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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Interview: J.E. Thompson {The Girl from Felony Bay}

I'm so excited to have author J.E. Thompson here today to talk about his new middle-grade book, The Girl From Felony Bay! Look for my review of this great book next week...

by J.E. Thompson
Walden Pond Press
Purchase: Amazon / B&N

The last year has been rougher than sandpaper for Abbey Force and her dad. He's in a coma after his accident a year back, wherein he was framed for a terrible crime he didn't commit. And their home, Reward Plantation, an idyllic spot on the eastern coast of South Carolina, had to be sold to pay off his debt to society. Abbey is stuck living with her uncle Charlie, who, even in the few hours a day when he's sober, ain't exactly your ideal parental role model.

But it turns out the new family that moved into Abbey's old house has a daughter named Bee. And she's just as curious about all the No Trespassing signs and holes being dug out by Felony Bay, in the corner of what used to be Abbey's home. It appears someone's been poking around a mystery that dates all the way back to the Civil War--and it just might be the same someone who framed Abbey's dad.

Fresh, funny, and heartwarming, Girl from Felony Bay is the perfect book for fans of Rebecca Stead's Liar & Spy and Sheila Turnage's Three Times Lucky.

What three words best describe THE GIRL FROM FELONY BAY?
Mystery, Plantation, Treasure

Can you give us your best one sentence pitch to convince readers (especially reluctant readers) to give THE GIRL FROM FELONY BAY a try?
It’s a mystery with the speed and thrills of a rollercoaster ride, including buried treasure, alligators, cottonmouths, scary swamps, bullies, bad guys, and two really brave and resourceful girls.
Grab a copy of THE GIRL FROM FELONY BAY and answer the following:
These next questions are very difficult! They are like choosing my favorite child!
Favorite chapter?
Okay, if I have to have one favorite, how about Chapter 24? You might ask why, but I can’t tell you why because I’d spoil the book, but that’s a chapter where some very scary things happen to Abbey and Bee and . . . but I can’t tell you anymore.

Favorite page?
Once again, unfair question! But I guess it might be the page where the girls are hiding in the dark in the ruined old cabin and the bad guys are in the next room.

Favorite character? 
Abbey Force, of course! After all, she’s the narrator and the main character and she’s tough and smart and kind hearted and courageous. As her father used to say, “She is a Force to be reckoned with!”

Flip to a random page and give us a 1-2 sentence teaser?  
“Two feet ahead of me, way too close for comfort, something that looked at first like a thick black root had just crawled from underneath a layer of dead magnolia leaves. It was maybe four feet long and as thick as a beer can in the middle. The sight made my heart start to hammer.”
What inspired THE GIRL FROM FELONY BAY? Where did the idea for the story come from?
Up until I wrote THE GIRL FROM FELONY BAY, I had written adult thrillers, however my twelve year old daughter wanted me to write a book for her age group. She is an equestrian, and at the time I wrote the book she kept her pony (named Timmy just as in the book) out at a plantation owned by some friends of mine. Over the years I have spent a lot of time on the plantation and have grown to love the beauty and tranquility of the setting. I have also spent a lot of time thinking about the heritage of slavery and how that terrible institution and the Civil War that ended it have shaped so many aspects of our lives today.I guess it was just natural that my desire to write a Middle Grade book would grow to encompass a number of those themes. Having read Edward Ball’s great book, SLAVES IN THE FAMILY, it was easy to invent Bee Force and her Grandma Em as the new owners of Reward Plantation. It was also easy to bring in a badly damaged Confederate blockade runner as part of the story and also the idea of buried Confederate gold. The rest of the story grew up around all those ideas and I ended up with Felony Bay (which isn’t a real place) and then THE GIRL FROM FELONY BAY.

What do you hope readers, especially young readers, will walk away with after reading THE GIRL FROM FELONY BAY?
I would like my readers to walk away with a respect for people, both kids and adults, who stick to their guns and have the courage to honor their convictions in spite of the fact that people who are older, more powerful and supposedly wiser tell them that they are wrong. Sometimes doing the right thing, being loyal and honoring one’s own sense of right and wrong can involve a lot of personal risk. Those moments are frightening and difficult, but people choose their leaders from among those who have the fortitude to do the right thing, especially when doing the right thing is most difficult. I’d like to think my readers will come away with a greater sense of certainty in their own lives about the types of people they want to be.

 Charleston, SC (the setting) is almost like another character in the book...can you talk a bit about that? Why did you set your story in this setting? 
Charleston IS a character. It’s such an old city and it has so much history in its blood, both good and bad, that a sense of the past is as thick as the summertime humidity here. In the earliest days Charleston had Blackbeard and Anne Bonney and other pirates; before and after the American Revolution it was the wealthiest city in the United States, enriched by the slave plantation economy; it was where the first shots of the Civil War were fired; and for over a hundred years after the Civil War it was a very poor city where little changed, where very old buildings were preserved simply because there was no reason to knock them down and build something else. Today, the entire peninsula of Charleston has been preserved and restored, and people live modern lives inside very old homes. For example, my house was built in 1783 by a merchant who had a dock across the street and who imported finished goods from England. Not a day goes by when I am not conscious that I am more the caretaker of my house than the owner, and I often refer to it as Mrs. Birthright’s house, the name of the lady who lived here for 60 years before my family.

Who is your favorite middle-grade hero and heroine?
Is Huckleberry Finn a Middle Grade hero? If not Huck, then Harry Potter. And I have to vote for Abbey Force for the heroine and if not Abbey, then Hermione Granger.

Fill in the blanks:

I'm really awesome at 
Fly fishing and cooking
I'm really embarrassed to admit that 
I’m a full grown adult but I love Middle Grade and YA fiction
My favorite middle-grade appropriate curse word or expletive is 
frig, as in friggin’
The last great book I read was 

If you were to create and bake a cupcake inspired by THE GIRL FROM FELONY BAY what would it look and taste like, and what would you call it?
It would be an unusually shaped cupcake, because it would be made in the shape of an alligator. It would be made of chocolate so dark that it would look a bit like pluff mud, and I would try to craft the icing on top so that, just like great, soft French cheeses, it would smell terrible (like pluff mud) but taste absolutely wonderful!
Thank you so much for stopping by John!

J.E Thompson
John Thompson spent twenty-five years as an investment banker before becoming a full time writer of adult thrillers and middle grade fiction. His adult novels have won significant critical acclaim (Finalist for Best Fiction by the Southern Independent Booksellers and Independent Publishers Gold Medal for Best Thriller of the Year). They include: The Brent Lucas Series (Armageddon Conspiracy, The Hong Kong Deception, The Baghdad Vendetta (coming September 15, 2012) and Salem VI: Rebecca’s Rising co-authored with Jack Heath.Written under the name JE Thompson, his first middle grade novel, The Girl From Felony Bay, will be released in April 2013 by HarperCollins/Walden Pond Press.When he is not writing he enjoys the outdoors in all forms: fly fishing, biking, bird hunting, golf and tennis. He lives with his wife and daughter as well as his Boykin Spaniel (Lulu) and his Jack Russell (Mr. Bean) and spends his time between homes in Charleston, SC and Hawley, PA.In Charleston he is something of a self-professed do-gooder and has served on a number of boards focusing on education, health care and the environment.


Anonymous said...

Loved this, thankyou! And you can bet on my next trip to the bookstore I am totally getting this one.

Nicole L. said...

Great post! I'm passing it on. I am very excited to get a copy of this book.