. I realized after a while that an environmental “message” didn’t work in a novel, so now it’s just there in the background.

3. What are some of your favorite children's books?

Half Magic and other magic books in that series. The Borrowers. The Lord of the Rings.  As a very young reader I loved My Father’s Dragon and later a book called The Witch Family. Charlotte’s Web, of course, and the Laura Ingalls Wilder books.

4. What is your writing process? When do you write, how frequently, and how long does it take you to develop and execute an idea? Did the story change significantly from when you first began writing it and when it was finished?

I write in the mornings, pretty much every weekday all morning. It takes me years to develop and execute an idea.

With a novel, as I mentioned earlier, the story can change drastically. With nonfiction, the process is more that you discover the story. You can’t change it, but you learn what parts of the historical record bring your characters alive. Then you leave everything else out --all the dutiful facts that don’t pertain to the hero’s story but instead bog the book down.

5. Tell us about your upcoming project about Isaac Newton and anything else you may be working on. Will you be writing any more fiction?

Thanks for asking! The Newton project is called ISAAC THE ALCHEMIST. It’s nonfiction, the story of an angry, lonely boy searching for answers that may lie in the world of magic. The book takes place mostly in his boyhood. The primary sources are Isaac’s childhood notebook and two books he is known to have read as a child.  He grows up to be the world’s greatest alchemist. Along the way, he discovers the laws of the universe and becomes famous forever as Isaac Newton. It will be out in the fall of 2015 from Candlewick Press.

I do definitely plan to write more fiction! I have a sequel in mind for BACKWARDS MOON, and but right now I’m working on another (non-witch related) middle grade novel.  I always like to keep a number of book projects cooking, so when I get stuck on one, I can set it aside, work on something else, then come back later and try to get through the stuck place.

6. In BACKWARDS MOON, do you identify more with impulsive Nettle or the more thoughtful Bracken?

Nettle, I have to say.  Nettle acts first and thinks second, which I tend to do. I worry more than Nettle does, though.

7. Bracken's raccoon friend is a bright spot in the story. Do you think it's possible for humans to have a more harmonious relationship with wildlife?

I think yes, it is possible.  We’re working on it. If we were given a second chance, I don’t think we would drive passenger pigeons to extinction.  Today, people would know better than to shoot the very last ivory-billed woodpecker. It has taken centuries, but we are gradually gaining a great understanding of animal intelligence and the value of wildlife in our world.

Thank you for taking time to talk with us, Mary! BACKWARDS MOON releases on September 15th.

Project Mayhem readers, one commenter will be chosen to receive a hardback copy of BACKWARDS MOON from the publisher, Holiday House. Be sure to give us a way to contact you in your comment! This contest closes Thursday, September 11th. 

You can find Mary at her website and look for BACKWARDS MOON on bookshelves soon!


  1. Thanks for stopping by, Mary! Looking forward to reading BACKWARDS MOON. And I LOVE the sound of ISAAC THE ALCHEMIST. I have a mg fantasy coming out fall 2015 that has to do with alchemy, and I found the research I did fascinating.

  2. Mary, just this past weekend read your WILD BOY and found it fascinating. Thank you for the glimpse into this young man's life. As much as he was shuffled around, I am glad he finally found a way to be with someone who loved him and to also be in nature. It's a hard story, knowing it's real, and things didn't always work in his favor. But it's an important one. So glad you have shared it with the world.

    Not sure if you're familiar with an adult title called OPAL: A LIFE OF ENCHANTMENT, MYSTERY, AND MADNESS, but Opal much like your fairy girls tried to dupe the world, pretending she'd lived in the forest of the Pacific NW (alone, much like your WILD BOY) and was really French royalty, if I remember correctly. Anyway, I love this sort of thing -- the mysterious storyline, the motivation behind the desire to fool everyone. Really good stuff.

  3. What a great interview! I was just listening to a man from the Audobon Society speaking on NPR who said that many bird species are under threat of extinction because of global climate change. I just hope it's not too late~!

    I enjoyed getting to know Mary Losure, and look forward to reading BACKWARDS MOON.

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  5. BACKWARDS MOON sounds great! I love the premise of the book.

  6. I'm very interested in the issues of biodiversity and I love to see how you tackle it in fiction, Mary. This books wonderful...

  7. Oh, cool! I have always been interested in the Cottingley fairy pictures! This sounds like a story my daughter would love.


Thanks for adding to the mayhem!