Be sure to check out the full schedule of this year’s 3rd Annual March MG Madness and enter to win a box of 6 books!
I'm so thrilled to have Marisa de los Santos and David Teague stopping by the March MG Madness today to chat about their new book...
Saving Lucas Biggs
by Marisa de los Santos and David Teague
When thirteen-year-old Margaret's father is unfairly sentenced to death by the cruel Judge Biggs, she is determined to save him, even if it means using her family's secret-and forbidden-ability to time travel. With the help of her best friend, Charlie, and his grandpa Josh, Margaret goes back to a time when Judge Biggs was a young boy and tries to prevent the chain of events that transformed him into a corrupt, jaded man.
What three words best describe SAVING LUCAS BIGGS?
Friendship. Adventure. Time-travel. (Yes, we hyphenated “time-travel” to make it fit!)
Can you give us your best one sentence pitch to convince readers, especially reluctant readers, to give SAVING LUCAS BIGGS a try?
When thirteen year old Margaret’s father is unfairly sentenced to death by the cruel Judge Biggs, she is determined to save him, even if it means using her family’s secret—and forbidden—ability to time travel.
Grab a copy of SAVING LUCAS BIGGS and answer the following:
Marisa: I love the part in Chapter Eight in which Josh and Luke climb the mountain together. Their world has come crashing down around them. Everyone they care about is hungry, injured, grief-stricken, homeless, but the boys still manage to steal a good moment. It’s like they clear out a space in all the mess to just be friends. They climb, they talk about things that matter to them, and then they stand on the top of that beautiful mountain and look down, and are filled with hope and courage, despite everything.
David: My favorite is the opening chapter, written by my partner. It’s like plunging over a waterfall. You read the first words, and then you speed into the story faster and faster every second. Margaret hears her father sentenced to death by forces so huge and powerful she can never stand up to them, but she refuses to lose hope, and the whole sequence is so beautifully written you can’t stop reading. There is also a mysterious, almost magical incantation woven into the middle that piques your curiosity. I’ve read this section out loud to audiences and in parts, everybody in the room stops breathing.
Marisa: Page 194. Margaret’s just returned to the present, and she opens her eyes to see her best friend Charlie looking exactly the way he did when she left. Until that moment, she never let herself consider the possibility that her playing with history could change not only the bad things but also the good ones. As soon as she sees Charlie, it hits her that she could have changed him or even “disappeared” him, and, for one moment, the fact that she hasn’t is the only thing that matters. “There was only room for: thank you, thank you, thank you.”
David: Page 99. Aunt Bridey has been into her moonshine, and she gives Josh a piece of advice. “Friendship,” she says, “will stand the test of time.” Now of course, this is a time-travel novel, so that statement may or may not have more than one meaning. Josh gamely tells Aunt Bridey, “I see.” But she replies, mysteriously, “I doubt it. Not now. But you will.” And part of the fun of the rest of the book is watching Josh and Margaret test the truth of Aunt Bridey’s declaration.
Flip to a random page and give us a 1-2 sentence teaser:
“History resists,” I told him.
“Oh yeah, you said that yesterday. What’s it mean?”
“History doesn’t want to be messed with. It pushes back when you try.”
What inspired SAVING LUCAS BIGGS? How did the story come to be?
First, the fictional events in Victory, Arizona, in 1938 are based on actual events in Ludlow, Colorado, in 1914, when a brave group of miners fighting for their rights were gunned down by a ruthless energy company.
Second, we like stories about friends who solve problems together.
Third, we like time-travel stories.
There are some memorable characters in Saving Lucas Biggs; do you have a favorite? What do you love about him/her? Did any of your characters end up surprising you with the way they turned out?
Marisa: My favorite character is Josh because no matter how many awful things happened or how much time went by, he never lost faith in his friend. He never stopped believing that somewhere, deep down, the good, loving, brave, honest parts of his friend still existed. He had faith that one day, those parts would reemerge and triumph. We should all have someone in our lives who is that true-blue and loyal and who believes in us even when we lose our way.
David: Mine is also Josh. At the very end of the book, you realize what’s kept him going all through the years, and if it’s not exactly a surprise, it’s more like something really wonderful about him that’s been hidden in plain sight all along.
If you could time-travel, would you go to the past or future? Where/when would you go?
David: I would go to the past. I’m interested in the future, but I’d prefer to get there the regular way, by passing through time. I’d really like to go back to 1725 to hear Count Morzin’s orchestra perform Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons.”
Marisa: I want the future to stay wide open and surprising, so I’d go to the past. I’d love to meet Louisa May Alcott and just talk to her for awhile about how she wrote such incredible characters, although it’s possible I’d be too awestruck to speak!
As middle grade authors, why do you think middle-grade is so important? What do you love about writing and reading middle-grade?
Marisa: As much as I read and love books now, books have never meant more to me than they did when I was eleven or twelve. I didn’t read books back then, I climbed inside them, and a lot of times, felt more at home in them than I did in the real world. The characters were my friends (or enemies!), and no one could ever convince me that they were just figments of someone else’s imagination. I love thinking that someone could read a book I wrote like that. I love thinking that Margaret could help some kid feel brave or that Charlie could be someone’s true friend.
David: I think my best self is the twelve-year-old self inside of me, and I think that may be true for a lot of people.
What is your all-time favorite middle grade book, middle grade hero, and middle grade heroine?
Marisa: THE FOUR STORY MISTAKE by Elizabeth Enright is my favorite book. I still read it and all Elizabeth Enright’s books every year, without fail! Meg Murray from A WRINKLE IN TIME is my favorite heroine because she spends most of her life being fairly ordinary, not outrageously brilliant or brave, but she comes through when she needs to and everything courageous thing she ever does is out of love for the people in her life.
David: THE DARK IS RISING by Susan Cooper is my favorite middle-grades book. I’ll never forget the opening, as Will Stanton, on that eerie winter day, feels the Dark begin to grow stronger all around him, not knowing that he, just a regular eleven-year-old boy, will be called upon to beat it back. When I first read that book, I saw how much could be expected from an ordinary, everyday boy, and I saw how much a boy like that could accomplish. I think that Will, in that book, is also my favorite middle-grades hero.
Fill in the blanks:
I'm really awesome at ___.
I'm really embarrassed to admit that ___.
The last great boo I read was ___.
Marisa: I’m really awesome at writing with a dog on my lap, sometimes two dogs! I’m really embarrassed to admit that I have a terrible sense of direction and get lost going places I’ve been to a dozen times; also, I steal people’s French fries. The last great book I read was ELEANOR AND PARK by Rainbow Rowell.
David: I’m really awesome at catching grapes thrown far into the air. Seriously—three or four stories high. Or at least I used to be. I haven’t practiced in a while. I’m really embarrassed to admit that the only reason I make up my bed is so I can yell at my kids to make up their beds. The last great book I read was THE ASTONISHING LIFE OF OCTAVIAN NOTHING, TRAITOR TO THE NATION by M. T. Anderson.
If you were to create and bake a cupcake inspired by Saving Lucas Biggs, what would it look and taste like, and what would you call it?
There are actually cupcakes in SLB! Margaret’s mom is a professional baker and her dad’s a geologist. One year, her mom is away on Margaret’s birthday, and her dad has to make the cupcakes. They sink in the middle, so he fills up the holes with frosting, which would have been okay, except the something goes wrong with the frosting, so it turns hard as a rock. As soon as he realizes this, he announces that they are pet rock cupcakes, and all the kids pull the icing rocks out of their cupcakes and play with them for the rest of the party. This says a lot about what makes Margaret’s dad such an extraordinary guy, but it also brings out a theme of the book: when things look grim, shift your perspective, get creative, and turn the grim thing into something amazing.
Thanks so much for stopping by Marisa and David!