Friday, December 10, 2010

Blown Away—An Interview with Middle-Grade Author Stephen Messer

I’ll confess—I haven’t had a whole lot of time to think about writing lately, let alone actually get much in the way of it done. Noodle managed to fall and fracture his leg, and had to have surgery to pin the bone back in place. The little guy has needed a lot of attention as of late—even more than he usually does :)

Noodle - little puppy, big splint.
So I’m extra, extra happy that Stephen Messer is joining us for today’s post. I’m going to let him do most of the talking.

Stephen’s debut middle-grade novel, Windblowne, was released this year from Random House Books for Young Readers. And yes, it’s every bit as exciting as that gorgeous cover art makes it out to be! Stephen also has two forthcoming titles, The Death of Yorik Mortwell (2011) and Colossus (2013). And, nice guy that he is, he was kind enough to share with Project Mayhem some of his experiences in the realm of middle grade. So, without further ado—Stephen Messer!

PM: Tell us about Windblowne.

SM: Windblowne is my debut fantasy adventure. I set out to write the sort of book I would have wanted to read as a kid (or as an adult, I suppose), and ended up with a story about this mountaintop world of wind and a dimension-hopping lad named Oliver who befriends a self-aware kite.

PM: What inspired you to write Windblowne? Did you like kites as a kid? And/or giant old oak trees?

SM: I grew up on various hilltops in Maine and Arizona and there are pictures of me flying all sorts of kites on them. These landscapes inform various chapters of the book. Now I live in Durham, North Carolina, which is full of beautiful oak trees, and it was easy to imagine living in giant versions of them, as people do in the town of Windblowne.

PM: Why middle grade?

SM: In my life, this was the age when I was most influenced by books, so to me it’s the most important time for a reader, and that is who I like to write for.

PM: What was your road to publication like?

SM: Some people think you need connections in order to get published, and that’s true—but you need to forge those connections yourself, by networking and meeting writers, agents, and editors. Conferences are great places to do that, and also classrooms and social networks. Get involved, and you’ll make the connections for yourself.

PM: What advice do you have for those interested in writing for middle-grade readers?

SM: Read incessantly in the genre, not only the classics but also new releases, until you understand the literature backward and forward. Try to become an authority on middle-grade books at the same time you are trying to write them.

Thank you, Stephen! I hope everyone will check out Windblowne. It’s a fantastic middle-grade adventure! And be sure to visit Stephen’s website, where you can actually see one of those aforementioned pictures of him flying a kite:

-Dawn Lairamore


  1. Great interview, and the book looks fantastic (LOVE the cover art)! Thanks to Stephen and Dawn. Heading over to Stephen's website now to check out the kite-flying photo :)

  2. Stephen is so right--read everything middle-grade you can get your hot little hands on! I love his cover too--very striking! :)

    xoxo -- Hilary

  3. Thanks for the interview, Dawn, and I hope Noodle gets better soon. That is one tragic picture!

  4. Wow! What a fantastic concept. Can't wait to read Windblowne.

  5. Poor Noodle! Everyone, read Windblowne. It's fantastic.

  6. How did I not find this blog until now!?! Great interview, great blog. I'm looking forward to your future posts.

  7. I know--I absolutely ADORE this cover! (The book, too!) Thanks again to Stephen for giving us this great interview :)

  8. Oh, this like a fun book. I love the idea of a self-aware kite.

  9. Great interview. I'm always interested in what's going on in MG.

    Also, poor Noodle.


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