Peggy Eddleman is the author of Sky Jumpers (Random House Books for Young Readers), a post-apocalyptic adventure for Middle Grade readers, which was selected by a panel of children’s booksellers as one of the outstanding debuts of the fall 2013 season. Here, Eddleman talks about the inspiration for her debut novel, the importance of books to her childhood, and more.
Where did you get the idea for your book?
Peggy Eddleman: A few years ago, I was on a plane with my family, and I just stared out at the clouds that covered the country, imagining how it would feel to jump out of the plane and have the clouds catch me — and how amazing and thrilling and peaceful that would feel. I couldn’t shake the feeling, so I started imagining what could’ve happened to our world that would’ve left behind a layer of air dense enough to catch someone’s fall, and the Bomb’s Breath was born. I spent nine months developing the world, the town, and the daring and persistent girl who lived in it, before I ever wrote the first word.
What advice would you give a young reader interested in writing?
PE: To daydream! Every story (and every other incredible thing in this world) came to be because someone spent enough time daydreaming about it. Writer’s block comes simply because the writer doesn’t know what to write next, and the only cure for that is to daydream about the story. The more you think about those characters and that world, the more you’ll figure out what happens next, and the more excited you’ll get about it. When you daydream enough, the ideas start flowing, and you can’t bear to have that story inside you and not let it get out.
Did a particular teacher foster your interest in writing?
PE: No. In fact, I had a teacher at a pivotal time that did just the opposite. But Mr. Watson, my sixth grade teacher, completely made up for that. He made the biggest difference in my life out of all my teachers. It wasn’t that he got me interested in writing — more that he believed that I was going to grow up to do great things, and expected me to put in the work necessary for that to happen. There were several times during my journey to publication where things got really tough. During each of those times, I continued on, because he knew I would do something just like this, and it felt like I would be letting him down if I didn’t give it everything I had.
Do you read a lot of dystopian YA? What is your favorite dystopian book or series right now?
PE: Yes! I love dystopian YA! There are two debuts this year that I really loved. In the After by Demitria Lunetta and Taken by Erin Bowman. Both had fascinating worlds, root-able characters, and remarkable pacing. I can’t wait for the next one in either series!
Dystopian societies and teens are a serendipitous fit. To some extent, I think that virtually every teen feels like they are fighting against being controlled by authority figures as they work to move from childhood to adulthood, so conflicts with an overly controlling government really speak to them. Middle grade readers are a little different. They have their whole lives ahead of them — the whole world ahead of them — and they want to know that the world is going to be one worth living in, and that they’re going to flourish there. I loved putting a lot of post-apocalyptic and speculative elements into Sky Jumpers, and really imagining the differences in that world, but keeping my target audience in mind, I worked to keep any dystopian elements light.
Were books an important facet of your childhood? What book(s) did you read as a child?
PE: I loved books as a child! Especially books where kids were capable and resourceful, and ones that opened my eyes to another world. My very favorites were The Boxcar Children (Gertrude Chandler Warner), Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of N.I.M.H. (Robert C. O’Brien), The Borrowers (Mary Norton), The Dark Is Rising (Susan Cooper), A Wrinkle in Time (Madeleine L’Engle), The Prydain Chronicles (Lloyd Alexander), Nancy Drew mysteries (Carolyn Keene), and Choose Your Own Adventures.
Are you working on anything at the moment?
PE: I just finished up edits for Sky Jumpers book 2, which will be out fall 2014, and I’m just starting my next middle grade action/adventure book.
If you were stranded on a desert island, what three titles would you want to have with you?
PE: That is such a difficult question! I’m going to be good and not cheat by choosing series of books. I’ll choose The King of Attolia (Megan Whalen Turner), because I’m in love with that series, and that was my favorite book in the series. Then I’ll pick Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea (April Tucholke), because the ambiance in the book was incredible, and it was set right next to an ocean, so it’d be fitting to take to an island, right? And for my last one, I’m going to choose a big thick book that I haven’t read yet — The Wise Man’s Fear (Patrick Rothfuss), because I loved The Name of the Wind, and I expect the second book to be every bit as epic and filled with beautiful language and to provide me with many happy reading hours.
If you were a bookseller, is there a book you would say every child just has to read? (Besides your own, of course!)
PE: Yes — Rump: The True Story of Rumplestiltskin (Liesl Shurtliff). Not only is it clever and brilliant and different, but it also encourages the reader to look at people in a different light and to realize that they might have misjudged people in their own lives. It has a great theme, plus it’s incredibly entertaining and hilarious.
If you could meet any author, past or present, who would it be?
PE: Ally Carter, because her Gallagher Girls and Heist Society books are incredible. Reading her books is like watching a skilled figure skater who pulls everything off so cleanly that it looks easy. And as you stare in fascination at all the tricky things they do, you know — know — that it is anything other than easy, so you’re even more amazed that they made it look as if it were.
Peggy Eddleman, Sky Jumpers (Random House Books for Young Readers, Hardcover, 9780307981271) Publication Date: September 24, 2013
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Learn more about Peggy Eddleman at peggyeddleman.blogspot.com.