An Indies Introduce Q&A With Melissa Savage

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Melissa Savage is the author of the Winter/Spring 2017 Indies Introduce middle grade debut Lemons (Crown Books for Young Readers). In Lemons, 12-year-old Lemonade Liberty Witt is forced to leave San Francisco after the death of her mother and move in with her grandfather in sleepy Willow Creek, where she befriends Tobin and joins his Bigfoot detective agency.

“As she navigates her way through her new surroundings and a world without her mother, Lemonade finds that fitting in may be as elusive as Bigfoot himself,” said Katherine Megna-Weber of Books Inc. in San Francisco, California, who served on the Indies Introduce bookseller panel that selected Savage’s debut. “Lemons proves that even though life can sometimes be sour, finding a way to cope can be sweet. With beautifully created characters and a strong childlike wonder, Melissa Savage is a new voice I’ll be thrilled to hear more from.”

Savage lives in Minneapolis, where she works in bereavement counseling for children and families who have lost loved ones. Here, Megna-Weber talks with Savage about her novel of loss, healing, and cryptozoology.

Katherine Megna-Weber: Your main characters, Lemonade and Tobin, have experienced significant losses in their young lives. What do you hope readers unfamiliar with tragedy will take away from the story?

Melissa Savage, author of Lemons
Photo by Jerri Parness Photography

Melissa Savage: I wanted to write a story about the adversity of loss and how healing can come in the form of the kindness and love and willingness to stand by each other, because support from others can make a real difference in someone’s life when a difficult loss has occurred.

Lemons is a fun adventure — a search for the elusive Bigfoot — but it is also a story about friendship, acceptance, kindness, and, most of all, hope. Lemonade Liberty Witt’s life journey is not unlike a journey others may face; it’s full of hardship and sweetness, struggles and friendship, lemons and love. Lemonade learns in the end that the best way to endure her own lemons is to find gratitude in adversity and embrace new changes with optimism and courage, while recognizing the gifts given despite the sadness loss can bring.

I hope that readers will find hope first and foremost in this story. There is hope and healing in the world even after dealing with tough lemons if you surround yourself with gratitude and people who love you. Also, I hope readers take away a renewed acceptance of those who are different from them. And, of course, a newfound interest in cryptozoology!

KMW: I have to ask: With all the creatures available in the field of cryptozoology, why did you choose Bigfoot?

Lemons by Melissa SavageMS: I love science and history! I am fascinated when scientists discover new facts about our planet and beyond, including species of animals that were either thought to be extinct or were not previously known. That makes the mystery of Bigfoot even more intriguing and fun. I wanted to share that with kids, set in the very place where Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin claimed to have filmed a real Bigfoot in 1967. I think the concept of grief can be a tough one, especially for children; to provide a backdrop of adventure and fun is a nice balance when reading about difficult subject matter.

KMW: The book is set in the 1970s, so the kids don’t have access to a lot of the resources kids have today. What’s so special about that time? Did you consider different time periods?

MS: I set the story in 1975 to remove all the technology from the Bigfoot search. As wonderful as technology is, and as helpful as it is for all of us, I think it keeps us tied to screens more than we should be. I wanted this to be a fun mystery and intriguing adventure set outside.

KMW: I really enjoyed the strong bond between Lemonade and her grandfather; I’m always inspired by father-daughter or grandfather-granddaughter relationships a rare feature in middle-grade fiction. Is there a particular reason you chose a grandfather figure?

MS: I wanted to include those wonderful adults that so many of us either had growing up or wish we had. Those patient and wise caregivers who support, nurture, and love you through all your lemons. I also believe adding characters of all ages and levels of life experience adds richness to a story.

Lemons by Melissa Savage (Crown Books for Young Readers, Hardcover, $16.99, 9781524700126) Publication Date: May 2, 2017.

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