I want to thank Steven Stickler for being a part of the March MG Madness and for stopping by to answer a few of my questions!
Auggie Spinoza is a ten-year-old boy with a secret: he is a special agent who can travel through time. Now, he finds himself locked in a desperate battle against evil forces trying to change the course of history. To defeat them, Auggie must pursue a dangerous quest to find a set of mysterious clues hidden in the past.
With the help of a clever new friend and advice from a cast of famous characters with names like Jefferson, Darwin, and Plato, Auggie fights to fulfill his destiny and save his world from ruin. Along the way, he learns the importance of thinking clearly and shows the awesome power of a code-breaking, book-loving, time-traveling ten-year-old with a talent for being in the right place at the right time (and doing the right thing).
Fun. Intrigue. Adventure.
Q. What three words best describe your MG novel The Absolutely Amazing Adventures of Agent Auggie Spinoza?
This book contains dangerous secrets; for your own safety, you probably shouldn’t read it.
Q. In one sentence, tell readers why they should read your book…c’mon, really sell it!
Auggie Spinoza is a somewhat ordinary and happy kid who discovers early in the story that he can travel through time. Now, that would be a hoot for most of us, but for Auggie it becomes something of a burden: he quickly discovers that there is an organization of fellow (but evil) time-travelers who are trying to tinker with history and change it in ways that threaten to destroy his world (not to mention his family). There’s a sort of sweet and sour quality to the story: pretty sweet that he can travel through time, very sour that he has to use his talents to battle evil. The plot revolves around that battle and weaves through different historical periods as Auggie searches for a series of clues that (he hopes) will lead to victory.
Q. Now, using as many sentences as you’d like, could you tell us a bit more about The Absolutely Amazing Adventures of Agent Auggie Spinoza?
I can’t say much more without giving away too many details, but one of the things I like about the premise is that, even though a lot of things happen in the story that Auggie can’t control, there are quite a few important things that he can control. So we get to see him making choices that could have real consequences, and at the same time the reader hopefully starts to see history as something that could have happened differently.
As a writer, it flows from the sort of voice I like to use and the scenes that I dream up. Both tend to connect quite readily with a middle grade audience. Even though adults will hopefully enjoy what I write, I don’t think from an adult perspective when I’m writing. I never consciously sit down and map out a target audience or a genre, I just find that what I want to write, the characters I want to write about, and the plot I want to develop come together and what emerges is middle grade fiction. Of course, I have enough self-awareness to know that this is true and so when I am drafting an action scene, for example, I try to make it the sort of scene that would make a middle grade reader late for the bus, or math class, or soccer practice. If I happen to make an adult late for a meeting, that’s fine also.
Q. Why Middle Grade Fiction…why did you choose to write MG fiction and what do you love best about reading and writing MG?
As a reader, what I love about middle grade fiction (aside from the pure enjoyment of reading it) is that much of it remains pure storytelling. That is not to say it is simplistic or easy or naive, but just that some of the themes and goals that dominate young adult and adult literature have yet to emerge, and the focus is almost entirely upon telling a story and making the reader really care about the characters that are experiencing the story. There’s something pure about such a pursuit, and no matter how old or how jaded I become, I will always enjoy witnessing it.
This is a question that has been clunking around in my head for quite some time and yet I’m still unable to come up with an answer that satisfies me. In most middle grade fiction, the themes tend to be more accessible--simple but not oversimplified--and yet apply to the adult world as much as to the world of kids. You also tend to see characters emerging with more depth and I think for a lot of writers there is as much attention being paid to character development and interpersonal dynamics as to plot. That dimension is an important one for middle grade readers but is also necessary to hold the attention of adults. Then, of course, there is the fact that the target age group has an amazing level of imagination and an almost insatiable appetite for creativity. This allows writers to craft truly fascinating imaginary worlds that then end up appealing to a much wider audience because, really, I don’t think that sense of wonder ever completely leaves us as adults. We just forget about it until a good book reminds us, like a friend tapping us gently on the shoulder, that aging doesn’t mean we have to lose interest in the things that fascinated us as kids.
Q. Why do you think MG appeals to such a wide audience, from very young readers to adults like you and I?
I’m one of those people that tends to fall in love with the last good book I read. I just finished Jonathan Auxier’s Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes and have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it. The premise is creative and I find the writing style to be really light and engaging. So, that will probably be my current favorite for at least a few more weeks.
Q. What’s your current favorite MG book? Your favorite MG book of all time?
Favorite of all time? I grew up pre-HP and loved The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. I still can’t shake the emotional attachment I formed with that book when I was young. (Sigh)....good times.
Ron Weasley. I’m sort of the sidekick type, so I have no desire to be Harry Potter. But it’d sure be cool to hang out with him. Plus, the whole wizard thing would be a kick.
Q. If you could switch places with any MG character from any book, who would it be?
There are so many to choose from, and Voldemort is pretty high on the list of candidates, but the villains that strike the deepest emotional chord with me are Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker in James and the Giant Peach. I think Dahl does a masterful job with those two. They have very little ink devoted to them and yet they sit lodged in the reader’s mind throughout that entire book as a sort of menacing and heartbreaking presence. They are archetypes, to be sure, but what I really admire in the writing is that Dahl can stir that kind of visceral reaction in a young reader in a way that on the surface appears to be so effortless.
Q. Who’s your favorite MG villain…who do you just love to hate or hate to love?
For the sake of nothing more than personal curiosity, I’d want to visit Plato’s Academy in Ancient Athens. I’m a sucker for the ancients. I studied Greek philosophy in college and no matter how much I tried, I could never really conjure up a mental image of those philosophers that seemed real. I’d love to see them in action. I know that will not strike most people as an exciting vacation, but to me it seems fascinating.
Q. In The Absolutely Amazing Adventures of Agent Auggie Spinoza your character Auggie Spinoza can time travel (which is totally awesome!)...if you could time travel where/when would you go?
Dark chocolate cake with chocolate chips and dark chocolate frosting sprinkled with just a dash of cayenne pepper, served as a cupcake top only. I would call it the “I’m not A cupcake, I’m THE cupcake.” Glass of milk recommended but not required.
Q. If you were to create/bake a cupcake inspired by The Absolutely Amazing Adventures of Agent Auggie Spinoza, what flavor would it be, or what would it taste like, and what would you call your tasty masterpiece?
Be sure to stop by the March MG Madness home post and enter the big month long giveaway to win a box of MG books and swag! You can earn extra entries in the big giveaway by answering a question whose answer can be found in the interview above...go HERE to enter
Steven Stickler is no rocket scientist. He will never be confused with a professional athlete. He is not (despite widespread rumors) the actor who played Cousin Oliver in The Brady Bunch, nor was he a guest drummer for the Beatles during a brief period in the mid-1960s. He is something completely different: a writer. He began writing when he was five years of age and, perhaps due to an oversight by those in positions of authority, was never told to stop. Aside from the occasional story written for his son, he has spent most of his adult life writing non-fiction essays and reports for adults who enjoy spending their days in meetings, classrooms, and libraries. The Absolutely Amazing Adventures of Agent Auggie Spinoza is his first, but hopefully not his last, novel for children and young adults. He lives in the great Pacific Northwest of the United States, where he enjoys exploring the outdoors with his family and, of course, reading at least one book by Dr. Seuss every year. A “stickler” for secrecy, he has never allowed his face to be captured on film and fears that we have already revealed too much in this simple biography.
Win 1 of 3 ebook copies of The Absolutely Amazing Adventures of Agent Auggie Spinoza!
Steven Stickler has generously offered three (3) ebook copies of his MG book to give away!
Giveaway will run 3/6 -3/11 at 11:59 pm ET
There will be 3 winners
Open to anyone who can receive ebooks
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- Must be 13+ to enter
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